Poland protests Russian import ban with 'apple selfies'
Polish nationals are posting online photos of themselves posing with apples to protest against a new Russian ban on Polish imports. While Moscow cites health concerns, Poland says the ban is retribution for criticising Russian actions in Ukraine.
Russia said it would begin banning imports of most fruit and vegetables from Poland starting on Friday for what it says are violations of health regulations and the documentation procedures for some Polish produce.
Polish government officials, however, say the ban was imposed in retaliation for its vocal support for the latest round of European Union sanctions against Russia over its recent actions in Ukraine.
The produce ban is expected to affect Polish apples more than any other product. Poland is Europe’s largest producer of apples, with more than half of its production going to Russia.
The "Puls Biznesu" newspaper called on Wednesday for a show of support for Poland's apple producers, urging people to eat more apples and to drink cider. Poles responded with humorous posts on Twitter under the hashtag #jedzjablka – Polish for “eat apples”.
One Twitter user predicted that half of Warsaw would get drunk on cider over the weekend.
“An apple a day keeps Putin away!” wrote another Twitter user, in a reference to the Russian president.
A form of Kremlin pressure
Poland is only the latest in a series of countries that Russia has targeted with import bans. Russia announced on Thursday that it would ban the import of soy products, cornmeal and sunflowers from Ukraine. The move comes following bans on Ukrainian dairy products and canned foods that were imposed in recent days.
Russia has a history of banning imports from the countries it is in disputes with, usually citing safety concerns or violations. Last year it blocked the import of Ukrainian chocolates made by the company owned by candy magnate Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western politician who is now Ukraine’s president.
Earlier this month Russia blocked the import of Moldovan fruit after the country signed an association agreement with the EU. And it banned shipments of Georgian wine and mineral water just before the 2008 war with Georgia over South Ossetia.
Poland’s agriculture minister, Marek Sawicki, has asked the European Commission for financial compensation for any losses that Polish fruit and vegetable producers will suffer because of the ban.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)