[JURIST] Vladimir Putin [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] on Wednesday banned all imports of agricultural products from the US and fruit and vegetables from Europe. The ban, which could last up to one year, was a tactical response to countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia for its support [BBC backgrounder] of Ukrainian rebels. The ban will have widespread consequences, affecting both Russian consumers and Western farmers that export a majority of their products to Russia. Moscow is the biggest buyer of European fruit and vegetables [Reuters report] and the second biggest importer of US poultry. Alexei Alexeenko, the spokesman for Russia's food safety organization VPSS [official website], had originally reported that the ban would also include US poultry, but that has not since been confirmed.
The ongoing conflict [JURIST news archive] in Ukraine has greatly increased tensions between Russia and the West. In July the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) [official website] issued a report [JURIST report] documenting what it referred to as the "continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine" and calling for greater care to prevent civilian casualties. Also in July Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] mounting evidence of abductions and violence against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine over the last three months. In May United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] over the escalating unrest in Ukraine that has brought increasing destruction and death to the region. Pillay urged opposition groups to "lay down their weapons" and to work toward a peaceful resolution of the ongoing political crisis. In April the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] opened an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes in the Ukraine.