The European Commission has frozen a special account fed by sales of food from the EU Russia Food Programme, which had been launched in December 1998 to help feed the country following the year's poor harvest.

The reason is that the Russian government has failed to recoup €15m (US$14.6m) owed to this account, despite Brussels having "raised this matter repeatedly with its Russian partners." The Commission has some leverage here, as the fund is used to subsidise Russian Federation pensions, health spending and labour programmes.

The money was generated by the programme's shipping and selling of nearly 1.7 million tonnes of food onto the Russian market. Deliveries were suspended in 1999 because of EU qualms about Russia's Chechnya policy.