A small mountain of illegally imported cheese into Russia has been bulldozed into destruction.
The action marked the start of a new law for the mass destruction of such food. One official told the state-run Tass news agency the process will start with cheese and pork in the cities of Orenburg and St. Petersburg.
Russia imposed bans on a wide range of food imports one year ago in a tit-for-tat action after the West put in place economic sanctions in response to the Ukraine crisis.
The decree to destroy confiscated food which the authorities consider “ a security threat “ was signed by President Vladimir Putin and has met with shock and criticism even, it’s reported, from within the Kremlin.
One orthodox priest has denounced the campaign in a country where memories remain of famine during Soviet times as insane and sinful. “This idea is insane, stupid and vile,” he said.
“Several successive generations in our country lived in conditions of either an outright lack of food, or a lack of certain food items. It was repeated one generation after another. If it was not outright hunger, then it was what we called a “deficit”. We have a specific attitude to food as a very big treasure,” explained Professor Eketerina Shulman of the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
Opposition figure and former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov responded with a heavy tone of irony in one tweet saying: “20 million Russian citizens citizens are below the poverty line. Their president ordered food products destruction from August 6. Some real triumph of humanism”.
Soaring food prices are hurting the poor at a time when the economy is in crisis due to the effects of the sanctions and a plunge in the price of oil.
The rouble has lost more than 40 percent of its value against the dollar and overall inflation is above 15 percent.
The Rosstat statistics agency says the number of Russians living below the poverty line jumped in the first quarter of this year. The total hit 23 million up from more than 16 million.
But the president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov ruled out any change of heart. “The presidential decree is taking effect and must be carried out,” he said.