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Zelenskyy Asks All American Companies to Withdraw from Russia to Defend Human Rights

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the United States Congress today (3 p.m. Kyiv time, 9 a.m. Washington time). Speaking first in Ukrainian, President Zelenskyy asked American businesses to cease all operations in Russia (see 8:50 in linked video):

All American companies must leave Russia from their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood. Ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, if you have companies in your district who financed the Russian military machine, you should put pressure. I am asking to make sure the Russians do not receive a single penny they used to destroy people in Ukraine, the destruction of our country, the destruction of Europe [President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in translation, Hasit Shah, “Read the Full Text of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Speech to the US Congress,” Quartz, 2022.03.16].

Big American law firm Baker McKenzie is heeding that advice. After years of capitalizing on Putin’s war machine, Baker McKenzie is pulling out of Russia:

In the ruins of the former Soviet Union, legal giant Baker McKenzie found lucrative work for Russia’s largest state-controlled companies. From energy titan Gazprom to banking behemoth VTB to Rostec, maker of Kalashnikov rifles and fighter jets, Baker McKenzie served President Vladimir Putin’s business interests around the globe.

Now America’s largest law firm says it is leaving Russia and dropping Russian clients in response to sweeping new sanctions aimed at weakening the country’s war against Ukraine.

“Baker McKenzie will no longer have a presence in Russia. The offices and the people will transfer to an independent firm,” spokesman John McGuinness said in an email to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists today. “We are exiting relationships with all sanctioned Russian companies, and indeed will not act for any individuals or entities that are controlled by, or directly linked to, the Russian state and/or current regime, whether that work is in Russia or elsewhere in the world” [Sydney P. Freedberg and Agustin Armendariz, “Baker McKenzie, a Go-To Firm for Kremlin-Linked Companies, Now Says It’s Leaving Russia,” International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: Pandora Papers, 2022.03.15].

Christopher Wynne, the Colorado native who controls the Papa Johns franchise in Russia, says he will buck his corporate chiefs’ pause on Russian operations and continue putting pizza profits over “politics”:

“The best thing I can do as an individual is show compassion for the people, my employees, franchisees and customers without judging them because of the politicians in power,” he said.

…“The vast majority of Russian people are very clearheaded and understand the dark gravity of the situation they’re in,” he said. “And, at the end of the day, they appreciate a good pizza.”

…Last Wednesday, Papa John’s temporarily cut ties with Mr. Wynne’s business in Russia when it said it would no longer “provide operational, marketing or business support to the Russian market.”

“Our perspectives diverged fairly quickly,” Mr. Wynne said a day later in a Zoom interview from Milan, where he was visiting before he planned to return to Russia this week. “I have a perspective where my interest is first and foremost my employees and franchisees and keeping the lines of cultural exchange with the Russian people open,” Mr. Wynne said.

“Papa John’s is worried about the corporate and political winds that, on a day-to-day basis, I cannot focus on,” he added [Julie Creswell, “He’s American, He Oversees Papa John’s in Russia and He’s Staying,” New York Times, 2022.03.14].

Here in South Dakota, we’re not even going to look into whether our multi-billion-dollar trust industry is doing business with the Russian invaders. We’re just going to trust big business and threaten anyone doesn’t with a good spanking:

Republican Governor Kristi Noem said she does not support an investigation to see if Russians are sheltering their money to avoid sanctions.

“Well, it’s all private information,” Noem said. “If someone were to decide to do that I’m not in favor of that at this time because our trust industry does have integrity.”

Noem said changing privacy mechanisms and regulations could set a precedent in other areas of the law.

“I do know that our trust industry has a strong vetting process and that they go through every single entity that is coming into South Dakota and engaging with their industry,” Noem said.

Leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature say the state’s trust industry has nothing to do with international sanctions on Russia.

“Anybody that’s making some cheap political argument that has to do with trusts in South Dakota ought to be slapped or spanked,” said state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, a Republican from Watertown. “Spanked would be more appropriate. It’s child behavior” [Lee Strubinger, “Privacy Laws Make It Difficult to Know If South Dakota Trusts Harbor Russian Assets,” SDPB, 2022.03.07].

President Zelenskyy is not making a cheap political argument. While some fret about privacy and profits, President Zelenskyy and his people face extermination. Concluded his address to Congress in English, President Zelenskyy defined the free world’s obligation to defend Ukraine as an obligation to defend basic human rights, justice, and civilization (see 15:30 in linked video):

In the end, to be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace. Peace in your country does not depend only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong does not mean weak. Strong is brave and ready to fight for his citizens as citizens of the world. For human rights. For freedom. The right to live decently and die when your time comes and not when decided by somebody else.

Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine. We are fighting for europe and the world and our lives in the name of the future. That is why today the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world to keep the planet alive. To keep justice in history [Zelenskyy, 2022.03.16].

Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives to repel Russian invaders. The least American businesses can do is sacrifice their Russian profits for the sake of the stable, peaceful world order that makes their businesses possible.

13 Comments

  1. John 2022-03-16 10:29

    Koch Industries refused to stop doing business in Russia. Koch built oil refineries for the Nazis. (The Battle of Britain – in part brought to you by Koch.)
    Koch has a generations long history supporting authoritarians, right-wing causes and politicians.

    How much Russian bonds, money / stocks, etc., are in the state retirement account? How much Russian money funneled to the South Dakota politicians? There must be some since Moscow Murdo John spent July 4 in Moscow and Dusty’s girl, Russian agent Maria Butina, traipsed through SD along with her Russian apologist.

  2. cibvet 2022-03-16 11:35

    Typical SD politicians. Dollars over death of the Ukrainian people.

  3. Spike 2022-03-16 11:48

    After seeing the craziness that has/is transpiring in Pierre this year Schoenbeck has no room to call a legitimate question as to the ownership of the 400 billion from 52 countries in the SD Trusts Childs behavior!!! Very impressive work there Lee. Especially that hard fought battle over growing either 2 or 3 pot plants at home. Don’t be insulting children Lee. Those children in the Ukraine are showing much more mature behavior than you and your clown posse in Noemland.

    The best quote I saw all week is…. Putin had an easier time taking over the Republican Party that he has had taking over Ukraine.

    I am curious what bearcreekbat knows about russians in our SD investments and trusts. I read a few statements by him that seemed to indicate there is no crooked money laundering going on in the trusts. When Noem says our trust industry has a strong vetting process it brings up a few questions for sure. EB-5 and Gear-Up showed how the foxes were in the darn hen house.

  4. Mark Anderson 2022-03-16 11:58

    Pants off or pants on Mr. Schoenback?

  5. All Mammal 2022-03-16 12:05

    All the self-righteous swine like Noem and Novstrup and Racist Pizza Boy need to study Rob Roy and take notes. In the cinematic version of the historical figure, Rob Roy’s young sons ask their pa, “What is honor?”
    His response, “Honor is what no man can give you and none can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself”
    Boys ask, “How do you know if you have it?”
    Robert Roy MacGregor says, “Never worry on the getting of it. It grows in you, and speaks to you. All you need do is listen.”
    Son, “Do women have it?”
    Robert Roy MacGregor, “Women are the heart of honor, and we cherish and protect it in them. You must never mistreat a woman, or malign a man, nor stand by and see another do so.”*
    He says, “All men with honor are kings. But not all kings have honor.”
    If only we were judged solely on the honor system. How is it so common to accept lying, corrupt, selfish, evil dishonor? It is unacceptable and cheap. If Noem and the likes of her party tell you it has integrity, how can you even keep a straight face? And when Shoenbeck recommends a spanking!? Pervy creep.

    Makes sense; if you don’t think about it.

  6. Donald Pay 2022-03-16 12:16

    South Dakota used to have (and maybe it still does have) a law regarding “bad actors.” It applied to people or corporations applying for environmental permits. Bad actor laws were first developed in New Jersey because that state’s waste industry was controlled by the Mafia, and there were significant problems with breaking environmental laws. South Dakota also had a problem with some environmental permittees, and that became obvious during Williams Pipeline and sewage ash fiascos. South Dakota passed its bad actor law, patted itself on the back and failed to stringently apply the statute.

    You could pass a more broad-based bad actor bill or one that applies specifically to trusts. I don’t think South Dakotans really want to allow criminal elements to use state laws to launder money, and that applies to war criminals as well. But the problem would come in actually monitoring and enforcing the statute. South Dakota’s political class is a cheap buy for the crooks, so even if they would pass a law, it is likely to be undermined by the likes of Schoenbeck and Noem.

  7. bearcreekbat 2022-03-16 12:51

    Spike, to clarify, none of my comments relating to trusts in South Dakota were intended to suggest or even imply that “there is no crooked money laundering going on in the trusts.” I regret any such unintended implication in what I have written. I am no expert on how to launder crooked money and would not know if Russians or other folks that do this sort of thing have found a way to use SD trusts to accomplish such a goal.

    My comments simply questioned the suggestion of the Pentagon Papers and assertions by so many commenters that there is some unique characteristic in SD statutes that makes money laundering easier or legalizes it in this state. To date, I have not seen any such unique statutes or SD laws identified in materials described by published national or local articles nor by commenters to DFP.

    SD trusts could well be filled with illegal funds and laundered funds for all I know. If so, I support all efforts necessary to assist authorities in identifying and recovering such funds, whether from Russia, some other country, or from individuals living right here in the good old USA.

  8. All Mammal 2022-03-16 14:35

    In PBS’s Pandora Papers report, the spokes boy representing and defending and explaining how the trusts work here in South Dakota was the talking head of Bill Janklow. Boy he was sure proud of himself for helping create such a mysterious labyrinth in Sioux Falls, SD.
    When scheisters like Shoenbeck and Noem and Trump blame the media for it’s ‘witch hunts’ and ‘persecution’ or ‘naughty childishness’, remember the media has no perverted agenda. The news, especially PBS (which in my opinion is as pure as fresh driven snow) is after reporting the truth. It is their duty. Our entire democracy relies on the the checks only the news wields on power.
    Bill Janklow? Ha! Alrighty then. Proceed as you were.

  9. Spike 2022-03-16 14:52

    Thank you bearcreek. I am naive to even know what crooked money is and guess my definition would be cash originally gained from illegal activities then eventually handled thru various sources to create an illusion of legal gain. Pretty hard to trace unless you have a lot of resources. Which the DOJ sometimes brings to the table if there is an opportunity. But I would not hold my breath on that. Apparently Schoenbeck and Noem know that our trusts hold legally acquired assets and we are foolish to even ask.

  10. Steve Pearson 2022-03-16 14:59

    We have the ability to see what can be unburdened by what has been and then to make the possible actually happen.

  11. John 2022-03-16 18:50

    Let’s fully support Moscow Murdo Thune going to Mariupol on a fact finding trip.
    Moscow Thune spent July 4th in Moscow. Let him see what he bought or traded his influence for. Moscow Thune voted against impeachment – an impeachment for withholding aid from Ukraine in exchange for political favors.

    Moscow Thune and the senators that went to Moscow, and the senators that voted against impeachment should receive the same treatment as did German nationals – forced to bury the dead, forced into manual labor to rebuild the towns, homes, farms, and cities. That will still be too kind a retribution.
    https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-war-mariupol-descends-into-despair-708cb8f4a171ce3f1c1b0b8d090e38e3

  12. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-16 20:11

    Well…maybe the Russian oligarchs have hidden ill gotten gains in Sioux Falls Trusts and maybe they haven’t yet discovered this haven for theft and tax avoidance. How do we know?? According to Governor Noem, we never will…period. The money is more important than the lives of millions of Ukrainians. So much for “Right to Life”. The Governor is exempting the lives of Ukrainian men, women and children for filthy, bloody, Putin bucks. That’s my assumption, until the State of South Dakota, in its benevolence, proves otherwise.

  13. mike from iowa 2022-03-17 16:18

    Josh Marshall
    @joshtpm
    During this inspiring moment it would have been cool to have a show of hands of everyone who voted to acquit/defend President Trump after he tried to blackmail President Zelensky into sabotaging the 2020 US Presidential election.

    Cardboard Mike and Marlboro Barbie should be taken to task for not removing scum bag drumpf from office.

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