Authorities in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad announced this week that they had destroyed 20 tons of tomatoes from the Czech Republic, that were falsely labelled as Macedonian. Russian authorities investigated the shipment, and after allegedly receiving information from Macedonia that the respective shipment was not registered with them, ordered its elimination.
The Czech Agriculture Ministry confirmed that the shipment of tomatoes had passed via the Czech Republic, but denied that the tomatoes were Czech-grown. The ministry said the firm which re-exported the tomatoes was established in the Czech Republic, but was run by a Russian national. It said the delivery had received a re-export permit from the Czech authorities, without closer inspection of the goods. Hynek Jordán, a spokesman for the Agriculture Ministry said the Czech Republic had been notified about the destruction of the goods and expressed regret that the Russian authorities had sought a radical solution rather than distributing the consignment among the needy or using it as animal feed.
The Czech Republic falls under the Russian ban on food imports, introduced after the US and EU levelled sanctions on Russian individuals and companies in connection with the Ukrainian conflict.
At the beginning of August, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the destruction of banned food imports which are smuggled into the country under false labels and the authorities have been running a high profile campaign to justify the policy. Moreover, according to Czech Television, the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare, Rospotrebnadzor, is allegedly preparing a new draft law which would make the consumption of food imports violating the ban a criminal offense punishable by a fine of 120 thousand roubles, 360 hours of community work or three months in jail depending on the gravity of the offense.
Earlier, Russian police announced they had cracked down on an international gang smuggling banned food products to Russia. Six people were arrested, among them a number of foreigners. They are reported to have smuggled two billion roubles worth of food products from West European countries banned from importing food to Russia.
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