Vegetables, football, gas supplies – Russian business interests in NL

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Several companies in the Netherlands with Russian links have been going public with their condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine, while the Dutch head of Gazprom Energy in the Netherlands has stood down.

‘I am very shocked by the loss of life in Ukraine,’ Sytse van Heijst said in a note to energy industry website ‘I cannot reconcile these events with my function as Gazprom Energy country head.’

Van Heijst had worked for the company since 2011 and was charged with persuading business companies to switch to Gazprom as gas supplier. More than 100 local authorities in the Netherlands currently have contracts with Gazprom and some have already started the process to break them.

Zuidas law firm Houthoff, one of the biggest legal practices in the Netherlands, is ending its relationship with the Russian state.

‘Due to the acts of war by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, Houthoff has decided to terminate its relationship with the Russian Federation as well as with associated persons and companies. In addition, Houthoff will not accept any new instructions from such parties,’ the firm said in a statement.

The Financieele Dagblad says Russian clients account for 10% to 15% of the firm’s annual turnover.


The Russian owner of Dutch vegetable company HAK has also gone public with his opposition to Putin and has written to all 20,000 people who work for his companies in Russia condemning the war.

‘I sincerely believe that by declaring war on Ukraine, we have all made a monstrous and irreparable mistake,’ Denis Shtengelov said in the letter.

Shtengelov, who has been major shareholder of the HAK brand since August 2021, said in the latter that his 25 years in the food business had no meaning anymore. ‘ I see no other aim in life, as long is this war continues, except to put a stop to it,’ he said.

The Dutch company also said in a statement on Thursday that it is sending six lorries with food to help the relief effort in Ukraine.


Meanwhile the Amsterdam Trade Bank, a subsidiary of Russia’s Alpha Bank, told that it ‘strongly condemned the invasion and supports economic sanctions against Russia.’

‘It is a brutal, unjustifiable war that Russia must stop,’ the bank said. ‘We have colleagues from many countries including Ukraine and Russia and our thoughts are with all the Ukrainian people as these tragic events unfold.’

The bank stressed that it is an independent entity which is separately governed and complys with all sanctions against Russia. ‘As such, we continue to operate as usual, supporting our retail and corporate customers,’ the bank said.

ATB is located in the WTC in Amsterdam. Alpha Bank has not been barred from accessing the Swift international payments system but is on the EU sanctions list, as is its major shareholder, oligarch Mikail Fridman.


Football is a popular investment among Russian business tycoons and Arnhem football club Vitesse is owned by Valeri Oyf who was reportedly born in Ukraine.

The club itself has not commented on the invasion, but Russian national Andrey Soloviev, who is one of the three-man supervisory board along side Oyf and Dutchman Henk Parren, told broadcaster NOS that he was ‘personally, very concerned about recent developments, like most people the world over.’


Meanwhile Dutch businessman Derk Sauer, who developed a media empire in Russia, including the independent Moscow Times newspaper, told the FD he is flying back to Russia to help his staff leave.

‘There is not only an exodus in Ukraine. Russians who criticise the regime are also trying to leave en masse,’ he said. ‘I am now looking to see if we can move our editorial team to the Netherlands or Georgia.’

Note: This article was updated to reflect the statement from ATB.

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