After food ban, Russia markets shrimp “from Belarus”



Massive fraud is reported after Moscow introduced counter-sanctions, prohibiting the importation of food from Western countries that undertook measures to punish Russia for the annexation of Crimea, and for destabilising eastern Ukraine. For example, shellfish are labelled as hailing from Belarus, even though the country is landlocked.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that shoppers in Kursk have purchased shrimp labelled as originating from Belarus.

Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli reports that Russians have started joking about the arrival of such misrepresented goods, following the self-imposed food ban (see background).

The periodical points out that this is taking place despite a much-publicised promise by the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, that his country would not allow the reexport of food prohibited in Russia through Belorussian territory.

According to media reports, firms in Bulgaria, an EU member state bound by the EU sanctions against Russia, are considering setting up joint companies with counterparts in Serbia and Turkey, two non-EU members, to boost their food sales to Russia in the current context.

The Bulgarian daily Standart writes that “the Bulgarian tomato has become Serbian”. It quotes economists according to whom the export of vegetables from Bulgaria to Russia will continue, but that they will be labelled as Serbian.

“It is expected that thousands of EU companies will establish joint ventures in Serbia and Turkey. In this way, the sanctions will not be directly breached and there will be no basis to consider that EU law has been broken,” the economists are quoted as saying.

Russia has escalated an economic battle set off by the crisis in Ukraine with a ban on all food imports from the United States and on fruit and vegetables from the European Union, dropping any pretence these might be for food safety reasons.

The import ban, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 6 August, comes after he ordered retaliation for Western sanctions against Moscow. The decree halts or limits imports of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia, ordering the government to come up with a list of imports to be banned for a year.

Russia is a major buyer of European fruit and vegetables but ranks 23rd among buyers of food from the United States, accounting for less than 1% of America's farm exports.

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