Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said it’s cracked down on an illegal passenger route between Ukraine and Russia used by collaborators to evade persecution.

According to the SBU news release, the route, costing $350 per ticket, transited through multiple European countries before reaching Russia, with the occupied territories as its final destination.

The company, operating two buses and disguising itself as a local vehicle enterprise, was operated by a man from Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine alongside his two accomplices. The man previously served a sentence for robbery, according to the SBU, and the company paid taxes and fees in Russia for “unimpeded movement.”

The company, which earned up to Hr.1 million ($27,400) a month, also received orders from Russian authorities to help transport collaborators from Ukrainian territories.

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During the investigation, a collaborator who helped stage illegal referendums in occupied territories was arrested.

While it was possible to take public transportation – including buses and trains – between Russia and Ukraine prior to the full-scale invasion, the current war put an end to all direct legal traffic between the two nations. 

An earlier Kyiv Post report in August covered the route in detail.

As per the report, similar routes – likely the one referenced in the SBU report – operated with no markings and transited through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia before entering Russia.

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Passengers could also depart from more than 16 Ukrainian cities, including occupied Luhansk, where the total journey could take anywhere between a few days and over a week.

Among those who utilized the service were also Ukrainians with work and relatives in Russia, where they would use their identity cards instead of passports while entering Russia to avoid passport stamps, which could complicate – even prevent – their return to Ukraine.

However, the lack of an entry and exit stamp from Russia could also complicate their entry into the EU upon returning to Ukraine, leaving those who took the route in a peculiar dilemma.

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Ukrainians entering Russia were subject to extensive questioning on the Russian border.

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