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Alberta, Quebec pull vodka with ‘troubling’ Soviet symbol from shelves

A photo of a bottle of Hammer + Sickle vodka.
A photo of a bottle of Hammer + Sickle vodka. Credit: Hammer + Sickle vodka

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress believes a brand of liquor it calls offensive is no longer available in Canada.

Executive director Ihor Michalchyshyn says he’s pleased that Alberta recently pulled Hammer + Sickle vodka from shelves following a complaint by his organization.

READ MORE: Alberta’s Wildrose party apologizes for comparing carbon tax to Ukrainian genocide

He says Quebec assured him in February that it had also removed the brand, and he’s not aware of any other provinces where the alcohol is currently available.

Michalchyshyn says the brand’s use of the communist symbol in its name and on its bottles is not appropriate.

He calls it a symbol of hate and genocide, much like the Nazi swastika.

The company that produces the vodka, the Klin Groupe, is based in Massachusetts — not Moscow — and did not respond to a request for comment.

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It also sells Hammer + Sickle cigars, but major cigar distributors in Toronto and Vancouver say they don’t carry the label.

On its website, the company describes the liquor as Russia’s most luxurious vodka.

“Not only are we defined by heritage, we honour and celebrate it,” says the site.

READ MORE: Montreal mayor shocked after Nazi flag displayed during May Day protest

Michalchyshyn says the hammer and sickle is not “retro cool” for him, his parents, grandparents and millions of others.

“Many millions of people died and were tortured and suffered because of that regime, and so we think it’s definitely not appropriate in terms of a branding,” he said Wednesday.

“I think most Canadians would find this troubling, not just Ukrainian Canadians.”

READ MORE: Remembering the Holodomor, 85 years after the start of the Ukrainian genocide

The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission said in a statement earlier this week that it recognizes the Holodomor, a mass man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine in the 1930s, as a horrific period in history.

“The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission has heard from Albertans and is working directly and in collaboration with the liquor agency on this matter, ensuring that, effective immediately, this product (Hammer + Sickle vodka) will no longer be brought into Alberta.”

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A spokeswoman with Societe des alcools du Quebec, the government corporation mandated to sell alcohol in the province, said it ordered Hammer + Sickle in 2014 but the product did not reach sales performance standards.