(London) Food and hygiene products giant Unilever is being singled out Monday by Kyiv and activists in London for the business it maintains in Russia despite the conflict in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption has added the company to its list of “international war sponsors,” according to a statement on Monday.
Unilever is singled out “because of its continued presence in the Russian Federation and the large taxes that fuel the Russian state budget” and support “Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the statement said.
Ukrainian and British activists demonstrated on Monday morning outside the multinational’s headquarters in London, showing in particular a giant billboard in a style reminiscent of advertisements for Dove soaps, one of Unilever’s brands, in which Ukrainian soldiers appeared wounded.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Unilever has suspended “all imports and exports from and to Russia” as well as all advertising spending in the country, and says it no longer invests there.
Asked by AFP, the group referred to a February statement on Monday in which it argued that “for companies like Unilever, which have a significant physical presence in the country, getting out is not easy”.
The company, recently taken over by Dutchman Hein Schumacher, employs more than 3,000 people in Russia, where it continues to supply its locally produced food and hygiene products.
The company says it “understands” the calls to leave the country outright, but says it does not want to abandon its employees in Russia and assures that if it did, its business would be exploited by the Russian state.
In its annual results for 2022, the group indicated that 2% of its net income came from Russia – on a net profit up 26% to 7.6 billion euros.
The Kyiv School of Economics estimates that Unilever paid at least $331 million (just over 300 million euros) in taxes last year in Russia, where it almost doubled its profit over one year. .
On Sunday, in a report, the NGO Global Witness accused the French companies TotalEnergies and British Shell of marketing Russian gas.
Asked by AFP, the two energy giants justified themselves by saying they were bound by current contracts, although they withdrew from Russian partnerships after the invasion of Ukraine last year.