Moscow destroys food imports from the West
Tonnes of food imported to Russia from the West despite an embargo and confiscated by customs officers has been destroyed since Thursday. While some commentators see this as a sacrilege, others question the effectiveness of the EU sanctions that preceded Moscow's food embargo.
Russia commits sacrilege
Russia, which has itself suffered many famines in the past, is committing a grave sin, the liberal daily Postimees believes: "Even in the Soviet Union children were taught from an early age to respect the smallest slice of bread. Against this background images of bulldozers crushing food into the mud seem like sacrilege. The Russian people also don't seem to get the point and are wondering why the confiscated food can't be taken to hospitals or orphanages. According to an Internet survey answered by more than 12,000 people, 87 percent of respondents were against the destruction of the food. Some felt it should be sent as humanitarian aid to Donetsk and Luhansk."
Putin insults the civilised world
The burning of Western food products shows how primitive Russia really is, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita complains: "The Kremlin could send the confiscated food to the UN, South Sudan or the refugees in Syria. Or it could use it to help the migrants from Africa and Asia who are now being held somewhere on Europe's borders. But it has refused to use any of these possibilities and has instead opted for a very bad, extremely primitive and inhuman alternative. The burned food is an insult to the civilised world. It is proof of the Kremlin's callousness and primitiveness. ... Certainly, the Russian Internet forums are full of idiotic approval for the destruction of Western food. But there's just as much outrage and distrust at this empty-headed regulation. ... That is the only positive thing about the whole story."
Alternatives to EU sanctions needed
The EU sanctions against Moscow have not done any real political or economic harm to Russia, political scientist Elena Morenkova Perrier writes in the conservative daily Le Figaro: "Even if Russia's economic situation is difficult, the national debt and the budget deficit are bearable in the short term. The country continues to function although its revenues have fallen drastically as a result of the drop in oil prices. ... As far as the international situation goes, Russia is far from becoming a pariah state. The international summits of the Brics group and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation hosted by Russia in July 2015 testify to that. ... It's important to be aware of the interdependence between Russia and Europe. Our relations should not be dominated by ideology. Instead we should be focussing our attention on how to renew economic ties when the sanctions are lifted."
Moscow's herring embargo threatens Iceland
The Kremlin has threatened to extend the food embargo to other countries that have recently joined in with the EU's punitive measures, including Iceland. Putin's threat is no trifling matter for Reykjavík, the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera explains: "Putin and the herring, mackerel and cod are stirring up a moral and political crisis in Iceland. The moderate MPs are of the opinion that the island must not give in [and must go along with the EU sanctions], while the ultra-nationalists and the Pirate Party support the fishing companies' demands [to not respect the EU sanctions]. They say the Russian embargo would ruin Iceland. … Two figures explain their position: in 2013 Iceland exported 89,450 tonnes of fish and molluscs to Russia. Herring alone generated 34.9 million euros for the country. If you factor in that fish exports account for 40 percent of Iceland's exports, you can understand why Iceland is facing a major financial, political and also moral dilemma over the herring."