Russia to extend ban on EU food imports until Jan 2016
The move comes in retaliation against EU ministers’ decision to prolong sanctions levied against Russia until 31 January 2016, keeping pressure on Russia to end the conflict in Ukraine. The EU accuses Russia of illegally annexing the Crimea and of supporting Ukrainian separatists.
Yesterday the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told his deputies: "Taking into account that the European Union has extended sanctions against the Russian Federation for half a year, I ask you to prepare my proposal to the president to extend the presidential decree (on the ban) for this period."
The Russian Ministry of Agriculture was preparing a list of imports to submit to the Kremlin and was considering adding other products to the line, Agriculture Ministry representative Ilya Ananyev told Reuters.
But the Putin government was unlikely to add more products to the list of banned imports as it was acting on the principle of reciprocity, one Russian official said.
Russia described the extended sanctions as a triumph for the "Russophobe" lobby in the EU, with a spokesperson for Putin calling them unjustified and unlawful.
"[The sanctions] not only prejudice the interests of economic activity participants in our country but also the interests of these countries, that is, interests of taxpayers of the European states," the spokesperson said yesterday.
Meanwhile NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the EU's decision. "The sanctions are a strong signal and a clear message that it has consequences when a country behaves in the way Russia has done in Ukraine," he said.
Implemented in August 2014, the ban has hit EU producers of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy.
Russia is the second most important export destination for European agri-food goods after the US, with exports to Russia valued at roughly €11.8 billion in 2013 - or 10% of all agri-food exports - according to the Commission.
Of this, the Russian ban has hit 43% of EU food exports, worth €5.1 billion.
Last year the EU released millions of euros in emergency aid to help dairy farmers store butter, milk powder and cheese, as well as €125 million for perishable fruit and vegetables.
Speaking during a televised call-in in May this year, Vladimir Putin said that the sanctions had spurred Russia on to boost its domestic agricultural production. and reduce reliance on imports.
The EU says it is ready to reverse the sanctions when Russia actively seeks to find a solution to the Ukrainian crisis.