Kiev - Four men allegedly attempting to smuggle more than a tonnes of honey out of Ukraine were stopped by a military patrol on the border with Russia, according to officials Friday.
The illicit honey - around 1.1 tonnes in 24 barrels - was believed to be destined for the Russian black market and had a street value of as much as 100,000 dollars.
The two Ukrainian and two Russian suspects in two lorries were driving at night along a rural back road near the border when they were stopped.
Police, acting on a tip off, ambushed the alleged smugglers just 10 metres short of Russian territory, according to a statement from the border police.
The men failed to produce any paperwork documenting the necessary duties paid on the honey.
The men, if convicted, of smuggling and attempted illegal border crossing could face sentences of three years' in jail, and confiscation of their product and property.
Honey manufacturing is an important industry in Ukraine - the world's fourth largest producer after China, the US, and Argentina.
The primary industrial markets are in Europe and the Middle East, where the product often is used as a sweetener in food production.
Honey production is also a popular cottage industry or hobby for many Ukrainians, among them Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, an enthusiastic amateur beekeeper.
Retail honey prices in Ukraine have tumbled in recent months because of reduced consumer demand, and increased honey supply.
Industry observers have credited larger volumes of Ukrainian honey to a warm summer stimulating intensified bee activity, and rising small scale production by rural residents recently having lost jobs in the city. (dpa)