The Mulliez family, owners of the Decathlon, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and Jules chains, are resisting calls from the President and the Foreign Minister of Ukraine to close its extensive operations in Russia.

“If Auchan ignores the 139 Ukrainian children assassinated during the month since Russia’s invasion, we should ignore Auchan and all its products,” Foreign Minister Dymytro Kouleba said on Twitter after Auchan said it would continue trading.

Auchan had said it would continue to meet the essential food needs of civilian populations, referring to both Russia and Ukraine.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Auchan said: “Operating in Ukraine and Russia for more than 15 years, Auchan Retail can only share the will of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as he recently expressed it before the French Parliament, to strongly call for a stop to the fighting and to find the means for a quick peace.

“Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that the inhabitants of our countries of operation have access to good quality food at an affordable price and thus meet the essential food needs of the civilian population.

“This is why, despite the war in Ukraine, we are still active in that country. We are one of the last Western companies still present in Ukraine. Our stores and e-commerce activities remain open and our logistics ensure a regular supply. This is made possible by the extraordinary work of our 6,000 Ukrainian employees (3,000 of whom are directly in the combat zones) who support the population and show unfailing courage in maintaining the food chain.

“Our 30,000 Russian employees are doing the same job to be as close as possible to a population that has no personal responsibility in the outbreak of this war. Abandoning our employees, their families and our customers is not the choice we have made. As French President Emmanuel Macron has said, “we are not at war with the Russian people”.

“Closing our activities in Russia would be considered as a premeditated bankruptcy leading to an expropriation that would strengthen the Russian economic and financial ecosystem, would put our employees and their families in great precarity and would deprive, in a period of high inflation, the population of the services of a discounter distributor, which has been operating in the country for 20 years.

“Since the beginning of the war, we have stopped our investments in Auchan Russia which functions in total autarky (autonomy). Auchan Russia is currently not making any profit and, in the current context, is forecasting losses for 2022.”

Foreign Minister Kouleba riposted: “Apparently job losses in Russia are more important than deaths in Ukraine.”

Decathlon in Fontvieille Maximilian Brodie

The Mulliez family is the biggest foreign employer in Russia, with 77,500 workers. Ten percent of its revenues are generated in the country and the Mulliez chains are a major contributor to the Russian economy.

Philippe Zimmermann, a spokesman for Adeo, the holding company for Leroy Merlin, the hardware and timber products branch of the business, told La Voix du Nord newspaper that closing the business would be a gift to the Russian regime and strengthen the war.

Decathlon and Jules are both represented in Fontvieille.