Dutch flowers represent a sanitary “threat” to Russia and could be banned in the country, its agricultural watchdog said yesterday (21 July), as Moscow’s relations with The Hague have reached their nadir.
The watchdog said in a statement that a ban on flower deliveries from the Netherlands – a country that prides itself on its tulips – was “highly probable.”
The statement said that Dutch flowers could be banned because the harmful organisms they contain “pose a serious threat to the country’s economy and agricultural production.”
According to data published by Gazeta.ru, Dutch flowers could suffer tens of millions of dollars in losses.
Russia’s relations with the Netherlands soured after the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine last July, which killed all 298 passengers and crew, the majority of whom were Dutch nationals (see background).
The West has accused the separatist insurgency of eastern Ukraine of shooting down the plane using a missile supplied by Russia.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident, accusing the Ukrainian military instead.
Russia has staunchly opposed the creation of a tribunal to prosecute those responsible for the downing of MH17.
On Monday, the country introduced an alternative draft resolution at the UN Security Council in an attempt to thwart the initiative put forth by Malaysia.
When asked whether the agriculture watchdog’s statement had been made in response to the Netherlands’ support of an MH17 tribunal, Kremlin Dmitry Peskov said that politicising the issue was “not on the Kremlin’s agenda,” RIA Novosti state news agency reported.
On the first anniversary of the tragedy last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov laid a basket of flowers outside the Dutch embassy in Moscow.
Last August, Russia banned the import of meat, dairy and produce from European Union member states and other Western countries in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.
President Vladimir Putin last month ordered that the embargo be maintained until June of next year.
The Netherlands is the world’s biggest flower exporter, with 10 billion Dutch tulip bulbs produced every year – 70% of total world yield.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that crashed on 17 July 2014 after being shot down, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.
Among the victims are 193 passengers from the Netherlands, 43 from Malaysia and 27 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, 10 from UK, and 4 from Germany and Belgium.
The Boeing 777 airliner lost contact about 50 km from the Ukraine–Russia border and crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, 40 km (25 mi) from the border, over territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Evidence from open sources indicated that separatists in Ukraine were in control of a Buk missile launcher on 17 July and transported it from Donetsk to Snizhne.
Two parallel investigations are led by the Dutch. One is into the cause of the crash, and a second investigation is a criminal inquiry. The investigation is expected to continue until August 2015.