Absolut ends vodka exports to Russia amid uproar that sales had resumed

File - Bottles of Sweden vodka brand, Absolut Vodka, seen for sale at a supermarket in Spain. Xavi Lopez/Getty Images

The Absolut Company, which produces Absolut Vodka, has announced it is ending exports of its signature spirit to Russia, after news broke that exports had picked up again following an earlier suspension in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In March 2022, exports of Absolut Vodka to Russia were halted as the world reeled following the start of the Ukraine war. Last week, it was revealed that this was only a temporary suspension, and parent company Pernod Ricard had resumed exports.

Several media outlets reported last week that Absolut was “supplying products in an amount that can support local employees and give local entities economic sustainability” in Russia, citing a spokesperson from Pernod Ricard, a French spirits group.

The news sparked outrage in The Absolut Company’s home country of Sweden, where support for Ukraine is strong.

Story continues below advertisement

Top bars and restaurants across Sweden pulled the spirit from their shelves, the BBC reported. Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, even weighed in and said he was “very surprised” to hear that exports of Absolut to Russia had resumed.

Three Swedish artists created a fake Absolut promotional poster to call for a boycott of the brand, depicting the outline of a vodka bottle in smoke on top of a town, as if the bottle was a smouldering bomb crater.

Pernod Ricard said in a statement emailed to Reuters that the public outcry has pushed the group to suspend Absolut supplies to Russia due to a “duty of care towards our employees and partners.”

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.

Get daily National news

Get the day's top news, political, economic, and current affairs headlines, delivered to your inbox once a day.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

“We cannot expose them to massive criticism in all forms. Therefore, The Absolut Company has decided to stop the export of its brand to Russia,” it said.

In a Tuesday statement, CEO of The Absolut Company Stephanie Durroux said “the reaction over the recent days is clearly reflective of the role Absolut plays for its extended community in Sweden.”

Story continues below advertisement

Pernod Ricard noted in its statement that it chose to resume exports of Absolut Vodka to protect its Russian employees from “criminal liability” and being accused of “intentional bankruptcy” — in other words, bankruptcy fraud.

Some Western firms departing Russia have been wary of allowing production to stop, or letting factories go idle, due to concern they would be seen as deliberately running their businesses into the ground.

Pernod Richard also noted that Russia has changed a number of important import regulations since November 2022. The changes have allowed for alcohol and other merchandise to bypass EU sanctions in a “parallel market,” without the permission of authorized importers.

On Friday, Russia published a list of goods from foreign carmakers, technology companies and consumer brands that the government has included in its so-called “parallel imports” scheme. Pernod Richard warned that it cannot prevent Absolut from making its way into the country through these means.

“For clarity, this will unfortunately not prevent Absolut from falling into the hands of the ‘parallel market,’ which has strongly increased in recent months and over which we have no control,” Pernod Ricard stated.

Before the Ukraine war, Pernod Richard had previously derived about 3 per cent of its sales from the Russian market.

Story continues below advertisement

Pernod is still supplying a limited supply of other brands in Russia and declined to comment on why it had not stopped doing so.

— With files from Reuters

Click to play video: 'Putin visits Russian troops in Ukraine’s Kherson, Luhansk regions'
Putin visits Russian troops in Ukraine’s Kherson, Luhansk regions

Sponsored content