Crossing Russia - Belarus Border by Train

We’ve been asked lately about the border crossing when travelling on Europe to Russia trains, most of which go through the territory of Belarus. Until recently, all seemed clear to us. It is well known (and we always inform our customers about this) that besides Russian visa passengers need Belarus transit visa for the trip. We’ve been selling these tickets for many years and never had any issues.  Nevertheless, it appears that there were things we didn’t know about.

It all started last week when our customer who was interested in Berlin to Moscow trip by ‘Strizh’ asked if it was legitimate for a foreigner to travel to Russia on this train. She had already travelled on this train from Moscow to Berlin and wasn’t sure whether she could come back to Russia using the same train service. First the question sounded strange to us, since the customer did have Russian visa and Belarus transit visa, but she explained that when granting her the a multiple entry transit visa, Belarus Consulate warned her that only citizens of Russia and Belarus have the right to cross the border on this train. She even had an official letter from Belarus Consulate stating the following:

“Please be informed that the checkpoint Krasnaya Gorka near Smolensk is designed exclusively for travel of citizens of Russia and Belarus - the two countries are members of the Union state, there is no boundary between them. It is illegitimate for third-country nationals to cross the border through this checkpoint either by car or by train”

We did some research and found out that Krasnaya Gorka checkpoint on Russia - Belarus border was indeed closed in September 2016 which caused many problems to those travelling by car - they now have to proceed either to the "New Yurkovichi" checkpoint located on Belarus - Ukraine - Russia border  (also known as ‘Three Sisters’) or to "Burachki" - "Terehova" checkpoint located on Latvia - Russia border.

At the same time, those travelling by train don’t experience any problems. (We’ve read of only two cases when Polish citizens who travelled by train were charged for illegal border crossing, but none of our customers reported any issues).

We tried to get some comment from the Russian Railways – the company that operates all the trains on Europe to Russia route, but they only provided general info: 1) in order to buy a ticket the passenger needs a valid passport 2) It’s the passenger’s responsibility to take care about visas for the countries along the route. They couldn’t give any specific details on Russia – Belarus border crossing.

We have found out that trains going from Europe to Russia through Belarus do not stop at any Belarus-Russia check point and Russian border guards never enter the train and never check passengers’ documents. When you travel by train, your passport is stamped by Belarus officer on Poland/Belarus or Lithuania/Belarus border and you get a migration card stating that you've entered "The Union State: Belarus/Russia". You should have Belarus transit visa and Russian visa but actually you won't have a stamp confirming that you've entered Russia legally.

According to The Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, if your documents (passport and visas) are perfectly fine, worst thing that may happen to you when you leave Russia by air or through official checkpoint, is that you'll be fined for 2000-7000 rubles because you don't have an entry stamp in your passport. If you leave the same way that you've entered, through Belarus, you won't have any stamps confirming that you've used your Russian visa and you may have problems when applying for the next one.

Here is the list of trains that go through Belarus:

009/010 Warsaw – Moscow

013/014 Berlin – Moscow

017/018 Nice – Moscow

021/022 Prague - Moscow with Vienna – Moscow, Vienna – St Petersburg and Prague – St Petersburg through coaches

023/024 Paris – Berlin – Moscow

029/030 Kaliningrad – Moscow with Vilnius – Moscow through coaches

079/080 Kaliningrad – St Petersburg with Vilnius – St Petersburg through coaches

Besides the above, this also concerns all trains from Belarus to Russia that do not go further into Europe.

We will keep updating this post if/when some new information comes up. Hope it will help you to take a decision whether to travel through Belarus by train or choose a plane instead.

UPD 1: On February, 1 the head of Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation Alexander Bortnikov ordered to establish border security zones with check points in Smolensk, Pskov and Bryansk regions. It  was announced soon after Belarus granted 5 days visa free entry for nationals of more than 80 countries entering through Mink Airport. 
According to FSB decree, security zone should serve to prevent illegal entries of third country nationals going to Russia from Belarus and will not affect Russian and Belarus citizens. It is announced that some car and bus passengers will have to go through passport control and customs formalities. At the same time, no passport control will be applied to those who enter Russia by train from Belarus.

UPD 2: On June 11th, 2017 our customer who took Minsk to St. Petersburg train #052Б was taken off the train after it had crossed Belarus-Russia border. The passenger was fined (2000 Rub) and had to enter Russia by plane instead. We are waiting for official comments from the Russian Railways.

UPD 3: On July 28th, 2017 we received an official reply from the Railway which says that "it is passengers' only obligation and responsibility to follow passport, administrative, customs and other laws applied when traveling by international rail transport. According to Agreement between the railway administrations of  the CIS countries, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on the specifics of the application of certain provisions of the Agreement on International Passenger Transport, Carrier is not entitled to check and control visa and other travel documents and is not responsible for passengers' compliance with passport and customs rules. Carrier checks tickets and passport information and does not control visa or any other passengers' documents. Passenger has to check visa and customs requirements of each country he is going to travel through with an Embassy's Consular division or Customs and Border Security service."

Once you have your tickets, look forward to a wonderful, smooth
and enjoyable journey through the Russian countryside.

Buy your ticket safely and securely and then sit back
and enjoy the ride!

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