From 1/8 piece of bread a day during blockade of Leningrad in 1941-44 to deliberate destruction of food in 2015

1438883515-6962Recently Russia has destroyed 320 tons of meat, cheese and peaches, according to an official report from vesti.ru. But why? On the 6th of August, the decree on destruction of sanctioned  goods finally came in power.

Photo: Reuters
Although Mr. Putin signed the decree “about certain economical measures to be applied for the aims of providing safety/security to the Russian Federation,” the original author of this idea was the Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev. Official media calls the destruction of sanctioned goods a “fight with smuggling.”

“It should be mentioned here that destruction of contraband is an absolutely normal measure for the provision of security in each state.”
explains vesti.ru.

The article is full of examples of how the endemic situation with meat and usage of pesticides in Europe is terrifying:

“In the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine there is an outbreak of the African swine fever. In Germany there is notice of an aggressive form of bird flu, and in Belgium there is a quarantine due to cow tuberculosis.”  

Vesti.ru finds it nesessary to inform the population that the loss from counter-sanctions totals 5.5 milliard euro for the “West,” but TV channel does not bother to emphasize information on losses from sanctions for the Russian side.
While the state-ownedowned vesti.ru tries to acquit the decree, meduza.io speaks about the petition “against the destruction of sanctioned food and for the transfer of it to the people in need.” Although the petition has collected 340,000 votes on change.org, it has yet to be taken into consideration by the state.
An independent observer from slon.ru analyses the decision in favor for destruction of food instead of simple confiscation. He believes that destruction is the only way to fight “contraband.” Past experiences with confiscation suggest that if goods are simply confiscated, they would still go through illegal channels of realization.

“Destruction of food is a demonstrative act of mistrust to its own law enforcement system”.
Slon magazine observer Evgeniy Karasyuk

The public greeted the idea of food destruction with disregard and confusion. Historically speaking, Russia has encountered many trials: Holodomor during Stalin’s time, WWII Blockade of Leningrad/Saint-Petersburg (siege by Third Reich army leading to rations of ⅛ piece of bread per person in the city), absence of food on the counters during most of the Communist era, etc. Justification  of the very idea of food destruction is a difficult task, but as we see from vesti.ru, it is still doable. With the aforementioned points in mind, people went to the streets to protest:

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The sign from the protests in Saint-Petersburg says: “It’s a sin and shame to destroy food in the city which survived the Blockade (during the WWII)”. Photo: Viktor Rezunkov

WHAT FOREIGN MEDIA WRITES ON MR. PUTIN’S NEW LAW

United States
The destruction of “Western” cheese made some headlines in major news outlets. Photos of a bulldozer at work were present in virtually every article. More specifically, all the observed sources emphasised that Russia burned down food in time of a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine.
WSJ was sarcastic towards Mr. Putin’s new law, calling it a “brutal crackdown on cheese” and a “display of culinary nationalism”.

VICE  stressed that
“Even as the country’s poor suffer the fallout of Russia’s recent recession and badly performing ruble, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree to destroy the banned imports from countries that had imposed sanctions on Russia as the conflict in Ukraine continues.”  

The New York Times called the event a “food fight” on the sidelines of “real war in which more than 6,000 people have died.”

Germany
The topic of counter-sanctions was never popular in German media. Mr. Putin decided to “conquer” attention from  the “West” and finally received some attention.
In Süddeutsche Zeitung (sz.de) the decree is depicted as a mistake, and outrage among the population is underlined. tagesschau.de depicts the events in a similar tone and quotes Wladimir Solowjow, who cannot understand how a country that “”went through cruel hunger during the war and the horrible years after revolution” can destroy food.
Spiegel Online (spiegel.de) tries to find the “real reason” for Putin’s decree: “Presidential decree: The real reasons for Putin’s burning of food”;  “PR-disaster: Putin allows Western food be burned”.  The source references other regimes and organisations that are burning food:

„Burning things easily brings you in dubious company. Only a few years ago in Somalia, militias burned food because it came from abroad. The terror organisation Islamic State lately did the same with food packages from the U.S.“

Lithuania is quite unhappy about Russia burning their meat.
Delfi.lt finds Russian actions as a part of Kremlin’s a new information war against of  the “West,” because the destruction of food is  publicly videotaped and broadcasted. Delfi is sarcastic and found historical similarities:

“In 1812, Russian Tsar Alexander I ordered to burn Russian crop fields to make advancing Napoleon’s army to starve”.

Delfi.lt also comes up with new ideas for bribes to Russian oligarchs: Norwegian salmon and Italian parmesan. Lietuvos Rytas called this campaign “a distinctive way to commemorate the first year of food embargo” and reports about the petition. 15min.lt writes that Russia made a reckless decision to waste quality food while being in drastic economic recession due to the imposed Western sanctions.

Estonia
Estonian Delfi expresses high concern of the historical legitimacy of food burning in Russia. It strongly condemns the activity and it is easy to trace the very negative attitude of the source towards Russia:

“Destroying the food in an often starving Russia is a sin”.

Delfi goes further in tracing  the sanctioned goods smuggled into Russia. Outlet claims to have discovered a conspiracy of the allegedly burnt Latvian cheese actually being produced in Russia and Ukraine.  Postimees and ERR stress that this economically questionable act now brings more people to protest.


The Russian government has experimented with new anti-liberal laws since Mr. Milonov proposed the Gay-Propaganda law. Kremlin then proceeded with the law restricting foreign NGOs and related funds in the territory of Russian Federation. Now the government has come to a decree on the destruction of food. From the official standpoint, all these laws are meant to  “ensure security in the state.” If argumentation for two previous laws is approached from conservative viewpoint – one that sees the “West” as a threat to traditional values – then it is much more difficult  to feed the population with lies and hope for them to devour it.
Starvation and poverty are widespread phenomena. Seeing a country with considerable history of suffering  engaged in active destruction of food is not easy to justify with adage about the “‘Liberal ‘West’ threatening our security.” The historical context of starvation is underlined in every country. The idea seems insane for the local public and others abroad. Perhaps therefore media outlets in every country employ  at several sarcastic remarks  regarding the decree. What kind of law is  next to be enforced? An embargo on foreign condoms (which is already under discussion)?

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Famous Russian star and member of Duma, Kseniya Sobchak photoshopped with a sign “Je Suis parmesan” https://twitter.com/zapvv/status/629270591753859072/photo/1


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