BWY Canine from Pembrokeshire helps fight Russian smuggling

A Pembrokeshire dog handler has just returned from the Russian border, seeing firsthand crowds of Ukrainian refugees trying to flee and playing a part in stopping the smuggling of illegal currency and tobacco in and out outside of Russia.

Stuart Phillips of BWY Canine was tasked with training 40 customs dog handlers and their dogs on the Russian border with Latvia.

He has spent the past few days teaching Latvian handlers new techniques and the latest developments in detection dog training.

After classroom sessions, Stuart worked on the Russian-Latvian border where customs dogs sniff out illegal tobacco, currency, drugs and weapons.

“Due to the Ukrainian situation, customs are cracking down on all the countries bordering Russia,” Stuart said.

“In particular, the dogs I worked with are looking for tobacco. There is a huge amount of tobacco trying to be smuggled out of Russia and Belarus and huge revenues are coming from this tobacco.

“There’s also a lot of traffic trying to move money. These are colossal sums, hundreds of thousands of euros. It’s often money tied to crime and the illegal tobacco trade.”

Stuart said illegal tobacco was often sold elsewhere in Europe with the money then smuggled back into Russia.

“What dogs do is very important,” he said.

“We have a huge illegal tobacco problem in the UK, but the quantities that attempt to be smuggled through the [Russia- Latvia] border are out of scale.

At border checkpoints, Stuart saw queues of Ukrainian refugees trying to cross the border into Latvia.

“Latvians are very sympathetic towards Ukrainians and did everything they could to help them,” Stuart said. “But they have to make sure that people are who they say they are, that they are Ukrainians.

Stuart was sent to Latvia by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) who are now considering that I may possibly provide more training in other European countries.

“The feedback from dog trainers and colleagues at OECD has been great,” Stuart said. “They said it had been a huge advantage.”

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