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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Ukraine Blacklist: Shaming The Companies Still Doing Business With Russia

Ukraine has compiled a blacklist of companies it says are "sponsoring" war by still doing business with Russia. The list is causing a stir within the European Union, which is currently working on its 11th round of sanctions.

Ukraine Blacklist: Shaming The Companies Still Doing Business With Russia

An employee pushes shopping carts outside a Metro Cash&Carry hypermarket.

Stefan Beutelsbacher

BRUSSELS — The blacklist is doing the rounds among diplomats in Brussels. It's a sensitive document: a list compiled by the Ukrainian government of what it calls "sponsors of war".

Kyiv accuses more than two dozen companies in Europe, America and Asia of still doing significant business with Russia.

By doing so, it says, they provide Vladimir Putin with large revenues to finance his war. Some companies, the Ukrainians believe, may even be supplying banned products to the Russian army.

Now the blacklist, compiled by a Ukrainian authority called NACP, is getting significant European Union (EU) attention for the first time. The member states are currently negotiating new sanctions against Russia, intending to launch what is now the eleventh package. Technically, they say, the list from Kyiv will not become part of this package. Nevertheless, it is causing quite a stir.

So far, the EU has banned imports of many Russian products, for example coal, oil and vodka. It seized the yachts of oligarchs loyal to Kremlin and froze central bank reserves.

In the eleventh round of sanctions, measures are planned that are to take effect beyond European borders. Experts are calling them extraterritorial sanctions. Brussels plans to punish companies outside the EU that help Putin circumvent the sanctions. That's what makes the list from Kyiv so explosive.

The list includes 26 companies, including one from Germany: Metro. The Düsseldorf-based retail giant continues to do business in Russia. By doing so, says the Ukrainian government, Metro is making the Kremlin a lot of money.

Circumventing sanctions

A Metro spokesman told Die Welt that the group has an independent business in both Russia and Ukraine and has publicly condemned Russia's war in no uncertain terms on several occasions. "Since the beginning of the war, we as Metro have focused on supporting Ukraine as well as maintaining our operational business there," the spokesman added.

Last year, Metro donated about 523 tons of food and 49 tons of personal care and household chemicals to the population and the army. The spokesman did not comment on criticism from Kyiv that Metro was helping to finance Putin's military campaign.

More than 200 have continued, business-as-usual.

So far, more than 1,000 companies voluntarily have withdrawn from Russia or significantly reduced their presence, according to a major study by the U.S. university Yale. But more than 200 have continued with business-as-usual, the U.S. researchers said, at least to the extent allowed by international sanctions.

The Ukrainian blacklist lists four companies from China. This is not surprising. The EU also believes Beijing is secretly helping Russia.

Earlier this month, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, said that several companies registered in China were involved in evading sanctions. They supplied sensitive goods from the EU to Russia via third countries. What those are, she did not say. But Commission officials have spoken in the past of so-called dual-use goods, products that have both civilian and military uses, such as drones, aircraft parts or computer chips.

Oleksandr Novikov arriving at the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for interrogation.

Olena Khudiakova/Ukrinform

Canned vegetables and razors

The blacklist also includes several Greek shipping companies. According to the NACP, they transport Russian oil and may be doing so in violation of EU sanctions.

At the end of last year, Brussels decided on an oil price cap, which means that European shipping companies are no longer allowed to deliver Russian crude oil to third countries unless the price per barrel is below $60.

Procter & Gamble operates a large plant for Gillette razors in St. Petersburg.

Even if the companies are not directly violating sanctions, they still play a role. For example, France's Bonduelle, which produces mainly canned vegetables and salad mixes, is also on the list. By staying on in Russia — according to Ukraine — the company continues to pay taxes there, thus pumping money into the state's coffers.

The same goes for Procter & Gamble from the USA. The company operates a large plant for Gillette razors in St. Petersburg, for example. Canned vegetables and razors are thus suddenly becoming the focus of world politics. This keeps 27 foreign ministers and their diplomats in Brussels busy.

But if Ukraine puts a company on the blacklist, it does not mean that it is actually circumventing sanctions or supplying prohibited goods to Russia. It merely means that Ukraine suspects they do. Or it may just mean that the company has a significant Russian business, which is not illegal per se.

The list is nevertheless explosive. It is a case of "name and shame", of public denunciation with potentially devastating consequences for the companies' reputations.

What's next? No one in Brussels believes that the blacklist will actually lead to penalties against the companies in the near future.

Nevertheless, the pushback is big. The Greek government, it is said, will only agree to new sanctions if the country's shipping companies disappear from the list. And Hungary is upset that the bank OTP is being called a "sponsor of war" and is also threatening to block the move — not a good prospect for sanctions package number 11 from Brussels.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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