Moscow’s dairy ‘embargo’ sparks confusion in Vilnius

Published on 8 October 2013 at 14:51

Confusion reigned in Lithuania on October 8 after Russian health officials announced "the need to introduce restrictions on imports of food products" from Lithuania due to "a weakening of [health] monitoring" in the country. In particular, the import of dairy products into Russia was banned as of October 7.

However, on the day it was to begin, both the prime minister and the minister of agriculture denied that an embargo existed.

"Is this not the stuff that Moscow's dreams are made of? Is it not pleasant to cause a panic in Lithuania practically out of thin air?" notes Delfi leader writer Marius Laurinavicius wryly.

Without waiting for the blockade to be confirmed, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, stated that the putative embargo is the "first major challenge that the government must resolve since it took over a year ago." As for the European Commission, it announced that it is considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organisation, something the European Parliament is expected to question the Commission about on October 8.

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According to observers, the announcement of the blockade is aimed at "punishing" Vilnius because it is supporting the EU's Eastern Partnership programme, which hopes to forge closer ties between former Soviet republics and the EU. *Delfi reports that Rospotrebnadzor, the Russian health authority, has previously used embargos on food products, such as Ukrainian pork, Georgian and Moldovan wine and Belarus dairy products, as a tool to apply pressure or for political retaliation.

The situation is expected to worsen, according to Delfi, as the date of the summit to discuss the EU's Eastern Partnership, scheduled to be held in Vilnius on November 28-29, draws near.

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