Conflicts & War

Ukraine hits out at foreign firms still operating in Russia

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Aug 26 (EFE).- Ukrainian officials on Friday hit out at international companies that continue to operate in Russia despite Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The latest company to be caught up in the controversy was French energy firm TotalEnergies, which on Friday confirmed it planned to sell its stake in a Siberian gas field to Russia’s Novatek.

The move came after the NGO Global Witness and French paper LeMonde claimed gas extracted by the company had been used to fuel Russian military jets.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday tweeted: “It is a disgrace to France when French companies assist the murder of Ukrainians and the ruining of our cities.

TotalEnergies on Friday said in a statement that the claims had “no basis in fact.”

But the firm is just one of 1,227 large international companies that continue to operate in Russia six months after the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to the Kyiv School of Economics. Together with 28 Ukrainian and international NGOs, including Global Witness, the KSE Institute has created Business for Ukraine, a platform to pressure these companies to leave Russia and put an end to indirect funding of the Kremlin’s war.

The platform’s spokespeople told Efe that Russia spends roughly one billion dollars every day and that 43% of the country’s military budget is covered by taxes collected from businesses.

The refusal of some companies such as Nestlé and Auchan to pull out of the Russian market has generated friction with employees in Ukraine.

One standout example is Leroy Merlin, the furniture company owned by the Mulliez family, which also owns Auchan.

In March, a Russian attack struck one of the Ukraine-based Leroy Merlin stores, killing a security guard.

At the time, Philippe Zimmermann, chief executive of Leroy Merlin’s parent company the Adeo Group said that while he acknowledged the horror of the Ukraine war, “There is no reason to condemn our Russian teams for a war they did not choose.”

Anatoliy Zelinkyy, from the company’s Ukrainian branch, publicly denounced this decision and was excluded from most internal and external communication channels such as Instagram and Facebook. He told Efe that the situation had not changed in August and that the Ukrainian staff were awaiting a response on the future plans of the multinational in Ukraine.

While Auchan and Leroy Merlin have explained their reasoning for staying in Russia, the majority of international firms still active in the market prefer to not address the question publicly.

The NGO coalition says it found that only two in 10 companies publicly addressed the issue and one in 10 gave any explanation as to why they remain in Russia.

In these explanations, which are often teased out under pressure, the multinationals usually allude to the need to provide basic goods and services or contractual agreements. EFE


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