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Latvia's not-so-Honorary Consul in Ukraine dragged from car full of contraband smokes

Extraordinary scenes at the Ukraine-Hungary border have been released featuring one of Latvia's Honorary Consuls in Ukraine being dragged from his car after he refused to comply with requests to leave it by the normal method.

Video cameras captured Honorary Consul Yurii Ihnatko sitting tight as a growing number of border guards congregated around his vehicle. Having failed to persuade Ihnatko to exit in the conventional vertical manner, the officials lost patience and decided a horizontal approach would be necessary, requiring the attentions of numerous brawny uniformed men.

At one point someone with a claw hammer loiters hopefully in the background though his specialist skills do not appear to have been required.  

More than 6,500 packs of contraband cigarettes were subsequently found in Ihnatko's car, not all of which could be accounted for by a heavy snoking habit. In short he was obviously smuggling cigarettes across the border, an activity not generally thought consistent with the duties of an Honorary Consul. 

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly dismissed him from his position, according to Latvian Television on February 20.

"We found out immediately after it happened, because the embassy was involved. We have completely complied with Ukrainian authorities. We're really unpleasantly surprised by such an event, and that's why we've acted quickly,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry representative Jānis Beķeris.

Ihnatko's car had Honorary Consul number plates, and he had refused to step out of the car after claiming diplomatic immunity several times. The flaw in this reasoning is that Honorary Consuls don't actually have diplomatic immunity, a fact generally driven home at the start of any Honorary Consul's honorary consul-ing. The non-diplomatic incident nevertheless caused a delay of several hours at the border crossing point.

According to Beķeris, Ihnatko's mission was to strengthen Latvian and Ukrainian economic ties, and participate in cultural events. Whether he acheved the former is doubtful, if it involved the avoidance of import duty on cigarettes. While the border incident probably does not count as a cultural event in the traditional sense, it has at least spread the names of the two countries far and wide on social media.

Honorary consuls in Ukraine are Ukrainian citizens and put forward by Ukraine, but they are evaluated and confirmed by Latvia. After Ihnatko's dismissal four other honorary consuls will continue their work in Ukraine.

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