. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who's Smiling? It's a Border Guard

Travelers entering or leaving Russia should be prepared for a surprise.

Next time they cross the border they could well be greeted by polite border guards, who, instead of their trademark grimaces and suspicious looks, will be wearing smiles on their faces.

Under an order issued by the Federal Border Guard Service, officers will be required to smile politely when dealing with travelers.

"As individuals and transport vehicles cross the state border, special attention will be paid to treating passengers very politely and to preventing callous and rude behavior," border service chief Colonel General Vladimir Pronichev announced in an order, Interfax reported.

Unit commanders will be personally assigned to oversee complaints, the order also said.

A duty spokesman for the Federal Security Service confirmed that the order "on the politeness of border guards" does exist, but he refused to comment on the document, saying he had not seen it.

Irina Tyurina, a spokeswoman for the Association of Tourist Agencies, said that in some parts of Russia, especially in the Far East, where many tourists arrive from Japan and South Korea, border guards' manners indeed leave much to be desired.

As well as being rude to foreign tourists arriving by train, border guards often order train attendants to lock lavatories for up to six hours, saying that this is the time required to check all of the passengers' documents.

Very often such complaints come from elderly tourists, Tyurina said.

In Moscow and St. Petersburg, tourists often complain more about their treatment at the hands of customs officers and the varying rules and demands, than about border guards, Tyurina said.

And in Moscow airports, travelers have to stand in long lines in stuffy premises waiting for their passports to be stamped, she added.