American appetite for fish helps fund invasion of Ukraine, despite Russian seafood import ban

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A pollock sits on ice at the Portland Fish Exchange in Portland, Maine, Thursday, May 5, 2016.Robert F. Bukaty, File/Associated Press

  • On March 11, the United States banned all Russian seafood imports to punish Putin for invading Ukraine.

  • Russian seafood that is sent to China for processing still goes to the United States, AP reported.

  • The United States has also struggled to cut off energy revenues from Russia when other countries depend on its oil.

The United States banned the import of Russian seafood after the invasion of Ukraine, but that didn’t stop them from crossing the border.

Thanks to seafood processing in China and country-of-origin labeling laws in the United States, Russian pollock, salmon and wild fish are still being bought, sold and eaten by Americans, according to a Associated Press report.

On March 11, President Joe Biden announced a ban on imports of vodka, diamonds and seafood from Russia as part of a series of measures aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin for launching an invasion. on a large scale from Ukraine on February 24.

But Russian seafood companies can get their products to the United States anyway through China, where many seafood from Russian waters are already processed.

A 2019 study by the International Trade Commission found that almost a third of wild fish imported from China into the United States actually came from Russia. The study also revealed that 50% of the pollock and 75% of the salmon imported from China to the United States actually came from Russia.

When the fish is processed and exported to the United States, it can be labeled as a “product of China” because a country of origin label is not required, according to AP, allowing it to escape the Russian import ban.

Gleb Frank, son of a former Putin official and son-in-law of a sanctioned oligarch, owns two of Russia’s largest seafood exporters, Russian Fishery Co. and Russian Crab, AP reported. He was dubbed Russia’s “crab king” in 2019 after securing major crab fishing rights from the Russian government.

Frank demonstrates the close ties between the Russian seafood industry and the Kremlin, according to AP. He was also sanctioned by the United States last month as part of a major campaign against Russian elites and their families. Following the sanctions, he sold part of his stake in both companies and resigned as chairman.

The United States has also struggled to cut Russia off from oil and gas profits despite instituting its own import ban. Some European countries have also banned Russian oil, but others depend on it, such as Italy and Germany, in addition to countries like China and India which continue to buy it.

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