WARSAW (Reuters) - With tongue-in-cheek messages like "an apple a day keeps Putin away!" Poles have taken to social media with gusto to promote Polish fruit in defiance of President Vladimir Putin's decision to ban imports into Russia.
Using the hashtag #jedzjablka (#eatapples), Poles, including prominent politicians, tweeted pictures of themselves eating apples or drinking cider, including outside the Polish foreign ministry and the Russian embassy in Warsaw.
On Facebook too, a campaign named Jedz Jablka na Zlosc Putinowi" (Eat apples to annoy Putin) got underway, earning more than 20,000 likes in a matter of hours.
One picture trending on Twitter of Putin with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev carried the caption "Now, to really annoy the Poles, let's buy up all their apples".
Another showed a modified version of the famous World War One recruitment poster with Britain's Lord Kitchener, finger outstretched, beside a superimposed picture of a rosy red apple and the words: "Have you eaten today? Your country needs you."
Moscow announced its ban on most fruit and vegetable imports from Poland on Wednesday following the European Union's decision to impose sanctions targeting Russia's banking, oil and defence sectors because of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.
Poland is the world's largest exporter of apples with more than two-thirds of them going to Russia. The statistics office put the value of Poland's apple exports to Russia last year at 273 million euros ($366 million).
Despite the blow to its large and politically important farm sector, Poland has been a firm supporter of the sanctions against Russia, its communist-era overlord, and the support has not only come from social media channels.
The business daily "Puls Biznesu" published an editorial on Friday entitled "Stand up to Putin: eat apples, drink cider".
In a central Warsaw market on Friday, one fruit seller had erected a sign "Eat Polish apples!"
In an interview for the broadcaster TVN24, Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz said he "would rather Poland paid in apples than in blood" for the Ukrainian crisis.
Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and has strongly supported Kiev's efforts to move closer to the European Union, has said boosting domestic consumption of apples could help cushion the pain of reduced earnings from Russia.
Eating just one apple a day would provide a significant relief for Polish producers, Miroslaw Maliszewski, head of the Polish Fruitgrowers' Association, told a news conference on Thursday. Data showed the average Pole ate 13.5 kg of apples in 2013, down from 23 kg a decade earlier.
Maliszewski said he would press for a lifting of restrictions on low-volume alcohol advertising in an attempt to further boost cider sales, which have been growing steadily since the implementation of a tax cut last year.
Poland's farm minister Marek Sawicki was due to hold talks on Friday with the European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos on possible financial compensation for Polish producers hit by the Russian ban.
In an interview with the daily Rzeczpospolita on Friday, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski estimated that fallout from tit-for-tat sanctions between the EU and Russia would shave 0.6 percentage points off Poland's economic growth this year.
($1 = 0.7457 Euros)
Reporting By Wiktor Szary; Editing by Gareth Jones