Russia not to lift EU vegetable ban: Putin

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russia will not poison its own people by lifting the ban it imposed on vegetable imports from the European Union, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Friday.

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Putin was responding to protests by the EU against the imposed ban on import of cucumbers.

The European Commission said the measure was “disproportionate” and the EU’s envoy in Moscow, Fernando Valenzuela, said the ban was unjustified and contradicted the rules of World Trade Organisation.

“The representatives of the European Commission are saying that this decision contradicts the WTO spirit,” Putin said in a rail workers’ conference in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“Frankly, I don’t know what spirit it contradicts but cucumbers which kill people – well, they really smell bad.”

“We will not poison our people,” Putin said. “I will personally see whether [the ban] was justified while we are waiting for more information from our European partners.”

Russia suspended imports of EU-produced vegetables Thursday in a bid to prevent an E. coli outbreak from spreading into the country.

At least 18 people have died as the result of the outbreak, centred on Germany.

Russia also accused Brussels of failing to provide sufficient information about the source of the infection.

EU envoy Valenzuela said the ban went against WTO rules, suggesting it could undermine Moscow’s bid to join the world trade body.

Russia, the last major economy still outside the WTO bloc, is expected to join the organisation next year.