The Russian authorities, in response to the actions of the Czech Republic against Russian diplomats, are considering the advisability of taking measures, including restrictions on the import of a number of Czech-made goods. About this on Saturday, April 24, writes “Kommersant” with reference to two informed sources in the state structures of the Russian Federation.
One of the interlocutors of the publication admitted that Moscow will have to resort to economic restrictions, since it is impossible to mirror Prague’s aggressive actions. The second interlocutor of the newspaper expressed confidence that import restrictions will affect beer from the Czech Republic. Last year, this Czech drink was delivered to Russia for $ 38 million, which is 10% more than in 2019.
In turn, Vadim Drobiz, director of the Center for Research on Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets (CIFRRA), said that today the turnover of beer and beer drinks in the country is 8 billion liters, and only 5% of them are imported. A possible ban on the import of Czech beer, in his opinion, will become a “symbolic prick”.
The share of Czech beer in total imports to Russia is about 10% in physical terms (40 million liters per year). At the same time, as noted by Drobiz, the dollar exchange rate affects the retail prices of this product, and Czech beer is becoming more expensive, which is why Russians are buying this drink less and less. According to him, less than 2 million people regularly or periodically consume Czech drinks in Russia.
Oraz Durdyev, Director for Legal Affairs and Corporate Relations of AB InBev Efes, clarified that at the moment about ten brands of Czech beer are imported into the Russian Federation, and the main share in the category is occupied by licensed Czech sorts.
Thus, the expert admitted that Czech beer produced under license in Russia, for example, Velkopopovicky Kozel, would not be affected by possible restrictions.
According to the Federal Customs Service (FCS), the total trade between the Russian Federation and the Czech Republic in 2020 amounted to more than $ 5.2 billion, which is 43% less than in 2019. Such a drop was provoked by the coronavirus pandemic. Russia’s imports from the Czech Republic amounted to $ 2.7 billion. According to the newspaper’s sources, probable import restrictions may affect any of the industries, but they will be adopted solely on the basis of the principle “do not harm yourself,” writes Gazeta.ru.
The possibility of banning Czech beer on the territory of Russia after the actions of Prague on April 20 was admitted by a member of the Public Chamber and the head of the Sober Russia project, Sultan Khamzaev. According to him, in the current situation, one can use to reduce the Russian beer market. He also called this approach a kind of “penalties.”
Tensions in relations between Russia and the Czech Republic emerged after the Prime Minister of the republic, Andrei Babis, announced on April 17 that the country’s authorities suspected Russian special services of involvement in an explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetica in 2014. On the same day, the Czech Republic announced its decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats.
Moscow, in turn, on April 18 announced 20 employees of the Czech embassy in the Russian Federation persona non grata. The accusations in Russia were categorically denied, and the fact that Prague does not publish a report on the explosion, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova called evidence of a lie.
On April 21, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulganek demanded that the expelled Czech diplomats be returned to Russia and promised to send about 60 more Russian diplomats otherwise.
In turn, Zakharova pointed out to Prague that an ultimatum tone towards Russia is inadmissible. However, the next day, Kulganek announced the expulsion of 63 Russian diplomats from Prague, and the Russian Foreign Ministry in response demanded that the Czech Republic reduce the number of employees of the country’s embassy in Moscow.
As a result, by May 31, the embassies of the Czech Republic and Russia will each have seven diplomats, 25 technical staff and 19 locally hired people.
A number of countries expressed solidarity with the Czech Republic, including Poland and Hungary, and some, for example, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Maria Zakharova, in turn, said that the diplomats of these countries may already begin to guess which of them will leave Moscow in the near future.