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Latvia to become first EU country to ban imports of grain from Russia, Belarus

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 22, 2024 6:47 PM 2 min read
Latvian farmers with signs that read "Against Russian grain products'" demonstrate against the import of Russian and Belarusian grain in Jelgava, Latvia on Feb. 5, 2024. ( Gints Ivuskans/AFP via Getty Images)
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The Latvian parliament voted on Feb. 22 to ban the import of grain products from Belarus and Russia, becoming the first EU country to take such a measure.

A Latvian official said in December 2023 that over 380,000 metric tons of Russian grain had been imported into the EU through Latvia in 2023, an increase of about 80,000 tons of grain compared to 2022.

This figure does not include the grain transported from Russia to non-EU countries via Latvia.

Farmers protested against the Russian and Belarusian grain imports earlier in February.

Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics said on Jan. 24 that he would support a ban on the import of Russian grain "both for political and economic reasons."

Rinkevics argued that Russian grain imports support the Russian economy, and therefore its army, and what is labeled as Russian grain may in fact be Ukrainian grain stolen from Russian-occupied territories.

"Perpetrating international crimes with impunity and benefiting therefrom goes against the morals of society, ethical standards and our system of values. Consumption of products of Russian origin, thus supporting the criminal regime either directly or indirectly is incompatible with the morals of society," Latvian lawmaker Janis Reirs told the parliament.

The ban will come into force in two weeks, and the government will decide in the meantime which products will be included.

Baltic countries to build defenses on Russian, Belarusian borders
The agreement signed by the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania provides for defensive installations on their borders to deter and, if necessary, protect against military threats.
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