Russia buys trains for Crimean rail route but keeps mum on who from

MOSCOW, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Russia’s Ministry of Transport said on Friday the state had bought passenger carriages and locomotives for a new rail route linking Russian cities to Crimea, but declined to say who had supplied the new rolling stock.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and European Union sanctions ban European citizens and companies from investing there, including in the peninsula’s transport and infrastructure.

The United States has not introduced similar sanctions, but risk-averse Russian companies, including Russian Railways, try to avoid opening subsidiaries in Crimea or having dealings with Crimean firms.

The new Crimean rail route, which replaces an earlier pre-annexation route which ran through Ukraine, is due to open at the end of this year and cross a bridge that Moscow built to link southern Russia with Crimea, long a draw for tourists.

The transport ministry said Russia’s state property agency had bought 166 passenger carriages for the new route and 10 locomotives and would transfer the rolling stock to Crimean Railways, the local state-owned rail company.

Apparently wary of sanctions risk, the ministry declined to say who had supplied the rolling stock and at what price and on what terms they would be handed over to Crimean Railways.

Sources familiar with the matter have previously told Reuters that a private company, Grand Service Express, which currently operates the Grand Express train between Moscow and St Petersburg, could operate the Crimean service.

When asked on Friday about that possibility, the company said in a statement it was considering expanding its route network.

It said preliminary research had shown that a passenger service to Crimea had “significant potential” when it came to demand from tourists.

Grand Service Express was considering different options to expand its rolling stock, including outright purchases or a lease arrangement, it said.

Russian Railways declined to comment, as did Rosimushestvo, Russia’s state property agency. (Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov Writing by Andrew Osborn Editing by Giles Elgood)