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EU to take Russia to WTO trial over pork ban

The European Union (EU) plans to take Russia to trial at the World Trade Organization as early as next week over a ban on European pork products, according to EU officials.

Brussels says that by blocking all EU pork exporters - notably from Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany - Moscow has reacted disproportionately to an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Lithuania.

Efforts to lift the pork ban have been complicated by tensions over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, which prompted the EU to impose travel bans and asset freezes on selected Russian officials.

The dispute is important as according to the statistics of the Russian Federal Custom Service, the EU exports 700,000 tonnes of pig meat to Russia each year, accounting for 25% of the bloc's pork exports. According to the Commission, the sales are worth EUR 1.4 billion (US $1.9 billion).

Russia says it is concerned that ASF could spread from Lithuania to farmed pigs in Poland and across Eastern Europe, insisting that the entire EU territory should be quarantined until it can be deemed free from the disease. Its envoy to the EU has said it would be "utterly irresponsible" to lift the ban.

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