Russia to extend Western food ban to 2018: PM

MOSCOW: Russia plans to extend its embargo on Western food products by a year and a half, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Friday as the European Union prepares to debate renewing sanctions against Moscow.


“I have ordered proposals to be drawn up to extend the retaliatory measures not by a year but until the end of 2017,” Medvedev said in comments released by the government.

The measure, which would have to be approved by President Vladimir Putin, is aimed at boosting Russia’s agricultural sector.

Since August 2014, Moscow has banned most food imports from Western countries, particularly from the European Union, which has imposed sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in east Ukraine.

Russians have seen European staples such as Parmesan cheese disappear from stores — often replaced by inferior substitutes made locally or imported from as far away as South America.

Russia extended the sanctions by a year last August, seriously affecting the livelihoods of European farmers.

The embargo was due to expire in three months.

Medvedev’s warning came as EU countries prepare to debate next month whether to extend sanctions affecting Russia’s banks and energy and defence industries that expire in July.

So far the EU has extended these sanctions every six months.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said this month she expects the bloc to extend its sanctions once again.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday however that resistance is growing within the EU to extending the sanctions, with an unanimous vote required.

The European Union says it will lift sanctions when Russia complies with the terms of a peace accord reached between Moscow and Kiev in February 2015 on the conflict in east Ukraine that has now killed more than 9,300 people.

While the fighting has grown less intense, the death toll is still increasing due to regular breaches of the ceasefire.

The peace process has stalled over thorny issues including a requirement for the rebel-controlled regions to hold local elections.