Russia places fresh embargo on Georgian wine

As tension mounts once more between Russia and its Caucasian neighbour Georgia, Russia has moved to restrict imports of Georgian products – principally wine.

Anti-Russian protests began in the Georgian capital Tbilisi late last week over the visit of a Russian MP, Sergei Gavrilov, who was invited to chair a parliamentary session as part of an assembly of Orthodox Christian countries

Tensions between the two countries have been high ever since a brief war in 2008 and Russia’s continued support for the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – causes which Garilov is a vocal supporter of.

Flights between the two countries were suspended last week and the Russian trading standards body announced on Monday this week that restrictions on Georgian alcoholic products on the grounds of “public safety”.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the controls were “not politically motivated”, the Independent reported.

But few will be convinced of this argument given Russia has imposed restrictions before, in 2006, and as Peskov’s next statement revealed that the restrictions would be lifted, “once Georgia returns to a non-Russophobic vector”.

Russia remains Georgia’s largest export market for wine, about 70% of production goes north of the Caucasus and given Georgia’s approach to wine is intensely wrapped up with national pride, it makes it an easy target for Moscow when seeking to strong arm its smaller neighbour.

The 2006 embargo, which was also made in the name of “public safety”, was put in place to try and pressure Georgia from desisting in its pro-EU, US and NATO stance.

Despite that and the ensuing 2008 conflict, Georgian wine exports to Russia rebounded quickly once the ban was lifted in 2013.

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