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UPDATE: Koch Industries breaks silence
On Monday, Popular Information broke the news that Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch, continued to business in Russia through three wholly-owned subsidiaries. Hundreds of other companies have exited Russia as its military intensified attacks on Ukraine, including targeting civilians.
Koch Industries did not respond to multiple requests for comment. It attempted to let the story fade away without confirming or denying its activities in Russia. But Popular Information's report on Koch Industries was picked up in the New York Times, CBS News, Newsweek, Marketwatch, Daily Beast, and other outlets.
On Wednesday morning, Popular Information exposed how pundits and groups backed by Charles Koch were publicly advocating against economic sanctions on Russia — without disclosing their ties to Koch.
On Wednesday afternoon, Koch Industries finally spoke. It released a public statement from Koch Industries' COO, Dave Robertson. The statement confirmed that Koch Industries was still doing business in Russia. And it made clear that Koch Industries has no plans to stop.
Koch company Guardian Industries operates two glass manufacturing facilities in Russia that employ about 600 people. We have no other physical assets in Russia, and outside of Guardian, employ 15 individuals in the country. While Guardian’s business in Russia is a very small part of Koch, we will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them (which is what The Wall Street Journal has reported they would do). Doing so would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good.
This is an extraordinary public statement. Koch Industries is attempting to argue that continuing to operate in Russia is in the best interest of Ukraine and the Russian people. The company suggests that shuttering its massive glass manufacturing plants would benefit the Russian government. The implication is that the hundreds of companies that have left Russia are, in fact, empowering the Putin regime.
Koch Industries is also directly rejecting the explicit plea that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made in an address to the United States Congress on Wednesday. "All American companies must leave their market immediately because it is flooded with our blood," Zelensky said.
This is a defining moment for Koch Industries, the largest privately-held company in the United States, and Charles Koch, one of the most influential figures in American politics. Jane Mayer, who wrote a book chronicling the Koch network, said that statement revealed that "all Koch’s talk of rights and liberty means nothing… making money is what they value."
It will not soon be forgotten.
Popular Information is a three-person newsletter, but we can rattle the cages of the most powerful people in the world. That's because our work is not duplicated by any other media outlet. Prior to our report earlier this week, there was no reporting on Koch Industries' ongoing operations in Russia.
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