Scaled down but still there: Dutch companies in Russia

Moscow, Russia - March 12, 2018: Display with heineken of in cans in supermarket Lenta. One of largest retailer in Russia.
Heineken has not sold off its assets in Russia yet. Photo:

More than eight months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a number of big Dutch firms continue to be active in Russia and remain tight-lipped about the number of people they employ.

Firms such as Unilever, Heineken, SHV, AkzoNobel and Philips have been scaling down their business activities in the country but are still giving employment to thousands of Russians, the Telegraaf found.

None will say if any of their staff have been mobilised to fight against the Ukrainians apart from Philips subsidiary Signify, which claims none of its workers were called up during last year’s mobilisation drive. Others will not comment on the number of people they employ.

‘That is quite bad,’ Russia expert Helga Salemon of the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies told the paper. ‘These are Dutch companies and you would expect them to be transparent about this. (..) By remaining active these firms support the Russian economy and become part of the war effort’, she said.

Unilever employs the biggest number of Russians, some 3,000, who are producing ‘essential products’ for the local market, such as detergent and deodorant and which are not covered by the sanctions.

No new business

Dutch bank ING told the Telegraaf  it would not enter into any new business activity with Russia but has not pulled out of the country, like other banks. The ING has loans outstanding in the country of up to €3.8 billion.

Philips used to employ 600 people who were supporting the modernisation of the Russian health service. That has now been ‘scaled down’ but it is not clear how many people are still working for the company.

Akzo Nobel, which employs 640 people, said its has scaled down most of its activities in Russia but has kept ‘a local presence’, a spokesman told the paper.

Investment company SHV employed some 900 people in Russia. That has dropped to 300. ‘All activities of Nutreco in Russia have been sold and the activities of Mammoet have been scaled down to a level that is within our contractual obligations,’ a spokeswoman told the paper.

Phase out

Shell did not want to comment on the number of people it employs in Russia but said it too is phasing out its activities. ‘That will take a while and has to be done in a measured way so as not to endanger fuel provision for countries all over the world,’ Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said earlier,

DSM also said it had stopped anything that is not connected with essential needs and still makes baby food and vitamin pills. The company employs 100 people.

Beer giant Heineken, which did not wish to comment at all, has not been able to sell off its Russian assets and still employs 1,800 people in Russia.

Boskalis and Fugro told the paper they no longer had any ‘significant business activity’ either in Russia or Ukraine.

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