MOSCOW, March 20 Russian border guards have
stepped up checks on goods entering from Ukraine, officials from
the customs services and an agricultural inspection service said
on Thursday, underlining tensions between the two countries.
Ties between Ukraine and Russia are at their lowest point
since the fall of the Soviet Union. Moscow has annexed the
Ukrainian region of Crimea and Kiev has threatened to retaliate,
including introducing a visa regime for Russians.
"Russian customs have increased customs checks, acting on
information about possible attempts to bring contraband in from
Ukraine, including weapons," said Dmitry Kotikov, a customs
Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary
Surveillance said customs officers were finding more cargoes
with fake documentation.
Separately, Russia's top security service said police had
arrested several Russians and Ukrainians accused of smuggling
weapons to Russia's volatile North Caucasus region through
A Ukrainian customs spokeswoman said there were no problems
along the country's eastern border with Russia.
Russia last tightened customs controls on Ukraine in August
last year in a move criticised as a means of piling pressure on
Kiev to end negotiations on a free trade agreement with Europe.
Shunning that treaty in favour of closer ties with Russia in
November prompted protests that culminated in the toppling of
pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich last month, ushering in a
new pro-EU leadership.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Tatyana Ustinova, writing by
Thomas Grove, editing by Elizabeth Piper)