(RIA Novosty) Restrictions on the import of certain food products from Ukraine are purely sanitary measures and have no political element, the Russian prime minister said Friday.

Mikhail Fradkov, visiting a poultry factory in the Belgorod Region that borders Ukraine, said the measures did not aim to distort competition but were based on the need to "protect consumers from low-quality products."

A ban on meat imports transported via Ukraine was imposed by Russia December 30, 2005. Russia also imposed restrictions on the import of pre-prepared meat products January 1, 2006 and a full ban on livestock product imports from Ukraine January 20.

Russia insists Ukraine should provide guarantees that its products meet Russia's veterinary and sanitary standards and that Ukraine sign a protocol to this effect.

Earlier Friday, Vladimir Gorbulin, an advisor to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, said his country was ready to approve Russia's proposals to tighten veterinary control of its meat deliveries.

"I hope the talks that began in Moscow on January 23 will be continued on February 1," he said.

However, Gorbulin said he considers the ban on Ukrainian meat to be political, linking it to the recent disagreement over the price Ukraine pays for Russian natural gas, which caused Russian energy giant Gazprom to turn off the taps to the country at the beginning of the year.

"God forbid that the gas war continues until March 26 [the date of Ukraine's parliamentary elections]. Other wars could also spring up, linked to fuel supplies for nuclear power plants and crude oil," the presidential advisor said.

Acting Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov conceded that poor-quality and contraband meat was entering the Russian market from Ukraine.

"Buffalo meat has been spotted in [the border region of] Bryansk," he said. "It is true that Ukrainian authorities allowed the meat into the country."


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