Russia banned some of the Ecuadorian banana imports, threatening to escalate the diplomatic spat between the two countries over military equipment reportedly bound for Kyiv, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Feb. 4.
The Ecuadorian government announced in January that it would send what it called "Ukrainian and Russian scrap metal" to the U.S. in exchange for modern equipment worth $200 million.
Washington reportedly plans to transfer the arms received from Ecuador to Ukraine to help the country in its fight against Russian invading forces.
Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) announced on Feb. 3 that it is banning imports from five Ecuadorian banana companies, claiming that a disease had been discovered in previous shipments.
Ecuador is one of the world's leading banana exporters. The fruit's sales in 2022 amounted to $3.52 billion, roughly one-tenth of all of Ecuador's exports for that year, data shows.
Some $779 million of these exports – more than one-fifth – went to Russia. According to Rosselkhoznadzor, Ecuadorian bananas account for 96% of all banana imports to Russia.
Although Russian authorities did not link the trade restriction to the arms deal dispute, ex-Ecuadorian diplomat Carlos Estarellas said the ban may have indeed been a retaliatory move.
Russia's Foreign Ministry criticized the transfer of old Russian arms to the U.S., saying that Ecuador's decision was a breach of contract between the two countries and that it was made "under serious pressure from outside stakeholders."
"Our partners are well aware of the provisions of the contracts, which include an obligation to use the supplied equipment for the stated purposes and not to transfer it to a third party without obtaining the relevant agreement of the Russian side," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
Ecuadorian authorities said that Moscow had previously warned them against handing over the equipment, but they had the right to do it anyway.