A petrol tanker delivers fuel stores to a Lukoil gas station.
First, it was vodka. Now it’s gas stations.
Americans are calling for the boycott of some of Russia’s best-known exports in a show of solidarity with Ukraine following Moscow’s invasion of the country.
New Jersey’s largest city, Newark, earlier this week voted to suspend the licenses of two Lukoil gas stations because of the company’s ties to Russia.
“This is a step on the city side to do what the rest of the world is doing to impose some pressure on Russia to stop this horrific invasion,” said Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who represents a part of the city where many Ukrainian-Americans live.
Lukoil North America is a subsidiary of
(ticker: LUKOY), Russia’s second-largest oil producer. However, the Lukoil stations in Newark are franchised stations and not directly owned by Lukoil.
Newark franchisee Roger Verma said that while he supports Ukraine, a suspension would cripple his business, which employs 16 workers.
“I’m baffled and confused how people sitting in these positions without having any of their facts together and without having full knowledge of how things are done can introduce and change laws and change people’s lives just like that,” Verma said at a press conference reported on by CBS News.
Domenic, the owner of an independent Lukoil franchise in Brooklyn, said in the last few days he had received a few calls from people saying they were going to stop patronizing his business. Although he explained the gas station was independently owned, had “nothing to do with Russia,” and had condemned the war in Ukraine, some clients were still adamantly continuing the boycott.
“The only person you’re going to be hurting right now is American families,” he said. Domenic, who is Italian-American, asked Barron’s to refrain from using his last name.
“What am I supposed to do, close my business down?” he asked.
The move from the Newark City Council came after the hashtag #BoycottLukoil started trending online in the days following Russia’s military action.
The New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store, Automotive Association, which represents more than 1,500 small business owners, tweeted that a successful boycott “could require financial devastation – if not ruination – among many dozens of local entrepreneurs … in order to achieve what would only be a very small financial impact on the Russian parent company.”
Ramos, who sponsored the legislation, said that the decision was not intended to punish any of the employees that may work there. “A few of them actually contacted our office today and we’ve directed them to available job opportunities — both at Newark Works and at the Essex County One-Stop,” Ramos told News12 New Jersey.
Not all Lukoil gas stations were getting hit by the boycott equally hard. At a Lukoil franchise in Jersey City, N.J., business was “very busy” on Friday morning, according to manager Alex Ignacio.
As for some other brands, Smirnoff vodka is being confused as being Russian. Although its origins are in Russia, the company is owned British spirits giant Diageo (ticker: DEO) and is manufactured in Illinois.
Separately, Lukoil called Thursday for an immediate halt to fighting in Ukraine, becoming one of the first major domestic companies to speak out against Russia’s invasion.
“We fully support its resolution through negotiations, by diplomatic means,” Lukoil said in a statement. “The company is taking efforts to continue stable work in all countries and regions of its presence.”
Lukoil’s American depositary receipts have tanked since Russia’s invasion and trade at $6.96, down more than 92% so far this year.
—Sabrina Escobar contributed to this article.
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