MOSCOW - Russia's food safety watchdog, citing disease outbreaks, announced fresh restrictions on imports of livestock and beef from southern Europe on Wednesday - seen as a response to Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's Ukraine policy.
Following an outbreak of mad cow disease near Cluj in Romania, Russia's Rosselkhoznadzor said it was ordering temporary restrictions on the import of cattle, beef, and cow feed containing animal protein from the EU country.
Blaming outbreaks of bluetongue, a viral disease affecting sheep and cattle, the watchdog said it was also introducing temporary restrictions on import of cattle and other susceptible animals from Bulgaria and some regions of Italy and Greece.
The restrictions come into effect on Wednesday and Thursday, said the watchdog, which is part of the agricultural ministry.
The Romanian veterinary agency ANSVSA immediately hit back saying Moscow cannot ban a "trade that doesn't exist, since Romania does not export either beef or cattle to Russia".
It said that Romania was "not confronting a BSE epidemic but one isolated case, the first since 1995", adding that the World Organisation for Animal Health said there was a "negligeable risk" of the disease spreading.
Moscow is often accused of restricting trade to make a political point, and has in recent weeks banned or threatened to ban a range of products from EU countries and the United States