Russia on Thursday pledged broad retaliatory measures against Turkey’s economy in revenge for the downing of its warplane, as recriminations between Moscow and Ankara reached fever pitch.
Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said some 20 percent of Russia’s vegetables are imported from Turkey, but the country has a variety of alternatives, including Israel, Iran, Morocco, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
Russia has also announced it will increase supervision of food products and agricultural produce imported from Turkey over “violations of standards,” media outlets in Israel and abroad reported.
Tkachev said the decision was made after a disproportionately high number of insecticides were found on 15% of the fruit and vegetables imported from Turkey. Rosselkhoznadzor, the country’s agricultural and food security watchdog, said all food products brought in from Turkey would from now on be subjected to laboratory checks.
The move could have a major impact on the economy of Turkey, which over the past 10 months has exported agricultural produce and food worth just over $1 billion (940 million euros) to Russia.
Separately, the sports club of the Russian town of Rostov canceled plans for a training camp in Turkey,and said it is considering other locations, including Israel and Spain. “Many sports clubs are looking for new places to conduct training camps,” said Alexander Shikonov, the club’s vice president.
While Moscow conspicuously ruled out any military retaliation against NATO member Turkey, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he had given ministers two days to work out “a system of response measures” in the economic and humanitarian spheres.
He said the broad punitive steps for what he termed “this act of aggression” could include halting joint economic projects, restricting financial and trade transactions and changing customs duties.
Measures could also target the transport and tourism sector after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier backed a warning to citizens not to travel to Turkey, where nearly 3.3 million Russians went on holiday last year.
Russia also attacked Turkey’s agricultural sector, tightening checks on food imports over alleged safety standard violations.
In another move likely to infuriate Turkey, lawmakers from the Kremlin-friendly A Just Russia party introduced a bill calling for a maximum punishment of five years in jail for those who deny that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey in 1915 was a genocide.
Turkey has always rejected the killings were a premeditated attempt by the Ottoman Empire to wipe out the Armenians.
Meanwhile, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traded barbs Thursday, with the Kremlin strongman demanding an apology for Tuesday’s downing that led to the death of one of two pilots and a soldier who took part in a failed rescue operation — Russia’s first combat losses since the start of its Syria campaign.
Erdogan in turn dismissed Moscow’s claims he was propping up the Islamic State and accused Putin of slander.
The downing raised fears it could fuel a wider geopolitical conflict and highlighted the difficulty of forging consensus on the fate of Syria as Putin prepares to host French President Francois Hollande on Thursday.
The shooting down of the aircraft is thought to be the first downing of a Russian plane by a NATO member since 1952 when US pilots shot down a Soviet plane near Vladivostok during the Korean War.
“We still have not heard any articulate apologies from Turkey’s highest political level nor any proposals to compensate for the harm and damage nor promises to punish criminals responsible for their crimes,” Putin said.
“We believe treacherous stabs in the back from those who we considered partners and allies in the anti-terror fight to be absolutely inexplicable,” said Putin, who also accused Turkey of buttressing the IS jihadists financially and militarily.
In Ankara, Erdogan insisted his country did not buy any oil from the Islamic State group, apparently shaming the Russian strongman without referring to him by name.