EU ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Usackas (photo: flickr)
The European Union may turn to the World Trade Organization over Moscow's ban on its food and agricultural products amid the Ukraine crisis, the EU's ambassador to Russia said Thursday.
"Without a doubt, the possibility is being considered," envoy Vygaudas Usackas told the AFP news agency, without specifying when Brussels might call on the WTO to settle the dispute.
"We will defend our producers through legal means, as the EU is always guided by the rule of law and international commitments," he added in a telephone interview.
"I regret that current EU and Russian relations are probably the worst they have ever been," Usackas, a former Lithuanian foreign minister, said. "The fundamental issue is the lack of trust, and trust was undermined by illegal actions in annexing Crimea and destabilising eastern Ukraine."
Usackas said the ban will "first punish Russian consumers" as 40 percent of Russia's food imports come from the 28-member EU.
But he admitted that the bloc will also suffer, as it sent EUR 11.8 billion worth of food and farm products to Russia last year, or 10 percent of total EU agricultural exports.
Usackas spoke after Russia on Thursday banned most food imports from the United States and the EU and threatened to block flights over its airspace. The move was in retaliation over the West's tough new sanctions on Russia in relation to its defiant stance on Ukraine.