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Nike and Lego still available in Russia despite brand exits

Nike and Lego still available in Russia despite brand exits Illustrative photo (getty images)

There are at least dozens of firms using grey market methods to deliver Western goods to Russia. For example, one such firm is owned by a Dutch citizen living in Russia. He supplies products from Nike, Lego, Reebok, and Emporio Armani, reports Reuters.

Nike left Russia shortly after the full-scale invasion. However, the brand's products are still available on Russian online stores. The goods are brought to Russia by Herinckx, a company owned by 40-year-old Dutch citizen Wijnand Herinckx, who resides in Moscow.

Both Nike and Lego told Reuters they did not authorize Herinckx to import their products into Russia.

By examining customs data, corporate records, internal company documents, and speaking with Herinckx himself, the agency learned how his business obtains branded goods, including Nike and Lego: he uses intermediaries who have no apparent connection to Russia as buyers, then ships the goods to Russia — often through Türkiye — and finally delivers them to retailers in Russia.

According to the analysis of customs data, at least dozens of firms similar to Herinckx use grey market methods to deliver Western goods to Russia.

The agency found no evidence that Herinckx is violating Western sanctions against Russia, which mostly pertain to industrial products that could be used to create weapons.

However, companies like Herinckx indirectly support the Russian economy. Customs data analyzed by Reuters showed, for instance, that the value of Nike goods imported into Russia plummeted by 81% in 2022 to $21 million but rebounded in 2023 to at least $74 million.

As global brands ceased sales or stopped exports due to the invasion, Russia allowed companies to import products from abroad without the trademark owner's permission. Russia stated that its so-called parallel imports amounted to over $70 billion in the past two years.

The presence of Western brands allows Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to "project a message that the war does not undermine the 'normal life' of the Russian middle class," said Sergei Guriev, a Russian economist and vice-rector of Sciences Po in Paris.

EU Special Representative for Sanctions David O'Sullivan said that the medium-term outlook for the Russian economy is very bleak, and the sanctions will have a significant effect next year.

On June 12, EU countries failed to agree on the 14th package of sanctions against Russia. This time, the obstacle was not Hungary but Germany.