“Russia continues to await exhaustive explanations, if these are even possible, and real apologies from the Netherlands,” for ignoring Mr. Borodin’s diplomatic immunity, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement . The Dutch foreign ministry released a statement on Wednesday apologizing for the violation of Borodin’s immunity, though it noted that “the police officers concerned were acting in accordance with their professional responsibility in responding to a reported situation.” Greenpeace insists that the threatened drug charges against crew members of the Arctic Sunrise are part of a campaign of slander against its activists rather than a genuine legal process. “The Investigative Committee is behaving like a tabloid of the yellow press,” says Greenpeace-Russia spokesperson Anton Beneslavsky. “There are no charges, yet they put out this information without any evidence or facts. Our ship was seized in international waters, and that was illegal. The crew were held on it for five days before being removed. Now investigators say they’ve searched it and found drugs? There is a complete disregard for all legal procedure on display here,” Mr. Beneslavsky says. Moscow has recently announced plans for major economic development in the Arctic as well as a stepped-up military presence to defend Russia’s Arctic stakes. Some experts say the Russian state corporations Gazprom and Rosneft, which are leading the Arctic economic development scheme, are extremely sensitive about their lack of technological preparation and ecological expertise, and are hence anxious to see a harsh warning meted out to environmentalists who want to come snooping on their projects. “Gazprom has made great efforts to conceal the way it’s working on the Arctic shelf.
Russia halts Lithuanian dairy imports before EU summit
Enlarge A tourist stands in the colorful tulip fields in Lisse, on April 19th, 2011. (ROBIN UTRECHT/AFP/Getty Images) Russia hinted Wednesday it may ban the import of Dutch tulips and dairy products in an escalating row between the nations sparked by the arrests of Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic oil drilling. The head of Russia’s veterinary and plant monitoring service told Interfax that the results of Russia’s ongoing audit of Dutch dairy products “have been unsatisfactory.” Sergei Dankvert accused his Dutch counterparts of approving the safety of dairy produce “without seeing the product” and improperly labelling exports. Dankvert’s spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko separately told Moscow Echo radio that Russia this year has already placed 15 Dutch dairy producers “under special control” a move observers say is often followed by product bans. Alekseyenko said Russia also had problems with the quality of Dutch tulips and other flowers the country has been exporting across Europe for many centuries. “We are not only talking about flowers but also… planting material,” Alekseyenko told Russian News Service radio. “In other words, we are talking about a full range of products imported from the Netherlands ,” the spokesman said. Russia has often been accused of using trade as a diplomatic weapon. It banned dairy imports from rotating EU president Lithuania on Monday following the Baltic state’s attempt to draw ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine closer to the 28-nation bloc. Tensions with the Netherlands first surfaced last week when the country filed a legal case against Russia’s arrest last month of the crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship that was protesting Arctic oil drilling. The crew members who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States have been charged with piracy and face jail terms of up to 15 years. Russia has shrugged off the Dutch legal move and has put the entire crew in pre-trial detention for two months pending an investigation. Relations deteriorated further on Tuesday when Russia accused the Dutch authorities of illegally detaining a top Moscow diplomat in The Hague over allegations of domestic abuse. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the detention at the weekend of diplomat Dmitry Borodin “the most gross breach of the Vienna Convention” and demanded a formal apology from the Netherlands.
Credit: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko By Steve Gutterman MOSCOW | Mon Oct 7, 2013 7:17am EDT MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia suspended imports of dairy products from neighboring Lithuania on Monday, turning up trade pressure on the European Union member weeks before it hosts a summit that could pull former Soviet republics further from Moscow’s orbit. Russia’s consumer protection agency cited quality concerns in an announcement of the suspension, which could hit Lithuanian producers hard. According to Russian figures, 85 percent of the small Baltic nation’s dairy exports go to Russia. The suspension adds to tension between Russia and Lithuania, which currently holds the EU presidency and is hosting a summit in late November promoting closer trade ties with six ex-Soviet states that are not members of the 28-country bloc. Moscow is building its own trade alliance with former Soviet republics and is reluctant to see its neighbors, particularly Ukraine, slip further out of its sway by signing free-trade and political association agreements with the EU. Lithuania, which borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and joined the EU in 2004, has had transport trucks held up at Russian customs for up to 20 days at a time in recent weeks, causing heavy losses for its freight industry. Taking aim at another sector, the Russian consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor said inspections of Lithuanian dairy imports had revealed “numerous violations” of quality and sanitary standards in products including cheeses and yoghurt. “We are seeing a sharp weakening of (Lithuania’s) position on protecting the rights and safety of consumers,” Rospotrebnadzor chief Gennady Onishchenko said, according to the Interfax news agency. Lithuania exported dairy products worth $193 million to Russia last year, according to the Russian National Milk Producers’ Union – the vast majority of it cheese that is found on many shop shelves. Russia is also stepping up monitoring of Lithuanian meat and fish imports, state-run news agency Prime reported, citing an unidentified source. Rospotrebnadzor declined to comment. POLITICAL PRESSURE Onishchenko regularly denies any geopolitical motives, but past bans on products from ex-Soviet republics – such as wine and mineral water from Georgia – have been widely seen as a form of political pressure. In Brussels, the European Commission said it had “complete confidence” in the quality of Lithuanian dairy products and called for discussions with the Russian side. “The EU has the most stringent system in the world when it comes to food safety,” Frederic Vincent, Commission spokesman for health and consumer policy, told a regular press briefing. Of the 15 former republics that became independent states when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, only the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have joined the EU.