Wine is the weapon in an undeclared war between Russia
and two former Soviet Republics. From the end of March, wine from
Georgia and Moldova has been turned back at the Russian border.
Gennady Onishchenko, chief of Russia’s Federal Consumer Protection Service,
claims the wine is unfit to drink.

Mr Onishchenko cited laboratory tests, saying that they indicated
traces of the pesticide DDT and heavy metals in samples from both
countries, but he refused to release the test results. Georgia’s
President Mikhail Saakashvili, calling the ban “a filthy trick” that is
tantamount to an economic blockade, gave his defence minister a new
role as chief salesman for Georgian wine in Europe and other foreign
markets.

For Moldova, the Russian ban is having
serious consequences. Moldova exports 80% of its wine to Russia and wine
exports constitute nearly a third of the country’s GDP. About 70% of
Georgia’s wine exports head for Russia and represent 10% of all Georgian
exports.

The Tass news agency reported Russian leader Vladimir
Putin as questioning his Minister of Socio-Economic Development Mikhail Zurabov
about whether the wine ban was justified. “Does it apply to both domestic suppliers
and importers; ie are the demands the same?” Mr Putin was quoted as asking.
“Absolutely,” Zurabov assured him.

The exemption of Moldova’s Transdniester
region and Georgia’s Abkhazia province from the import restrictions has
increased suspicions that politics, not consumer safety,
is behind the Russian actions. Both regions are seeking independence with the
support of President Putin.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12