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Russian Authorities Destroy Geese and Ducklings in Jab at West

"The ducklings did not have any accompanying documents, so a decision was made to destroy them."

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Ducklings, geese, and contraband cheese: None is safe from Russian authorities. In recent weeks and days, Russian police have stepped up enforcement of a ban on agricultural products imported from the West, resulting in a flurry of absurd headlines as customs officials have confiscated and destroyed a wide variety of foodstuffs.

Over the weekend, Russian authorities seized a shipment of Ukrainian ducklings and incinerated the animals. “The ducklings did not have any accompanying documents, so a decision was made to destroy them,” Svetlana Zaporozhchenko of a Russian food safety agency told Zvezda TV. On Tuesday, Russian police arrested a group of people involved in what the Associated Press described as an “international ring involved in producing contraband cheese” worth $30 million. Huge amounts of pork, nectarines, and tomatoes are being destroyed. State media is broadcasting images of bacon and other goods being tossed into incinerators, and authorities say more than 300 tons of food has been destroyed under the measure.

The crackdown on illicit food has its origin in a ban issued by Moscow a year ago as a response to Western sanctions punishing Russia’s meddling in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. Earlier this summer, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that went into effect on Aug. 6, ordering the destruction and videotaping of seized illicit food. With enforcement now being stepped up, strange videos are proliferating on the web showing the authorities in action.

Here, for example, authorities in Tatarstan destroy three shrink-wrapped geese prepared for grocery sale, reportedly of Hungarian provenance, by having them repeatedly run over with a bulldozer — all while the Russian national anthem plays:

Here, in a variation on the theme, 10 tons of cheese are crushed:

All this enforcement is being met with mockery by many Russians on social media. What is either a duck or goose in the image below proclaims, “We didn’t start this war!” That’s a reference to the Kremlin’s line that its recent actions — from the annexation of Crimea to food bans — are merely responses to Western aggression.

That sense of discontent over the food destruction is also filtering into more official media. One commentator for the daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets recently argued that the wanton destruction of food showed “clear contempt” for public opinion in a country where the memory of starvation during Soviet rule remains, according to the Los Angeles Times.

 Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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