It is a painful choice for companies based in countries like France and Italy, which do extensive business in Russia and are keeping their sights on future trade once the war is over. However, many corporations with big stakes in Russia have pulled out and are enduring the hit to their bottom lines.

A man in a Russian military uniform stood at the entrance of a large home improvement store in Poland’s capital, saluting shoppers and thanking them for funding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

His chest bedecked with medals, Polish activist Arkadiusz Szczurek was protesting at a French-owned retailer Leroy Merlin store in Warsaw as shoppers flocked to buy plants and gardening equipment with spring’s arrival. Some shoppers turned around to go elsewhere. Others were indifferent or irritated.

“Millions of Ukrainians are forced to flee the bombs and shooting, (and) people are dying,” Ukrainian activist Natalia Panchenko said at the rally last weekend. “But they keep doing business and see no problem with financing the war.”

It marked the latest protest in Poland over Leroy Merlin’s decision to keep operating 112 stores in Russia, even as many other Western companies have suspended operations there. Leroy Merlin wouldn’t comment other than to say it’s not responsible for the war. It’s among the foreign companies with a large footprint in Russia that have had to choose between taking the financial hit of leaving or face damage to their reputation by staying.

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