Universal Music Group has become one of the latest media companies to suspend operations in Russia amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The music publishing giant on Tuesday said it was closing its offices in Russia, effective immediately. Meanwhile, major Western food and beverage companies Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Starbucks are also pulling out.
Music publishing giant Universal, which recently acquired Neil Diamond’s song catalog, said in a statement, “We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible. We are adhering to international sanctions and, along with our employees and artists, have been working with groups from a range of countries to support humanitarian relief efforts to bring urgent aid to refugees in the region.”
Meanwhile, consumer giants McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks are also halting business in the country while PepsiCo said it would stop the production and sale of Pepsi and other of its brands, but will continue to offer essential products. There has been a social media backlash in the past few days against Western companies who remain active in Russia.
McDonald’s, which employs 62,000 people in Russia, has provided financial support to its team in Ukraine and continues to pay full salaries there (as well as in Russia) while supporting relief efforts led by the Red Cross in the region.
CEO Chris Kempczinski wrote in a memo to staff; “We join the world in condemning aggression and violence and praying for peace… Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.”
Coke for its part said it was suspending its business in Russia and added, “Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine. We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as circumstances evolve.”
Starbucks’ Kevin Johnson posted to the company website: “We continue to watch the tragic events unfold and, today, we have decided to suspend all business activity in Russia, including shipment of all Starbucks products. Our licensed partner has agreed to immediately pause store operations and will provide support to the nearly 2,000 partners in Russia who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood. Through this dynamic situation, we will continue to make decisions that are true to our mission and values and communicate with transparency.”
Citing Pepsi’s long history in Russia which dates back to the Cold War, the company’s Ramon Laguarta wrote, “Given the horrific events occurring in Ukraine we are announcing the suspension of the sale of Pepsi-Cola, and our global beverage brands in Russia… We will also be suspending capital investments and all advertising and promotional activities in Russia.”
However, Laguarta noted, “As a food and beverage company, now more than ever we must stay true to the humanitarian aspect of our business. That means we have a responsibility to continue to offer our other products in Russia, including daily essentials such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula and baby food.”
Pepsi has donated food, milk and refrigerators to relief organizations, as well as $4M in humanitarian aid.
Major companies to recently suspend business in Russia also include Apple, Netflix, Live Nation, Spotify, Visa, MasterCard and L’Oreal. The major Hollywood studios have halted film releases there indefinitely.