Lawmakers, bars and liquor stores call for Russian vodka boycott

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Feb. 26 (UPI) — Bars and liquor stores across North America are announcing boycotts of Russian-made vodka and spirits as the country continues its aggression in Ukraine.

Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire signed an executive order on Saturday directing the state’s liquor stores to pull Russian-made and Russian-branded spirits off the shelves. A state senator from Virginia is also calling on her governor to do the same.

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“We need to take strong actions to support Ukraine,” Democratic Sen. L. Louise Lucas said in a tweet. “I’m overwhelmed with texts from my colleagues in support of this idea from both sides of the aisle.”

Canadian leaders are also taking similar steps. Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy announced a ban on Russian liquor on Friday, following in the footsteps of Canada’s Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation.

Lawmakers’ calls for an organized boycott echo piecemeal protests around the country, as individual bar and liquor store owners reject Russian products in public announcements and demonstrations posted to social media.

In Bend, Ore., the owner of Pine Tavern posted a video of himself emptying two bottles of Stolichnaya vodka on the ground.

“Russia is acting as though it’s 1939 and going into Europe with a full force that they have in the Ukraine. I am so concerned about it metastasizing into other countries,” owner Bill McCormick later told KPTV.

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Vermont resort Magic Mountain Ski Area tweeted a video of a bartender dumping a bottle of Stolichnaya down the drain.

“Sorry Stoli lovers. No more,” read the caption, followed by emojis of the American and Ukrainian flags.

A liquor store in Wichita, Kan., pulled more than 100 bottles of Russian-made liquor from its shelves. Jacob Liquor Exchange partner and wine director Jamie Stratton told regional station KSNW that he’s encouraging his customers to instead purchase Khor vodka, made at Ukraine’s Khortytsa Distillery.

“I think the whole world knows by now that Russia’s at war with Ukraine for no apparent reason,” Stratton said. “I guess this is our sanction. We don’t support it. There’s no reason to support it. There’s no reason for them to invade the Ukrainians, and this may be small, but every small thing makes a difference.”

One prominent target of the boycott, however, is frustrated by a misconception — despite its Russian name, nearly all of the Stolichnaya vodka sold in the west is produced in Latvia, a NATO member country. Its European headquarters are based in Luxembourg.

Damian McKinney, Stoli Group global CEO wrote a letter to Stratton clarifying Stoli’s origins.

“With regard to us being Russian. We are absolutely NOT a Russian company,” McKinney wrote. “We are a global organization with a significant portfolio of spirits and wine brands from around the world.”

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The spirit manufacturer faced a similar backlash in 2013 when Russia passed anti-LGBTQ laws. Then, too, the company claimed that any related boycotts of their product were misplaced.