Russian oil company Lukoil took a stand opposite of Russian President Vladimir Putin when it called for a “fast resolution” and “immediate cessation” of military conflict in Ukraine. In perhaps an ominous sign, the statement posted on its website cannot be accessed because the site is down.
Lukoil is a giant in the industry, employing over 100,000 workers and producing over 2% of the world’s oil. On Thursday, its board of directors bravely posted the statement calling for “resolution through the negotiation process and diplomatic means” Thursday.
The statement, which unquestionably drew the ire of the Russian government, also expressed its “deepest sympathy” for people affected by the invasion. While some Russian business leaders outside the country have condemned the military action and called for it to end, Lukoil’s statement from within the country is a surprise to many observers.
The company is among the hardest hit by the waves of international sanctions levied against Russia since the unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Lukoil’s market value fell 99% on the London Stock Exchange this week and is now reportedly being traded as a penny stock. Its shares are down 90% in US trading.
Reports also say Lukoil’s CEO, Vagit Alekperov, has lost an estimated $6.9 billion in wealth in the ten days since the Russian invasion.
Despite the West’s punitive sanctions, it explicitly targets the Russian energy sector for fear of severely harming European countries that depend heavily on Moscow for oil and natural gas.
The company has become the focal point for boycotts in the 11 primarily northeastern US states where it operates over 200 gas stations and one city has gone after it directly. Newark, New Jersey lawmakers voted unanimously this week to pull the licenses of two area Lukoil stations in protest of the Russian invasion, though the stations are locally owned.
The executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association, Sal Risalvato, called the move by Newark politicians “nothing more than political theater” and said all station owners condemn the Russian invasion.
There is also a growing push by Washington lawmakers to block the import of Russian oil, though only 3% of US oil imports come from Russia and the move would be largely symbolic.
Meanwhile, the Russian ruble has nosedived and the Moscow stock exchange was shuttered for several days. The Kremlin has banned Russians from moving cash out of the country and banks are reeling from lines of customers withdrawing their deposits.