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Ukrainian Customs: Don't Forget Your Pants Before You Fly to Kiev

11:00 AM, Sep 27, 2010 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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• Ukrainian customs would not allow another company that imports Play Stations to bring in a shipment without a special license. This because each device came with batteries included. The company spent two weeks in paper chase hell. The reason? Batteries are subject to licensing by the Ministry of Industrial Policy of Ukraine. The same goes for MP3 players, notebook computers, watches, mobile phones, etc.

• A representative of a foreign company planned to visit an exhibition in Kiev and sent some promotional brochures by express mail—addressed to the hotel where he had a reservation. The shipment arrived in Ukrainian customs one day earlier than the guest. To obtain such a shipment the businessman then had to generate five different documents and wait a minimum of a week. By the time all the documents were collected and the declaration submitted to customs, the exhibition was over.

My personal favorite is the story of the man who was on a business trip and left a pair of pants in his hotel before flying on to Ukraine. This hotel forwarded them to his hotel in Kiev by express mail indicating a value of $50. Ukrainian customs arbitrarily (which is how they usually operate) increased their value to $400. The man refused to pay the $40 duty required by Customs, and so the trousers were returned to the hotel where he left them in the first place.

Later this summer the Ukrainian government did make a change in customs procedures, but not the kind any of us were hoping for. Knowing that September 1 is the traditional beginning of the school year (and that each child by tradition brings a bouquet of flowers to his or her teacher on the first day of school), the Customs Service increased the duty to be paid on imported flowers 360 percent on August 10 and then by 500 percent on August 16. The service gave no explanation for the massive increase in the fee schedule and failed to provide written confirmation of the changes as required by law.

We all can figure out the real reason, however. It’s just another in a series of arbitrary and capricious changes designed solely to pick the pockets of the general population. In the meantime, if you are planning a trip to Europe that includes a stop in Kiev make sure you have not left a pair of pants—or worse, your wallet—behind before you arrive here.

Reuben F. Johnson is an aerospace reporter based in Kiev. 

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