A handful of US governors have ordered state-owned liquor stores to stop selling Russian-made and branded vodkas. The symbolic move is meant to show support for Ukraine, after Russia invaded.
The governors of Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Utah ordered boycotts of Russian-style vodkas, products that account for a tiny fraction of the US vodka market.
In Canada, the Ontario liquor control board made a similar decision on Friday, removing all Russian-made products from its 679 stores.
“Russia’s ruthless attack on a sovereign nation is an egregious violation of human rights,” Spencer Cox, the Utah governor, said in an announcement of the state boycott on Sunday.
“Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange.”
Russian-produced vodkas account for only about $18.5m of the $1.4bn vodka import market in the US, and state boycotts will not materially affect Russia’s economy. Broader impacts are far more likely to come from international measures such as shutting Russia out of the Swift global banking system.
The best-selling Russian-made vodkas in the US are produced by brands such as Green Mark and Russian Standard.
Many Russian-styled vodkas are made in the US or other countries. One of the most visible Russian-branded vodkas, Stolichnaya, is in fact produced in Latvia. On its website, the company has said it “stands for peace in Europe and in solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.
The company is owned by a Russian-born billionaire, Yuri Shefler, who now lives in Geneva, Switzerland. Russia banned the sale of Stolichnaya within its borders, because of an ownership dispute that went to the Russian supreme court.
Some US bar owners and liquor stores have begun to promote Ukrainian vodkas, such as Kozak and Vektor.
“I woke up yesterday morning and I saw that Russia had invaded Ukraine,” Bob Quay, owner of Bob’s Bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan told the Associated Press.
“You wonder what you can do. The US obviously is putting on sanctions. I thought I would put on sanctions as well.”