GENEVA, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Russia has said it may mount a legal challenge to Ukraine-related sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, but its effective retaliation is already underway in the form of growing restrictions on its opponents' imports.
Unlike U.S. and EU sanctions, Russia often presents its trade restrictions as steps to protect health, but its critics say such explanations are usually a smokescreen.
Any trade restrictions can be disputed at the World Trade Organization. The EU has launched two WTO challenges against Moscow this year, but the legal process is likely to take years.
So far in 2014, the WTO has received 60 notifications of emergency measures to protect animal or plant health. Of those, 22 were from Russia.
IMPORTS BANNED BY RUSSIA IN RECENT MONTHS:
- Dairy products, juice, potatoes, soybeans, sunflower seeds, corn meal, soymeal and confectionary from Ukraine, as well as all plant material in travellers' luggage
- Pigs and pork from Latvia or transported through Latvia
- Milk powder from Latvia
- Pigs and pork from Lithuania
- Beef from Australia
- Pork products, fruit and vegetables from Poland
- Livestock and meat from Romania
- Fruit and processed meat from Moldova, which like Ukraine has signed agreements on closer trade and political ties with the EU. Fruit is Moldova's top export to Russia, worth $89.5 million in 2013.
- Pigs and pig blood products from Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and the United States
Russia's consumer protection watchdog is also preparing to suspend imports of "Kentucky Gentleman" bourbon and may also target Greek fruit.
The EU has complained that Russia's ban on pigs and pork products is effectively a ban that applies to the entire EU.
In the past week Russia has also said it has found banned substances or organisms in meat imports from various U.S., Canadian, Brazilian, Argentine and Spanish firms, including U.S. giants Sanderson Farms Inc and Tyson Foods Inc, and has said it will subject their products to "enhanced laboratory control".
On April 21, President Vladimir Putin signed a law saying that foreign citizens applying for residence permits or work permits must know Russia's language, history and basic laws. Highly qualified professionals are exempt.
On May 5, he signed laws saying foreign firms wishing to operate in Russia must receive accreditation, including foreign bloggers and websites getting more than 3,000 hits daily.
Russia has introduced more trade-restrictive policies than any other country this year, according to data from Global Trade Alert. Restrictive policies included state subsidies for farm equipment and the processing and marketing of farm produce, broad subsidy programmes to develop Russia's production of vegetable oils and flour and subsidies for small businesses.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has threatened to retaliate for the grounding of a subsidiary of national airline Aeroflot because of EU sanctions. One Russian newspaper reported that European flights over Siberia could be banned. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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