Russian lawmakers from the country's Communist faction introduced a bill Thursday to redistribute food confiscated under Russia's embargo of Western food to the needy and to conflict zones. The embargo, in retaliation for Western sanctions over the country's involvement in the Ukraine crisis, has led to hundreds of tons of Western food products being destroyed after a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
The new legislation proposes that agricultural products seized under the ban not be destroyed, but rather given as humanitarian aid to the nation's poor and to those in conflict areas like eastern Ukraine. Russia has publicized the destruction of food imports from the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Australia and other countries to emphasize its commitment to enforcing the embargo put in place last year.
"Hundreds of tons of foodstuffs are being burned in food crematoriums and destroyed using other methods," a note attached to the bill said, according to Sputnik News. "Their destruction is an extreme and costly measure. For the purposes of observing the ban on the import of agricultural production, raw goods and foodstuffs into Russia, their confiscation is sufficient."
— RT (@RT_com) August 13, 2015
The Russian ban, including meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables, has pushed food prices up 20 percent this year through July, according to CNN. Total exports of food and agricultural products from European Union countries were worth $13 billion in 2013. But Moscow has been steadfast in its commitment to enforcing the ban.
"Everyone who applies sanctions against us must face the appropriate responses, food embargo," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters in Moscow, according to CNN.
— Enrico Ivanov (@Russ_Warrior) August 13, 2015
Putin's decree to destroy confiscated food came after reports questioning the effectiveness of the countersanctions and despite a lack of support among Russian citizens. A petition on the United States-based website Change.org addressed to Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Russian parliamentary leaders to distribute seized food to the poor has received more than 350,000 signatures, according to Sputnik News.
"Why destroy the food when we can simply eat it?" Olga Savelieva, the author of the petition, wrote, reported Al Jazeera.