Chocolate Trade Clash Erupts With Russia

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine said Monday it will set up a special team to look into a trade dispute with Russia that emerged after Moscow suddenly banned imports of chocolate produced by the largest Ukrainian confectionary.

Serhiy Arbuzov

The dispute erupted a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine the 1,025th anniversary of Christianity in Kievan Rus.

Putin urged Ukraine to drop its plans for closer integration with the European Union and instead to join forces with Russia in order to become more competitive globally. 

The developments signal that parties have failed to iron out disagreements.

“We are now looking into these issues. A team was created to deal with investigation of this matter,” Serhiy Arbuzov, first deputy prime minister, said Monday.

“I think that in two or three days we will be able to make a statement.”

Moscow cited the presence of benzopyrene, a carcinogen, in the chocolate.

The chemical is usually linked to lung cancer and is naturally emitted by forest fires and volcanic eruptions.

It can also be found in coal tar, cigarette smoke, wood smoke, and burnt foods such as coffee.

Russia warned Ukraine in early July that it may ban imports of Ukrainian chocolate, coal and glass in reaction to Ukraine’s plans to introduce duties on imports of Russian cars.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov met his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi on July 12 to try to iron out disagreements and to prevent a looming trade war.

This was followed by meetings between Putin and President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday in Kiev and Sunday in Sevastopol.

The fact that Moscow has decided to go ahead with the trade sanctions shows the parties have failed to make any progress in the talks, signaling that the issue may potentially escalate further.

Gennadii Onishchenko, the head of the Russian consumer protection agency, which is believed to be often used by Russia in trade disputes with other countries, said his agency had long suspected that Ukrainian chocolate had poor quality. 

“Unfortunately, our suspicions have come true, which we sincerely regret,” Onishchenko told Interfax while announcing the ban on imports of the Roshen chocolate.

Roshen on Monday defended the quality of its chocolate and said that there are no formal rules in Russia that regulate the presence of benzopyrene in the chocolate, which means the allegations could be arbitrary.

“The allegations on benzopyrene content cannot be considered as an act of violation of Russia’s regulations because such rules on chocolate have not been set,” Roshen said in a statement.

Source: Ukrainian Journal