Russia is studying a ruling released by the WTO saying the country’s bans on EU exports of pigs, pigmeat and related products, imposed over African swine fever (ASF) cases, breach global trade laws.

Citing the EU’s free trade between member states, Russia imposed an EU-wide import restrictions between January and September 2014 following outbreaks in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

The EU argued its internal livestock movement and veterinary controls mean pigs and pigmeat products from areas unaffected by the disease are safe, so Russia’s bans break WTO sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS ) rules. In April 2014, Brussels requested talks with Moscow over Russia’s restrictions. By June that year, the EU asked the WTO to set up a panel to look into the issue.

A WTO disputes settlement panel has now largely backed the EU. It said: “Russia did not adapt the EU-wide ban to the SPS characteristics related to ASF of the areas where the products subject to that measure originated.”

Russian state news agency TASS has reported the country’s permanent WTO representative Gennady Ovechko would “carefully analyse” the decision. Russia can appeal to the WTO’s disputes appellate body, if it wishes.

A European Commission statement said: “The ruling sends a strong signal to Russia, and all WTOmembers, as regards their obligation to respect international standards. Today’s ruling confirms that the measures taken by Russia against the EU have little to do with any real sanitary or health risks.”

Russia’s restrictions started to come in before Moscow banned a range of foodstuffs, including meat, from markets including the US and the EU in response to the steepening of sanctions from the West at the height of the crisis over Crimea.

The embargo remains in place but, should Russia accept the WTO’s judgment on the SPS measures, it could ease the lifting of trade barriers between Russia and the EU in future.

Should Russia refuse to comply, the WTO could authorise retaliatory EU import duties on Russian exports to the bloc, to compensate its member states for the swine fever-related pigmeat ban.