As Western countries respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many of them have sought to hit Moscow where it hurts — the pocketbook — with sanctions against President Vladimir Putin and his allies, as well as restrictions on Russian airlines and banks.
Taking a cue from those efforts, international sporting bodies and retailers have also announced boycotts of Russian goods and benched Russian teams in a symbolic global movement designed to show solidarity with Ukraine.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the boycotts launched globally since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bartenders across the United States are pulling Russian-made products from their shelves as several governors sign orders to curb sales in their states.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he asked the state’s restaurant association and retailers to voluntarily remove Russian products, including spirits, from their shelves. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) asked his state’s Liquor Control Board to do the same. In Oregon, the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Commission directed liquor stores to stop selling Russian-manufactured spirits. In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills (D) called on state agencies to delist Russian-made vodka to prevent the products from “making their way to Maine retail and restaurant shelves until further notice.”
Experts warn, however, that a U.S. boycott of Russian vodka will be mostly symbolic and have little financial impact.
Sports federations and leagues have moved aggressively to sideline Russia’s teams and athletes since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The pace of those efforts picked up Monday after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that international sports federations refrain from allowing or inviting Russian or Belarusian athletes and officials to participate in competitions, “to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, announced Monday that it was suspending all Russian teams — national and club squads — from international competition until further notice. In a joint statement from FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations, which oversees the game in Europe, the groups said they hoped “the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”
It’s not just competitors of the Homo sapiens variety that are facing the consequences of the invasion: On Thursday, the International Cat Federation said it has banned Russian cats from entering any of its international competitions.
The board of the federation, which considers itself “the United Nations of Cat Federations,” said in a statement that it was “shocked and horrified” that Russian forces had invaded Ukraine and felt that it could not “just witness these atrocities and do nothing.”
Multiple international sports federations have relocated major sporting events from Russian cities. The first major decision came Friday from UEFA, which moved the Champions League final, scheduled for May 28, from Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg to the Stade de France in Paris.
Also on Friday, the International Chess Federation said it will not hold its annual congress or the 44th Chess Olympiad in Moscow, and it put out a call for bids from possible replacement host cities. And the International Automobile Federation, which puts on Formula One, canceled its Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September.
“We are watching the developments in Ukraine with sadness and shock and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the present situation,” the organization said in a statement, adding that it could not hold the event “in the current circumstances.”
Meanwhile, the executive board of the IOC urged national sports federations to “relocate or cancel” any sporting event scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus.
The National Hockey League said that it was not considering Russia as a location for future events and that it was pausing relationships with business partners in Russia, while expressing sympathy for Russian players in the league: “We understand they and their families are being placed in an extremely difficult position.”
The International Paralympic Committee said it would not hold events in Belarus or Russia and on Thursday reversed an earlier decision that would have allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Beijing Games set to begin Friday, after receiving what its president, Andrew Parsons, called “overwhelming” criticism from many Paralympic athletes.
Some boycotts have targeted Putin individually. The Russian president has been suspended as honorary president and ambassador of the International Judo Federation, according to a statement released Sunday. The IJF also canceled its Grand Slam event in Kazan, Russia.
Putin, a judo enthusiast, holds a black belt in the sport and has starred in an instructional video titled “Let’s Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin.”
Cultural and entertainment industry
Boycotts have also reached Russia’s cultural and entertainment industry.
Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko will no longer perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera this season or next, CNN reported. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine there was no way forward,” Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager, said in a statement to the news outlet.
The decision comes two days after Gelb said in a statement that the Met was standing in solidarity with Ukraine and that it “can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him — not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored, and restitutions have been made.” Netrebko had recently issued statements criticizing the war but not directly condemning Putin.
The Russian singer was slated to perform in Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot” this spring. She will be replaced by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska.
In a statement released Tuesday, the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival, slated to take place in May, said official Russian delegations and anyone linked to the Russian government will not be welcomed to the event, unless the Russian invasion ends “under conditions that satisfy the Ukrainian people.”
At the same time, the organizers saluted Russians protesting the invasion and showed support to Russian filmmakers and artists who have stood up to Putin. The organizers did not comment on whether individual films will be banned from the official selection, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The Glasgow Film Festival, an annual event scheduled for March 2 to 13, said it would withdraw two Russian titles, “No Looking Back” and “The Execution,” from its program.
“This decision is not a reflection on the views and opinions of the makers of these titles,” the statement said. “We just believe that it would be inappropriate to proceed as normal with these screenings in the current circumstances.”
The Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures said they would pause the upcoming releases of their films in Russia, including Warner’s “The Batman” and Pixar’s “Turning Red.”
“We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation,” Disney said in its statement.
Tech giants have moved swiftly to limit the reach of Russian state-owned news outlets RT and Sputnik. Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said in a tweet Monday that the company was moving to restrict access across the European Union to RT and Sputnik. The move follows a ban announced Saturday by the company that prohibits Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on Meta platforms.
We have received requests from a number of Governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state controlled media. Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time.
— Nick Clegg (@nickclegg) February 28, 2022
Google announced in a statement Tuesday that it was blocking YouTube channels connected to Sputnik and RT across Europe as a way to “stop the spread of misinformation and disrupt disinformation campaigns online.”
“This builds on our indefinite pause of monetization of Russian state-funded media across our platforms, meaning media outlets such as RT are not allowed to monetize their content or advertise on our platforms,” the statement said.
TikTok will follow suit and also ban Sputnik and RT and their affiliates in Europe, according to Insider. Twitter announced that it will start flagging tweets that link to Russian state-affiliated media websites and that the company is taking steps to “significantly reduce the circulation of this content on Twitter,” tweeted Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity.
The streaming giant Netflix said Monday that it will not air any Russian channels on its platform in Russia, defying a new regulation that requires services with more than 100,000 subscribers to carry a number of local Russian channels, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Oleg Gavrilov, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, said Tuesday that Google and Meta allow anti-Russian propaganda while blocking Russian news websites, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
“Hostile propaganda activities are being carried out openly on their social platforms,” he said, calling for a system “to bring foreign warmongers to responsibility.”
Several major corporations have moved to stop selling or producing their goods in Russia, with consequences for thousands of Russians who will lose their jobs.
On Thursday, the Volkswagen Group, the parent company of brands such as Volkswagen, Lamborghini and Porsche, said it would no longer export its cars to Russia and would halt production at its Russian plants in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod, a city east of Moscow, “until further notice.”
According to the Volkswagen Group website, the Kaluga plant employs more than 4,000 people and can produce up to 225,000 vehicles a year. In its statement, the company pledged to pay its Russian workforce “short-time working benefits.”
The Mercedes-Benz Group also announced this week that it would stop exporting its vehicles to Russia and stop producing them locally.
Separately, home-furnishing giant Ikea said Thursday that it will pause its production in Russia, close down its stores in the country and stop exporting goods to and from there. It acknowledged the move will “have a direct impact on 15,000 IKEA co-workers” and said it would support those employees and their families, including by securing “employment and income stability for the immediate future.”
Another Scandinavian retailer, H&M, said in a statement Wednesday that it would “temporarily pause all sales in Russia.” Its stores, which were already closed for safety reasons, will remain out of operation.
Fashion retailer Mango said in a statement that it was following the conflict in Ukraine “with sadness and concern.” The Spanish company announced that it was temporarily closing its stores in Russia as well as its sales website and stopping the delivery of goods in the country. Mango has 120 stores in Russia, of which 65 are franchises, which will be able to operate and distribute Mango products depending on their stock availability.
“Given the responsibility we owe our 800 employees in Russia, as well as our franchisees and partners, we have tried to safeguard our operations in the country until the last moment,” the statement said.
Airline software giant Sabre announced Thursday that it was terminating its distribution agreement with Russian airline Aeroflot, impairing the airline’s ability to sell seats. “Sabre is taking immediate steps to remove Aeroflot flight content from its global distribution system (GDS), a marketplace used by travel agencies, travel websites and corporations around the world to shop, book and service flight reservations,” the statement said.
Sabre mentioned the Ukraine invasion as the reason for the termination. “We are taking a stand against this military conflict,” CEO Sean Menke said in the statement. “We are complying, and will continue to comply, with sanctions imposed against Russia.”
Microsoft announced Thursday that it was halting all new sales of services and products in Russia. “Like the rest of the world, we are horrified, angered and saddened by the images and news coming from the war in Ukraine and condemn this unjustified, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a statement.
Smith also said the company has been helping Ukraine fend off Russian cyberattacks. “We continue to work proactively to help cybersecurity officials in Ukraine defend against Russian attacks, including most recently a cyberattack against a major Ukrainian broadcaster,” he said.
Another tech giant and Microsoft rival, Apple, announced Tuesday that it had stopped its sale of products in Russia, according to TechCrunch.
Meanwhile hosting platform Airbnb also announced the suspension of all its activities in Russia and Belarus, its CEO tweeted Wednesday. Airbnb users are booking rooms they don’t intend to use as a way of supporting and giving money to Ukrainians, and sharing those activities on social media.
Visa and Mastercard, among the world’s largest payment networks, announced Saturday that they will suspend transactions in Russia.
Visa and Mastercard cards issued outside Russia will no longer work in the country, according to the companies. Cards issued by Russian banks will be cut from the networks run by the companies but may continue to operate through a state-owned processing system disconnected from Visa and Mastercard.
“We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” Visa CEO Al Kelly said in a statement. “We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values.”
Meryl Kornfield, Andrew Golden, Jennifer Hassan, Adela Suliman and Christian Shepherd contributed to this report.