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Russia imposes retaliatory food ban in response to sanctions

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Russia announced today, Aug. 7, that it would be imposing a ban on the import of a wide range of food and agricultural products from Europe and the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway in response to the Western-imposed sanctions according to a report by The New York Times. These measures harken to the days of the Soviet Union, when such measures were expected to be taken. Russia believes that these sanctions are raising the level of confrontation between Moscow and the West over the future of Ukraine, which has been thrown into turmoil this past year.

In response, the European Union’s policy-making body said it regretted this move, reminding that it reserved the right to impose additional retaliatory measures.

The sanctions in question against Russia were imposed as a result of the annexation of Crimea, as well as the alleged supply of the rebels in eastern Ukraine, to which Russia has decisively denied.

“This announcement is clearly politically motivated,” the European Commission said in a statement. "We underline that the European Union's restrictive measures are directly linked with the illegal annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine. The European Union remains committed to deescalating the situation in Ukraine. All should join in this effort."

Last year, Russia purchased $43 billion worth of food, and has become the biggest consumer of EU fruit and vegetables, second only to the U.S. in poultry, and a major global consumer of fish, meat and dairy according to EuroNews.

Though President Vladimir Putin has ensured to his people that the ban will not hurt Russian consumers, suggesting there might be certain exclusions for popularly consumed products, the announcement by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev included no such exceptions.

“Even if Russia says it will try to find additional sources of supply, it will be difficult in the short term,” said Ivan Tchakarov, the chief economist at Citibank for Russia. “Consumers will feel some pinch but I don’t think it will be a massive impact.”

Analysts have suggested that these measures will have an immediate but only moderate effect on the economy as the country seeks other suppliers in Latin America and Africa for most of their food imports.

According to the figures supplied by Bloomberg, Russia imports about 25 percent of its food worth an estimated $43.1 billion annually. About 75 percent, around 36.9 billion comes mainly from Europe and the United States, with the other 25 percent coming from former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States. These numbers derived from the Federal Customs Service.

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