6 Dec 2017 13:49

Tkachev expects Rosselkhoznadzor, PepsiCo to settle dispute in near future

MOSCOW. Dec 6 (Interfax) - The conflict between Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) and U.S.-based PepsiCo, which the agency accused of illegally gaining access to service documents, will end soon, Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said.

"I think that Rosselkhoznadzor will conduct an internal investigation into how the service document found its way to the international company. I think that PepsiCo itself, probably, should figure out which of its employees made use of this," Tkachev said in an interview with Rossiya 24 television.

PepsiCo "behaves pretty dutifully on the Russian market, producing quality products," he said. "I hope this conflict will blow over in the coming days and maybe hours. But definitely, each must make certain conclusions," he said.

Rosselkhoznadzor said on December 5 that the incident in which it claims PepsiCo received access to one of the watchdog's internal documents was evidence of industrial espionage. Rosselkhoznadzor made a conclusion concerning a possible hacking attack on the part of U.S. PepsiCo with the goal of receiving access to secret information of Russian state executive bodies," Rosselkhoznadzor press secretary Yulia Melano told journalists.

"Considering the document that fell into the hands of representatives of the indicated company contained information on Rosselkhoznadzor's performance of laboratory monitoring of dairy processing companies, PepsiCo corporation enterprises, in possession of secret information, had a competitive advantage over Russian companies and were ready to undertake compliance measures. This fact can be assessed as industrial espionage. Rosselkhoznadzor believes it necessary to inform law enforcement bodies of this fact, which will be done in the near future," she said.

The preliminary results of the internal check at Rosselkhoznadzor showed that no agency employees having access to the Rosselkhoznadzor internal service document, which was presented by PepsiCo Vice President for corporate relations in Russia, Ukraine, CIS and Central Europe Sergei Glushkov and marked "For Service Use," did not send the document to the external information space," Melano said.

The fact that the letter was in Glushkov's possession can be confirmed by Rosselkhoznadzor chief Sergei Dankvert, deputy head Nikolai Vlasov and head of the internal veterinary supervision department Tatyana Balagula, Melano said.

As Rosselkhoznadzor reported on Monday, during a meeting between representatives of the National Milk Producers Union (Soyuzmoloko) and senior agency officials, Glushkov showed a copy of the internal Rosselkhoznadzor document, bearing the restrictive "For Service Use" designation. Agency record keeping showed that the document had not been sent to PepsiCo.

In that connection, Rosselkhoznadzor asked PepsiCo in Russia's senior manager for government affairs, Dmitry Tretyakov, for information about when and by whom the document was sent to the company. In addition, it asked for an explanation as to why PepsiCo acquired the document.

PepsiCo countered that Rosselkhoznadzor's supposition that the company had carried out a hacking attack was absurd.

PepsiCo "categorically denied" Rosselkhoznadzor's "groundless" claims, the company said.

Earlier on Monday PepsiCo said Rosselkhoznadzor's account had no basis in reality. "We did not receive any requests from Rosselkhoznadzor concerning their internal document and did not present any documents with the designation 'For Service Use' to Rosselkhoznadzor's leadership," Glushkov said.

Russian company Wimm-Bill-Dann and PepsiCo, a member of the Foreign Investment Advisory Board, use only legal methods of interaction with state executive bodies and the media, the company said.

The hacking attack claim is not the first accusation that Rosselkhoznadzor has leveled at PepsiCo in recent times. At the end of November, Rosselkhoznadzor said it had detected tetracycline group antibiotics in Lamber cheese produced by a PepsiCo company, Altai Rubtsovsky Dairy Plant. The watchdog said it was not the first time that antibiotics exceeding acceptable levels had been detected in the enterprise's products. As a result, the plant was banned from supplying cheese to Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries and its status in the Customs Union register of enterprises was changed to "temporarily restricted."

PepsiCo denied the claim. It had three independent, accredited laboratories test the cheese and did not find any antibiotics.

"We do not believe that Rosselkhoznadzor's actions have been legal or justified, neither in terms of the decisions made nor the information published. At present we are studying the documents and information that have been received and are examining the issue of turning to law enforcement bodies and the courts to defend our lawful interests," Glushkov said.

PepsiCo owns over 40 enterprises in Russia. In 2011, it closed the purchase of OJSC Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, one of Russia's leading producers of dairy and juice products.