The company said it will only produce essential food items in Russia, where the market composes just 2% of its global revenue.
Nestlé Scales Back in Russia
Swiss food company Nestlé announced Wednesday that it will be further restricting operations in Russia amid widespread backlash over its refusal to pull out of the country as the invasion of Ukraine nears its second month.
Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he reached out to Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider in an effort to encourage him to remove the company from the Russian market, which only accounts for 2% of the food group’s global revenue.
“Talked to @Nestle CEO Mr. Mark Schneider about the side effect of staying in Russian market. Unfortunately, he shows no understanding,” Shmyhal tweeted following the meeting. “Paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist country means killing defenseless children&mothers. Hope that Nestle will change its mind soon.”
In a statement Wednesday, Nestlé said it will be “suspending renowned Nestlé brands such as KitKat and Nesquik, among others” in Russia.
Instead, Nestlé will only provide essential products like baby food and medical-grade products.
“We have already halted non-essential imports and exports into and out of Russia, stopped all advertising, and suspended all capital investment in the country,” the company continued, adding that it does not expect to make a profit in Russia, but if it does, it will donate the money to humanitarian relief organizations.
Nestlé’s claim that it is only staying in Russia due to a desire to provide essential supplies is one that has also been made by other companies like PepsiCo and Mondelez, the brand that makes Oreos and Ritz crackers.
Still, many have accused those big businesses of acting in their own interests and refusing to fully stop operating in Russia because they do not want to cut off the potential for future business.
Speaking to France’s Parliament Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — who also took aim at Nestlé over the weekend — furthered his demands for foreign companies to pull out of Russia, referring to French companies that remain in the country as “sponsors” of the invasion.
“They must stop financing the murders of children and women,” he added.
Updates On The Ground
Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, battles continue to rage across the region.
On Wednesday, Russian forces launched more airstrikes on the capital Kyiv, sending a bombardment of rockets down on a residential area. According to reports, the attacks caused widespread damage but few casualties.
Russia has also persisted in its efforts to cut off essential humanitarian channels. A video posted by Ukrainian authorities Wednesday showed Russian forces had bombed a key bridge used to deliver aid in the city of Chernihiv, cutting it off from the highway connecting it to Kyiv.
In other areas, the Russian military has blocked convoys of refugees from fleeing stricken cities. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told reporters Wednesday that in a village west of Mariupol, Russian soldiers seized 11 buses and their drivers, all of whom she said are now being held “hostage.”
Ukrainian forces, however, have been launching counterattacks around the southern cities of Kherson and Mykolaiv. In Mykolaiv, specifically, outlets have reported that Ukrainian forces delayed a potential Russian attack on the crucial port of Odesa, though many lives were lost.
Some military analysts even went as far as to say that some ground around Mykolaiv has been recaptured.
As western assessments continue to show Russia’s forces stalling in most of Ukraine, concerns over the possibility of a new front being opened along the border of Belarus have persisted. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military warned that there are signs of Russian and Belarusian military equipment being moved across Belarus and building up along the border.
With the logjams, there are also worries that Russia will result to using unconventional deadly weapons. That fear was heightened Russia’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, refused to say the country would not use nuclear weapons while speaking to CNN Tuesday night. He stated that the nukes would be used only if there was an “existential threat” to Russia.
As Russia continues to escalate its attacks and rhetoric, the U.S. and its allies have countered by ramping up their response, taking a number of actions Wednesday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance will be doubling its battlegroups deployed in Eastern Europe. Poland’s Interior Minister also wrote on Twitter that the country has “expelled 45 Russian spies pretending to be diplomats.”
On the U.S. side, Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally declared that members of the Russian armed forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, and President Joe Biden is set to announce more sanctions Wednesday evening when he lands in Brussels for a summit.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)
Russia Takes Over 900 Azovstal Fighters Prisoner as Mariupol Surrenders
Ukraine said the soldiers successfully completed their mission, but the fall of Mariupol represents a strategic win for Putin.
Azovstal Waves the White Flag
Russia’s foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that it had captured 959 Ukrainians from the Azovstal steelworks, where besieged soldiers have maintained the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol for weeks.
A ministry spokesperson said in a statement that 51 were being treated for injuries, and the rest were sent to a former prison colony in the town of Olenivka in a Russian-controlled area of Donetsk.
The defense ministry released videos of what it claimed were Ukrainian fighters receiving care at a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk. In one, a soldier tells the camera he is being treated “normally” and that he is not being psychologically pressured, though it is unclear whether he is speaking freely.
It was unclear if any Ukrainians remained in Azovstal, but Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, said in a statement Wednesday that the “commanders of the highest level” were still hiding in the plant.
Previously, estimates put the number of soldiers inside Azovstal around 1,000.
Ukraine officially gave up Mariupol on Monday, when the first Azovstal fighters began surrendering.
Reuters filmed dozens of wounded Ukrainians being driven away in buses marked with the Russian pro-war “Z” symbol.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said in a Tuesday statement that the Ukrainian prisoners would be swapped in an exchange for captured Russians. But numerous Russian officials have signaled that the Ukrainian soldiers should be tried.
Mariupol Falls into Russian Hands
After nearly three months of bombardment that left Mariupol in ruins, Russia’s combat mission in the city has ended.
The sprawling complex of underground tunnels, caverns, and bunkers beneath Azovstal provided a defensible position for the Ukrainians there, and they came to represent the country’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression for many spectators.
Earlier this month, women, children, and the elderly were evacuated from the plant.
The definitive capture of Mariupol, a strategic port city, is a loss for Ukraine and a boon for Russia, which can now establish a land bridge between Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists. The development could also free up Russian troops around Mariupol to advance on the East, while additional reinforcements near Kharkiv descend from the north, potentially cutting off Ukrainian forces from the rest of the country.
The Ukrainian military has framed events in Mariupol as at least a partial success, arguing that the defenders of Azovstal completed their mission by tying down Russian troops and resources in the city and giving Ukrainians elsewhere more breathing room.
It claimed that doing so prevented Russia from rapidly capturing the city of Zaporizhzhia further to the west.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (BBC)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)
Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished
The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Settlers Get Ready to Move in
On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.
“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.
The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.
The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.
In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”
“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.
Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land
On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.
Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.
The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”