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Russia Arrests Smugglers, Urges Informants in Crackdown on Food

Russian authorities arrested six cheese smugglers and urged citizens to snitch on black-marketeers, raising the stakes in its effort to rid the country of U.S. and European food that President Vladimir Putin banned last year.

Intensifying a crackdown in which officials have destroyed hundreds of tons of food, police arrested the group suspected of supplying curd cheese in and around Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Prosecutors also announced a hotline on which citizens can report the sales of banned food outlawed under government countermeasures to U.S. and European sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

“The government isn’t happy that its bans are being skirted,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “The law enforcement agencies are happy they have a job that has high public interest. This may bring them awards, while if they catch a pickpocket, no one will notice.”

Russia began the crackdown on Aug. 6 as it entered the second year of U.S. and European sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and support of armed rebels who are fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine. The Russian agricultural agency Rosselkhoznadzor destroyed 600 metric tons of food between then and Aug. 17, it said on its website Monday.

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