Ukraine said Wednesday it expects to lose some $600 million next year as a result of a food trade ban which Russia has threatened to introduce from January 1st.
Speaking at a government meeting, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he expected a free trade agreement between his country and the European Union to enter force from January 1, 2016.
"We are also getting ready for Russia to introduce trade limits against Ukraine," Yatsenyuk said, estimating that the food ban would cost the conflict-torn ex-Soviet country some $600 million next year.
Russia has bitterly opposed the landmark EU-Ukraine trade deal at the heart of the Ukraine crisis, saying it would damage its own economic ties and interests in the former Soviet state.
Moscow has said it will introduce a blanket ban on food supplies from Ukraine if Kiev goes ahead with the deal, and Russia's Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev reiterated that threat earlier Wednesday.
"It is highly likely that we will have to unilaterally protect our market from the uncontrolled access of goods via Ukraine's customs territory, from goods from third countries, first and foremost EU countries," Ulyukayev said in an interview on national television.
He added that Moscow would introduce the ban against Ukraine as a retaliatory step because Kiev joined the West in slapping sanctions against Russia.
Russia has already introduced a ban against most Western food imports.
But the Ukrainian authorities put on a brave face, saying that over the past few years Ukraine has significantly cut its dependence on Russian markets.
"If three years ago such dependence was on average 35 percent, then today it is 12.5 percent," Yatsenyuk said.
More than 8,000 people have been killed since pro-Russian insurgents took up arms against Ukraine's pro-Western government last year following the ouster of a Kremlin-backed president in the capital Kiev.
In early September, the European Union extended sanctions against Ukrainian and Russian figures accused of backing pro-Moscow rebels.
Later that month, Ukraine expanded a list of sanctions against 90 Russian companies and 400 individuals.