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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Poultry Freed Ahead of Summit

The Agriculture Ministry has finally allowed two freighters filled with frozen U.S. poultry shipments to off-load in St. Petersburg, where they have been moored for more than a month as a result of a ban on U.S. chicken.

The decision to clear the poultry, known as "Bush legs," comes one day before U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Moscow and one day after Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman discussed the controversial ban, imposed March 10, by telephone.

"This decision was made after U.S. government and poultry producers presented official guarantees that this poultry is safe," Interfax quoted Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Dankvert as saying Wednesday.

Last week, Dankvert said the poultry on the ships was believed to be infected with avian influenza and demanded they be returned to the United States.

A senior Bush administration official was quoted by Reuters as saying in Washington on Tuesday, more than a month after Moscow officially lifted the ban, that Russia had promised that U.S. poultry shipments would soon return to normal levels. Russia halted imports March 10 over health concerns, but the ban coincided with Washington's decision to slap hefty tariffs on Russian steel imports. Although neither side linked the two issues, the trade spat soured U.S.-Russian relations and threatened to cloud the summit between Bush and President Vladimir Putin, which is to begin Thursday.

The five-week ban was formally lifted April 15, but the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary service canceled all import permits issued earlier, making imports impossible.

The two ships in St. Petersburg each carried 15,000 tons of U.S. poultry and had valid import permits from the veterinary service that were issued months before the ban, but canceled later.

As a result of the delay, the owners of the shipments lost an estimated $800,000, said Albert Davleyev, director of the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council's representative office in Russia.