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Russians flock to Poland for summer sales

Polish border guards have reported an increase in the number of Russians coming from Kaliningrad to shop in Poland this summer despite a weakened rouble, circumventing Russian embargos on some Western imports. Photo: PAP/Rafał Guz Data provided by border guards in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, bordering the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, shows that overall Russian visits to Poland in the first five months of 2015 are down by eight percent compared to the 2014 equivalent period.

But, they report, there is a big spike in the summer, with 131,500 Russians crossing the Kaliningrad border in June this year, 6,000 more than in the previous month. According to shop-owners from the north-eastern city of Olsztyn, the recent increase is due to summer sales in shops. Michał Tur, owner of a shopping centre in Olsztyn, commented: “We are slowly but very consistently seeing a rise in the number of Russians shopping here.” Russian shoppers first began to cross into Poland following a 2011 local border traffic agreement, which allowed both Poles and Russians to travel without visas.

In August 2014 the number of Russians crossing spiked in the immediate aftermath of an embargo on Western food imports, though declined in following months due to a weakening rouble, which made purchases in Poland more expensive. Before the rouble’s weakening Russians used to buy clothes and household appliances as well as food, though now primarily cross over only for food as other goods have become unaffordable.

Under Russian customs regulations the enclave’s residents are limited to importing 5kg of goods per person from Poland, though many reportedly circumvent these restrictions by bringing small children with them which increases their allowance. Meanwhile Poles cross over to Kaliningrad to buy petrol, which has always been cheaper on the Russian side but is now especially so given the weak rouble.

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