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One by one, global companies are cutting their ties to Russia

A woman passes by an Apple store at the State Department Store, GUM, in central Moscow on April 27, 2021. Apple said this week it's pausing the sale of its products in Russia.
Dimitar Dilkoff
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman passes by an Apple store at the State Department Store, GUM, in central Moscow on April 27, 2021. Apple said this week it's pausing the sale of its products in Russia.

Companies from Apple to Exxon Mobil are either exiting or cutting their investments in Russia, adding to the country's economic pain following its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia is buckling under a raft of severe wide-ranging sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. They have restricted the country's access to its overseas currency reserves and barred many of its banks from SWIFT, a global network that financial firms use to conduct transactions.

As a result, the value of the ruble has plummeted, Russia has been forced to raise interest rates sharply and the country has kept its stock market closed to prevent further economic and financial pain.

The impact from the sanctions has made it all but impossible for companies to do business in what is the world's 12th-largest economy and also a major exporter of energy supplies.

On top of that, many companies worry about the hit to their corporate image globally should they continue to do business in Russia.

"Never before have we seen such a significant economy be subject to such comprehensive actions, and at the present pace, we're seeing Russia well on its way to being spoken of in the same breath as Cuba and Iran," said Daniel Tannebaum, the global head of sanctions at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

A woman leaves a currency exchange office displaying the dollar and the euro signs in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on March 2.
Olga Maltseva / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman leaves a currency exchange office in St. Petersburg, Russia, on March 2.

Oil companies are among those cutting their ties

Energy giant BP helped kick off the corporate exodus on Sunday, when it announced plans to unwind a 20% stake in Rosneft, the Russian oil giant.

"This military action represents a fundamental change," said Helge Lund, BP's chairman, in a statement.

In the days since, two of BP's competitors, Shell and Exxon Mobil, followed suit.

Exxon's exit was particularly noteworthy given that the oil company has a long history of close ties to Russia, even as its footprint in the country had shrunk in recent years.

"ExxonMobil supports the people of Ukraine as they seek to defend their freedom and determine their own future as a nation," the company said in a statement. "We deplore Russia's military action that violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine and endangers its people."

A man with a sign saying "No More Gas From Putin" passes the Reichstag building where the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a speech on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine during a meeting of the German federal parliament in Berlin on Feb. 27.
Hannibal Hanschke / Getty Images
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Getty Images
A man with a sign saying "No More Gas From Putin" passes the Reichstag building where German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a speech on the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a meeting of the German federal parliament in Berlin on Feb. 27.

It's not just oil companies, however

But the exodus hasn't been limited to the energy sector.

Volvo Cars and General Motors have halted vehicle exports to Russia, while Harley-Davidson said it "has suspended its business in Russia and all shipments of its bikes to the country."

Tech firms are also curtailing business in the country.

Dell has suspended product sales, and Apple has also "paused all product sales in Russia," according to a company spokesperson, who noted, "Apple Pay and other services have been limited."

Several of the world's largest shipping companies are no longer servicing customers in Russia, including UPS, FedEx and Maersk.

The Danish shipping company said it "has now suspended bookings to/from both Russia and Ukraine until further notice," with the exception of "foodstuffs, medical and humanitarian supplies."

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to chair a Security Council meeting in Moscow on Feb. 25.
Alexei Nikolsky / AP
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AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin enters a hall to chair a Security Council meeting in Moscow on Feb. 25.

More companies are expected to leave

Analysts expect even more companies to leave Russia.

"I do think you are going to see more businesses voting with their feet," said Tannebaum.

Big companies may want to get ahead of additional sanctions and further scrutiny, according to Roberto Gonzalez, a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss.

"If companies have an opportunity to pull back now, they might take it just to sort of decrease the commercial and reputational risks of having to take action," he said.

But some companies seem wary of walking away from what is a pretty sizable consumer market. Russia is home to more than 144 million people.

WeWork is one business that has decided to stay. On Monday, CEO Sandeep Mathrani told Bloomberg News that WeWork doesn't plan to close its locations in Moscow, even though they account for just a small fraction of the company's overall revenue.

In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said WeWork continues "to closely monitor the situation, the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues that operate our four buildings in Russia and are prepared to take action as necessary to ensure an orderly shut down of our business."

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