Russia Slaps Food Embargo on More European Countries
Russia on Thursday broadened a food embargo imposed in retaliation for Western sanctions over Ukraine to include Iceland, a significant fish importer, as well as Montenegro, Albania and Liechtenstein.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine will be added to the embargo from January 1 next year when a landmark EU-Ukraine trade deal enters force, unless Kiev makes a deal with Moscow.
The announcement came as Russia's Communist Party announced it has submitted a bill to parliament calling for smuggled Western food to be given to the needy instead of being destroyed.
Authorities last week pulped hundreds of tons of cheese, vegetables and fruit as they began a campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin to destroy food brought in despite the year-long embargo.
Moscow said the decision to extend its blacklist to include the non-European Union nations was due to the "degree of involvement of these countries in the sanctions regime."
Iceland's foreign minister said Reykjavik was disappointed by the move that industry insiders could cost some 235 million euros ($261 million) and impact around 1,000 jobs.
Scenes in Russia of imported peaches and nectarines being burnt or thrown on rubbish tips and cheese being crushed by steamrollers have angered many in a country where nearly 23 million people live below the poverty line.
The Communist bill calls for banned food that is fit for consumption to be given to people living in poverty or victims of humanitarian disasters, as well as to foreign states.
The food "can be used as free aid to people in poverty, people suffering from emergency situations, as humanitarian aid, for example to the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk," a note to the bill says, referring to east Ukraine's conflict-torn separatist regions.
It is rare for the Communist Party to oppose a decision by Putin, but the move could offer the Kremlin an exit strategy after its policy proved unpopular with the public.
Putin's decree did not require a vote in parliament, which will return from summer recess in September.
"Russia is destroying food in front of the eyes of the world," the Communists said.
"Hundreds of tonnes of food are being burnt in crematoriums or destroyed in other ways. But this destruction is an extreme, excessive measure," a note to the bill reads.
"In order to ensure the ban on imports of farm product, raw products and foods, it's enough to confiscate them."
Only food that is dangerous to eat or of low quality should be destroyed, the draft law says.
Russia slapped the ban on Western products a year ago but the authorities say that produce is being repackaged in neighboring ex-Soviet states and smuggled in.