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Russia Strikes Back With a Range of Turkey Trade Sanctions

Turkey had initially been one of the beneficiaries of Russia’s food embargo against the west

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Originally appeared in Financial Times

Rosselkhoznadzor, the agricultural and food security watchdog, said all agricultural and food products imported from Turkey would now be subjected to laboratory checks.

The consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, said it had pulled Turkish products, including meat and fruit, from shop shelves following health safety checks.

Moscow also moved ahead on cutting tourism ties. The foreign ministry published a travel warning on its website which recommended that Russians refrain from visiting Turkey and those visiting now return home “due to the terrorist threats that persist on the territory of Turkey”. Oleg Safonov, head of the federal tourism agency, told reporters that co-operation with Turkey in the tourist sector would be discontinued.

Mr Safonov said Turkey had received revenues of about $10bn a year from Russian inbound tourism. “It’s absolutely clear that Turkey won’t be earning this money any more,” he said.

Russian authorities also cracked down on Turkish business travellers following the shooting down of the fighter jet after it veered into Turkish airspace on Tuesday.

A group of 39 Turkish businessmen were detained on Wednesday because they had entered the country on a tourist visa but attended an agricultural trade fair, the migration service in the southern region of Krasnodar said.

Meanwhile, the government said it was preparing a package of economic sanctions against Turkey. Dmitry Medvedev, Russian prime minister, instructed his cabinet to present proposals within two days on what other restrictions to impose.

Among the measures suggested by cabinet members on Thursday was closing Russian airspace and ports to Turkish companies, suspending an investment services agreement with Turkey, and suspending social and cultural exchanges.

Food import restrictions, which are often blamed on health code violations, are a time-tested weapon for the Russian government: After western countries imposed sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis, Moscow retaliated last year with an all-out ban on their food products.

Even before that, Moscow repeatedly blocked or delayed food items — be it Polish pork, Moldovan wine or Ukrainian chocolate — during political feuds.

Turkey had initially been one of the beneficiaries of Russia’s food embargo against the west. In 2014, bilateral trade in agricultural products increased by 19 per cent to $4bn as Turkish shipments of fruit, vegetables and nuts to Russia grew. That momentum faded in the first half of this year.

Alexander Tkachev, agriculture minister, said he had ordered the restrictions after regulators had frequently found that Turkish food and agricultural products violated Russian regulations. “Unfortunately, on average 15 per cent of Turkish agricultural products do not correspond to Russian standards,” he said.

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