Crimean wine confiscated from Italian drinks fair as it 'violates sanctions against Russia'

John Phillips
There were complaints the wine violated EU sanctions against Moscow

Italian finance police have confiscated scores of bottles of Crimean wine from the Russia stand at the prestigious Vinitaly international wine fair after the Ukrainian Embassy complained that the libations from vineyards in annexed territory violated EU sanctions against Moscow, organizers said yesterday.

 The seizure came as an embarrassment for  Sergio Mattarella, the Italian President, who was in Moscow meeting Vladimir Putin, and Sergej Levin, Russia's deputy agriculture minister, who was attending the annual fair in the city of Verona, diplomatic sources said. 

Sergei Aksyonov, the prime minister of Crimea since Moscow annexed the peninsular in 2014, called the seizure "very bad manners."

 “This is an outrage,” Mr Aksenov told Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. “A number of Crimean businessmen had taken their products there, but Italian police seized their products from the exhibition for one does not know what reason.”

 The wine  was on display together with bottles from vineyards in Krasnodar, Stavropol, Rostov and Dagestan, marking the first time Russia has opened a stand at the vast fair. The Ukrainian embassy, however, said in a formal protest to the Italian foreign ministry that the wine was from “the occupied territories of the Crimea.”

 Ukrainian diplomats made the protest after being alerted to the Crimean bottles by Oleski Lubetskyi, a businessman promoting Ukrainian tipples at the fair.

Mariana Betsa, a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said on Twitter: “according to Council of Europe regulation 692\2014 (concerning restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of the Crimea and Sevastopol) the Italian organisers invited the Russian side to stop displaying merchandise from the autonomous Crimean republic during Vinitaly 2017.”

The confiscation of the politically sensitive wine was condemned by, Stefano Valdegamberi, a councillor in the Veneto regional parliament, who next week will lead a delegation of 40 Italian businessman and 10 local Italian politicians to the Crimean resort of Yalta in protest at the ongoing sanctions.

 “I will telephone today prime minister Aksenov who I will see next week in Yalta, to present my excuses for what happened, telling him that this gesture does not reflect the wishes of Italians, but of a government that is ever more distant from the people, who work against the interests of our country,” Mr Valdegamberi said.

 His remarks were echoed by Luciano Sandonà, a regional councilor for the separatist Northern League, who called the seizure of the bottles “offensive to the people of Crimea, accentuating the unfair sanctions against their right to self-determination.”

The European Union imposed a total trade embargo on Crimea after Russia annexed the Black Sea Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014. 

The Northern League is one of several far-right and separatist European parties that openly support the annexation and oppose the sanctions. The party signed a formal cooperation agreement with United Russia, Mr Putin's ruling party, in March. 

RegisterLog incommenting policy

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes