* Russia says Moldovan wines and spirits have impurities
* Move will be seen as reprisal for Moldova's pro-Europe
CHISINAU, Sept 10 Russia on Tuesday announced a
ban on imports of Moldovan wines and spirits, saying they
contained impurities, a move certain to be seen in the small
ex-Soviet republic as retaliation for its drive to expand ties
with the European Union.
Russia's public health chief Gennady Onishchenko said the
ban on one of Moldova's main export earners, due to come into
force on Wednesday, had been imposed because Moldova had
consistently failed to act to improve the quality of its
"We don't intend to act as a nanny for the Moldovan
economy," Onishchenko said in Moscow, according to Interfax news
"The ban is a necessary step that we have undertaken
reluctantly, but it is the only possible way of solving the
present situation," he said. "There have been violations in
technical preparation, storage and end-production."
In Chisinau, Economy Minister Valerii Lazar said the
Moldovan side were unclear about the reasons for the Russian
"We will have to clarify where technical problems about the
quality of Moldovan wine end and where political aspects begin,"
he told Reuters.
Moscow is unhappy with Moldova's drive to conclude political
association and free trade deals with the European Union in
November in preference to expanding ties with Russia.
A Kremlin envoy this month warned that Chisinau's policies
could bring retaliation from Moscow, possibly involving cuts in
Russian gas deliveries, on which Moldova relies heavily.
Moldova's neighbour Ukraine, another former Soviet republic,
has also come under pressure from the Kremlin to halt its
European integration plans.
Exports of wines and spirits such as cognac and vodka are a
big currency earner for Moldova - which has a population of 3.5
million and is one of Europe's poorest states.
Sales to Russia, the main market for its alcoholic drinks,
brought in $135 million last year.
Despite pressure from Russia, both Moldova and Ukraine are
looking to a November summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, to lock in
place landmark agreements with the EU.
(Reporting by Alexander Tanas; Writing By Richard Balmforth;
Editing by Kevin Liffey)