In Russia, people have had to do without some amenities for months. The country is being deprived of numerous goods as a result of the sanctions imposed in the course of the invasion of Ukraine. But thanks to the “grey market trade”, some products still end up in the markets – even from Germany.

Many German consumer goods manufacturers are refusing to export their products because of the war in Ukraine that Russia started. Haribo, Jägermeister, Krombacher and Bitburger, for example, are doing without the once very lucrative business with Russian customers. The companies want to set a sign against the war, to clarify their philosophies. For this, the Russian population is put on withdrawal. Actually.

However, since the beginning of the war, dozens of entrepreneurs from Russia have completed the formalities for importing many foods from Germany, reports the “Lebensmittelzeitung”. According to this, the number of submissions from the database of declarations of conformity has hardly decreased compared to the time before the war. Haribo, Jägermeister, Krombacher and Co. – they can all be found in the entries since March.

The reason for this is the thriving gray market trade. As the newspaper report shows, a certain Alexander K. ensures that Haribo gold bears can continue to be consumed by Russians. Gummy bears from Germany can still be bought in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other Russian cities. According to the Russian commercial register, Alexander K. is a wholesaler who also sells wood and sanitary equipment.

Circumventing sanctions and boycotts through gray market activities not only harms the image of the companies concerned, the manufacturers are also largely powerless to counteract this. In theory, trademark owners in Russia can ban parallel imports and also have them confiscated. The reality, however, is that Russian customs waves foreign products through.

Importing goods without the permission of producers is not new in Russia. Most recently, in 2008, when Russia joined the World Trade Organization, President Vladimir Putin had to ban parallel imports due to pressure from Western companies. Then, when he annexed Crimea in 2014, the option came up again. However, since Western companies were unimpressed by the illegal act, parallel imports were not necessary.

Read more about the war in Ukraine here:

Only in March of this year did Putin legalize gray imports. From now on, Russian consumers should be able to buy products from foreign companies despite Western sanctions. In addition, at the end of June, Federal Law No. 213-FZ came into force. It allows goods from western manufacturers to be imported without criminal penalties.

As a result, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade has drawn up a list of goods that may be imported and sold in Russia without the permission of the manufacturer and right holder. Changes were made to the list in July and August. The requirements for admission are only met once a company has stopped production in Russia and left the market. These are some of the goods that make up the 23-page list:

However, some of the more than 100 product groups on the list cannot be sold in official shops. As a result, online platforms such as Ozone and Wildberries are booming.

The flourishing gray market trade in Russia is also leading to an adjustment in its own economy. This is how job advertisements take on special forms: In some places, job seekers should have the skills to develop new delivery channels. In Moscow, for example, managers for parallel imports are already being sought. Your knowledge should cover the European and Asian markets, very good knowledge of English and Chinese is required.

How exactly the products are transported to Russia is difficult to reconstruct. It is true that producers can often use lot numbers on the packaging to track who the goods were originally sold to. It’s hard to imagine how many hands it went through before it ended up in Russia.

It is also conceivable that importers from the Baltic States resell goods to Russia. Turkey is also mentioned as a possible hub for goods that will later go to Russia. There, products would be loaded from container ships onto smaller feeders and taken across the Black Sea to the Russian port of Novorossiysk.

A look at the German export statistics also reveals that the volume of German food exports to Uzbekistan has increased. Data from the Federal Statistical Office between March and July compared to the same period last year shows an increase of 70 percent. The registered volume of food exports to Russia, on the other hand, fell by 44 percent between March and July. This corresponds to a minus of around 97,000 tons. For comparison: the increase in Uzbekistan corresponds to 1800 tons.