Ukraine brands consumer-goods giant a ‘war sponsor’

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Unilever has continued to sell products in Russia since the start of Moscow’s military operation in the neighboring state

Ukraine has branded British consumer-goods titan Unilever “an international sponsor of war,” the country’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) announced on its official Telegram channel on Monday.

NACP explained its designation, stating that Unilever has continued selling its products in Russia after the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine in February last year.

NACP noted also that despite earlier claims that the company intended to leave the Russian market, Unilever failed to do so and instead doubled its profits in the country to more than 9.2 billion rubles ($103.2 million) in 2022, from 4.8 billion rubles ($53.6 million) in 2021.

Unilever cannot oppose the conflict while simultaneously supporting Putin’s war machine. We have included this company in the list of International Sponsors of War because their hundreds of millions of tax contributions to the Russian budget help finance the war against Ukraine,” NACP head Aleksandr Novikov said, commenting on the agency’s decision.

Unilever manufactures the Fairy and Domestos cleaning-liquid brands, Knorr soups, Dove soap and some 400 other brands of food and household chemicals. It was among the first major Western firms to curb operations in Russia due to sanctions slapped on Moscow in response to the conflict in Ukraine. The British corporation stopped exports to Russia and imports from the country in March last year, halted investment, advertising, and further projects in the country. However, the company continued to supply “vital food and hygiene products” produced locally to Russian citizens, but specified that any profit from those sales will remain in Russia.

In February Unilever said it continued to review “the financial implications from the [Russia-Ukraine] conflict” on its business and warned it may have to completely cease doing business in Russia. It noted, however, that the move could lead to a loss of turnover, profits, and a write-down of the company’s Russian assets.

Exiting is not straightforward” and the company does not wish to abandon the roughly 3,000 staff it currently employs in Russia, CEO Alan Jope said at the time.

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