MOSCOW, August 16 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainian protestors burned Russian-made goods outside the embassy in Kiev on Friday in a rally against what a prominent Ukrainian trade federation has called the Russian Customs Service’s “blocking” of imports from Ukraine, local media reported.
The Federation of Employers of Ukraine, which represents the interests of thousands of companies that together account for some 70 percent of Ukraine’s GDP, has said that the extensive delays of Ukrainian imports on the Russian border were causing an estimated $2.5 billion in losses to Ukrainian companies.
New restrictions by the Russian Customs Service prompted anger in Ukraine, where one lawmaker described them as a part of an escalating "trade war." Ukraine is scheduled to sign key free-trade agreements with the European Union in November, while the Kremlin is pushing for Kiev to commit to the Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Almost two dozen activists reportedly gathered at the rally on Friday, calling for a boycott of Russian goods and asking Ukraine’s authorities and opposition to react to Moscow’s actions.
“Now everyone should unite – both the government and the people – and stop this aggression. [Russia] should understand that no one will pressure us into the Customs Union,” Ruslan Tsekeli, who heads the Nastup (Onslaught) activist movement, was quoted by online newspaper Gazeta.ua as saying at the rally.
The activists poured fuel onto Russian goods – including packaged foods and even a mobile phone subscription box – and set them on fire, the news site said.
“This was a symbolic action to show everyone that there are people in Ukraine who are ready to defend their rights,” Tsekeli reportedly said, claiming that the situation over the Ukrainian goods was a Russian ploy to push Kiev into the Moscow-led Customs Union.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boyko said Friday that Kiev expected the problem with Ukrainian exports to Russia to be resolved by Monday following talks with the head of Russia’s Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belyaninov.
Belyaninov, meanwhile, said Russia could ease control over Ukrainian imports only after violations were corrected on the Ukrainian side. He added that while tightening control over the Ukrainian exports, the Russian Federal Customs Service did not breach any international obligations.
Ukraine’s economic development and trade minister, Ihor Prasolov, said Kiev would decide on Monday whether to voice concerns at the World Trade Organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych in a telephone conversation on Friday. Yanukovych expressed “concerns” over the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border, but neither the Kremlin nor the Ukrainian president’s press service would elaborate.