The mayor of the subway has threatened to suspend the popular electronic scooter scheme if the Swedish company behind it does not do more to cut ties with Russia.
West England Mayor Dan Norris said he was deeply concerned that Stockholm-based Voi still has two major Russian shareholders who own millions of pounds in the company.
Labor politician Norris met with Voi Technology CEO Fredrik Helm in Bristol, where the scheme operates, to “tell” him about shareholders.
He warned that he would look elsewhere for suppliers of electronic scooters if he was not happy that the company was doing everything in its power to distance itself from investors.
Speaking after the meeting, Norris said: “People in the West of England want to know that Voi is not related to the bad things we hear about in Ukraine.
“Woe is a difficult call. It is very clear to me that I want the west of England to have minimal ties to the Russian regime. I accept that in this united world it is difficult to have zero involvement with Russia, but it is my job, knowing the power of feeling, to minimize these dubious ties wherever they are.
After the invasion of Ukraine, the investments in Voi of Russian businessmen Alexander Eliseev and Ilya Yushayev came into the spotlight.
Norris said: “I am not happy that these people are shareholders in Voi. I’m not happy that there is this connection and I want to end it. “
Men have not been sanctioned, but Norris said: “I believe that if you become very rich like these people, it is because [Russian] the state allows it, and probably Mr. Putin allows it, and that worries me.
“I hope they sell [their shares] fast. But they probably want to make as much money as they can. This is how capitalism works. But my opinion is that the sooner they leave, the better. Finally, other electronic scooters are available. ”
Voi electronic scooters can be found in British cities, including Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford and Liverpool, as well as throughout Europe.
Speaking at the same press conference, Helm said the Bristol scheme was by far the largest in the UK. There are already 4 million scooter trips and 250,000 unique users.
He said the two Russians, who together own just under 4% of the company, had ceded their voting rights to him, adding: “We are investigating what we can do by complying with Swedish law and shareholders’ rights. You can’t just take shares from an investor, they own the shares. “
Helm, who learned Russian in the Swedish armed forces and lived and worked in Russia, described the regime as “Putin and his bandits” and said that the day after Moscow invaded Ukraine, Voi had severed ties and would not take any future investments by Russians. But he added: “We can’t rewrite history.”
He said he spoke regularly with the two investors and said that in private they had clearly expressed their opposition to Putin and the invasion. Helm also warned Norris that he may find that other e-scooter companies have ties to Russia or other regimes that the mayor may not like.
The test of the electronic scooter in Bristol should last until November, after which it will be assessed whether it should continue. Norris said that if he was not happy with Voi’s actions, he would look for other suppliers.