Some US gay bars have reportedly stopped selling Stolichnaya

Some US gay bars have reportedly stopped selling Stolichnaya

The CEO of Stolichnaya owner SPI Group has come out in support of gay and transgender people, branding new Russian laws against homosexuals as “dreadful”.

In an open letter to the global lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community yesterday (25 July), SPI head Val Mendeleev said the vodka brand “fully supports and endorses your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia”. “As a company that encourages transparency and fairness, we are upset and angry,” he said.

Last month, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, signed a law banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward people under 18, sparking international criticism and fears of an anti-gay agenda. Putin also signed a law that allows police to arrest and detain gay foreigners for up to 14 days before expelling them from the country. 

According to reports yesterday, some gay bars in American city Chicago have pulled Stolichnaya from shelves because of its association with Russia.

However, in yesterday's letter, Mendeleev thanked the LGBT community for adopting Stolichnaya “as their vodka of preference”, while maintaining that the brand has no connection to the Russian Government. 

“The Russian Government has no ownership interest or control over the Stoli brand that is privately owned by SPI Group, headquartered in Luxembourg in the heart of Western Europe,” he said.

SPI's Stolichnaya is made using Russian ingredients and bottled in Latvia, Mendeleev said.

SPI bought the Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya trademarks, along with 41 other brands, from state-owned Soyuzplodoimport in 1997. However, the Russian Federation regained the rights within its borders and in 2002 released Stolichnaya in Russia under its own label. It claims SPI illegally bought the rights at far below market value by taking advantage of the chaos of the Soviet Union's breakup.