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Russians for counter-sanctions but against destruction of illegal food imports

July 30, 2015, 20:00 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Rusan Shamukov

MOSCOW, July 30. /TASS/. Most Russian citizens have backed the introduction of counter-sanctions against foreign food exporters, but the decision to destroy the banned products that have been smuggled into Russia has caused a mixed response from the public at large.

Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachyov last week suggested that all foodstuffs brought into Russia in bypass of the embargo should be stopped on the border and eliminated, and not returned to senders. The decision followed several instances in which prohibited products were brought into Russia via third countries to which the embargo does not apply. President Vladimir Putin has signed a special decree to this effect.

"All farm produce, raw materials and foods originating from a state that has made a decision to introduce economic sanctions against Russian legal entities and/or individuals shall be subject to elimination as of August 6, 2015," the decree runs.

On August 7, 2014 Russia restricted the import of foods from the Western countries that have imposed sanctions over the situation in Ukraine. Last June the ban was prolonged till August 2016. As many opinion polls have shown, an overwhelming majority of Russia’s population has supported the sanctions although they have brought about food price hikes. According to the latest survey by the Public Opinion Fund pollster, published early this month, 87% of Russians are for prolonging the ban on imported foods from the European Union countries, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

In the meantime, no infrastructure capable of disposing of large amounts of prohibited products are in place yet, and its creation will be a rather costly affair, experts warn. As an official at Russia’s agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor has told the daily Kommersant, expanding the facilities for the elimination of embargoed foods would be a very costly project, unlikely to ever be implemented.

"When the decision begins to be enforced, two or three such incidents will be enough to drastically reduce the import of prohibited items," the official speculated.

In the country’s parliament, the State Duma, the idea met with support from all political parties, while the presidential council for human rights have suggested delivering the foods under counter-sanctions to refugees from Ukraine.

The issue of eliminating embargoed foods has sparked a lively debate in the cyberspace.

Some strongly support the radical measures, saying they are a vital need.

"Destruction is the only way to go about this business. May they think twice before bringing banned foods here," says blogger Yuri Martsun.

His opponents reply that at a time when so many people starve destroying foods will be immoral.

Many experts acknowledge that although the destruction of banned foods is legal, it is also prodigal.

Lawyer Igor Trunov is quoted by the daily Vedomosti as saying that from the legal standpoint destroying foods will be possible only on the basis of legal acts, but essentially it will remain unfair.

"We have orphanages, homes for the aged, socially vulnerable people below the poverty line and so many problems that merely counting them may drive one crazy. Destroying food is impermissible," he believes.

Lecturer at the presidential academy RANEPA, Vera Zakharova, sees eye to eye with those non-governmental organizations and individuals who believe that destroying embargoed foods is a wrong decision.

"On the one hand, it is a consequence of the food import sanctions a majority of the population approved. But on the other, many people believe that the foods might be distributed among homes for the aged, boarding schools and the needy. They cannot reconcile themselves with what they believe is nothing but squander," Zakharova told TASS.

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