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Major food company Nestlé will limit its sales in Russia after Zelenskyy's criticism

The company faced criticism in recent days for continuing to do business in Russia.
Fabrice Coffrini
AFP/Getty Images
The company faced criticism in recent days for continuing to do business in Russia.

Nestlé, one of the world's biggest food companies, says it is further restricting its operations in Russia. The company announced the move Wednesday, days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly criticized it for continuing to do business there.

The Swiss conglomerate said its activities in Russia will focus solely on providing essential food — such as infant food and hospital nutrition — as opposed to making a profit.

"Going forward, we are suspending renowned Nestlé brands such as KitKat and Nesquik, among others," it said. "We have already halted non-essential imports and exports into and out of Russia, stopped all advertising, and suspended all capital investment in the country. Of course, we are fully complying with all international sanctions on Russia."

Nestlé added that it is not expecting to be profitable in Russia, but will donate any profit it does make to humanitarian relief organizations.

It faced growing criticism in recent days for remaining in Russia, even as many international companies and global brands have suspended operations in the country, and, in some cases, its ally Belarus.

Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tweeted that he had spoken to Nestlé's CEO about the consequences of remaining in the Russian market, but that he did not appear to understand.

"Paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist country means killing defenseless children & mothers," he wrote. "Hope that Nestlé will change its mind soon."

Zelenskyy doubled down on the criticism of Nestlé in a speech that was broadcast to the people of Switzerland on Saturday, as CBS News and others have reported.

"'Good food. Good life.' This is the slogan of Nestlé. Your company that refuses to leave Russia," he said. "Even now — when there are threats from Russia to other European countries. Not only to us. When there is even nuclear blackmail from Russia."

The company was quick to defend itself, with a Nestlé spokesperson telling CNN that it had "significantly scaled back" its activities in Russia, including stopping all imports and exports except for essential products, like baby food. It is no longer making investments or advertising its products there, and does not make a profit from its remaining activities, the spokesperson added.

"The fact that we, like other food companies, supply the population with important food does not mean that we simply continue as before," Nestlé said. "We are still one of the few active food companies in Ukraine and sometimes even manage to distribute food in Kharkiv," referring to Ukraine's second-largest city, which has been especially hard hit by Russian shelling in recent days.

Nestlé has some 5,800 employees in Ukraine and about 7,000 in Russia.

On Wednesday, the company said it has already contributed hundreds of tons of food supplies and "significant" financial assistance to the people of Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries, efforts that it said will continue.

A page onNestlé'swebsite details what it is doing to help Ukraine. Those actions include partnering with the local Red Cross and area food banks to distribute essential food, beverages and pet food to refugees leaving the country, and providing emergency food supplies for young children in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.
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