Russia Ends “Cheese War” With Ukraine

By: EW News Desk Team   Date: 18 April 2012

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18 April 2012

Russia has agreed to begin re-importing cheese from neighbouring Ukraine after a two-month long ban, which many believed to have been politically motivated, claimed a report by Reuters on Tuesday.

In February this year, the Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor had barred all cheese imports from Ukrainian producers in February this year after claiming that they had violated Russian milk and milk product standards, which included excessive quantities of palm oil.

Ukrainian producers though counterclaimed that their products had met all the required standards, and that the ban had only come because of lobbying from Russian dairy producers.

“Our cheeses are of good quality and cost less... our Russian colleagues had no claims. They would need to strive to produce cheese of this quality in Russian factories,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov at that time, who claimed that to have personally inspected all of his nation’s cheese facilities.

“Russian citizens will be forced to buy the more expensive Polish cheeses or face the fact – as often happens when a domestic market is closed off – of rising prices,” he added.

According to the Kyiv Post, Russia accounted for 80 percent of Ukrainian cheese exports in 2011, or over $350 million in revenues. The two countries though have often been caught up in numerous trade disputes, particularly over the price of Russian gas that Ukraine imports.

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"This cheese war fits within the overall theme of (Russia) putting pressure on Ukraine," said Voldymyr Fesenko, an analyst at the Ukrainian think tank Penta.

Ukraine’s refusal to join a Russia-led Customs Union – together with ex-Soviet allies Belarus and Kazakhstan – has also added to Russia’s anger towards its neighbour, noted Fesenko.

"This is all tactics and the strategy remains the same – dragging Ukraine into the Customs Union,” he said.

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Before the conflict was resolved, Ukraine’s Partia Regionov Deputy Alexei Plotnikov had even described the “cheese war” as “public terrorism” on Russia’s part.

“This is public terrorism, it is a public action. This is not a friendly move, these moves are economically unfounded, and I think that we should use the leverage of the WTO as an organization, which Russia is going into, when it becomes a full member, rather, in May,” Plotnikov was quoted as saying by Moscow News.

But the two sides appear to have come to a resolution after Ukrainian authorities finally relented into allowing Russian food safety inspectors to check all cheese exports before they would be permitted to cross the border.

Kiev and Moscow have agreed to use a laboratory in Ukraine to monitor the compliance of Ukrainian cheese quality with Russian requirements, while Ukrainian government have to also provide “guarantees” in regards to the implementation of the plan.

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