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I'm travelling from UK to Japan via Russia, and would like to take prescription medication with me without a prescription (imported legally). I've cleared it with the Japanese authorities, but noticed that it's a Schedule II drug in Russia.

Do bags get checked on layovers? Obviously the safest solution is to not take any, but I'm curious to know what the procedure is here.

  • What do you mean by "Schedule II"? Is it illegal to import to Russia? – Petr Jan 31 at 7:57
  • Illegal to even possess, it's in the same league as things like cocaine (surprisingly). – lolzernator Jan 31 at 13:26
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BE REALLY CAREFUL WITH THAT, and if it's illegal to import to Russia, DO NOT DO THAT!

Just recently there was a highly publicised story of Naama Issachar (you can google for her name and read all the details), who was flying from India to Israel via Moscow, and had several grams of cannabis in her luggage. This is legal both in India and Israel, but not in Russia. Despite not crossing the border and even having no access to the luggage, she was arrested and sentenced for several years. After serving several months, this Wednesday she was pardoned by Putin after apparently a personal appeal by Benjamin Netanyahu.

(In fact, when I just saw the title of your quesions, I thought that you write the question as a follow-up to this story).

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Contrary to popular belief, “transit” doesn’t mean that you aren’t subject to the laws of the transiting country. So if what you are carrying is illegal — or simply of a nature that you might be held for secondary questioning, it isn’t worth it.

There have even been instances of people being arrested when their plane had to make a forced landing in a third country and they had prohibited items.

The safest: Instead, you might consider mailing yourself from the UK to Japan the prescription medicine you need and declaring it on your Japanese customs form at the airport as unaccompanied baggage (items sent separately). See link for how to do this.

Or buy a direct ticket.

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If your layover is an airside transit, you probably won't pass through Russian immigration, won't see your checked luggage, and your checked luggage won't be examined by Russian customs officers. Whether yours is an airside transit will be determined by your flight schedule, airport terminals or transfers, your nationality, and Russian rules.

If, on the other hand, yours is not an airside transit, then you'll pass Russian Immigration and Customs, and your baggage (and your carryons, and you) may be searched.

In either case, and even if you have an airside transit, it's possible that you, or your checked or carryon baggage, may be searched anyway. This seems unlikely, but you, or your appearance or behavior, or travel history, or back-channel information available to the Russian authorities could lead to this result.

What they'd do after finding such meds is unknown. It probably runs the gamut from nothing, to arrest and criminal prosecution.

If you're going to be carrying such drugs, I think having only the amount you yourself will use, and having copies of the physician's orders — that is, the prescription(s) —- would be wise preparations.

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