In what appears to be Russia’s latest move to stem the illegal importing of goods, one of the country’s lawmakers has proposed a 12-year prison sentence for those caught smuggling food from Western countries across its borders. The proposal, drafted by State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov, imposes the criminal penalty on those violating the current ban on the importation of Western foods which was instituted after the West imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its interference in Ukraine. Russia slapped the embargo on Western food over a year ago.
Presently, food is confiscated from those caught illegally importing Western foods into Russia, but there is no criminal sanction. The head of Moscow’s Bar Association Andrei Knyazev was quoted in Izvestia, a Russian daily newspaper, that, “The current articles of the Criminal Code regulate responsibility for smuggling narcotics, poisons and so on, but they do not cover consumer goods, including food.” Fyodorov stated that, “It would be perfectly fair to expand the punishment envisaged for smuggling cigarettes and alcohol to include people who ignore the authorities’ decisions about the food embargo.”
It is important to note that food confiscated from smugglers is set to be destroyed according to President Vladimir Putin. Authorities are set to begin incinerating the food today. This outrages many Russians who are extremely poor and need the food. A petition with more than 208,000 signatures was delivered to Moscow, questioning, “Why should we destroy food that could feed veterans, pensioners, the disabled, those with large families or those who have suffered from natural disasters?”
Even politicians and public figures who normally support the Kremlin have questioned the decision to destroy perfectly good food. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called the move an “extreme measure,” and stated that, “[he] would give this food to Orthodox Christian communities, to children’s and orphans’ homes . . . and to our friends in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics.” Television host Vladimir Solovyov wrote on his Twitter account that, “[he doesn’t] understand how a country that lived through the horrible hunger of the war and terrible years after the Revolution can destroy food.”
The proposed law to impose the 12-year prison term on smugglers of illegal foods is set to be voted on during the upcoming fall legislative session.