Russia considers banning Scotch whisky imports in diplomatic row

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Exports of Scotch whisky to Russia could be hit by the worsening diplomatic row between Russia and the UK, senior figures in Moscow have warned.

Dmitry Kiselyov, who is described as the Kremlin’s chief spin doctor, has called for a boycott of British goods.

Dmitry Kiselyov, an outspoken Russian journalist, with president Vladimir Putin in 2017. Mr Kiselyov said Russian interest in Scotch whisky would drop. Picture: Wikicommons

Dmitry Kiselyov, an outspoken Russian journalist, with president Vladimir Putin in 2017. Mr Kiselyov said Russian interest in Scotch whisky would drop. Picture: Wikicommons

Speaking on his chat show on Russian state TV, Mr Kiselyov said: “To buy a new English car now will not be considered good manners. It will be unpatriotic.

He added: “You can also expect a drop in interest in Scotch whisky.”

Mr Kiselyov is considered so close to the Russian government he was targeted by EU sanctions in the wake of the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

His comments follow a bill introduced in the Russian parliament last week which could lead to a sweeping ban on Western alcohol imports in the country.

Vyacheslav Volodin, a former top aide to Vladimir Putin, introduced the legislation as a response to the “boorish behaviour of the United States”, the Telegraph reported.

The bill could allow Russia to adopt retaliatory sanctions against the US and its allies.

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But Russia is far down the list of leading importers of Scotch whisky. The largest export destination for Scotch in 2017, defined by value, was the USA at £922m. Russian exports were worth just £7.6m in comparison.

Professor Luke March, an expert on post-Soviet politics at the University of Edinburgh, told The Scotsman that Russia has increasingly put its threats into action in recent years.

He said: “Russia has taken various counter-productive measures - such as the 2014 counter-sanctions on EU foodstuffs, and the 2012 ‘Dima Yakovlev’ law that banned US adoptions of Russian children.

“Russia also has an interest in getting its own public to ‘buy Russian’. The elite will always be able to access products like whisky somehow, such as travelling abroad. Extra costs won’t be a factor given their wealth.”

Conservative MP Douglas Ross, whose Moray constituency includes many of Scotland’s best known whisky distilleries, said the sector was strong enough to deal with such threats.

“Whisky is going from strength to strength and I am sure the globally renowned quality of Scotch will have far more influence on consumers across the world, including those in Russia, as opposed to a threatened boycott suggested by this Russian broadcaster,” he said.

SNP MSP Richard Lochhead, a former cabinet secretary for food and the environment, said: “The Scotch whisky industry is in robust health and only this week announced further significant investment in distilleries and tourism.

“In addition, new markets are being developed all the time such as Vietnam and Africa and this is an industry active in over 180 markets with exports now well over £4 billion.

“Being such a global sector results in Scotch whisky being one of our most robust industries.”

The Scotch Whisky Association declined to comment.

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