Italy forced to recognize illegal Crimea occupation to export parmesan to Russia

Canan Kevser
29 March 2021, 15:27
Canan Kevser
29 March 2021, 15:27

Italy should recognize Crimea as Russian territory before being allowed to export parmesan into the country again.

Head of Russia’s cheesemakers union said on Sunday, The Moscow Times reported.

Russia banned wholesale imports of fresh EU food produce including parmesan in retaliation to Western sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

Italian Ambassador to Moscow Pasquale Terracciano on Friday urged Russia to exclude parmesan from its food ban in an interview with Forbes Russia, arguing that its negligible amount of lactose makes it a non-dairy product.

Oleg Sirota, chairman of the Russian cheesemakers’ union and one of the food embargo’s most vocal proponents, responded that allowing parmesan imports would “bankrupt” budding homegrown parmesan producers and be “morally wrong.”

“Let them recognize Crimea, lift sanctions from Crimea and all the companies [first],” said Sirota, who owns a cheese farm outside Moscow, in an interview with the independent Dozhd broadcaster.

In an earlier interview with the Govorit Moskva radio station Friday, Sirota called Ambassador Terracciano’s words “cunning because they realize they will soon lose the Russian market forever.”

Russian authorities have insisted that the sanctions have allowed it to "develop its domestic industries" including farming.

Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer protection watchdog who Ambassador Terracciano said was looking into excluding parmesan from the ban, said it was not authorized to pick products to strike off the food embargo list.

“Without injury to the tender feelings I have for my Italian colleagues, I want to say that I like Russian cheeses,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

President Vladimir Putin late last year extended the embargo until the end of 2021.

Global economic sanctions against Russia

Russia illegally occupied Ukraine's Crimea in 2014, causing strict rounds of sanctions from the U.S. and EU which effectively bans firms from operating or investing there. Any Russian company active in Crimea faces being cut-off from the entire Western corporate and financial system, meaning most - including state-owned businesses.

Earlier, G7 countries and the EU issued a joint statement condemning the Russian annexation of Crimea, Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula, on March 18, 2021, the 7th anniversary of illegal occupation.

G7 members (Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) opposed Russia’s return to the group until the end of the annexation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas.