Ukraine crisis: Russia bans all food imports from the West for a year as row over US and EU sanctions escalates

Trade links are being severed as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine

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The Independent Online

Russia has announced it will impose a “full embargo” on all imports of food from the West, escalating its response to US and EU-led sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

The ban will last for one year, and cover a huge range of products from meat and dairy to fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and cheeses.

It comes after Barack Obama said American economic restrictions over the conflict in Ukraine had strained the Russian economy to the point where it had “ground to a halt”.

But in televised comments addressed to a meeting of the Russian government today, the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said his country was to take the breakdown in trade links a step further.

As well as the EU, Australia, Canada and Norway will also be affected by the ban.

And Mr Medvedev said Russia is also considering banning Western airlines from flying over its territories on routes to and from Asia.

Read more: Nato fears Russian invasion in Ukraine

Such a move would significantly swell costs and increase flight times for travellers. While a final decision is yet to be made on that front, Mr Medvedev said the ban would immediately apply to the Ukrainian authorities.

The US and EU have accused Russia of contributing to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine by supplying separatists with arms and expertise. They have imposed asset freezes and loan bans on a range of Russian individuals and companies.

Russia depends heavily on imported food — most of it from the West — particularly in the largest and most prosperous cities such as Moscow. In 2013 the EU's agricultural exports to Russia totalled 11.8 billion euros (£9.4 billion), while the US Department of Agriculture says Russia’s food and agricultural imports from the US amounted to $1.3 billion (£772 million).

The “full embargo” was preceded by the announcement of limited trade cuts with the US, and the order then made by Vladimir Putin called for urgent measures to prevent reactionary price hikes.

Speaking about the need to impose bans that will inevitably harm the Russian public, Mr Putin said they were imposed “with the goal of guaranteeing the security of the Russian Federation”.

But the news also affects those involved in the production of food for export in the UK and the rest of the West, according to the UN food agency.

Senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian said that the ban was unlikely to have a noticeable effect on global food security, but added: “The first casualties would be the domestic market, however it will have some implications for the farmers in the producing countries.”