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Moscow’s Cheesed Off at Rise in Belarusian Imports

Bans and threats of more reprisals against Belarusian products reflect widening gap between the two once-tight neighbors.

3 March 2017

Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has issued warnings to two large Belarusian cheese producers over their use of the preservative natamycin.


Further violations could lead to a ban on imports from the two companies, Izvestia reports.


The warning is the latest sign of degrading bilateral ties since Russia was hit with Western sanctions over its interventions in Ukraine.


Rolls of cheese. Image via Petr Kratochvil /


Russia says its closer scrutiny of Belarusian products stems from the need to guarantee food quality, as well as clamp down on the smuggling of European foods into Russia via Belarus, The Moscow Times wrote on the latest warnings.


In January Russia banned imports of meat products from 20 Belarusian producers, accusing them of relabeling European meat in order to enter the Russian market, Izvestia says.


Questions have been raised about steep rises in Russian food imports from Belarus since the sanctions regime began. Most spectacularly, according to Russia's deputy prosecutor general Vladimir Malinovski, in 2015 apple and mushroom imports rose to five times the level of the previous year, reported last year.


Within a year after the imposition of sanctions Belarus also became the largest exporter of kiwi fruits to Russia, even though kiwis don't grow in the country, wrote in 2015. Belarus is also now the largest exporter of cheese to Russia, Kommersant reported.


While the cheese factories in question have not commented on the claims of Rosselkhoznadzor, Minsk has denied the country is a smuggling haven and insists that lower-quality foods have been loaded onto Belarusian vehicles in Russia, The Moscow Times reports.



  • Izvestia writes that products from an additional seven Belarusian meat and cheese producers are under scrutiny by Russian authorities and may face import bans.


  • The food import issue is just one of several sore points in bilateral relations. Belarus and Russia have been trying to resolve their row over gas prices for several years now, Moscow saying Belarus owes it more than $280 million, Sputnik reported.


  • Russia recently enforced controls on its border with Belarus, shortly after Minsk eased visa requirements for citizens of many European countries and the United States. 

Compiled by Liga Rudzite

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