Samost said that setting up a business leasing freight cars to Russian transit companies wasn’t in any way a new idea, but that Estonian as well as other companies had been running these kinds of companies for years.
But after the unexpected article in daily Postimees that had started the most recent debate surrounding the idea, experts had suddenly shown up everywhere—including from the Reform Party. Samost quoted former minister of foreign affairs, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, who said that a freight car business with Russia was “comparably to a chemicals business with Syria”.
“This was complete hysteria,” Samost said, pointing out that not only is Estonia connected with Russia’s railway network, but also with its electricity and gas networks. “It doesn’t work like that, to say that we’ll forbid any kind of business with Russia, people even do business with North Korea,” Samost said.
Ainar Ruussaar found the accusations against EVR Cargo to be little more than scaremongering, including that jobs would be created in Russia with the Estonian taxpayer’s money, and that the minister in charge was under the influence of Russia.
This was scare tactics, and the Reform Party had overdone it with its criticism of EVR Cargo.
The company’s plan is to invest altogether €35 million in a subsidiary in Russia that would buy rolling stock from local manufacturers it would then lease to large freight transit operators.
The idea is to exploit an opening in Russia’s railway sector. A decree by the Russian government of 2016 led to the phasing-out of some 200,000 freight cars, which has triggered a price hike in the leasing market for container flatcars as well as open cars.
Ainar Ruussaar is a long-time journalist and member of ERR’s management board. Anvar Samost is the editor-in-chief of ERR’s web news.