Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) has labeled global consumer-goods giant Unilever as an “international sponsor of war” for its continued sales in Russia, despite Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. NACP’s announcement on its official Telegram channel has stirred controversy and also raised questions about Ukrainian corruption.
Unilever, known for popular brands like Fairy, Domestos, Knorr, and Dove, had initially curtailed its operations in Russia due to Western sanctions in response to the Ukrainian conflict. However, the British corporation faced criticism as it continued to supply essential products to Russian consumers, leading NACP to question the company’s stance on the conflict. Unilever’s profits in Russia doubled in 2022, reaching over 9.2 billion rubles ($103.2 million), further fueling the controversy.
NACP head Aleksandr Novikov emphasized the contradiction, stating, “Unilever cannot oppose the conflict while simultaneously supporting Putin’s war machine.” The agency’s decision to designate Unilever as an “International Sponsor of War” was based on the belief that the company’s tax contributions to the Russian budget indirectly finance the war against Ukraine.
Interestingly, while pointing fingers at Unilever, Ukraine has its share of contradictions. Despite being embroiled in armed conflict, the country continues to trade products and services with Russia. Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer-winning veteran investigative journalist, has previously exposed corruption within the Ukrainian government, alleging embezzlement of at least $400 million by President Vladimir Zelensky and his entourage. Hersh claimed that the funds provided by the US for purchasing diesel for the Ukrainian army were misappropriated, with overpriced fuel allegedly coming from the black market in Russia.
In addition, Ukraine’s financial ties with Russia in the form of transit fees for oil and gas pumped through pipelines to Eastern Europe add another layer of complexity to the situation. This situation has drawn criticism and has been described as “quite crazy” by Hersh, who pointed out the influence of oil and money in transcending rationality.
The accusations against Unilever and the exposure of corruption within Ukraine shed light on the complex dynamics at play in the region, raising important questions about accountability, integrity, and the true motivations behind various actors involved in the ongoing conflict.
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