Since Russian forces began their offensive in Ukraine, there had been condemnation voiced from all corners of the globe. Many Western companies have shut down, or curtailed operations in Russia, and banking systems have shut down cash flows and frozen accounts.  Sanctions equal empty supermarket shelves and fewer comforts for Russian civilians while oligarchs lose access to their luxuries. Same storm; different boats.

What about the Ukrainian people, under pressure from Russian artillery, missiles, and mortar fire? Sanctions against Ukrainians come in the form of enemy soldiers in the streets, sheltering from indiscriminately lobbed munitions and cowering in fear at the sound of a jet overhead, not knowing if it’s theirs or the enemies’. Their lives are much more upended than any caught up in Russian sanctions.

A Helping Hand

Starlink Internet

In support of the Ukrainian people and their current struggle, many international companies have pledged their support in various ways. One of the more visible “helping hands” right now is Elon Musk’s Starlink systems. A division of SpaceX, Starlink consists of a constellation of satellites that allow for high-speed internet connection via receiver sets located on the ground. The receivers are self-contained and are not constrained by established internet cabling or cellular networks.

A batch of 60 Starlink test satellites stacked atop a Falcon 9 rocket, close to being put in orbit. (Official SpaceX photo)

The basic Starlink setup consists of an antenna, modem, cabling, and power supply. Kits cost around $500, and regular users pay $99 per month. Starlink terminals and services were made available for free to Ukraine, ostensibly in response to Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov’s Twitter request.

Lifesaving Medicines

Novo Nordisk, a multi-national pharmaceutical company, pledged its support with two months worth of diabetes and hemophilia medication for the Ukrainian people. Anyone who has paid attention to insulin over the last decade knows that a two-month supply is life-saving and very expensive. Stockpiles of the medicines are already in Ukraine, so they will not be hampered by uncertain supply channels.

Ceftriaxone image with the box removed and brightened. (Wikimedia Commons, Grook Da Oger)

Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, is donating 150,000 packages of ceftriaxone, trade name Rocephin. Rocephin is an antibiotic used to treat a number of bacterial infections. The World Health Organization lists ceftriaxone in its Model List of Essential Medicines. The Model list is considered the base level of medicines needed to provide priority health care to a population. In addition to the 150,000 packages, Roche has also pledged other types of medication for arthritis, diabetes, and blood-testing supplies. 

Philips, one of the world’s largest suppliers of CPAP machines, has provided a mobile hospital to Ukraine. Included with the 24-bed mobile hospital are diagnostic machines, patient monitors, and ultrasound devices. They are working with local authorities and relief agencies to provide mobile check-up stations near the Ukraine-Poland border, potentially providing emergency medical relief at or near the source.

Social Support

Uber, the ride-hailing app, has made its services available at the Ukraine-Poland border. It is offering free rides to select cities in Poland, aimed at bringing refugees out of the war-torn area. They also operate as couriers for NGO donations.

Airbnb has opened up for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine through their nonprofit arm. Airbnb.org provides free temporary housing to those displaced by the crisis. Representatives of Airbnb have been in contact with surrounding countries, coordinating with and providing support to governments facing waves of refugees.

For The People

Etsy, a (perhaps) unlikely name on the global stage, has waived fees for Ukrainian sellers through their online marketplace. Listing fee, transaction fee, and processing fee balances for Ukrainian sellers currently approach roughly $4M. Waiving fees may be small potatoes compared to Philips setting up mobile hospitals. But that is not the case for the Ukrainian civilians who now have a little more money in their pockets when they have to flee from a war they had no part in starting.

Numerous businesses have pledged money. Some of that money will go directly to Ukraine, some will be funneled into organizations like the Red Cross and UNICEF, others will be distributed directly from the company. Some have pledged percentages of sales, and others, like Lego, have posted corporate donations in the millions. Many companies are setting up employee contribution funds, taking donations from employees, and matching them up to certain dollar amounts.

Organized Withdrawal

Many companies, however, have taken a different tack. They have either suspended operations in Russia or have stopped shipments to and dealings with Russian businesses. Amazon has ceased shipping to Russia and Belarus, removed Prime access for Russian and Belarusian subscribers, and is not accepting new customers from either country.

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Mcdonald’s has shut down operations in Russia but is still paying Russian employees. In addition, the Ronald McDonald House Charities are still operational in Russia and have been working with Ukrainian and international aid representatives to use RMHC facilities for humanitarian efforts.

McDonald’s Moscow Baumanskaya 2022-03. (Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)

Starbucks closed the doors on 100 stores in Russia. Coca-Cola has suspended operations there. American Express cards do not work in Russia anymore, nor do those issued in Russia. Goldman Sachs has closed up shop in Russia, and Heineken is no longer on any menu.

Global sentiment against the Russian invasion of Ukraine is high right now. Multi-billion dollar corporations packing up their toys and leaving the playground will deal a major blow to Russia, especially the work-a-day people. That Big Mac they will not have for dinner will be remembered. No venti-grande caramel-frappuccino in the morning for that long commute to work will make a lasting impression.

Very soon enough, people with enough political sway will have had their AMEX cards declined when they order Cokes for the kids and Heinekens for themselves that they will question their glorious leader. Maybe enough of the proletariat working class will have become disenfranchised with their losses in the face of someone else’s hubris. If they will not rise up in the protection of Ukrainian civilians caught up in this war, maybe they will for their own creature comforts.