Boycott of Russian Vodka Goes International Condemning Putin's Invasion of Ukraine

Boycott of Russian Vodka Goes International Condemning Putin's Invasion of Ukraine
A customer walks past shelves with bottles of vodka in a supermarket amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Moscow, Russia, on April 8, 2020. (Maxim Shemetov/Reurers)
Katabella Roberts

An international boycott of Russian vodka is slowly forming across the globe from the United States to Australia in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The invasion—initially touted as a "special military operation" by Putin—triggered boycotts of Russian booze in the United States, with governors from the states of Texas, Utah, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire calling on the state’s liquor and wine outlets to limit the sale of Russian products, including vodka.

Governors across all five U.S. states said the decision came as a sign of solidarity with the former Soviet nation.

On Sunday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol in the state, also instructed all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores to remove Russian-made products from shelves in a sign of "solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine."

"Given the evolving political-economic climate, it’s just the right thing to do," said board Chairman Tim Holden.

However, the boycott is quickly spreading outside of the United States, with one of the biggest alcohol retail chains in New Zealand, announcing on March 1 that it will pull thousands of bottles of Russian Vodka and beer from shelves in response to Moscow's aggression towards Ukraine.

The West Auckland Trusts, which owns 26 retail stores as well as hospitality venues throughout West Auckland, said it would stop selling the products, effective immediately.

The ban includes those brands with Russia as their country of origin and includes; Ivanov, Russian Standard, Russkaya, Kristov Red vodkas, Gorkovskaya Vodka, JJ Whitley Rhubarb Vodka, Royal Bison Vodka, Russkaya Vodka, Baltika Beer, and Three Hills Pale Ale beer.

Russian products removed from shelves will not be replaced with other brands, the chain said, and the empty shelves will instead display a Ukrainian flag.

"Vodka is Russia’s most high profile export product and our actions today are designed to show our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty," Allan Pollard, Trusts CEO said.

"While New Zealand is a comparatively small market individually, joining our counterparts in other countries around the world in boycotting the sale of these products is a statement of solidarity for the Ukrainian people," Pollard said.

Elsewhere in Australia, a string of liquor chains including Coles Liquor stores Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, and First Choice as well as the Endeavour Group, the company which owns Dan Murphy's, BWS, and Jimmy Brings, have said they will stop selling products of Russian origin.

"As an organisation, Endeavour Group is deeply concerned with the situation in Ukraine and we join the calls for peace," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"Following feedback from a variety of stakeholders, we have decided to remove products of Russian origin from our stores, hotels, and online businesses in the coming days."

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Ontario liquor control board removed Russian-made products from its more than 600 stores, including its online stores.

"The LCBO supports the Provincial and Federal governments in condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine," the liquor control board said in a statement.

"Ontario joins Canada’s allies in condemning the Russian government’s act of aggression against the Ukrainian people, and will direct the [Liquor Control Board of Ontario] to withdraw all products produced in Russia from store shelves," Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy wrote on Twitter on Feb. 25, alongside the hashtag "StandwithUkraine."
In Europe, Finland has also pulled a similar move, with the country's state-owned alcohol outlet Alko and retail cooperative S-Group announcing that they would pull all Russian products from store shelves.
Denmark’s largest retailer Salling Group also removed all Russian goods from its shelves, including "vodka, toothpaste to chocolate," CEO Per Bank said.

Supporters of the boycott have praised the move as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine and condemnation over Russian forces invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.

However, critics claim that the boycott will have little effect on the Russian economy, given that a limited number of brands imported to America still produce the alcohol in Russia.