Channel NewsAsia

Crimea wants out of Russian food sanctions

Crimea has asked Moscow for an exception to Russian sanctions blocking food imports from Ukraine, a senior regional official said on Friday (Aug 15).

MOSCOW: Crimea has asked Moscow for an exception to Russian sanctions blocking food imports from Ukraine, a senior regional official said on Friday (Aug 15).

The request was handed over as Russian ministers gathered on Thursday (Aug 14) to discuss the problems faced on the peninsula five months after Moscow annexed it from Ukraine, Crimean Agriculture Minister Nikolai Polyushkin said according to local media.

"We requested that Crimea be excluded from the general economic sanctions that Russia has introduced given that we are in a transition period and that we are still like Siamese twins with mainland Ukraine, especially concerning milk and dairy products," Polyushkin was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti.

He said Crimea wanted exceptions for the import of milk and other dairy products, potatoes, beef, tomatoes and corn from Ukraine.

Russia last week imposed a ban on the import of most food products from the EU and United States in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow's alleged support for Ukrainian separatists and the annexation of Crimea. Many Ukrainian food products had already been banned for health reasons, although Russian officials have denied the prohibitions were politically motivated.

Polyushkin said Crimean authorities were expecting a decision on the exemption as soon as Monday (Aug 18).

Russian officials have expressed confidence the country can survive without EU and US food imports, although they have acknowledged exceptions might have to be made for some regions and products.

Russia is facing huge difficulties in supplying Crimea as its only links to the peninsula are now by air or ferry, with waits of more than two days to get on board a ship. Tempers have occasionally frayed, with irate people waiting to cross overturning the car of a Russian lawmaker who tried to skip the queue this week, according to regional authorities.

To help Crimea, the Kremlin has put together a five-year programme that will see 660 billion rubles (13.6 billion euros, US$18 billion, S$22.4 billion) invested into the region over the next five years from the federal budget. Over a third of the total amount, similar to what Russia plans to spend on preparing to host the 2018 World Cup, is to be spent on building a bridge linking Crimea with the Russian mainland.