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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Some are asking for a boycott of Russian-made products, like vodka, as show of solidarity with Ukraine

A sign in the vodka area of a Pennsylvania Fine Wine and Good Spirits store reflects the state's decision to withdraw Russian-made products for sale, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022, in Harmony, Pa.   (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

A bottle-shaped symbol of Ukrainian support has emerged in multiple states: vodka.

Several state alcohol agencies decided over the weekend to pull Russian-made alcohol from the shelves of liquor stores amid the ongoing invasion by Russia into Ukraine, with some Spokane businesses reconsidering their own inventory.

Washington state alcohol agencies have not yet ordered stores and bars to stop sales of their Russian-made products, so the decision is left to local businesses.

At Bulldog Liquor & Wine in Spokane, general manager Andrew Swanson said they only stock three brands of Russian vodka. So far, no customer has asked them to remove the bottles from the shelves or brought the issue into light at the store.

“It’s pretty much a niche thing to begin with,” Swanson said, noting the most popular vodka sold is not made in Russia.

Egger’s South Hill Liquor reported they decided to remove Russian Standard and Stolichnaya Vodka from its shelves.

The Stoli Group, which makes Stolichnaya, clarified in a statement that Stoli vodka has been manufactured in Latvia for nearly 20 years and has long been exiled from Russia.

Meanwhile the national chain Total Wine & More, which has stores on Spokane’s North Side and in Spokane Valley, posted on Facebook Monday that it too has removed all Russian-made products from its shelves, “in support of the Ukrainian people.”

The invasion of Ukraine placed a national spotlight on vodka sold in the U.S., as some states wanted to show solidarity by not engaging with Russian-made products.

Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news conference Monday he ordered state agencies to identify contracts with Russia or Russian-backed companies “with an eye towards terminating them” as a show of solidarity with Ukrainian citizens.

“This cannot stand and the entire world needs to be united in this regard,” Inslee told reporters. “We intend to do our part in the state of Washington. And I think everyone who understands the blessings of democracy ought to give thought to disassociating themselves with Russian entities at this time.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Saturday signed an executive order instructing the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to immediately remove all Russian-produced and Russian-branded products from its shelves.

Cox said in a statement the office of economic opportunity would review other products, not just liquor, that come from Russia.

“Utah stands in solidarity with Ukraine and will not support Russian enterprises, no matter how small the exchange,” Cox said in the statement.

In Pennsylvania, the state’s Liquor Control Board on Sunday ordered all Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores and licensee service centers to also take Russian-made products off the shelves.

The board decided not to restrict sales of Russian-branded products because those brands are not technically made in Russia, according to a new release from the board.

Few products sold in these stores come from Russia, the Pennsylvanian agency noted in its news release.

Only Russian Standard and Ustianochka 80-proof vodka, as well as “about a half-dozen Special Order brands,” come from Russia, the news release said.

Russian Standard also was restricted in Ohio on Saturday, as it is the only overseas, Russian-owned distillery with vodka sold in the state, according to a news release from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

The Ohio Division of Liquor Control directed the 487 liquor agencies that carry Russian Standard products to immediately pull them from the shelves, the news release said.

Many products with Russian-branded names do not necessarily come from distilleries in Russia, the Ohio governor noted in the news release.

In Virginia, the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control agency said on social media Sunday it would remove seven Russian-sourced vodka brands from store shelves, specifying the order did not apply to Diageo-owned Smirnoff or Stoli vodka.

Russian-produced Russian Standard and Russian Standard Platinum Vodka also were pulled from shelves throughout Canada after the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation decided to remove them, the corporation said on social media Friday.

In Toronto, Ontario, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario also announced it would immediately stop sales of all Russian-made products, affecting at least 679 stores across the province, the board said in a news release Friday.