MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia will lift sanctions if its Western partners drop their restrictive measures, or else Moscow will encounter problems within the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his annual "Direct Line" session.
"If our partners lift sanctions against our economy, we will also have to do this, otherwise we will face problems under the framework of the WTO," Putin said.
The president recalled that two years ago, as sanctions came into play, fruits and vegetables became been the most problematic agricultural sector issue which affected people's incomes and contributed to high inflation.
"We closed or significantly restricted the imports even though we did not have a volume of production, sufficient for our consumers," Putin said.
The president noted that the government had extended the embargo on food products until December 31, 2017.
"We did our best so that our producers could increase the production of vegetables and fruits. First of all, vegetables. Two years ago, our inflation reached 12.9 percent including due to these reasons. But we proceeded from the assumption that our agricultural producers engaged in the production of meat, vegetables and fruits should achieve a volume of production which is enough to cover our own market," Putin added.
The Russian government will continue supporting the country's agricultural sector after the removal of Western sanctions, but this will be indirect and not contrary to WTO rules, Putin said.
"Indirect support, not direct support, which is prohibited within the WTO… will, of course, continue," Putin said answering a question on whether producers would continue receiving state support once sanctions are gone.
According to Putin, Russian agricultural producers should do everything possible to be competitive in the future.
"We are working hard to help you keep up this pace and become competitive. If the quality and labor productivity is not below that of your competitors you will always have an advantage in your own market as your logistics are much cheaper," the president added.
The relations between Russia and the West shattered after Crimea rejoined Russia as a result of a referendum in 2014, which had not been recognized by the EU's member states. The European Union, as well as the United States and their allies, introduced a number of sanctions against Russia. Moscow, in turn, put in place a food embargo on products originating in the countries which had targeted Russia with sanctions.