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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Postal Service to Tackle Mail Thieves

Your next birthday card may arrive in Moscow under heavy security. Russia's postal service is setting up a nationwide mail security service to fight thieves who have left hundreds of Russians and expatriates waiting in vain for their parcels and letters. Nina Ivgina, head of the international mail department of the Federal Postal Service, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that at least 16 regional security services have already started operating, while Moscow has used 40 special mail guards since last August. The security agents will escort the mailbags from airports, ports and train stations to Moscow's International Post Office and even to regions and neighborhoods where mail delivery is particularly unreliable, Ivgina said. Last year, she said, the service lost 30 percent of its business, mostly to private postal services which offer quicker and safer delivery to wealthy Russians and expatriates. Ivgina said professional gangs at times take off with hundreds of bags in one single raid, most often at Sheremetyevo II Airport. Customs officials are actively involved, covering up the thefts by under-reporting the number of bags coming in, she said. Post office employees have also been caught stealing mail, Ivgina said. The thieves often dump the stolen bags, destroying thousands of letters for the sake of valuables from a handful. In May last year, four huge bags of mail were fished from a lake near Sheremetyevo II. Ivgina said thieves most often steal parcels and personal letters because they often contain cash, an illegal but popular practice as private money transfers from abroad are still virtually impossible. The security service will cost about 300 billion rubles ($150 million) but has yet to receive government funding, making it hard to predict how many guards will be hired, and how much of the mail they will be able to protect, Ivgina said. Private mail services were doubtful that the mail security guards could help Russia's postal service regain a competitive edge. "I don't think it is going to make any difference at all," said Guy Kingston, general director of PX Post. "The problems in the postal services are too deeply rooted." Even improved security will not reduce the chance that letters are delayed by months, Kingston said.