Russian vodka boycott goes global to punish Putin for war

Russian vodka boycott goes global to punish Putin for war

Kyiv Mule drinks, traditionally called a Moscow Mule, are ready at Caddies bar and grill in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 28, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
Kyiv Mule drinks, traditionally called a Moscow Mule, are ready at Caddies bar and grill in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 28, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

An international boycott of Russian vodka is building from the United States to Australia as politicians and corporations signal their opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine by targeting one of his country’s most iconic products.

At least three US governors ordered the removal of Russian-made or branded spirits from stores, while one of the largest alcohol retail chains in New Zealand pulled thousands of bottles of vodka including the Ivanov and Russian Standard brands -- and filled the empty shelves with Ukrainian flags. Boycotts are spreading to other goods in Russia’s European neighbours.

Two of Australia’s biggest liquor chains, Dan Murphy’s and BWS, have stopped selling products of Russian origin, according to Sydney-based owner Endeavour Group Ltd, which has a market value of A$12.6 billion (US$9.2 billion).

The moves echo steps taken by global corporations from energy giants to automakers and law firms to cut ties with Russia or review their operations as governments impose sanctions on the country. Soccer authorities Fifa and Uefa have also banned Russian teams from competitions. 

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said on Twitter that the state “stands with the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom.”

Utah Governor Spencer J Cox said the state “stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange.”

Describing Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “an egregious violation of human rights,” Cox issued an executive order forcing the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to remove all Russian-produced and Russian-branded products from shelves immediately.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine ordered the state’s commerce department to boycott all vodka made by Russian Standard, also hitting sales of Green Mark Vodka.

There are about 6,400 bottles of vodka made by Russian Standard currently for sale in Ohio’s 487 liquor agencies across the state, DeWine said.

The steps may be largely symbolic. Vodka from Russia accounts for little more than 1% of the total value of imports of the spirit into the US, according to data from the country’s Distilled Spirits Council. 

In Russia’s Nordic neighbour Finland, the government’s liquour monopoly Alko Oy stopped selling 20 sorts of vodka, including a 431-euro ($480) bottle, while a lobby group for the hospitality industry told bars and restaurants that they should consider following suit. 

Finland’s both main grocery chains, S Group and Kesko Oyj, pulled all Russian products, as did their main Baltic counterparts, Rimi and Maxima. 

Denmark’s largest retailer Salling Group also removed all Russian goods “from vodka, toothpaste to chocolate,” CEO Per Bank tweeted, while Sweden’s biggest grocery chain, ICA Gruppen, has also done so, according to Sveriges Radio.

Several international supermarket chains operating in Poland, including Carrefour and Aldi, joined a boycott of Russian products. The country’s biggest retailer Biedronka, owned by Portugues Jeronimo Martins, withdrew 16 products, including Russian vodka and pine nuts made in Russia.

The scale of the boycott was reduced due to a deal that a Polish private food and beverages group Maspex SA completed on Feb 25, a day after Russian invasion began. The company paid $1 billion to buy CEDC, country’s biggest vodka distributor and the maker of Zubrowka brand, with about 47% share in the Polish market, from Russian Roust Corp. 

“Our boycott won’t cause big damages for the Putin’s businessmen but it’s a matter of principle -- our people don’t fund those, who finance the war,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said.

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