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Business

Russia bans pork imports as trade row escalates with Belarus

Russia has banned imports of pork products from neighboring Belarus in what appears to be another escalation of a dispute over the recent detention of a Russian manager in Minsk. The ban will hurt debt-stricken Belarus.

Russia on Friday announced a ban on imports of hogs and pork products from Belarus, a move widely seen as linked to last week's detention of Russian Uralkali chief Vladislav Baumgertner in Minsk.

The businessman was arrested after the collapse of a joint venture that once controlled two fifths of the global market for potash, an ingredient used in mineral fertilizers. Minsk claimed Baumgertner had abused his position and official powers and stripped Belarus of a lot of profits. The Kremlin immediately rebuked those allegations.

Russia's veterinary regulator on Friday said the import restrictions were imposed over concerns about African swine fever in Belarus and would remain in place until the disease was wiped out or brought under control.

Tit-for-tat approach

Official data available for the first three months of the year indicated that Russia imported close to 16,000 live pigs from its neighbor, suggesting that the ban on imports could become quite painful for the Belarusian economy.

Earlier this week, Russian pipeline monopolist Transneft said it would cut oil supplies to Belarus by 400,000 tons in September. At the same time, Moscow signaled it would increase scrutiny of Belarusian dairy products.

The government of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk for its part has not appeared to be willing to cave in. It's threatened to open a criminal case against Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian tycoon with Kremlin ties who is the top shareholder in Uralkali.

hg/mz (Reuters, dpa)