In response to financial and travel sanctions imposed on Russian officials and prominent business people by Western countries, Russia has struck back by banning food imports from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia, and Norway. The ban was announced by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The ban covers fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy imports. The ban will last for up to one year, according to the government decree published on the Kremlin’s website.
According to the BBC and CBC, Russia is the second largest market in Europe for food and drink. Prior to the ban, food exports to Russia from the EU were worth around US$15.8 billion, those from the United States were worth US$1.3 billion, and those from Canada were worth US$515.7 million.
It is rumored the next step Russia is considering is sanctions on the use of Russia airspace, as well as in the shipbuilding and auto sectors.
This is the latest, and perhaps most drastic, measure taken in what has been a back and forth of diplomatic actions and economic sanctions between Russia and Western countries over the Russian-Ukrainian hostilities in eastern Ukraine. Tensions between Russia and the West have reached levels unseen perhaps since the Cold War and are certainly not subsiding after the downing of the Malaysian MH17, allegedly by Russian-backed separatists.
Russian-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces have been at odds since protests erupted in Ukraine, followed by the overthrow of the prime minister because of his decision to align within the Russian economic sphere of influence instead of with the EU. The tensions have been violent, and troop and arms buildups by both countries bring concerns about the inevitability of more violence.