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Russia bans food imports from Canada; 'we will not be intimidated,' says Moore

OTTAWA - Russia is responding to fresh sanctions from Canada, the U.S. and other countries with a ban on food imports for a year, as well as threatening airspace retaliation.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says the ban covers meat, fish, milk and milk products and fruit and vegetables from Canada, the U.S., the European Union, Australia and Norway.

"For a long time, Russia has not responded to the so-called sanctions declared against it by certain countries," Medvedev told a government meeting.

"Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would realize that sanctions lead to a blind alley, and that no one benefits from them. But they didn't realize this, and now we have been forced to respond."

The move comes a day after Canada slapped new sanctions and travel bans on several top Russian and Ukrainian politicians and groups with ties to Putin's government.

In Canada, pork producers are expected to take the biggest hit from the Russian sanctions. Canada's agricultural exports to Russia amounted to $563 million in 2012, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, mostly from frozen pork.

Canada's latest sanctions against Russia, imposed in tandem with the U.S. and the EU, came amid reports the Russians are amassing thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border.

Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliated by ordering authorities to draft a list of agricultural products from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia.

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

"I'd like to emphasize that all these measures are not being introduced yet, but otherwise can be implemented either separately or together. As a result, the expenses of Western airlines will grow significantly," he said.

Industry Minister James Moore said the world needs to continue to "stand firm" against Russia, despite the escalation of sanctions.

While the government will assess how seriously the sanctions could impact the Canadian economy, "we will not be intimidated by these kinds of tactics," Moore said in Montreal.

Geoff Irvine, head of the Lobster Council of Canada, said the Russian sanctions are "not good for Canada."

"For lobster, Russia is a small but potentially good market. The biggest impact on seafood in Canada will be on northern shrimp, and maybe cheaper fish like Pacific hake and herring."

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

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has frequently said Russia's occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and provocative military activity in eastern Ukraine is a "grave concern" to Canada and the world.

Harper said Canada is prepared to take further actions if Putin's government continues its military aggression.

— With files from The Associated Press

The Canadian Press

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