Unilever facing Ukrainian demands to leave Russia completely

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Unilever and other international companies are under growing pressure to leave Russia fully in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko singled out the British consumer goods firm as he warned multinationals “there is no place for responsible businesses” in Russia.

The London-headquartered company suspended all imports and exports of its products from the country but is continuing to supply “essential” food and hygiene products made within its borders.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Prystaiko said: “They have to pull out right now because the world is now painted in black and white, or blood red and white, and there are unfortunately no shades of it.

“You are either supporting the Russian Federation in what you are doing or you are staying on this side of the conflict.”

Unilever declined to comment, but it was understood it was not reversing its decision to continue operations in Russia.

An exodus of corporations such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola began in the weeks after the Russian president launched his invasion.

But Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is pressuring firms such as Unilever, Nestle and Mondelez to leave the Russian market completely.

Ukraine Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko
Ukraine Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko (PA)

Mr Prystaiko said he has held talks with Unilever chief executive Alan Jope to get the company to pull out, saying: “He was receptive but I still want to see actions.”

“There is no place for responsible businesses to be there right now because each and every dollar you bring into the Russian economy can be tomorrow used to build up more weapons and kill more Ukrainian kids,” the ambassador said at his west London embassy.

“I see more and more businesses are pulling out. I’ve seen big companies here, like Unilever for example, I’ve seen people protesting in front of their offices and I’ve even had a conversation with the CEO. I don’t want to go into details but we were trying to discuss that it is time for big business to pull out of Russia.”

Asked what his message to big business is, Mr Prystaiko said: “It’s simple: pull out of there. You will find more business, more opportunities, because people will respect what you’ve done as a company.”

A statement from Mr Jope issued on March 8 explained its decision to stay on in Russia to an extent.

“We have suspended all imports and exports of our products into and out of Russia, and we will stop all media and advertising spend,” he said.

“We will not invest any further capital into the country nor will we profit from our presence in Russia.

“We will continue to supply our everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people in the country. We will keep this under close review.”

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