Fourth-grade students in a city in the Moscow region were given New Year’s gifts in the form of sweets from the American confectionery giant Mars Inc. by a Chechen military special forces division, as a show of gratitude for their support.
Apti Alaudinov, the commander of the Akhmat special forces, said that children at the school had “for a long time” made trench candles and camouflage nets, written letters, and sent soft toys to the Akhmat militants fighting against Ukraine.
As seen in the photo published by the school, the children received sets of Mars sweets: Snickers, Twix, Bounty, and Milky Way.
Mars was one of the largest revenue generators and one of the top taxpayers in Russia in 2022. The company paid $99 million in profit tax and made $2.6 billion in revenue in 2022. Mars increased revenue volumes in 2022 by 20% compared to 2021 ($432 million).
In January 2023, Mars said it had scaled back some parts of its business in Russia and would refocus “efforts in Russia on our essential role in feeding the Russian people and pets.”
Considering that a large portion of Mars’ portfolio consists of chocolates and sweets and that they have not determined what products they consider “essential,” the statement can be considered as stretching the notion of essentiality beyond any reasonable definition.
Mars has approximately 6,000 employees in Russia. Despite its promise to scale back its operations and suspend all advertising activities in Russia, the company’s career page lists 100 open positions in Russia. Mars has not commented on questions regarding Russian law that obliges companies to deliver conscription notices to their employees.
In July 2023, TASS reported that Mars was under investigation for “possible financing of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” by Russian authorities in Moscow Oblast, as well as the company’s compliance with Russian tax laws. This was reported by citing anonymous law enforcement sources.
Allegedly, the investigation into Mars was made at the request of Vitaly Borodin (head of Russia’s Federal Project for Security and Anti-Corruption), who claimed, without evidence, that Mars funneled its Russian earnings to the Ukrainian military under the guise of humanitarian aid. Mars announced in May that it would be donating $13.5 million in aid to Ukraine.
In September 2023, the Ukrainian government designated Mars an “international sponsor of war” based on the company’s significant material contribution to the Kremlin’s war efforts.
A global coalition of civil society organizations, B4Ukraine, called on Mars to exit Russia and for the US government to issue a business advisory, warning US businesses of the growing legal, reputational, and financial risks of doing business in Russia.
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