Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, says it is pulling out of Russia — the latest in a series of moves by global music companies taken in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Effective immediately, we are suspending all operations in Russia and closing our offices there,” the company says in a statement sent to Billboard on Tuesday (March 8). “We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible.”
The action by Universal Music follows moves in the last week by music streaming platforms to exit Russia, including Spotify, YouTube and Chinese video app TikTok. The streaming platforms have expressed concern about a new law enacted on Friday in Russia that punishes individuals for spreading “false information” about the military conflict, which the government of Vladimir Putin has portrayed as a “special military operation.”
Spotify said last week that it was closing its Russian office “indefinitely” and global promoter Live Nation said it would not promote any shows in the country for the foreseeable future. The music companies have been unable to import physical product into the country because of economic sanctions, and the ability to make money in the country became tougher after credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express said this weekend that they were ceasing operations in Russia as well.
A spokesperson for Universal would not say how many employees the company has in Russia, nor whether they will be terminated or furloughed.
UMG said it was “adhering to international sanctions and, along with our employees and artists, have been working with groups from a range of countries (including the U.S., U.K., Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary) to support humanitarian relief efforts to bring urgent aid to refugees in the region.”
The label’s Russian subsidiary, based in Moscow, has been operating in the country since the mid-1990s.
Industry sources at other music companies say announcements will likely be made this week about their operations in Russia as well.