Russia threatens Western companies with arrests, seizures

FILE. Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo Reuters

Russian authorities, facing potential economic calamity as Western sanctions take hold, have threatened arrests and asset seizures against foreign companies hoping to pull out of the country, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Russian prosecutors issued warnings to several foreign entities – via calls, letters and in-person visits – including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, IBM and Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC and Pizza Hut, according to the business daily, citing sources familiar with the matter.

They threatened to arrest officials who criticized the government or to seize assets, including intellectual property.

“The warnings prompted at least one of the targeted companies to limit communications between its Russian operations and the rest of the company, fearing that emails or text messages between colleagues could be intercepted, some of the people (familiar with the subject ) says,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Russian Embassy in the United States on Sunday called the report “false”.

“We urge local media to abandon the vicious practice of spreading fake news. The Wall Street Journal opus is pure fiction,” he said on Facebook.

He added that the decision to continue business activities in Russia “is entirely up to the Americans.”

Russia has faced unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western governments after the invasion of Ukraine, with a growing list of companies announcing their withdrawal from the country or their intention to suspend their activities there.

The Russian authorities have stepped up their efforts to prevent money from leaving its borders and to support the ruble, which has already seen a sharp drop in its value against the dollar.

Without using the word “nationalization”, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was in favor of appointing “external” administrators to head such foreign companies in Russia “in order to transfer them to those who want to run them”.

The prosecution meanwhile ordered Friday a “strict control” of companies that had announced a suspension of their activities in Russia, warning in particular of increased monitoring of compliance with labor legislation, under penalty of prosecution.

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Yum Brands did not respond to AFP’s request for comment on Sunday.

© Agence France-Presse

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