Russia's Food Ban Strikes Its Own Consumers
Published: August 8, 2014 (Issue # 1823)
On the orders of President Vladimir Putin, Russia on Thursday cut off over $9 billion in food imports to its market in the most aggressive response yet to Western sanctions over its backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, escalating an economic clash that has already undermined the fragile Russian economy.
"Russia is imposing a full ban on deliveries of beef, pork, fruit and vegetables, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced during a government session.
The move — which is likely to slash consumer choice in supermarkets, hike Russia's already high inflation rate and force interest rates up — follows Putin's signing of a decree on Wednesday ordering the government to bar food imports from countries that have imposed sanctions, "with the purpose of ensuring Russia's safety."
The decision comes in a tit-for-tat reprisal to Western sanctions over Russia's support of separatist militias in eastern Ukraine. The West's sanctions escalated significantly following the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane in the region last month, with both the United States and European Union cutting off major state-owned banks' access to Western capital markets and barring exports of defense and oil technologies to Russia.
The food import ban will last for one year, Medvedev said, although there is room for negotiation.
"If our partners demonstrate a constructive approach on issues of cooperation, the government is prepared to reconsider the duration of these measures," he said.
Medvedev noted that the measures will not touch children's food or goods that individuals personally buy abroad and transport to Russia.
The imports directly affected by the sanctions reached $9.2 billion last year, constituting more than half of the total value of food exported to Russia from the countries concerned and nearly a quarter of Russia's food imports last year, Reuters reported, citing data from the International Trade Center.
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