SYDNEY - Australia has issued a stern statement following Russia’s decision to impose sanctions on a range of western countries.
In Canberra, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called it “disappointing” that Russia has not addressed international concerns over its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
Moscow’s sanctions on agricultural products are targeting mainly the United States and the European Union, but the punitive measures also affect other nations, including Australia, Canada and Norway.
Canberra has previously imposed a range of sanctions against Russia over its support of pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in Ukraine. Among them is a travel ban. Now Moscow has responded with trade sanctions that will last a year.
In a statement, Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said it was “disappointing” that Russia had imposed sanctions, rather than take decisive action to stop the supply of heavy weapons to separatists, including missile systems “believed to have been used in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.”
Australia Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says the government will do what it can to minimize the impact of trade restrictions on farmers. “The Australian people have a right to make a statement about what they see as an action that is wrong. And Mr. Medvedev has a different view and that's his right and he has a responsibility to the Russian people. And we have a responsibility to the Australian people. And I know that this is something that is going to cause a bit of hardship in the country for rural producers but we will try our very best to work around it and find alternate markets,” she stated.
Australia exports more than $370 million in agricultural products to Russia each year, including beef, butter and live animals.
Overall, two-way trade between Australia and Russia in 2013 was worth about $1.65 billion.
In a fiery news conference Friday, Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused Russia of trying to bully Ukraine. Mr. Abbott said if President Vladimir Putin wanted to be regarded as a world leader “instead of an international outcast” he had to order his forces not to intervene in the Ukrainian conflict.
The prime minister also said that Australia is considering strengthening its own sanctions against Russia.