Rus­sia bans Pol­ish pro­duce

Viet Nam News - - World -

MOSCOW — Rus­sia an­nounced a ban on most fruit and veg­etable im­ports from Poland yes­ter­day and said it may ex­tend the re­stric­tions to the rest of the Euro­pean Union, its first ap­par­ent re­tal­i­a­tion to new Western sanc­tions im­posed over Ukraine a day ear­lier.

Moscow, which buys more than 2 bil­lion eu­ros (US$1.5 bil­lion) worth of EU fruit and vegeta­bles a year mak­ing it by far the big­gest ex­port mar­ket for the prod­ucts, said the ban was for san­i­tary rea­sons.

Pol­ish fruit grow­ers said the ban was po­lit­i­cal, although Rus­sia de­nied this. Moscow has fre­quently been ac­cused in the past of us­ing san­i­tary in­spec­tions to re­strict trade from coun­tries with which it has po­lit­i­cal dis­putes. The EU said it was study­ing the an­nounce­ment, de­scrib­ing it as a sur­prise.

The ban came a day af­ter the Euro­pean Union and United States im­posed their first sanc­tions aimed at hit­ting broad sec­tors of the Rus­sian econ­omy, re­strict­ing sales of equip­ment for the oil and de­fence in­dus­tries and lim­it­ing ac­cess by state- con­trolled banks to Western cap­i­tal mar­kets.

Moscow de­nies Western ac­cu­sa­tions that it has armed and sup­ported mili­tias who are fight­ing Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. Rus­sian officials have con­demned Tues­day’s sanc­tions.

Pres­sure for sanc­tions in the West in­creased dra­mat­i­cally af­ter July 17, when a Malaysian air­liner was shot down over sep­a­ratists held ter­ri­tory with what Wash­ing­ton and Brus­sels be­lieve was a sur­face- to- air mis­sile ac­quired from Rus­sia.

Ac­cord­ing to Euro­pean Com­mis­sion fig­ures, the EU sold Rus­sia 1.2 bil­lion eu­ros worth of fruit and 886 mil­lion eu­ros worth of vegeta­bles in 2011, ac­count­ing for 28 per cent of the bloc’s ex­ports of fruit and 21.5 per cent of its vegeta­bles. For some EU coun­tries, in­clud­ing Poland, the per­cent­ages are even higher.

By first tar­get­ing Poland, which was part of the Soviet bloc un­til just over two decades ago, Moscow is strik­ing at one of the EU’s most stri­dent sup­port­ers of in­creased sanc­tions against Rus­sia for its back­ing of sep­a­ratists in eastern Ukraine.

Rus­sia ’ s Vet­eri­nary and Phy­tosan­i­tary Sur­veil­lance Ser­vice(VPSS) will re­strict most fruit and veg­etable im­ports from Poland start­ing from Au­gust 1, due to “the vi­o­la­tion of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of quar­an­tine prod­ucts, “spokesman Alexei Alek­seenko said.

He said the move was part of a VPSS plan to con­sider re­strict­ing all or some fruit im­ports from the en­tire EU, an­nounced with lit­tle fan­fare on Mon­day while Euro- pean coun­tries were de­bat­ing the lat­est sanc­tions. The VPSS said at the time it would de­cide the fate of over­all EU im­ports in a week or two.

“Our re­stric­tions are not linked with EU sanc­tions, be­cause this sit­u­a­tion (with Pol­ish im­ports) has been de­vel­op­ing for along time,” Alek­seenko said.

“We im­pose these lim­its not to try to get some­thing from the Pol­ish side, but to have our rights ob­served as a WTO (World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion) mem­ber. “To­masz So­lis, deputy head of the Pol­ish Fruit grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said the de­ci­sion was “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.”

“ The po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine would sooner or later have af­fected our re­la­tions with Rus­sia,” he said.

“Rus­sia is one of our prime tar­get mar­kets, with 60 or per­haps even 70 per cent of our ex­ports go­ing there. “A spokesman for the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive Euro­pean Com­mis­sion said it was study­ing the new re­stric­tions.

“Let me be very clear that they came unan­nounced by the Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties – they were not an­nounced be­fore­hand – so what the com­mis­sion will do now is to an­a­lyse the mea­sures and the grounds they have been taken, and we will take ac­tion in due course,” the Com­mis­sion spokesman said in Brus­sels. —

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