Virginia, Montgomery Co. will remove Russian-made vodka brands from shelves

Sunday afternoon, Virginia announced its state-run alcoholic beverage stores would take Russian-based vodka brands off store shelves. Later on Sunday, Maryland’s Montgomery County decided it would do the same.

In Virginia, the pressure to pull the bottles started to build on Saturday.

“In the spirit of Gov. Youngkin’s call for decisive action in support of Ukraine, Virginia ABC is removing Russian-sourced vodka brands from our store shelves,” the store said Sunday via an email blast and in a Facebook post.

The seven brands that will no longer be available at Virginia ABC stores are:

  • Beluga
  • Hammer & Sickle
  • Imperia
  • Mamont
  • Organika
  • Russian Standard
  • ZYR

The agency, which runs nearly 400 stores across the state, said that brands with Russian names but which are based elsewhere, such as Stolichnaya and Smirnoff, will remain on shelves.

The state has a monopoly on retail liquor sales, so the decision to remove these brands will affect every store throughout the commonwealth.

Youngkin said Saturday that the “invasion of Ukraine by Soviet dictator Vladimir Putin cannot stand,” before announcing a series of actions that would cut Virginia’s ties with Russia.

Those included ordering a review to determine if any state tax dollars are spent on goods and services from Russian-based companies, and asking the cities of Norfolk and Roanoke to end sister city partnerships with Russian cities.

Youngkin also wants the Virginia Retirement System Board of Trustees and university endowment funds to divest any holdings it has of the Russian ruble, and any securities it has in Russian companies.

Changes in Maryland

As the news in Virginia broke, stories of a similar effort started to bubble up across the Potomac River in Maryland.

UFCW Local 1994, the union that represents public employees in Maryland, asked Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and the county’s Alcohol Beverage Services to “cease stocking Russian-brand vodka and other products in our county’s retail liquor stores.”

The county’s stores stock a number of the same brands noted in Virginia’s decision.

“We don’t want to touch the stuff right now,” union President Gino Renne said in a news release.

“Ukrainians are being hunted and killed by the government that Russian brands represent. These bottles should come off the shelves today. It is a small gesture of support and an opportunity to educate the public on what is happening when they see these brands are gone.”

By Sunday evening, Elrich released a statement saying Montgomery County would stop selling Russian-made alcohol.

“In solidarity with the people of Ukraine, all products produced in Russia have been removed,” the county leader said.

In addition, restaurants and bars in the county, who must order their stock from the ABS, will not be able to order the Russian-made products. But the county’s cessation order does not prevent those locations from selling vodka they already have on hand.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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