Ikea to ‘scale down’ operations in Russia and Belarus over Ukraine

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said Wednesday it would "scale down" its activities in Russia and Belarus, after putting them on hold following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ikea to 'scale down' operations in Russia and Belarus over Ukraine
An Ikea store. Photo: Ingka Group

Along with a slew of Western companies, Ikea announced in early March that it was suspending its Russian and Belarusian activities, affecting nearly 15,000 employees.

“Unfortunately, the circumstances have not improved, and the devastating war continues,” Ingka Group, which manages the majority of Ikea’s stores, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Businesses and supply chains across the world have been heavily impacted and we do not see that it is possible to resume operations any time soon,” the company said, adding that it and the Inter Ikea Group had “decided to enter a new phase to further scale down the Ikea business in Russia and Belarus.”

The group said the retail business “will remain stopped, and the workforce will be reduced, meaning that many co-workers will be affected.”

Ikea has a total of 15,000 employees in Russia, including 12,500 employed by Ingka Group, the company said.

An Ingka Group spokesman said the company was not yet able to provide details on how many would be let go.

The company added that it planned “to sell out its home furnishing inventory in Russia,” and that the production side in Russia will “reduce the workforce and start the process of finding new ownership for all four factories.”

Two purchasing and logistics offices in Moscow and Minsk would also be permanently closed.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with triggering unprecedented sanctions, sparked an exodus of foreign corporations including H&M, Starbucks and McDonalds.

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Russian foreign minister decries Sweden’s ‘inhuman’ gender-neutral toilets

Russia's long-time foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has raised eyebrows by expressing his indignation at being forced to use a gender-neutral toilet at an OSCE summit in Stockholm.

Russian foreign minister decries Sweden's 'inhuman' gender-neutral toilets

“It’s what I saw in Sweden last year when I was attending a session of the OSCE Council of Ministers,” Lavrov told the audience at Primakov Readings, a forum dedicated to the memory of Yevgeny Primakov.

“I asked where the toilet was in the break, and I was shown a door with the words “WC”. I asked ‘is that the ladies or the gents?’, and I was told, ‘it’s for everyone’. I couldn’t believe it but that’s really how it was. You cannot imagine how inhuman this is.”. 

Lavrov’s statement came at the end of a diatribe against Western gender identity politics, in which he claimed that in the US and Europe “the diversity of genders has now exceeded 80”.  

The section was first picked up by Francis Carr, a Russia specialist at BBC Monitoring. 

“Once a fearsome diplomat, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is now complaining about gender-neutral toilets in Sweden,” Scarr tweeted. 

Unsurprisingly to those who know the country well, the main reaction on Swedish Twitter was to criticise the standards of plumbing in Russia, rather than to focus on Lavrov’s views on gender identity. 

“It’s pretty rich of Lavrov to whine about there being gender-equal toilets in Sweden at the same time as one in four Russians aren’t connected to the sewage system and one in every ten lacks an indoor toilet,” Victor Rundqvist, a Centre Party county councillor from Halmstad, in a typical tweet

Yevgeny Primakov was a former Russian prime minister, foreign minister, and KGB foreign intelligence chief.