Top Ukrainian official will ask Congress to punish American companies still operating in Russia
A senior member of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government will ask the United States Congress to punish American companies that pay taxes in Russia.
Davyd Arakhamia – the parliamentary head of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People political party – will send a letter to Capitol Hill lawmakers requesting that they expand the economic consequences levied on Russia as well as those who continue to conduct business there in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Arakhamia wants Congress to “delist from the U.S. stock exchange all corporations that pay taxes in Russia. The letter also asks the U.S. government to freeze the assets of all Russian oligarchs on the Forbes 100 list if they did not denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin within 48 hours,” according to the document, which was obtained by The Washington Post on Monday.
“The taxes that these companies pay in Russia finance bombs that kill our military and innocent civilians, including children,” Arakhamia, who serves as the chairman of the U.S.-Ukraine caucus, wrote. “We ask you to consider action of giving these companies a choice: stop paying money to [the] Russian government, or get delisted from the U.S. stock market.”
The Post explained that “dozens of firms on the U.S. stock exchange retain operations in Russia — though many have pulled out over the past week — and pay billions of dollars to Russia’s government in taxes, according to Maryan Zablotskyy, a member of the Ukrainian parliament’s finance committee who spearheaded the effort.”
Opinions vary, however, on what impact such a drastic move would have on curtailing Putin’s war.
While numerous American companies have already severed their ties with Russia, many others, such as fast-food chains and beverage giants, have not.
Congressional anti-corruption adviser Paul Massaro told the Post that the heavy sanctions that have been levied on Russia’s major financial institutions are making it very challenging for American companies to engage in commerce between their locations in Russia and elsewhere around the world, forcing them to consider closing up shop.
“The combination is both the pressure from a morality perspective, to avoid being seen as supporting [Russia], but also the sanctions make it really hard to do business,” Massaro said.
Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, warned that encouraging multinational conglomerates to intentionally not pay their taxes could set a dangerous precedent.
“I think that would be a really hard one to do,” Baker said in comments to the Post. “It’s probably not the route — I’m guessing here, but there’s probably a lot of legal obstacles.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Member of Parliament Maria Mezentseva disagreed. She supports Arakhamia’s letter primarily because of the indiscriminate attacks on Ukrainian civilians by Russia’s invading forces.
“Our pain is enormous; we are losing people every day. … We’re facing a humanitarian catastrophe,” Mezentseva said. “This will obviously touch upon Russia and taxpayers and the Russian regime in general.”
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