Russian destruction of contraband Western food sparks outrage
President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering the destruction of all food - from gourmet cheeses to fruit and vegetables - that breaches the year-old embargo on Western imports. However an online petition calling on the Russian government to rethink the move has been signed by more than 170,000 people who argue that it is outlandish to destroy food in a country where millions still live below the poverty line.
Russian television showed officials dumping truckloads of cheese wasteland and then driving over them with a steamroller. A spokeswoman for the food safety agency Rosselkhoznadzor said in a statement that the flattened cheese - amounting to almost nine tonnes - would be buried underground.
"From today, agricultural produce, raw products and foods, which come from a country that has decided to impose economic sanctions on Russian legal entities or individuals ... and which are banned from import into Russia, are due to be destroyed," Rosselkhoznadzor said.
Russian media has suggested that more than 300 tonnes of food was destroyed in the first day after the new decree came in to force.
Bypassing the ban
Russia officials have suggested that some importers are dodging the ban by illegally placing new labels on foods - that claim the food was produced in neighbouring ex-Soviet countries.
The food safety agency has said it planned to destroy several hundred tonnes of contraband produce on that has already been seized.
According to the Russian food safety agency, two truckloads of European tomatoes and three of nectarines and peaches will being smashed with a tractor and bulldozer in the Smolensk region after they arrived with fake documents.
One truck driver carrying a cargo of suspicious tomatoes turned his vehicle around and made a getaway back into Belarus to avoid them being destroyed, Rosselkhoznadzor said.
Yulia Melano, spokesperson for the Russian food standards watchdog, also said 114kg of pork product with Brazilian labelling was seized on the border with Kazakhstan after customs authorities determined the probable origin was an EU country.
The decision to destroy the food has prompted an outburst of public anger in Russia, as the economic crisis hitting the country has pushed millions of Russians into poverty and made it harder for them to afford basic foods.
Former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov was just one of many who took to twitter to blast the move. "20 million Russian citizens are below poverty line. Their president ordered food products' destruction from Aug 6. Some real triumph of humanism," he wrote.
Prominent Russian TV anchor Vladimir Solovyov tweeted: "I don't understand how food can be destroyed in a country that lived through the horrible hunger during the war and tough years that followed."
However Russia's Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said the destruction was necessary because the food was of 'dubious quality.'
"It is a worldwide practice that if you break the law, if it is smuggled goods, they have to be destroyed," Tkachev told Russian state television.