London LGBT to join boycott of Russian vodka

Stolichnaya statement on LGBT rights

The campaign to boycott Russian vodka, spearheaded by activist Dan Savage, has spread to London’s LGBT community.

The campaign, which will now include London’s nightclubs and gay bars, is to show solidarity with the Russian LGBT community, who are under siege since the introduction in Russia of its anti gay propaganda laws, and more recently the apparent allowance of neo-nazi ill-treatment of gay youth.

The vodka, Stolichnaya, (Stoli) said to be the most popular brand in the west, is owned by the SPI Group, who say they are staunchly behind the LGBT community,

Val Mendeleev, chief executive officer of the SPI Group, said his company “is an apolitical, business-oriented organisation”.

John Esposito, president of SPI North America (a subsidiary of Stoli owner SPI Group) told Shanken News Daily, that the company has long been a friend to the LGBT community—and is no friend of the Russian government.

Shanken News Daily continues:

And while critics often associate Stoli with the Russian government because it’s arguably Russia’s best-known export product, Esposito points out that SPI is in fact a Luxembourg-based company that has been engaged in a long-running dispute with the Russian government over the Stoli trademark. “We certainly understand how the Russian government works, as SPI has been fighting it for 15 years.”

However, Val Mendeleev, chief executive officer of the group said in an open letter that  the vodka is produced in Latvia, albeit using Russian products. He also said that the SPI Group has supported gay events all over the world, including gay pride events in Durban, Tel Aviv and Vienna.

Peter Tatchell has said to BBC news that he hopes that the campaign will go global in the coming weeks, and Chris Amos, owner and manager of Manbar in London’s Soho, welcomed Mr Mendeleev’s statement, but said:

“It’s regrettable for them that they are getting the raft of the gay fury and all of this. But at the same time, it will be them and other Russian companies like them who will then go back to the Russian government to argue for our case and support our case.”

The campaign is expected to go global, and to spread to other products and events, such as Sochi 2014.


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