Since the start of the war with Russia, Ukraine has dismantled at least six illegal cigarette factories, reports EUreporter. These illegal facilities were found to be well-equipped operations that used relatively new cigarette machinery.
When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took office in 2019, he announced an ambitious agenda to combat the illicit tobacco trade, stating that defending a 1,500 km border with the European Union against cigarette smuggling would be a key task as illicit tobacco trade has close connections to criminal activity, organized crime and other areas of black market trade.
However, since Ukraine’s war with Russia began in February 2022, illicit tobacco trade increased due to factors including the deteriorating economic situation, disruption of logistical channels, lower purchasing power due to inflation and a tobacco product excise tax increase. Due to the illegal cigarette trade, Ukraine has estimated that it lost over €375 million ($443.3 million) in 2021 and almost €500 million in 2022.
Other methods to battle illicit trade have included central coordination at the highest administrative level, intensified cooperation with EU member states, the strengthening regional and international collaboration, the vetting of the civil service, stronger control of customs and border inspectors, strengthening of police forces and legislation, and awareness campaigns for consumers.