Belarus cracks down on bottle traders

Customs officials stop empty bottles from crossing borders.

Published March 10, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

It has always been tough to make a buck in Belarus, but it just got a little tougher, thanks to a government decision to stop enterprising Belarussians from bringing their empty bottles into neighboring Latvia.

According to a Reuters report, citizens of the former Soviet republic have been taking empty bottles into Latvia, where they receive a deposit equivalent to 5 U.S. cents for each bottle -- double the amount they get at home.

It has been a good way to make much-needed extra cash, so good, in fact, that the government of Belarus wants to put a stop to it. In a recent state television report, "smuggling rings" were accused of organizing shipments of bottles from Ukraine, where the deposit is even lower than Belarus' -- approximately 1.5 U.S. cents.

In Belarus' rural regions, the average monthly wage is about U.S. $20, so citizens have long tried to beef up their incomes by taking goods and food items into (or out of) neighboring countries.

Belarussian officials declined to comment on why they were putting the kibosh on the border trading.

By J.A. Getzlaff

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