Russia bans top Ukrainian chocolate brand
Russia has banned imports of a popular Ukrainian chocolate brand, the Kremlin's chief sanitary official said Monday, as Moscow steps up efforts to retain influence over its EU-inclined neighbour.
The ban on the Roshen brand -- owned by former Ukrainian cabinet minister Petro Poroshenko -- was announced one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin made an official visit to Ukraine.
"Customs authorities have been informed about the ban on imports of 'Roshen' confectionary products," said Gennady Onishchenko, who heads Russia's public health and consumer protection watchdog Rospotrebnadzor.
"Unfortunately, our suspicions were confirmed," Onishchenko told Russian news agencies. "The quality and safety requirements have been breached," he said, listing as violations the inadequate "fat content" and "taste and smell".
He also said the milk chocolate made by the company contains benzopyrene, which according to state television is "a most dangerous carcinogen that forms, for example, in car exhaust fumes."
Roshen, a Kiev-based maker of popular chocolate candies, has said that its products and facilities are fully certified and there have never been any complaints from Russia before.
The company on Monday said it has asked the Russian authorities for official documents listing specific violations, adding that there are no regulations regarding benzopyrene content in chocolate in Russia, Ukraine, or the European Union.
"Furthermore, Roshen has doubts... whether samples for the necessary analysis were selected correctly," it said in a statement on its website.
Roshen is one of the biggest makers of sweets in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic bordering Russia that in 2012 exported 1.2 million tonnes of chocolate to Russia worth $400 million, according to official statistics.
The state agency Rospotrebnadzor has been accused numerous times of taking political decisions. Russia banned for several years the importation of wines and mineral waters from Georgia when relations between the two countries were at their lowest.
Ukraine, which won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, currently hopes to sign an association agreement with the European Union, something that riles Russia's leadership.
Putin during Sunday's visit called for better economic integration between Moscow and Kiev, but no news was announced regarding Ukraine's possible membership of a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
This is a key objective of Putin who seeks to build a "Eurasian union" out of the former Soviet states.
© 2013 AFP