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Drink up? Stoli isn’t even Russian, says company’s anti-Putin pro-gay CEO

Val Mendeleev, the CEO of SPI Group, the parent company of Stolichnaya vodka, has given an interview in which he labels himself and SPI’s owner, Yuri Scheffler, as “ex-Russians” who are against Putin’s anti-gay regime. Not only does Stoli support LGBT rights, Mendeleev says, but the company isn’t even based in Russia — its headquarters is in Luxembourg. Although Russian ingredients are used in their vodka, they are actively trying to change that to show solidarity with the gay community. 

“Stoli has been a friend of the LGBT community and has been an opponent of the Russian government,” Mendeleev says. “Stoli was singled out by the community with which we associated in a way that we don’t believe was appropriate. If you look at our relationship with the Russian government, we’ve been boycotted by the Russian government for the past 10 years. We’ve been threatened, raided. And now we are being boycotted by the LGBT community.

"We were forced to move our headquarters from Russia about 10 years ago. And this is because we have ongoing litigation with the Russian government about the ownership of the brand. So, we’re not a friend of the Russian government. We are not a Russian company. Stoli is not even allowed to be sold in Russia . . . [The Russian government] did manage to grab up the Russian Stoli brand and they have been trying to grab up the ownership of the global brand. But the international courts in London and Switzerland understand that this commercial dispute with the Russian government has political motives. Yuri Scheffler, in early 2000, when this whole thing started, was supporting political opposition to the new government that was installed there, and that basically started the whole dispute.”