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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

End Seen to Moldova Wine Ban

CHISINAU, Moldova -- Moscow will lift its ban on Moldovan wine imports by the end of the year, removing a heavy economic hardship for the country, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said Tuesday.

Russia banned wine imports from Moldova and Georgia last year, saying the wine was altered and dangerous to consumers, but the countries said the ban was punishment for trying to move away from Moscow and closer to the West.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and President Vladimir Putin had agreed the ban would be lifted, but Russian wine inspectors have proceeded with quality checks, prompting Voronin to bar them from entering the country last week.

"There are no preconditions to prevent a resolution of this problem. Only technical issues, linked to quality," Gref told a news conference after talks with Moldovan officials.

"Let's hope that champagne from Moldovan wineries will grace the tables of Russian homes for New Year's celebrations."

Putin had expressed a similar wish last year after the two presidents clinched what appeared to be an end to the ban.

Moldova, a country of 4 million wedged between Ukraine and Romania, is Europe's poorest, according to official statistics.

It exported 300 million bottles in 2005, with revenue of $350 million, one-quarter of all exports. Four out of five bottles were sold to Russia.

Exports were halved last year after Russia pulled the wine from shelves and destroyed hundreds of thousands of bottles.