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Russian Foodies React To Import Ban With Patriotism, Some Gloom

A shopper at a supermarket in Moscow on August 7, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the decision by saying, "There is nothing good in sanctions and it wasn't an easy decision to take, but we had to do it."

MOSCOW -- Moscow's upmarket food shoppers are reacting variously with patriotic approval and gloomy resignation at the prospect of going without some of their favorite foreign foods for a year.

The Russian government on August 7 approved a lengthy shopping list of foods and produce that cannot be imported from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in Ukraine.

The one-year embargo, decreed by President Vladimir Putin, affects produce, meat, and dairy imports from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada*, and Norway.

Despite assurances from Putin that the tit-for-tat sanctions would be designed to have minimum impact on Russian citizens, his move was immediately assailed online by gourmet sophisticates of Russia's urban middle class who have grown fond of food imports.

But the reaction from shoppers at luxury supermarkets such as Moscow's "Azbuka Vkusa" were mixed.

Svetlana, 77, a pensioner who declined to give her surname, citing her past public career, lauded Putin's move and added, "It's about time too!" She said her husband has already offered to drive her to the market every week to get fresh fruit and vegetables if supermarkets can't provide them or they become too expensive.

"They've imposed sanctions on us," she said. "Why should we just grind to a standstill?"

INFOGRAPHIC: Top Suppliers Of Food To Russia

Aleksandra Akimova, 23, an advertising agent who had come to buy foreign liquor as a gift for a client, also gave the food ban a thumbs up. "I think it's going to have a good impact on our own domestic produce," said Akimova.

"It'll stimulate the development of domestic producers," she said. "And also -- why shouldn't we do this? If they are going to sanction us, then why should we stand by and silently swallow it?"

Others, however, were visibly crestfallen.

"I don't think this is very nice for anyone," said Ilya, 22, a computer programmer from Moscow who declined to give his surname. He said he had never paid particular attention to where products come from, but he feared his favorites might soon vanish. "I don't think anything like this should happen in the modern world. It's the leftovers of the Soviet Union."

Maya, 57, walking out of Azbuka Vkusa laden with bags, described herself as a "gourmand" and briefly expressed gloominess at the prospect of not being able to purchase Italian spaghetti and balsamic vinegar.

"I buy Italian produce, often French wines and cheeses," she said. "If they ban these, I will be sad, but what can you do?" Taking a triumphant bite of her Russian-made ice-cream, she declared, "This is ours -- it's tasty."

Maya, too, saw the move as a rallying call for Russian producers. "The point is actually that we should produce things ourselves," said Maya. "But the country has been destroyed by the same people imposing these sanctions."

* CORRECTION: This story originally neglected to mention Canada.