Belarus to ban Western food imports from January

File photo. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a news conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 9 September 2021. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

Belarus said Tuesday (7 December) it was imposing a ban on imports of foods from a number of Western countries after the United States and Europe widened sanctions on Minsk amid a severe crisis in ties.

The Belarusian government published a decree saying a wide range of food imports from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Britain, Norway and several other countries would be banned from 1 January.

“Retaliatory measures have been taken, taking into account continuing attempts of the collective West to exert illegal sanction pressure on our country,” the government said in a statement.

Belarus authorities published a long list of foodstuffs whose import will be banned including meat, dairy products, vegetables, confectionery, and salt. It added that more products could be banned in the future.

The ban will be in force for six months, the government said.

Belarus said food imports from the countries to be affected by the ban were worth more than $530 million in the first ten months of 2021.

Minsk said that some items — such as baby food — will be exempted from the ban, in the “interests” of Belarus nationals.

“Importers, manufacturers and retail chains will focus on replacing goods that are not produced in Belarus with supplies from friendly states,” the government added in an apparent nod to Russia.

The United States, European Union, Britain and Canada have expanded sanctions on Belarus over strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on protests against his disputed re-election in 2020.

Last week the United States, Canada and European allies stepped up pressure on Lukashenko’s regime, widening sanctions on officials and businesses for allegedly stoking a migration crisis for political reasons.

US, allies ratchet up the economic pressure against Belarus

The United States and its allies, including the European Union, on Thursday (2 December) imposed sanctions against dozens of individuals and entities in Belarus in a coordinated move to escalate punitive action against President Alexander Lukashenko and his government.

The sanctions targeted senior security and justice officials, prominent media figures, one of Lukashenko’s sons, defence-related firms and a major fertiliser exporter.

Also targeted were state airline Belavia, tour operators and hotels that have collaborated with the government in luring thousands of Middle Eastern migrants to the Polish and Lithuanian borders, sparking a migration and humanitarian crisis.

Lukashenko denies he is responsible for the influx. Russia has criticised the West for imposing the new sanctions against Belarus.

In banning Western food imports Lukashenko has followed in Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s footsteps. In 2014, Moscow imposed a ban on Western cheese, meat and other products in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine.

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