Times have been tough for Russian cheese lovers since the government banned many foreign imports in response to Western sanctions last year.
But forbidden delicacies like French Brie and Camembert are still turning up in Russian stores, and the government is cracking down, the Financial Times reports. Enter the young activists of the Kremlin-funded "Eat Russian!" campaign.
Last week, they raided a Moscow location of the posh Azbuka Vkusa (Alphabet of Taste) supermarket chain, looking for banned Western products.
The activists placed stickers warning "sanctioned product" on items like these Italian cured meats. Yes, that's a bear brandishing its claws in front of an American flag.
They also put the stickers on Swiss cheese until journalists pointed out Switzerland isn't subject to sanctions, according to an account of the raid reported in Kommersant.
"That way each consumer will be warned that these products illegally crossed the border, and this means that they could be dangerous," the group said in a post on its LiveJournal blog.
The "Eat Russian!" campaign is a project of "Piggies Against," a youth group that conducts costumed raids on supermarkets to search for expired products.
The Piggies aim to protect consumer rights by "fighting against a swinish attitude towards people," according to the group's Twitter profile.
"Piggies Against" was originally a project of the pro-Putin youth movement Nashi, or "Ours," which allegedly worked to discredit Russia's opposition and paid people to post pro-Putin comments online.
The "Eat Russian!" raid "has an obvious propagandistic and populist character," a representative for the Azbuka Vkusa store told Kommersant.
It's against the law to bring sanctioned products into Russia — beyond small quantities for personal use — but not to sell them. Starting this week, illegal imports seized at the border will be burned.
H/T Financial Times
Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.
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