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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.
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, Lenta.ru 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, Tut.by 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.
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