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24 Apr, 2021 13:10

Russia may restrict Czech imports, including BEER, amid simmering diplomatic row – media

Russia may restrict Czech imports, including BEER, amid simmering diplomatic row – media

Russia may slap economic sanctions on the Czech Republic, possibly targeting beer imports among other measures, in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats, the daily newspaper Kommersant reported.

The sanctions would be part of Moscow’s asymmetrical response to Prague's “unprecedentedly aggressive actions,” one of the newspaper’s sources familiar with the matter said. He was referring to the the recent decision to bar 18 Russian officials from the Czech Republic and threats to expel even more diplomatic staff. 

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While the restrictions may target any area, the report says that imports of Czech beer may be banned. According to Kommersant, Russia imported $38 million-worth of Czech beer in 2020 – 10% more than it did in the previous year. 

Some ten brands that sell their product to Russia may suffer from the possible sanctions, the report indicated. However, such a move is more symbolic than economically harmful, as Russia buys abroad a tiny fraction of its overall beer and drinks turnover. According to Vadim Drobiz, the head of the Center for Research on Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets, the share of the Czech beer in total imports of the beverage is about 10% in physical terms, or 40 million liters per year. That's 0.5% of the annual turnover of eight billion liters. 

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Trade turnover between Russia and the Czech Republic fell over 40% to $5.2 billion as a result of the pandemic last year, according to customs data cited in the report. As of 2018, Russia was the 13th biggest importer from the republic and its seventh largest exporter.  

Tensions between the two countries escalated last week when Prague claimed that Russian intelligence officers were involved in a local munitions depot blast in 2014 and ordered 18 Russian diplomats out of the country. Russia denied the allegations, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accusing Prague of following Washington’s bidding. In response, Moscow decided to expel 20 staff members of the Czech embassy in Moscow. Now the Czech authorities even want to send home staff working at the Russian embassy in Prague.

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