Gennady Onishchenko (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
6 April, 2006 -- Russia's chief sanitation officer, Gennady Onishchenko, has extended the ban on Georgian and Moldovan wines to include brandies and sparkling wines. Their export to Russia is worth some $75 million a year.
Onishchenko says that a large proportion of the alcohol imported from Georgia and Moldova does not meet Russia's sanitation standards, a claim both countries dispute.
Observers have suggested that the ban has less to do with health standards than politics. Georgia and Moldova, which are both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), are opposing Russian membership in the organization.
Russian importers and retailers stand to lose up to $700 million following the removal of Georgian and Moldovan wines from the shelves.
Some 50 Russian distribution companies are taking legal action against Onishchenko for the damage done to their businesses. They have written an open letter to President Vladimir Putin appealing for help.
(Rustavi-2, Imedi TV, "Kommersant")