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Russia bans imports of meat, fish, milk and fruit from US, EU, Australia, Canada, Norway

MOSCOW - The Russian government has banned all imports of meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Thursday.

The move was taken on orders from President Vladimir Putin in response to sanctions imposed on Russia by the West over the crisis in Ukraine. The ban has been introduced for one year.

Medvedev said that Russia is also considering banning Western carriers from flying over Russia on flights to and from Asia — a move that would significantly swell costs and increase flight time. He said the decision on that hasn't been made yet.

Russia may introduce restrictions regarding imports of planes, navy vessels and cars, Medvedev said, but added that the government will realistically assess its own production potential.

The U.S. and the EU have accused Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March, of fomenting tensions in eastern Ukraine by supplying arms and expertise to a pro-Moscow insurgency, and have imposed asset freezes and loan bans on a score of individuals and companies.

Russia depends heavily on imported foodstuffs — most of it from the West — particularly in the largest and most prosperous cities such as Moscow. Food and agricultural imports from the U.S. amounted to $1.3 billion last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and in 2013 the EU's agricultural exports to Russia totalled 11.8 billion euros ($15.8 billion).

The Canadian Press

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