Companies shut Ukraine operations as Russia attacks

People stand around a damaged structure caused by a rocket on February 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Overnight, Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine, with explosions reported in multiple cities and far outside the restive eastern regions held by Russian-backed rebels. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Danish brewer Carlsberg and a Coca-Cola bottler shut their plants in Ukraine on Thursday following Russia’s invasion while firms making goods from jet engines to semiconductors warned that supplies of key raw materials could suffer.

Carlsberg, which has a 31 per cent share of Ukraine’s beer market, halted production at all three of its breweries in the country, while Coca-Cola HBC said it had triggered its contingency plans which included shutting its bottling plant.

Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International said it will close its plants in Ukraine if the country’s tensions with Russia escalate and become “too dangerous.”

The snack maker has more than 4,300 employees in Eastern Europe, a region that spans from Moscow to Turkey to Kazakhstan, according to its website.

“To make sure those people are safe … that’s the number one concern,” Chief Executive Officer Dirk Van de Put told Reuters on Wednesday. “We have big business in both countries. If that means we have to close plants because it is too dangerous, we will do so.”

Soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola HBC has closed its plant in Ukraine, and asked staff in the country to remain at home following Russia’s invasion, a spokesperson told Reuters.

“We will keep this under review over the coming days,” the company spokesperson said.

The company, one of Coca-Cola’s many bottlers worldwide, also counts Russia among its largest markets.

Britain’s biggest domestic bank Lloyds, meanwhile, warned that it was on heightened alert for cyberattacks from Russia while companies operating in Ukraine were looking at how to shield their staff from the conflict.

As a precaution, Mondelez also recently boosted its cybersecurity. Van de Put said Mondelez “immediately” took steps to safeguard its information technology network against attacks.

“The war may also be played out through (computer) viruses,” the CEO said. “That could be part of this war.”

Mondelez is also concerned about ensuring that its plants are not physically destroyed, Van de Put said.

He told Reuters that he also wants to make sure store shelves in Ukraine remain stocked and that “we keep supplying the market, and that includes stockpiling ingredients.”

Russian forces invaded Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday, with the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

Many companies with significant exposure to Russia said they were still waiting to see the full force of Western sanctions before deciding on any action, although backers of the suspended Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were already taking a hit.

Washington imposed sanctions on the company behind Nord Stream 2 on Wednesday and European Union leaders are meeting later on Thursday to decide what punitive measures they will impose as retribution for Russia’s attack.

Other international companies with staff in Ukraine such as Swiss consumer goods giant Nestle said they were monitoring the situation closely and the safety of staff was their highest priority.

Nestle has been in Ukraine for more than 25 years and has three factories and about 5,000 employees there.

“(We) have business continuity plans in place that can be activated as needed. The safety and protection of our employees remains our highest priority. We will not speculate on any potential sanctions,” a Nestle spokesperson said.