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EU may turn to WTO over Russia food ban: envoy

world Updated: Aug 07, 2014 21:38 IST
European Union

The European Union may turn to the World Trade Organisation over Moscow's ban on its food and agricultural products amid the Ukraine crisis, the EU's ambassador to Russia said on Thursday.

"Without a doubt, the possibility is being considered," envoy Vygaudas Usackas told AFP, without specifying when Brussels might call on the WTO to settle the dispute.

"We will defend our producers through legal means, as the EU is always guided by the rule of law and international commitments," he added in a telephone interview.

Usackas spoke after Russia on Thursday banned most food imports from the United States and the EU and threatened to block flights over its airspace.

The move was in retaliation over the West's tough new sanctions on Russia in relation to its defiant stance on Ukraine.

"I regret that current EU and Russian relations are probably the worst they have ever been," Usackas, a former Lithuanian foreign minister, said.

"The fundamental issue is the lack of trust, and trust was undermined by illegal actions in annexing Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine."

Usackas said the ban will "first punish Russian consumers" as 40% of Russia's food imports come from the 28-member EU.

But he admitted that the bloc will also suffer, as it sent 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion) worth of food and farm products to Russia last year, or 10% of total EU agricultural exports.