Photo- AP

By Alexander Tanas Reuters

Pro-European authorities in Moldova on Friday dismissed as groundless a ban imposed by Russia on imports of its fruit and vegetables, the latest display of deteriorating relations between Moscow and the ex-Soviet state.

Russia’s farm goods oversight agency, Rosselkhoznadzor, said on Thursday it was reinstating restrictions last imposed in 2022. It cited “continuous, systematic observation of elements subject to quarantine” and said Moldovan authorities had taken no action to right the situation.

Moldova’s food safety agency ANSA said the restrictions, to take effect on Monday, had nothing to do with the quality of its goods. No other importing countries had filed complaints.

“The decision by the Russian authorities contradicts phytosanitary principles and is in no way grounded in real arguments,” it said in a statement. “Laboratory evidence underscores the absence of any harmful organisms.”

Russia has periodically over the past two decades barred farm goods from the country lying between Ukraine and Romania, measures generally coinciding with a downturn in relations.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu who is heading a drive to join the European Union, has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accused Moscow of trying to foment a coup to remove her. She also accused Russia of meddling in Moldova’s local elections last month.

Exchanges between the two sides have become increasingly acerbic.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, dismissing Western criticism of Moscow’s 21-month-old conflict in Ukraine, on Thursday said that Moldova was “being readied as the next victim in the hybrid war that the West unleashed against Russia”.

Lavrov did not elaborate on his comments.

Moldovan producers said Moscow deliberately imposed the measures at a time of the year when their goods flooded on to the Russian market, but added that they were prepared.

“We have managed partly to reorient markets for Moldovan apples. We ship to 28 countries,” Iurie Fala, Executive Director of the Moldovan Fruit Producers Association, told Reuters.

“There is a shortage of apples this year on EU markets and that will boost our sales.”

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