Ukraine expands bitter trade war with Russia

GMT 15:12 2016 Wednesday ,20 January

Arab Today, arab today Ukraine expands bitter trade war with Russia

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Kiev - AFP

Ukraine on Wednesday escalated its bitter trade war with Russia in punishment for Moscow's seeming efforts to choke off its westward-leaning neighbour's economic ties with other former Soviet states.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told a cabinet meeting that Kiev was adding 70 food products to its existing list of items Russia cannot sell in Ukraine.

The hawkish government leader said the measure was being adopted in response to "Russia's economic aggression" -- a reference to its own Ukrainian food ban that Moscow imposed at the start of the year.

"And we will continue to defend our domestic market in the future," Yatsenyuk warned.

The food fight came in response to Ukraine's decision to enter a landmark free trade and political association agreement with the European Union on January 1.

Former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych's shock decision to nix the EU pact in November 2013 led to three months of violent street protests that toppled his government and forced him into self-imposed exile in Russia.

The Moscow-backed leadership's downfall effectively burst Russian President Vladimir Putin's dream of enlisting Ukraine in a Kremlin-led alliance that could counterbalance the European Union and potentially even the NATO military bloc.

Ukraine's February 2015 revolution was followed two months later by a pro-Moscow eastern uprising that Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of both plotting and backing -- a charge the Kremlin denies.

Brussels delayed the Ukrainian deal's implementation by a year in 2014 to try and appease Kremlin concerns about Russia being flooded with European products that cross its border at reduced prices through Ukraine.

But numerous rounds of negotiations found no solution and concluded with Russia following through on its threat to impose a sweeping trade embargo on Ukrainian food.

Kiev responded with tit-for-tat measures that entered into force on January 10.

Yet Moscow went a step further by also banning transit of Ukrainian products to important markets in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

That measure provoked fury in Kiev and led to Wednesday's expanded imports ban.

Ukrainian Deputy Trade Minister Natalia Mykolska said the new list included such kitchen staples as ketchup and sauces as well as additional types of fish.

"We are also adding new pastry items," Mykolska told reporters.

Ukraine's initial embargo list covered items ranging from Russian meat to cigarettes and tea.

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