Russia accused of trade war against Ukraine

Ukrainian politicians on Thursday accused Russia of starting a trade war to pressure the country against signing a cooperation pact with the European Union, bringing relations between the two former Soviet states to a new low.

Restrictions that Moscow slapped on Ukrainian products this week have left scores of trains and trucks queued at the border, according to a leading business group, which has warned of a “complete halt of Ukrainian exports.”

Moscow has been critical of Kiev’s plans to integrate economically and politically with the EU and lessen its dependence on imports of Russian natural gas. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Kiev to attend a religious ceremony and again stressed that Russia should be Ukraine’s closest ally.

After Kiev pressed on with its negotiations with the EU, Russia banned popular Ukrainian confectionary products from its stores late last month, citing safety concerns. This week, it imposed tough restrictions on scores of other products, by adding Ukrainian companies to a list of risky producers.

The Russian government acknowledged traffic problems on the Russian-Ukrainian border, but did not give further details, according to the Interfax news agency. Interfax reported that Russia’s railway agency said that train cars have piled up at border crossings due to additional checks, but said the situation was “under control.”

Ukraine’s government has shied from openly criticizing Russia, still a major trade partner, saying it was working on a solution. Ukraine’s railway agency said the delays at the border were Russia’s fault.

Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Thursday accused Russia of trying to bully Ukraine into joining a Moscow-led economic alliance, the Customs Union, and prevent it from signing a free-trade deal with the EU in November.