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The Russian invasion of Ukraine is rippling through the customs business

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Workers in yellow vests unload boxes from the cargo area of a plane.

The EU and Canada have banned Russian planes from their airspace, and that's being felt throughout the supply chain. "There's all kinds of commercial flights that have been interrupted because of this," customs broker Gretchen Blough says. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

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For customs broker Gretchen Blough, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has not only driven up costs, it’s endangered colleagues.

“We’re seeing an increase in cost,” Blough said. “Especially air freight,”

On Sunday, both the European Union and Canada banned Russian planes from their airspace.

“All kinds of commercial flights have been interrupted because of this,” Blough said. “So that’s been quite an impact there.”

In particular, she said the price of transporting COVID-19 tests via charter plane had spiked practically overnight. “That’s increased by half a million dollars.”

Blough works for Logistics Plus, a company headquartered in Erie, Pennsylvania, but with offices around the world. That includes an office in Ukraine, which employs around 50 people.

“A lot of our European colleagues have reached out and offered lodging, clothing, transportation — whatever is needed to our colleagues in Ukraine,” said Blough, who added that at least seven Ukrainian employees had been evacuated to either Romania or Poland.

For now, Blough and her colleagues are carefully watching what happens in Ukraine and how it affects them both personally and professionally.

“There’s weather, there’s fuel prices, there’s a lot of stuff that comes into play in the supply chain,” she said. “This is just one more thing. Unfortunately, it has a huge human cost. And that probably makes it the worst thing of all.”

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