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Belarusian Border Guards Resume Checking Russian Vehicles

Belarusian customs officers have resumed checking vehicles entering from Russia, a move that reflects tension between the neighbors.

Russia's Federal Customs Service said on December 8 that Belarusian officers were checking cars and trucks and confiscating undeclared goods. It said long lines had formed at the border.

Belarus had stopped checking Russian and Kazakh vehicles in July 2011 as part of regulations of the Customs Union linking the three former Soviet republics.

Russia and Belarus are partners in a "Union State" and often present a common front against the West, but relations are often rocky and are now strained by a growing spat over trade.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka lashed out at Moscow last week over a ban on many Belarusian milk and meat products, saying Belarus should not suffer losses because of Kremlin sanctions barring food products from the EU and the United States.

Those sanctions, imposed over Russia's interference in Ukraine, prohibit the direct import of EU food products into Russia but allow foods that undergo substantial reprocessing in Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The Belarusian overnment said the customs checks are necessary to prevent smuggling of Russian products into Belarus.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker, called Belarus's explanation "nonsense."

Based on reporting by TASS, Ekho Moskvy, and