Communists draft bill allowing handouts of seized banned food to needy

Destruction of the lard, which was confiscated on the Russian-Polish border, at one of the proving grounds in the Kaliningrad Region. © Igor Zarembo
Instead of destroying foodstuffs from countries sanctioned by Russia, Communist MPs propose making the food state property and using it as aid for the poor, victims of natural disasters and other disadvantaged groups.

The draft allowing for these changes was published on the State Duma’s official website on Thursday. It reads that any agricultural product imported in the Russian Federation in violation of the trade sanctions should be seized and made state property. After this, such products can be used as aid to low income families, victims of natural disasters and other emergencies and any other people in need of such help.

The bill also allows for the dispatch of such seized contraband to other nations as humanitarian aid, as well as to refugees.

READ MORE: Russia extends food embargo to 5 countries: Albania, Montenegro, Iceland, Liechtenstein & Ukraine

“Destruction of foodstuffs is a redundant measure,” Communist MPs wrote in the note attached to the bill. “Russia is destroying food before the eyes of the whole world while at the same time millions of people, including children, famish to death in various countries,” they added.

The bill allows for physical destruction of seized banned foods, but only after they are recognized as dangerous or bad for health by a state hygiene body.

On August 6, Russian customs began to destroy all food products exported to Russia in violation of the food embargo. The ruling doesn’t apply to food items brought to Russia by individuals for personal use if they are accompanied by proper paperwork.

The previous rules ordered the seized contraband products be sent back to the country of origin.

READ MORE: Putin agrees to destroy banned foodstuffs at Russian border crossings

Representatives of the Russian state watchdog Rospotrebnadzor earlier told the press that the agency had destroyed 500 tons of seized contraband foodstuffs in just one week after starting to use the new procedure. At the same time, the head of the agency told reporters that the number of attempts to smuggle embargoed products into the country had fell 10 times even after the decree on their destruction was signed by President Putin and even before it came into force.

The controversial decision caused a huge reaction from the Russian public and politicians. A State Duma MP representing the center-left Fair Russia party proposed sending the banned food to the civil war-torn Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, which are suffering from a humanitarian crisis.

The head of the Russian Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, said that the seized contraband food should be inspected by the special commission and if found safe sent to orphanages and to Donetsk and Lugansk.

In addition, about 300,000 people signed the petition against it published on the US-registered website change.org. Last week Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the president would be informed about the motion that collected so many signatures, but at the same time expressed some doubt over the reliability of the source.

READ MORE: 180K+ sign petition against destruction of contraband food at Russian borders