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Moldova Pledges Better Quality Wine In Standoff With Russia

Moldova's wine industry is integral to its GDP
CHISINAU -- Moldovan Economy Minister Valeriu Lazar says that "only good wine" will be exported to Russia, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Lazar told RFE/RL on July 23 that Chisinau is not entirely blameless in the ongoing dispute with Moscow over the quality of Moldovan wines exported to Russia. He pledged to install enhanced controls of the quality of the country's wines.

Russian officials have held up large shipments of Moldovan wine at customs offices since last month, complaining of poor quality.

Lazar said the Russians have a right to impose strict food-safety standards, and Moldovan exporters should comply with those standards or "look for other markets."

Russia's chief sanitary inspector, Gennady Onishchenko, warned earlier this week that Moscow could slap a total ban on wine imports from Moldova because of their low quality.

Many Moldovan analysts and some nationalist politicians have called Onishchenko's warning "political." They say it is a form of retribution for Moldova's recent attempts to condemn its "occupation" by Soviet troops in 1940.

But Lazar said he does not see any political connotations in the latest wine row. He added that the wine problem should be "for experts to solve."

Wine is Moldova's main export and accounts for 35-40 percent of its GDP. Russia and the countries of the European Union make up Moldova's main market for wine.