Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s confectionery company on Friday announced plans to shut down his key asset in Russia, a candy factory, after a barrage of criticism at home for his maintaining business activities on rival ground.
The Western-backed leader’s business empire ranges from car to media holdings, but his most valuable asset is the Roshen confectionery empire, which includes five plants in Ukraine, as well as in Lithuania and Hungary.
Ranked by the Forbes Ukraine Web site as the sixth-richest man in the nation, worth US$858 million, Poroshenko, 51, has garnered the nickname “the chocolate king.”
His most controversial asset is based in the Russian city of Lipetsk, where Poroshenko bought a local confectionary plant in 2002.
Since 2013, the volume of production at the Lipetsk factory has plunged threefold, coinciding with the rupture of ties between Ukraine and Russia.
After an uprising in Kiev ousted a pro-Russian leader, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s strategic Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea in March 2014 and supported a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that has since claimed about 10,000 lives.
Poroshenko promised to sell his Roshen empire, but failed to follow through, citing a lack of foreign interest.
He passed his company’s shares to a trust firm for management.
The confectionary giant, whose name is based on Poroshenko’s, said in a statement that it would halt the Lipetsk plant’s operations for political and economic reasons, which include Moscow’s ban on Roshen imports since 2013.
“Roshen corporation halts manufacturing activity of the Lipetsk confectionery plant,” said the company, which is rated among the top 20 companies in the industry and supplies its products to more than 30 countries.
It also accused Moscow of discrediting the Roshen plant’s activity in the Russian media, as well as encouraging the local authorities to put pressure on its shops across the country.
Poroshenko was repeatedly criticized at home for maintaining businesses in Russia, despite his claims that Moscow was an “aggressor.”
Roshen said it was impossible to sell its Lipetsk branch after Russian investigators impounded the factory’s property in April 2015.
The company said it planned to cease production at the site by April.
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