Ukraine steps up Russian trade war with own food ban

AFP , Tuesday 9 Sep 2014

Ukraine said on Tuesday it was drafting a list of food and other products it plans to ban from Russia in retaliation for Moscow's own painful and politically-charged restrictions.

The announcement threatens to further undermine relations between the two neighbours just days into a truce aimed at ending a five-month pro-Kremlin uprising in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 2,700 people and sparked a trade war between Russia and the West.

Ukrainian Agriculture and Food Minister Igor Shvayka said the government was still in the process of forming the list of products it planned to stop at the border in the coming months.

"The economic development ministry is developing the list of Russian good whose important will be banned," the Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted Shvayka as saying. "This list has not been completed yet."

Trade between the two largest former Soviet nations has imploded, with Ukrainian data showing that agricultural exports to Russia fell in the first six months by more than 31 percent.

The period covers the tumultuous months that saw a Kremlin-backed president ousted in a wave of protests and replaced by a pro-Western team that then sealed an historic EU trade pact.

Russia in June extended its long list of banned Ukrainian foods products to all forms of confectionery.

Moscow had previously cited food safety concerns when slapping restrictions on Ukrainian potatoes and all forms of dairy goods.

Russia also has blacklisted a host of Ukrainian vegetables and canned goods such as tuna and salmon.

The Kremlin has developed a long and varied history of discovering problems with food imported from former Soviet nations that are starting to look westwards and sever their decades-old Moscow ties.

It banned wine from Moldova and Georgia when both nations were negotiating their own EU trade and political association agreements.

The Kremlin last month stopped importing most EU and US food after they imposed the first serious sanctions on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.

Moscow kicked off its trade war with Kiev last year by banning chocolates produced by the company owned by Petro Poroshenko -- the current Ukrainian president who was one of several tycoons who in 2013 saw the economic benefits of closer EU relations.

The Ukrainian parliament voted in August to draft restrictions on Russia and slap travel ban on Kremlin insiders and security agents linked to Moscow's seizure of Crimea in March.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at the time that the measures could cost his country as much as $7 billion (5.4 billion euros) in the first year due to likely reprisals from Moscow.

"We understand the price that Ukraine will pay," Yatsenyuk told lawmakers at the time. "But we are prepared to pay for our independence."

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