A week after Russia publicly burned hundreds of tons of Western imported foods, the Kremlin is now adding European imported flowers to the flames.
Officials say blooms from the Netherlands, which supplied much of Russia’s $2.5 billion flower market, pose safety risks because they may be infected, Reuters reported.
But critics say the real motive behind the “flower war” is Moscow’s retaliation for a Dutch investigation into the downing of a Malaysian airline over rebel-held territory in Ukraine last year.
The flower bonfire will hit Russians already struggling with unemployment and inflation, as flower prices are expected to skyrocket in the next few weeks and demand soars as children returning to school traditionally give flowers to their teachers.
“These are freshly cut flowers from the Netherlands infected with wester Californian flower thrips,” Yekaterina Slakova, Russian agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor’s chief sanitary inspector, explained as television showed workers burning boxes filled with roses, Reuters reported.
Dutch flowers will only be allowed in Russia if they pass the necessary lab tests of their microbiological condition, Russia’s state-funded television news service reported.
According to the watchdog, more than 50 percent of the diseased imported flowers — 310 cases out of 606 — were of Dutch origin.
“The Russians are searching for any reason not to let our flowers in. We know this is politically motivated,” a spokesperson for a Dutch flower firm who asked not to be named told Reuters.
“No flowers will be sent to Russia until the situation changes. Our red line is that the flowers are inspected on Dutch soil rather than in Russia,” the spokesperson added.
Authorities will inspect every shipment of flowers for illegal Dutch blooms. The Netherlands sends up to five percent of its flower sales to Russia.
Moscow’s ban is the latest blow to an already-feeble relationship with the Netherlands, which collapsed after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The majority of the 298 people killed in the crash were Dutch citizens.
Russia denies involvement in the crash and blames Ukraine for the tragedy.
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