Accessibility links

Russia Denies Political Motives In Move To Ban Dutch Tulips

  • RFE/RL

The Netherlands is the world's biggest flower exporter.

The Netherlands is the world's biggest flower exporter.

Dutch flowers represent a sanitary "threat" to Russia and could be banned, the Russian agricultural safety regulator said July 21.

The agency said in a statement that a ban on flower deliveries from the Netherlands -- a country that takes pride in its tulips -- was "highly probable."

The move came as Moscow's relations with The Hague have reached a low point.

Russian officials denied, however, that it was politically motivated or aimed at punishing the Netherlands for joining in European sanctions or for identifying Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine as the principal suspects in its investigation of the MH17 airline shoot-down a year ago.

"This is not an agenda for the Kremlin," Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked whether there was a link between the possible ban on imports of Dutch tulips and the Dutch initiative to form an international tribunal at the United Nations to prosecute those responsible for the Malaysian Airlines crash in Ukraine.

"I am not a supporter of politicizing this somehow," Peskov said.

The downing of the civilian airliner killed all 298 people on board, most of whom were Dutch. The Netherlands has been leading an international investigation into the incident which has identified pro-Russian rebels armed with Russian-made missiles as the likely culprits.

Russia has staunchly opposed the creation of a UN tribunal to adjudicate the matter, as the Netherlands has proposed, and has denied any involvement in the incident.

Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian agriculture ministry, said Dutch flowers could be banned because the harmful organisms they contain "pose a serious threat to the country's economy and agricultural production."

"Quarantine objects have been found in shipments of Dutch-originating products," said Yulia Melano, Rosselkhoznadzor's press secretary.

Any ban likely would cause millions of dollars in losses for Dutch tulip growers. The Netherlands is the world's biggest flower exporter, with 10 billion Dutch tulip bulbs produced every year -- 70 percent of total world yield.

Last August, in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union and United States for its aggressions in Ukraine, Russia banned the import of meat, dairy, and produce from EU member states and other Western countries.

President Vladimir Putin last month ordered that the embargo be maintained until June of next year.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, and TASS