Exit of Finnish firms from Russia ineffective – president

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Companies from other nations have continued to do business despite sanctions, Sauli Niinisto has said

The exit of Finnish companies from Russia has failed to have an economic impact on Moscow, as many firms from other countries have stayed, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Thursday, in an interview with Le Monde.

Finland was one of the few nations whose companies completely left the Russian market after the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine last year, according to Niinisto.

Referring to the 2014 round of sanctions, imposed after Crimea joined Russia, he said that EU countries believed that “sanctions would cause the Russian economy to collapse. Some said within six months. That was a miscalculation. They had an impact, but not on the scale we imagined.”

Many Western firms have withdrawn since 2022, with the most prominent Finnish brands being food producers Valio, Paulig, and Fazer, along with forestry holding UPM-Kymmene.

According to the Kremlin, the exit of foreign businesses from the Russian market has created new opportunities for domestic firms.

“The Russian firms that have taken the places vacated after the departure of foreign, including Finnish, companies… welcome their departure and feel quite comfortable and happy in [their] new business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday.

Research showed in April that fewer than 10% of international brands have actually left Russia.

The Kiev School of Economics conducted an analysis of 3,157 foreign firms that operated in the Russian market prior to the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine as part of its Leave Russia project. According to its findings, only around 200 foreign companies have so far exited the Russian market amid Ukraine-related sanctions.

Research by Yale University suggests that the number of foreign firms to publicly announce that they are voluntarily curtailing operations in Russia beyond what international sanctions legally require stands at more than 1,000, while other firms have chosen not to reduce their business.

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