Poles protest Russian ban on their food with humor

By the Associated Press | July 31, 2014 | 12:35 PM EDT

A woman is placing freshly-bought apples in her bag at a market in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. The newspaper Puls Biznesu has called on the Poles to buy apples in support for apple producers after Russia said it was banning most fruit and vegetable imports from Poland. The Poles believe that the ban was imposed as retaliation for Poland’s support for the European Union sanctions against Russia over the armed conflict in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poles are posting photos of themselves with apples online along with mocking comments to protest a Russian ban on Polish food.

Russia will begin banning imports of most fruit and vegetables from Poland on Friday for what it says are violations of health regulations and documentation procedures for some Polish produce.

Polish government officials, however, say the ban was imposed as retaliation for its support for the latest round of European Union sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

The ban is expected to mostly affect Polish apples. Poland is Europe's largest producer of apples, with more than half of its production going to Russia.

The newspaper Puls Biznesu called Wednesday for a show of support with apple producers, urging people to eat more apples and to drink cider. People responded with humorous posts on Twitter under the hashtag #jedzjablka — Polish for "eat apples."

One Twitter user predicted half of Warsaw would get drunk on cider over the weekend.

"An apple a day keeps Putin away!" wrote another Twitter user called Anna Langa, who described herself as a business woman.

Poland is only the latest of several countries that Russia has targeted with import bans.

On Thursday Russia also announced it would ban the import of soy products, cornmeal and sunflowers from Ukraine. That comes on top of bans on Ukrainian dairy products and canned foods imposed in recent days.

Russia has a pattern of banning the products of countries it has disputes with — under the guise of sanitary violations — in order to impose political pressure. It banned Georgian wine and mineral water just before the 2008 war and last year it blocked the import of chocolates made by the company of Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western politician who is now Ukraine's president. Earlier this month it prohibited Moldovan fruit after the country signed an association agreement with the EU.

Poland's Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki on Thursday asked the European Commission for financial compensation for losses that Polish fruit and vegetable producers are expected to suffer because of the ban.