Russian authorities started Thursday to destroy foods imported from the European Union (EU) in violation of an embargo introduced in a tit-for-tat response to Western sanctions.
In the first operation, about 9,000 kg of cheese went under road rollers in the southern Belgorod region, said Svetlana Zaporozhchenko, spokeswoman of the regional department of agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor.
"The destruction has been completed, and the destroyed foods will be buried," Zaporozhchenko said.
The destruction was in line with a decree Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on July 29.
The order has sparked controversy in Russia, with over 200,000 citizens petitioning the Kremlin via the Internet to re-channel the illicit food imports to orphanages and care facilities for seniors rather than destroy them.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the petition has been received, but he questioned the reliability of the number of petitioners.
"The decree came in force and it must be implemented," Peskov said.
The only exception has been made for Crimea, a peninsula absorbed by Russia in March 2014, Rosselkhoznadzor chief Sergei Dankvert said Wednesday.
Also on Thursday, inspectors raided food depots in the Bryansk, Novosibirsk, Moscow, Orenburg, Smolensk and Tver regions, according to the watchdog.
Rosselkhoznadzor representative Alexei Alexeenko said inspectors have found EU-made meat products, cheese, vegetables and fruits, which will now be destroyed.