Putin bans food imports from countries with sanctions on Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered government agencies to ban the import of agricultural and food products from countries that have imposed sanctions due to the crisis in Ukraine.

The retaliatory decree, signed by Putin and released by the Kremlin, said food, raw materials and agricultural products would be banned or limited for one year.

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Putin also directed his government to implement measures that would prevent the prices of food and agricultural products still being sold in Russia from increasing. He also said the government should propose measures that would increase the supply of domestic goods.

While the decree did not identify the products that would be affected, last week Russia said it was considering bans against United States poultry imports and fruit from Greece.

Russia’s food safety watchdog, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, said last week that it had discovered listeria, salmonella, lead and anaerobic microorganisms in U.S. poultry.

The agency had said it would consult with the U.S. over the bacteria. But on Tuesday, the agency said officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service refused to discuss the poultry deliveries with them. The Russian agency says the U.S. is the largest exporter of poultry to Russia.

Putin’s decision to respond to Western sanctions comes about a week after President Obama announced new U.S. restrictions, in coordination with the European Union, which aim to cripple Russia’s economy in response to its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The move is in stark contrast to comments Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made recently in which he said Moscow wouldn’t respond to sanctions every time they’re issued. 

Putin, however, signaled on Tuesday he was exploring retaliatory action.

“The political tools of economic pressure are unacceptable and run counter to all norms and rules,” Putin said according to Russian news outlets, The New York Times reported.

“We need to discuss possible retaliatory measures,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev also was quoted as saying.

Russia is now considering blocking airlines including British Airways, Air France and Lufthansa from flying across Siberia to get to their destinations in Asia. 

In addition, Russian lawmakers have raised the possibility of banning accounting firms based in “aggressor countries” from doing business in Russia. Some of the firms include Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Times said. 

The Kremlin has already banned some fruit imports from Moldova; fruits and vegetables from Poland; and milk, dairy and animal products, vegetables and potatoes found in luggage or through the postal service from Ukraine, Russian media said last week.  

This story was updated at 12:48 p.m.