Kiev claims Lithuania’s Viciunai Group had promised to leave the Russian market but continues to operate there
Lithuanian seafood giant Viciunai Group has been added to Kiev’s list of “international sponsors of war” for continuing to operate and pay taxes in Russia, Ukraine’s National Corruption Prevention Agency (NCPA) announced Thursday.
Inclusion on this blacklist has no legal consequences for such companies but Ukraine has repeatedly used it as a pressure tool to force them to stop doing business in Russia amid the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
The Viciunai Group, best known for its Vici crab-taste sticks, announced in March 2022 that it would “suspend operations in Russia” and focus on business in Europe following the escalation of the Ukraine conflict in February that year. However, according to NCPA, despite the promises, “Viciunai does not stop its work in Russia and remains one of the most favorite brands of Russian consumers.”
“Vici continues to operate its facilities in Russia, looking for new employees and paying significant taxes,” the agency claimed.
The net profit of Viciunai’s production complex in Russia’s Kaliningrad region in 2022 “increased by 156% (up to $20 million),” according to NCPA.
The presence of such well-known brands on the Russian market sends the world “the wrong signal that Russia remains part of international economic processes,” while Russians “see that the democratic world has not turned its back on them, and they are doing everything right,” the agency stated.
Ukraine’s list of alleged international war sponsors is seen as a shaming mechanism used by Kiev to inflict reputational damage on selected companies with significant business interests in Russia. Nearly 50 international brands, including PepsiCo, Nestle, Mars, Unilever, Xiaomi, Bacardi, Leroy Merlin, Procter & Gamble, Yves Rocher, and Alibaba (owner of AliExpress), have been added by Kiev to its list due to their reluctance to leave the Russian market.
Commenting on the withdrawal of international companies from the Russian market, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June 2023 that they could not resist the “pressure of foreign political elites.” Moscow is ready to take them back but “the peculiarities of the behavior of some of these partners” will be taken into account, Putin added. He noted that foreign firms that have not left the Russian market and will continue to operate here will be treated in the same way as local producers, which Moscow considers them to be.
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