Rus­sia be­gins de­stroy­ing smug­gled Western foods

The Pak Banker - - BUSINESS -

Rus­sia launched Thurs­day a con­tro­ver­sial cam­paign to de­stroy tonnes of Western food from gourmet cheeses to fruit and veg­eta­bles smug­gled into the cri­sis- hit coun­try, de­fy­ing a storm of crit­i­cism.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin last week signed a de­cree or­der­ing the in­cin­er­a­tion of all food that breaches a year-old em­bargo on Western im­ports im­posed in re­tal­i­a­tion to sanc­tions over the Ukraine cri­sis.

"From to­day, agri­cul­tural pro­duce, raw prod­ucts and foods, which come from a coun­try that has de­cided to im­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions on Rus­sian le­gal en­ti­ties or in­di­vid­u­als ... and which are banned from im­port into Rus­sia, are due to be de­stroyed," the agri­cul­ture min­istry said in a state­ment.

Moscow last year banned a slew of food prod­ucts from the West, rang­ing from gourmet cheeses such as Parme­san to Span­ish hams to sta­ples such as ap­ples.

Rus­sia com­plains that some im­porters are get­ting round the ban by il­le­gally re­la­belling food to claim they were pro­duced in neigh­bour­ing ex-Soviet coun­tries.

The food safety agency said it would start de­stroy­ing sev­eral hun­dred tonnes of con­tra­band pro­duce on Thurs­day that is has al­ready seized.

Smug­gled food was sched­uled to be in­cin­er­ated in re­gions bor­der­ing ex- Soviet Be­larus, Kaza­khstan and Ukraine, the Ros­selkhoz­nad­zor agency said.

A spokeswomen for the agency said that the go-ahead had al­ready been given to in­cin­er­ate tonnes of cheese from Latvia and toma­toes at mil­i­tary fir­ing ranges.

A source in the food safety agency warned that of­fi­cials who opted to "de­stroy" gourmet del­i­ca­cies by eat­ing them would face crim­i­nal charges, pro-Krem­lin Izves­tia daily re­ported.

The move has been widely crit­i­cised for wast­ing food as the eco­nomic cri­sis and sanc­tions have pushed mil­lions of Rus­sians into poverty and made it harder for them to af­ford ba­sic foods.

"This is no or­di­nary mea­sure. This is a dis­play of bar­bar­ity, a chal­lenge to so­ci­ety, a re­fusal to see the eth­i­cal side, where it is most im­por­tant," Ve­do­mosti busi­ness daily wrote in a front-page ed­i­to­rial.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, more than 258,000 Rus­sians had signed an online pe­ti­tion on web­site call­ing for the foods to be given away to the needy.

Com­mu­nist Party leader Gen­nady Zyuganov, who nor­mally toes the Krem­lin line, said the move was "ex­treme" and pro­posed send­ing the food to chil­dren's homes and to the sep­a­ratist pro-Rus­sian re­gions of eastern Ukraine.

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