Central Asian states are becoming entangled in a trade spat involving Russia and Ukraine. Ostensibly, the dispute’s origin can be traced to Russian concerns over the quality of Ukrainian chocolate. But Russia’s real aim, according to some observers, is enhancing the viability of the Kremlin-led Customs Union.
In late July, Russia took a bite out of Ukraine’s economy by banning sweets from a major confectioner. This week, Moscow sunk its teeth deeper into Kyiv, holding up Ukrainian goods crossing its border. The moves, which some Ukrainian politicians are calling the opening shots of a “trade war,” come just months before Kyiv plans to cement closer trade relations with the European Union. Such a development would mark a significant diplomatic setback for Russia, which has been working to bring Ukraine into its own trade bloc, known simply as the Customs Union. The group at present comprises Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
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David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor.