Russia Bans Import of Estonian and Latvian Fish Products

On June 4, Russian authorities temporarily banned imports of canned fish from Latvia and Estonia.  In 2014, Latvia exported 52% of its prepared fish products to Russia, this percentage dropped to 19% in the first quarter of 2015.  The ban was introduced after Russian veterinary service authorities reported that the fish products contained high levels of the toxic substance benzopryene.  Latvian authorities claim that the ban is an attempt by Russia to penalize the country for its support of Western sanctions on Russia and unhappiness over Latvia‘s current presidency of the Council of the EU.  In coordination with Russia, Belarus banned the re-exportation of fish products from Latvia and Estonia to Russia.  The importation of fresh and frozen fish from the Baltic countries was banned in 2014 after the imposition of EU sanctions.

Russia has a history of using similar embargoes and trade restrictions against the Baltic States in order to pressure or punish them for supporting anti-Russian initiatives.  When Lithuania hosted a summit in 2013 aimed at decreasing Balkan dependencies on Russia, Moscow suspended imports of Lithuanian dairy products.  In August 2014, Russia turned back Lithuanian and Estonian trucks at the Russian border, again using the pretext of increased inspections and accusations that the products had been compromised.  The same tactic was used against Ukraine in the summer of 2013.