Russia will ban billions of dollars worth of food imports from the U.S. and other nations in retaliation for sanctions over the turmoil in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin today ordered restrictions on food and agricultural imports for one year from countries that have imposed or supported sanctions against Russia, according to the Kremlin website.
Russia is embroiled in the worst standoff with the U.S. and its allies since the Cold War over Ukraine, where government troops are cracking down on separatist strongholds in the east. The U.S. and the European Union targeted the Russian economy, expanding penalties last week, joined by Canada, Japan, and Switzerland, after the downing of a Malaysian Airlines System Bhd. passenger jet in Ukraine’s rebel-controlled area.
Putin has refused to bow to sanctions, aiming with today’s measure "to protect national interests," according to the decree. He called on the government to increase domestic supplies with the help of producers and retailers and to avoid spurring food-price growth.
"Retaliating against Western companies or countries will deepen Russia’s international isolation, causing further damage to its own economy," Laura Lucas, a spokeswoman for U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security council, said in an email. "We continue to call on Russia to take immediate steps to deescalate the conflict and cease its efforts to destabilize Ukraine."
The Russian government is drawing up a list of restricted goods. It plans to ban the import of all U.S. agricultural products, including poultry, as well as all fruit and vegetable imports from the European Union, according to a report in RIA Novosti citing Alexey Alekseenko, spokesman for Russian food safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor.
"The decision is not as critical as it looks at first glance," Elena Tyurina, director of the Institute of Agrarian Marketing, said by phone in Moscow. "Many foodstuffs are imported from Latin America, Arab countries and Asia. We’ll be eating fewer apples and more bananas, oranges and kiwis.’
Russia imported $43.1 billion of food and raw agricultural materials last year. Of that, $36.9 billion came from countries outside of the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States, according to Federal Customs Service data.