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Northwest B.C. bar raises money for Ukraine with Stolichnaya vodka

Latvian Stoli vodka is not on the list of banned Russian vodka but has historic origins in Soviet Union
Stoli vodka bottles up for sale at the Skeena Liquor Store in Terrace. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the Armed Forces of Ukraine. (Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)

A liquor store and bar in northwest B.C. decided to take an extra step in supporting Ukraine and its civilians after the Russian government launched an unprovoked attack on Feb. 24.

The Skeena Bar and the Skeena Liquor Store in Terrace has opted to raise money for the Ukrainian armed forced by selling off all of its Stoli vodka it has in stock.

Customers can order Stoli and 100 per cent of sales will be donated directly to the Ukrainian Armed Forces via the special account established by the National Bank of Ukraine.

Stoli, or Stolichnaya vodka, is not on the list of Russian liquor pulled off shelves by Canadian provinces, but has faced controversy in the past due to its historic origins in Soviet Union in the early 1900’s.

Terrace-based businessman Darcy McKeown, whose Progressive Ventures Group owns the bar and liquor store, said he decided to follow the actions of American bars who are doing the same when it comes to Stoli.

“Along with the rest of the world we’ve been horrified by the events unfolding in Ukraine and the cruelty of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime,” McKeown’s group said in a statement.

“We’ve also been heartened and inspired by Ukraine’s courage and defiance in the face of this unfounded aggression. Our hearts are with Ukraine and with all civilians who are impacted by this senseless war.”

British Columbia joined provinces across Canada and halted the import and sale of Russian liquor from BC Liquor stores and other provincial liquor distribution centres on Feb. 25.

READ MORE: B.C. pulls Russian vodka from provincial liquor store shelves

The list includes vodkas like Russian Standard, Russian Standard Platinum, Beluga Noble, Baikal along with a Baltika 7 beer brand. BC Liquor said in an email statement that Stolichnaya is made in Latvia and therefore it is not being included in the list.

Stoli, owned by the SPI Group headquartered in Luxembourg, is manufactured and bottled in Latvia and is officially registered as a Latvian product.

Stoli however has found itself in the centre of ownership debates, especially given the fact that SPI Group’s owner, exiled Russian oligarch Yuri Shefler, bought it from state-owned VVO Soyuzplodoimport in 1997.

Russia declared the sale illegal in 2002 resulting in the trademark being a subject of dispute between SPI Group and Russian distributors.

This is not the first time Stoli has faced opposition in North America. In 2013 many LGBTQ organizations called for the boycott of the vodka brand after Russia passed its anti-gay law.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last month, Stoli put up a statement denouncing Russian aggression on its website where its CEO, Damian McKinney said they do not have any operations in Russia but they do in Ukraine and other bordering countries. The Stoli vodka brands and its owner Yuri Shefler were exiled from Russia nearly two decades ago, the company said.

“As the Founder of SPI Group of companies, I have personally experienced persecution by the Russian authorities and I share the pain of Ukraine and its people,” Shefler said in the same statement.

READ MORE: Russia ignores global condemnation, invades Ukraine in ‘brutal act of war’

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About the Author: Binny Paul

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