Vladimir Putin Vows to Continue EU Import Ban 'As Long as Possible'

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi, Russia, October 27. Sputnik/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev via REUTERS

Vladimir Putin has promised to retain a ban on Western food products for "as long as possible" in a bid to help Russian businesses.

A long list of imports—such as cheese, fish and meat from EU countries—have been banned in Russia for two years in an apparent response to Western sanctions on Russian pro-Kremlin officials and enterprises over Russia's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking at an economic forum in Moscow on Tuesday, the Russian president was asked by a resident of Kaliningrad if it is possible to guarantee that this trade ban would continue.

Putin, whose government has long denied that these sanctions are doing any harm to the Russian economy, told the man, according to a speech transcript provided by the Kremlin: "I understand you and I can whisper in your ear that we will prolong them as long as possible."

According to Putin, not only were these sanctions beneficial to Russians, but the Kremlin had ordered them with this outcome in mind, using the occasion of Western sanctions as a mere pretext.

"We truly did this consciously and we took advantage of these, let us say it directly, short-sighted decisions taken against our country on behalf of our partners who implemented these sanctions. We took advantage of this and in response instigated limitations on the import of produce on our market, creating the same conditions for produce farmers in our country."

"You see you are in agreement with me and this pleases me very much," Putin said.

Prices in Russian supermarkets were heavily affected by the trade embargo in 2014 and an outcry against destroying seized contraband food has persisted since. Some production has shown growth in the meantime, however, such as pork, which has increased by 26 percent in the last four years.

Western leaders renewed their commitment to sanctions on Russia earlier this month, until the ceasefire deal in Ukraine is fully upheld.