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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Records 2 Mad Cow Cases

With jitters over mad cow disease sweeping Europe, Russians were jarred this week when the fatal disease appeared to have struck close to home.

Ukraine's Emergency Situations Ministry announced Thursday that two cows infected with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, had died in the village of Simonov in the Rovno region.

Ukraine is Russia's main supplier of beef, providing about 70 percent of the market, according to the Russian Meat Union.

An employee with the Rovno regional headquarters of the Emergency Situations Ministry, Colonel Viktor Simonyuk, said that it was unclear how the cows became infected.

"We are currently trying to find a reason for what happened," said Simonyuk. "We must introduce quarantines, vaccines and screen all cows for the presence of the dangerous disease."

However, other Ukrainian authorities questioned the Emergency Situations Ministry's assessment, saying the region did not even have the resources needed to detect the disease.

"Our Emergency Situations Ministry has got something wrong," said Alexander Kostuk, the head doctor at the Rovno veterinarian department.

"Two cows did indeed die from a form of rabies, but this was the normal kind, the kind that affects foxes and dogs," said Valentina Titorenko, a deputy head at the Agriculture Ministry.

While fears about mad cow disease have wreaked havoc on European food markets, there have been no recorded cases of it in Russia. A ban has been slapped on imports of beef from Britain, Portugal and Switzerland and parts of France and Ireland.

Russian officials said that it is very difficult to find out whether the disease has crossed into Russia.

"It's just that many Russian and Ukrainian vets do not have the means to diagnose BSE," said Viktor Yatskin at the Russian Meat Union.

European experts believe that there is a link between the disease and the use of ground bone in animal feed, of which Russia imported 117,967 tons last year, according to State Customs Committee data.

Russian Meat Union chairman Musheg Mamikonyan said the feed is mostly used for pigs, while cattle are fed hay or pasture grass.

Yatskin disagreed. "In Russia, bone powder has traditionally been used to feed all animals," he said.