LONDON - Russia has announced a ban on imports of food and agricultural products from the United States, Europe and other Western countries. The ban is in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the West following Moscow’s forceful takeover of Crimea, and continued support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The Russian measures will impact both sides.
In a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the embargo.
"Russia is introducing a total ban on imports of beef, pork, fruit and vegetables, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and other dairy products from the European Union countries, the United States of America, Australia, Canada and the Kingdom of Norway," said Medvedev.
Russia imported about $1.3 billion of food and agricultural products from the U.S. in 2013. It bought close to $16 billion in products from Europe. Elizabeth Stephens is a London-based risk analyst.
“They’ll impact Europe far more than the U.S. With the U.S., it tends to focus on wheat and going back to the Cold War, even then at the height of the Cold War, the Americans still sold the Soviet Union wheat. So this really is quite unprecedented," said Stephens.
With products like luxury meats and cheeses banned from import, Russia will also pay a high price, says Stephens.
“Many wealthy Muscovites like to have their Western agricultural products dressed up very prettily in the top shops in Moscow. They theoretically will be leaving the shelves. And inflation will kick in in Moscow. It’s already at 7.9 percent. Not importing from the West will leave a huge deficit," she said.
In Moscow stores, imported goods like French cheeses and Spanish fruit still line the shelves but may soon disappear. Shoppers like Irina Kashkadova appeared to support the government’s stance.
"I don't think the Russian people will lose anything from this. At the same time, Russia will develop its agriculture and make new trade links with other countries," said Kashkadova.
Moscow says the embargo is in retaliation for Western sanctions, which have targeted Russia’s banking, energy and defense sectors.
Visiting Kyiv Thursday, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy, Daniel Fried, said Washington has plenty of scope to step up its measures.
“We are determined to do what we need to do to make the sanctions regime most effective and with always an eye on creating the conditions under which we can move the sanctions," said Fried.
The West’s sanctions are starting to impact Russia’s economy. In recent days, several Russian tour companies have gone bankrupt - leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded. Moscow is mulling tax increases - but that could be counterproductive, says Alexei Devyatov, chief economist of Russia-based URALSIB Bank.