Russia says it will keep its embargo on European and US foods in place as long as Western sanctions against Moscow are not lifted.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said on Thursday that “the embargo will stay” if the West renews its bans on Russia which have been imposed over the country’s alleged role in the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
He added that the ban is not “a goal in itself” but a means to support agricultural producers.
Russia has been targeted by a series of sanctions over the past months by Brussels and Washington, which accuse Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in Ukraine.
However, the Kremlin has rejected the claims and slapped a ban on some food imports from the US, the European Union, Norway, Australia and Canada in a tit-for-tat move. Moscow has also issued a blacklist of politicians from the 28-nation EU bloc, barring them from traveling to the Russian Federation.
The European agricultural producers have faced heavy losses due to the embargo. Russia imported about 10 percent of EU’s agricultural exports, worth about 11.8 billion euros, in 2014.
Dvorkovich, meanwhile, said even when the sanctions against Russia are lifted, the country will try to boost domestic production in agriculture and pharmaceuticals to become self-sufficient.
“It’s not a matter of choice, it’s a must,” he said, adding, “We need to provide for ourselves with quality products.”
EU extends sanctions
The comments came as EU member states on Wednesday decided to extend the economic sanctions against Russia by another six months to the end of next January.
According to officials, EU foreign ministers would finalize the agreement during their meeting in Luxembourg on June 22.
The EU sanctions have targeted Russia’s banks, oil and defense sectors. The 28-member bloc slapped asset freezes and travel bans on a number of leading Russian officials and pro-Russian figures after Crimea joined Russia in March 2014. Washington has also imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
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