Colorado companies are pulling out of Russia as sanctions and the invasion of Ukraine deepen


A growing number of Colorado companies are cutting services in Russia – at least temporarily – to take a stand against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Western Union became the latest to do so when it said on Thursday it would suspend operations in Russia and Belarus.

“We have thoroughly evaluated internal and external considerations including the consequences for our valued teammates, partners and customers,” the Denver-based company said in a statement.

Corporations across the U.S., from fast-food operators to major airlines, have stopped doing business in and around Russia as the conflict stretches into its third week. The moves by private industry add to economic pain inflicted by sanctions imposed by Western governments meant to pressure Putin as civilian casualties mount. President Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. is also banning imports of Russian oil. That move has led to higher gas prices across the nation.

Many businesses are likely responding to pressure from customers and employees and trying to safeguard their brands’ reputations, said Sanjai Bhagat, a professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business.

“Their employees and their customers and their other stakeholders might expect them to do the right thing,” Bhagat said. “It could also be the case that the company managers are taking a long view of this … to be perceived in the marketplace as being socially responsible in this case.” 

In addition to Western Union, Crocs, the Broomfield-based apparel company, said it’s pausing e-commerce and retail operations in Russia, and won’t be importing goods there, either.

“Our commitment to doing the right thing is unwavering. Our hearts are with all those enduring this crisis and we hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine,” CEO Andrew Rees said in a statement yesterday.

Meanwhile, Lumen, a Broomfield-based telecommunications firm that provides internet services, pulled out of Russia citing security concerns.

“We have not yet experienced network disruptions, but given the increasingly uncertain environment and the heightened risk of state action, we took this move to ensure the security of our and our customers’ networks, as well as the ongoing integrity of the global Internet,” Lumen said on its website this week

Arguably, some of these moves could hurt ordinary Russian civilians before they have any influence on military outcomes in Ukraine.“I don't think any of us have any negative animus towards Russians citizens,” said CU’s Bhagat. “The economic sanctions, the financial sanctions, are clearly geared towards having a negative enough impact on the Russian economy, such that their leader would reconsider his military invasion of Ukraine, but that remains to be seen.”