A Pembrokeshire dog handler has just returned from the Russian border, seeing first hand crowds of Ukranian refugees trying to flee and playing a part in stopping illegal currency and tobacco being smuggled in and out of Russia.

Stuart Phillips of BWY Canine was tasked to train 40 customs dog handlers and their dogs on the Russian border with Latvia.

He has spent the last few days teaching the Latvian handlers new techniques and the latest developments in the way detection dogs are trained.

After classroom-based sessions, Stuart worked on the Russian-Latvian border where customs dogs are sniffing out illegal tobacco, currency, drugs and arms.

“Because of the Ukrainian situation customs are cracking down in all countries that border Russia,” said Stuart.

“In particular the dogs that I was working with are looking for tobacco. There is an awful lot of tobacco trying to be smuggled out of Russia and Belarus and a huge income from that tobacco.

“There is also a lot of traffic trying to move money around. We are talking huge sums, hundreds of thousands of Euros. It is often money connected to crime and the illegal tobacco trade."

Stuart said that the illegal tobacco was often sold elsewhere in Europe with the money then smuggled back into Russia.

“What the dogs are doing is very important,” he said.

“We’ve got a massive illegal tobacco problem in the UK but the quantities that are trying to be smuggled across the [Russia- Latvia] border are off the scale.”

At the border check points Stuart witnessed queues of Ukrainian refugees trying to cross the border into Latvia.

“The Latvians are very sympathetic towards the Ukrainians and were doing all they could to help them,” said Stuart. “But they have to ensure that people are who they say they are, that they are Ukranians.

Stuart was sent to Latvia by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) based in Paris which is now looking at my potentially delivering more training in other European countries.

“The feedback from the dog trainers and the OECD colleagues has been great,” said Stuart. “They said it has been of huge benefit.”