Ukraine has sparked a flurry of criticism after tightening border rules with Moldova as part of EU efforts to stamp out illegal smuggling, a top Ukrainian customs official said on March 5, RFE/RL informs.

Russia and the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniester, which is directly affected by the new rules, have accused Kyiv of trying to pressure Transdniester, said Oleksandr Yegorov.

Moldova, meanwhile, complained that Kyiv has taken too long to enforce the new procedures.

With growing pressure from Moldova and the European Union to restore order to the border area, Ukraine on March 3 imposed new rules that now require all cargo to be cleared by Moldovan customs officers.

Yegorov said that 14 automobiles and 13 train cars had been delayed at the crossing point, and at least eight were sent back to Transdniester. He added that Moldova was not letting through any vehicles that did not have proper customs stamps.

The introduction of new customs rules by Ukraine will hit both Russia and Ukraine, not only Transdniester, an official of the Transdniester region said Sunday, RIA Novosty reported.

According to Vasily Kozhan, the president of the Transdniester Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Ukraine annually exports more than $200 million worth of goods to the Transdniester republic and now this flow will be curtailed, resulting in direct losses for Ukraine.

He said the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa would also be affected because many goods from the Transdniester region, in particular, the products of the Moldovan Pipe Works, were largely delivered to foreign countries by sea.

"Russia will also sustain losses because it supplies goods worth about $200 million to the Transdniester republic via Ukraine and receives products worth about the same amount from Transdniester," Kozhan said.

"Largely speaking, Moldova is trying through Ukraine to solve political tasks and establish full control over the exports and imports of our republic. This is unacceptable," Kozhan said.

An EU mission has been trying to help Ukraine and Moldova restore order with Transdniester, a mostly Slavic, Russian-speaking region that broke away from Moldova in 1992 after a short war that left about 1,500 people dead.

Russia maintains a 1,800-strong military presence in the region. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has tried to increase his country's role in seeking a peaceful settlement.

The Foreign Ministry of Transdniester's unrecognized government slammed the new custom rules as a sign that Ukraine was "siding with one of the parties." Russia's Foreign Ministry called the move "another attempt to put economic pressure" on Transdniester "to force it to give up its political stand."


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