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Russia bans Western food over Ukraine sanctions

MOSCOW (AP) - 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 U.S. 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 on a score of individuals and companies. 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.

A somber-looking Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a televised Cabinet meeting that Russia's retaliatory ban covers all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway. It will last for one year.

"Until the last moment, 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 Bans Western Food Imports, Ukraine Scuffles Heat Up

Russia depends heavily on imported foodstuffs - most of it from the West - particularly in the largest and most prosperous cities such as Moscow. In 2013 the EU's agricultural exports to Russia totaled 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion), while the U.S. Department of Agriculture says food and agricultural imports from the U.S. amounted to $1.3 billion.

Medvedev argued that the ban would give Russian farmers, who have struggled to compete with Western products, a good chance to increase their market share.

But experts said that local producers will find it hard to fill the gap left by the ban, as the nation's agricultural sector has continued to suffer from poor efficiency and shortage of funds.

While the government claimed it will move quickly to replace Western imports by importing more food from Latin America, Turkey and ex-Soviet nations to avoid empty shelves and price hikes, analysts predicted that it will further speed up inflation.

The damage to consumers inflicted by the ban will be felt particularly hard in big cities like Moscow, where imported food fills an estimated 60-70 percent of the market.

Medvedev said Russia could go further and ban Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia - a move that would significantly swell costs and increase flight time. He said that the government is considering the move as retaliation to the EU's sanctions against Russian low-cost airline Dobrolet, but wouldn't specify when and under what conditions the move could be taken.

Medvedev made it clear that Russia hopes that the sanctions will make the West revise its policy and stop trying to pressure Russia with sanctions.

"We didn't want such developments, and I sincerely hope that our partners will put a pragmatic economic approach above bad policy considerations," he said, adding that the ban could be lifted earlier if the West shows a "constructive approach."

If the West doesn't change course, Russia may follow up by introducing restrictions regarding imports of planes, navy vessels, cars and other industrial products, Medvedev warned, but added that the government will move carefully.

"The government understands how important such cooperation is, and naturally, we have a realistic assessment of our own capacities," he said.

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aaldrew August 07 2014 at 7:47 AM

Nice goin' Obama. You started the cold war up again.

Flag Reply +54 rate up
49 replies
Crockett August 07 2014 at 7:10 AM

Oh boy!! Does this mean we'll have cheaper food prices here in the good ol' USA?

Flag Reply +53 rate up
15 replies
G-DAWG August 07 2014 at 7:25 AM

We will show the west.... watch us shoot ourselves in the foot!

Flag Reply +48 rate up
4 replies
Ma Fosz August 07 2014 at 7:55 AM

Can you just imagine the surplus of food on the shelves in America's supermarkets? That means cheaper prices for all Americans.

Flag Reply +45 rate up
13 replies
Frank August 07 2014 at 8:14 AM

Poor John Kerry, there goes all his Heinz Ketchup stock!

Flag Reply +37 rate up
3 replies
Big Daddy August 07 2014 at 9:23 AM

Good, im glad the Russians banned US food imports. That means our prises will go down, and Russians will skyrocket, Let them starve, Chiken prices in the US have gotten way to high cause we sell all our food to Russia and China. Keep our food in the good o'l USA !

Flag Reply +35 rate up
7 replies
Welcome Justin August 07 2014 at 8:15 AM

This is nothing. Wait until they shut off the gas to all of Europe; which they probably will do when winter comes and this situation is not resolved. They can get their produce and supplies from other nations, so it will not be nearly as big a hit to Russia as the American media implies. But this just further illustrates how the situation we created in Ukraine will not have a happy ending for us at all. Despite our unwarranted arrogance, Russia holds the upper hand in this standoff.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
22 replies
niceguy71653 August 07 2014 at 8:08 AM

Putin isn't going to be around to save the Obamanation's bacon this time, like he did when Obama drew the red line in the sand over Syria.

Flag Reply +24 rate up
4 replies
coopdabomb August 07 2014 at 7:49 AM

obama should just stay in the sandbox.
If you play with the bull you will get the horn.

Flag Reply +24 rate up
5 replies
dgham1942 August 07 2014 at 7:47 AM

Great bring down our prices!

Flag Reply +23 rate up
1 reply
DENNIS dgham1942 August 07 2014 at 10:10 PM

You really dont understand how it works do you. Actually the cost of food here should go up, not down. The farmers still have to make a profit on the crops that were produced for exporting. Now with the little food being sold here, they will have to raise the cost to cover their loss. Sorry, but your president didnt really think this one out.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
2 replies
nemerow DENNIS August 08 2014 at 12:23 AM

I guess your the one that doesn't understand the market. Food is a commodity. Prices will be lowered because crops are already in the production stage and the surplus will have to be distributed at a lower cost. The prices will eventually go back up because they will reduce the production. The farmers will be subsidized because of the conflict, which they already are. Corn will be converted into energy which will also reduce the cost of energy. Europe will buy more liquid gas from us, and that in turn will motivate more innovation in that industry and they will invest in technology and ships to transport it. The russians are making a bad thing worse in order to accomplish their own stupid unnecessary goals. By the way, the russians are fed nonsense in their news and believe it is the US that is causing this.

Flag 0 rate up
retpo96 DENNIS August 08 2014 at 1:21 AM

The Russian economy is going in the tank as we speak, the high cost of short food supply will only make their matters worst.

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