MOSCOW— Russia has burned flowers from Holland in a battle against Western imports that saw the destruction of hundreds of tons of food in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine. Critics say the action is unethical while Russia is struggling against rising poverty.
Russia added Dutch flowers to the fire just days after officials destroyed more than 500 tons of banned Western food imports. Authorities say the flowers may have dangerous bugs. But political analysts say the timing with a Dutch-led investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine is meant to send a message.
“I do not think that this is coincidence. This is one more PR [public relations] action in this anti-Western mainstream," said Andrei Kolesnikov, of Moscow's Carnegie Center.
Dutch investigators say they found suspected Russian missile fragments at the crash site. Meanwhile, the Kremlin blames Kyiv and suggests numerous Western conspiracies seeking to tarnish Russia's image.
But critics say images of food destruction, when millions of Russians live in poverty, show officials are the ones doing harm.
“This is the main point, ethical point, of this action. Because, for many many years there was hunger in Russia," said Kolesnikov.
Authorities say the food ban is stimulating domestic substitutes, but it is also reducing competition and flooding the market with lower quality products.
“The situation is quite bad. With competition, with inflation, with consumer moods, with ... GDP growth, not growth, but decrease in GDP," continued Kolesnikov.
Russia bans food from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Norway, and the United States. The Kremlin plans to add more countries to its banned food list to include those supporting EU sanctions against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine.