October 8, 2013


Russia bans Lithuanian dairy imports on quality issue



Due to concerns about the quality of Lithuanian cheeses, yoghurts, and other milk products, Russia suspended dairy imports from Lithuania, according to Russia's consumer safety watchdog.


This is in connection with the latest increase in tensions between the two countries over efforts to strengthen ties between the EU and former Soviet states. Lithuania is scheduled to host a summit in late November to encourage closer ties between the EU and former Soviet states.


Russia is working towards creating its own trade union with other former Soviet republics and has bristled at efforts by its neighbours, particularly Ukraine, to sign free-trade agreements with the EU.


Officials in Lithuania didn't immediately respond to the announcement of the ban, but the country's president, Dalia Grybauskaite, told the UN last month that what have been nicknamed the "milk wars" were an attempt by Russia to exert pressure on its neighbour. She also complained that Lithuanian trucks had been suddenly held up at the border for long periods of time in recent weeks.


Lithuania's foreign minister last week threatened a possible blockade on Russia's European enclave of Kaliningrad which borders the Baltic nation, but later backed off.


Russia's consumer safety watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, often issues bans on products from ex-Soviet republics, but has long denied any political motivation. But long running bans on Georgian wine and mineral water following a brief war between the two countries in 2008 have widely been seen as politically driven.


Russia has also enacted similar bans on dairy products from Belarus during a period of increased political tensions in 2009. Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onishchenko told Russian news agencies that dairy imports from Lithuania were limited.