pork, meat, barbecues.jpg
Photograph: Photo by ludiarin, used under CC0

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled Friday that a Russian ban on pork imports from the European Union is in violation of its rules, coming down against Moscow for the second time this month in complaints brought by Brussels.

Relations between Russia and the EU have plummeted over Moscow's 2014 invasion of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia is accused of supporting separatists.

Friday's ruling relates to a Russian decision in early 2014 to close its market to live pigs and pork products from the EU, after cases of African swine fever were detected in wild boars on the Lithuanian and Polish borders with Belarus.

At the time, Russia accounted for almost 25 per cent of EU pork exports, according to the European Commission.

Brussels argued that the move was unjustified and breached Russia's commitments to the WTO, which Moscow joined in 2012. The EU asked the Geneva-based trade body to weigh in on the matter in June 2014, following unsuccessful mediation efforts.

A WTO panel came to the conclusion Friday that the EU-wide export ban - as well as bans against Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland - is inconsistent with several of its rules.

"Today's ruling confirms that the measures taken by Russia against the EU have little to do with any real sanitary or health risks," the commission said in a statement, adding that the findings "remind Russia about its international obligations."

Moscow has since imposed a sweeping import ban on EU agricultural goods, in response to sanctions imposed by Brussels over its actions in eastern Ukraine.

Russia can appeal the WTO ruling within the next 60 days.

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