The new policy has already affected Belarus’ sugar import, as the Russian Cabinet imposed a customs duty on it December 29, 2006. According to the source, Belarusian sugar can soon be followed by meat and meat products, milk and milk products, home appliances and furniture. As a result, import duties will be slapped on over 50% of Belarus’ exports to Russia (worth a total of $6 billion), thus affecting a lion’s share of revenues of that country’s economy.
All these measures are documented by the new law “On Special Economic Measures” signed by President Vladimir Putin in the last days of 2006, the media report. The law allows the Russian president to impose sanctions in cases where an “immediate response to internationally illegal or unfriendly actions of other countries, their government institutions or officials” is needed. The law provides for temporary suspension of economic and military cooperation programs, closure of foreign-trade and financial operations and changing of customs duties.
Moscow admits these measures could mean a de-facto rupture of the Russia-Belarus customs union, but sees no other solution to the problem so far.