2009 Russian ban on Belarusian dairy products
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During a visit of President Putin to the Belarus capital Minsk, Russia expressed interest in the privatisation of some of Belarus's major milk producers. The response to this by the Belarusian government was to start talks with the European Union on certification of Belarusian milk standards according to EU norms.
The reaction of Russia was to send along its health inspectors, headed by Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s public health and consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor that previously banned the import from several food products of Polish, Moldovan, Latvian and Georgian origin. He advised Moscow to ban all imports of Belarusian dairy products, claiming they fell short in proper certification, and Russian media then spread the rumour that Belarusian dairy products could be "hazardous for health". The Russian authorities banned Belarusian milk and dairy imports and sales on June 6, 2009. Milk and dairy products are important export for Belarus’ agricultural sector, which employs one out of 10 people in the nation of 10 million. The dispute is popularly referred to as milk war by press.
These developments deepened a politically charged dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbors which are linked through a special treaty of alliance. Onishchenko's announcement came a day after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that Russia made a $500 million loan contingent on its recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. According to Reuters, the relations between Belarus and Russia have been at low since 2007, with Minsk being upset at rising prices for Russian gas and Moscow by Lukashenko's rapprochement with the European Union.
Russia has in the past banned meat products from Poland, wine from Moldova, canned fish from Latvia and most agricultural products from Georgia when political tensions with these countries were high.
In response Lukashenko accused Russia of trying to take control of Belarus’ industries and destroy its sovereignty, adding that a long-discussed confederation of Russia and Belarus would create "another Chechnya". The Belarus Foreign Ministry said the ban was “discriminatory trade restrictions violating international agreements”.
Lukashenko and his delegation refused to travel to Moscow for the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) of seven ex-Soviet states at which a plan for a joint rapid-reaction force was approved on April 14, 2009. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the Russian ban as purely economic problem, criticizing Lukashenko for linking it with "issues of military and political security that answer to the interest of all CSTO members”.
- Belarus raises stakes in dispute with Russia. Associated Press. June 14, 2009
- Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko takes on ally Russia in ‘milk war’. Times Online. June 15, 2009
- ‘Milk War’ Strains Russia-Belarus Ties. The New York Times. June 14, 2009
- "The milk split by the milk war"
- Imports of Belarussian Milk Products Banned. Moscow Times. June 8, 2009
- Belarus-Russia rift widens, Minsk snubs Moscow meet. Reuters. June 14, 2009
- Russia bans Belarus milk products as tensions rise. Kyiv Post. June 6, 2009
- Belarus leader may snub Moscow security meet. Reuters. June 14, 2009
- Belarus leader refuses to attend Moscow security bloc summit. RIA Novosti. June 14, 2009