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Following Food Import Ban, Russians Are Turning to an Old Soviet Staple

Earlier this month, Russia announced that it would retaliate against Western sanctions by banning the import of a wide variety of foods, from fruits to fish, from Europe, the United States, and other countries that levied sanctions against Russia. As a result, some Russians in Moscow and St. Petersburg are facing decreasing food supplies and rising prices at the checkout line.

Now, in what has become a symbol of the country's defiant stance toward its Western critics, many Russians are turning to an old dietary staple to reduce their dependence on foreign food and show their support for Russian President Vladimir Putin's hard-line stance toward the United States and its allies. Buckwheat -- or grechka, as it is known in Russian -- is a relatively cheap and versatile food that can be used to make porridge and casseroles. And amid tit-for-tat sanctions with the West, many Russians are turning to social media to flaunt their love of the traditional dish and express solidarity with the Kremlin's food sanctions, launched on Aug. 7.

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the price of meat in Moscow has risen 6 percent since the announcement of the import ban. Meanwhile in St. Petersburg, the price of pork is up 23.5 percent, and the price of chicken is up 25.8 percent, during the same period. Russia currently imports about 16 percent of its food, and the country's consumption of meat, fruit, vegetables, and dairy far outpaces its domestic production capacity.

So it's no surprise that Russians are turning to buckwheat -- both because of its symbolism as a staple during Soviet-era shortages and because of its ready availability in grocery stores.

Recipes are also circulating that ostensibly provide more creative and less bland ways to prepare the dish. In Russia, buckwheat is traditionally served with milk or butter. This recipe advises a preparation with onions, garlic, and tomato paste.

 

 

But the food wars aren't just affecting Russia. Lithuania and Poland, Russia's western neighbors, have also been hard hit by the Russian ban on imports of fresh fruit and vegetables. In Poland, whose apple farmers rely heavily on exports to Russia, locals have taken to social media to post photos of themselves eating apples and have even launched an apple-a-day-keeps-Putin-away campaign to support Polish farmers.

Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images

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Egypt Trolls Uncle Sam With Advice on How Best to Police Ferguson

Egypt's generals appear to have an awfully short memory. A year after they massacred supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the streets of Cairo, they have some advice for American authorities on how to handle the spiraling unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian government urges the United States to show "respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion."

A Ferguson police officer's killing of an unarmed black teenager has sparked days of intensifying violence there, and a heavy-handed police response to ensuing protests has resulted in widespread international outrage. But the comments from the Egyptian government are depressingly hypocritical. A year ago, during the hot months of July and August, the military government in Egypt attempted to clear the streets of Cairo in a bloody crackdown. More than 1,000 people died during the ensuing crackdown, which came to embody the extreme, violent lengths to which the Egyptian military would go to hold on to power and keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of office.

The notion that Egypt's government would have any constructive advice to offer on humane policing tactics is a dark, cruel joke.

Indeed, events in Ferguson -- a police killing with obviously racial overtones followed by an aggressive police response -- has provided a fertile opportunity for both America's enemies and allies to poke Uncle Sam in the eye. Xinhua, the Chinese state outlet, editorialized on the issue, noting that 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr. articulated his dream for a more free and equal America, his vision has yet to be realized. Turkish media has compared the unrest in Ferguson to anti-government protests in Taksim Square, in Istanbul. Russian coverage of Ferguson has entertained a gleefully apocalyptic tone. The supreme leader of Iran also got in on the fun.

Here's the full Egyptian statement, in a translation provided by Sophia Jones:

"In response to a question by the Middle East News Agency on the escalating protests in the city of Ferguson in the state of Missouri as a result of the killing of the young American Michael Brown by police:

The Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated that we are closely following the escalation of protests and demonstrations in the city of Ferguson and the reactions to them. He pointed out U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's statements, which reflect the international community's stance toward these events, especially what the secretary-general mentioned in regard to restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion and his hope that ongoing investigations shed light on the killing of the American youth and that justice will be enforced, in addition to him urging authorities to deal with the protests according to American and international standards."

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images