Russia warns Dutch over dairy, tulips in diplomatic row
Russia hinted Wednesday it may ban the import of Dutch tulips and dairy products in an escalating row between the nations sparked by the arrests of Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic oil drilling.
The head of Russia's veterinary and plant monitoring service told Interfax that the results of Russia's ongoing audit of Dutch dairy products "have been unsatisfactory".
Sergei Dankvert accused his Dutch counterparts of approving the safety of dairy produce "without seeing the product" and improperly labelling exports.
Dankvert's spokesman Alexei Alexeyenko separately told Moscow Echo radio that Russia this year has already placed 15 Dutch dairy producers "under special control" -- a move observers say is often followed by product bans.
Alekseyenko said Russia also had problems with the quality of Dutch tulips and other flowers the country has been exporting across Europe for many centuries.
"We are not only talking about flowers but also... planting material," Alekseyenko told Russian News Service radio.
"In other words, we are talking about a full range of products imported from the Netherlands," the spokesman said.
Russia has often been accused of using trade as a diplomatic weapon. It banned dairy imports from rotating EU president Lithuania on Monday following the Baltic state's attempt to draw ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine closer to the 28-nation bloc.
Tensions with the Netherlands first surfaced last week when the country filed a legal case against Russia's arrest last month of the crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship that was protesting Arctic oil drilling.
The crew members -- who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States -- have been charged with piracy and face jail terms of up to 15 years.
Russia has shrugged off the Dutch legal move and has put the entire crew in pre-trial detention for two months pending an investigation.
Relations deteriorated further on Tuesday when Russia accused the Dutch authorities of illegally detaining a top Moscow diplomat in The Hague over allegations of domestic abuse.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called the detention at the weekend of diplomat Dmitry Borodin "the most gross breach of the Vienna Convention" and demanded a formal apology from the Netherlands.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants diplomats immunity from arrest.
The Dutch side said it was investigating the incident and would only apologise "if the investigation shows that this was handled in a way that contravened the Vienna Convention".
© 2013 AFP