A Russian government official says Moscow will lift its embargo on European and U.S. foods only when the West scraps its sanctions against Russia.

The Russian economy has been weighed down by the sanctions the West imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukrainian conflict. In retaliation, Moscow introduced a food embargo, banning dairy products, vegetables and meats from the EU, U.S. and other countries.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told The Associated Press on Thursday "the embargo will stay" if the West prolongs its sanctions." Dvorkovich defended the ban by saying it offers Russian agriculture much-needed support while access to financing has been restricted.

The ban hit European agricultural producers hard. About 10 percent of EU agricultural exports, worth about 11.8 billion euros, went to Russia last year.