Russia: No ‘Trade War’ Against Ukraine
Russia has been forced to deny that it is waging a ‘trade war’ against Ukraine to bully its neighbour into backing away from plans to join the European Union and instead join a Moscow-led ‘Customs Union’.
On Wednesday the Ukrainian Employers Federation complained that exports from the former Soviet state into Russia are being subjected to extra checks and delayed at the border for long periods with no explanation. The claims have been confirmed by some of Ukraine’s largest companies, such as the brewer Obolon and mining firm Metinvest
On Friday the head of Russia’s ‘Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare’ Gennady Onishchenko confirmed the delays, but claimed that they were not politically motivated.
“We have a long and specific list of complaints … relating to the protection of consumer rights,” he said. “If you want to call this a trade war, then call it a trade war,” he continued. “But we are conducting professional work.”
Trade War Accusations
At the moment close to a quarter of Ukraine’s exports cross the border into Russia, the country’s main trading partner. The government in Kiev, however, is keen to leave behind its dependence on Moscow and develop a closer relationship with the European Union. This has included negotiations over a trade agreement which many see as the first step towards eventual Ukrainian membership of the EU.
European-leaning politicians in Kiev claim that the border delays are part of a campaign by Moscow to bully their country into backing away from Europe and cultivating a closer integration with Russia instead. Russian authorities have already said that would pass more freely across the border if Ukraine agreed to join a Custom Union with Russia, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.