September 2, 2013


Russia bans pork imports from Belarus


A move widely seen as linked to the recent detention of a Russian Uralkali chief Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk, Russia has banned imports of pork products from neighbouring Belarus.


The ban, which will hurt debt-stricken Belarus, was announced by Russia on Friday (Aug 23).


The businessman was arrested after the collapse of a joint venture that once controlled two fifths of the global market for potash, an ingredient used in mineral fertilisers. Minsk claimed Baumgertner had had abused his position and official powers and stripped Belarus of a lot of profits. The Kremlin immediately rebuked those allegations.


Russia's veterinary regulator on Friday said the import restrictions on pork products were imposed over concerns about African swine fever in Belarus and would remain in place until the disease was wiped out or brought under control.


Official data available for the first three months of the year indicated that Russia imported close to 16,000 live pigs from its neighbour, suggesting that the ban on imports could become quite painful for the Belarusian economy.


Earlier this week, Russian pipeline monopolist Transneft said it would cut oil supplies to Belarus by 400,000 tonnes in September. At the same time, Moscow signalled it would increase scrutiny of Belarusian dairy products.


The government of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk for its part has not appeared to be willing to cave in. It's threatened to open a criminal case against Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian tycoon with Kremlin ties who is the top shareholder in Uralkali.