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Russia on Thursday banned most food imports from the West in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine — a sweeping move that will cost Western farmers billions of dollars but could also lead to empty shelves in Russian cities.
The decision shows that President Vladimir Putin has no intention of bowing to Western pressure over Ukraine and will instead try to strike back at the West. It also demonstrated that the Kremlin is prepared to inflict damage on Russia while pursuing its course in Ukraine.
The US and the EU have accused Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March, of fomenting tensions in eastern Ukraine by supplying arms and expertise to a pro-Moscow insurgency, and have imposed asset freezes and loan bans. Moscow has rejected the accusations and in turn accused the West of blocking attempts at a political settlement by giving a green light to Kiev to crush the mutiny through indiscriminate use of force, swelling civilian casualties.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia’s retaliatory ban covers all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from the US, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway. It will last for one year.
“... We hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them,” he said. “But they didn’t and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.”
Russia depends heavily on imported food items — most from the West. The PM argued that the ban would give Russian farmers a good chance to raise their market share.