The CEO of SPI Group, maker of Stolichnaya vodka, said his company has been unfairly singled out by the LGBT community in an interview with journalist Michelangelo Signorile.
“Stoli has been a friend of the LGBT community and has been an opponent of the Russian government,” Val Mendeleev said. “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.”
Bars across the world have removed Stolichnaya vodka from their menus to protest new Russian laws banning public gay demonstrations and pro-gay speech.
Mendeleev says some of SPI Group’s operations are still in Russia, but that constitutes a “tiny” proportion of the Luxembourg-based company. Most of SPI’s vodka is produced in Latvia.
The company and its founder, Yuri Scheffler, have been struggling with Russia since the Russian government tried to seize the company in 2001.
Both Scheffler and Mendeleev are “ex-Russians,” and Scheffler is still wanted by the Russian government on charges of threatening an official, stemming from the dispute over Stolichnaya.