Americans Seeing Collateral Damage as Officials Look to Punish Russia

Newark, New Jersey's city council voted Wednesday to suspend operating licenses for local Lukoil gas stations because of their Russian ties, even though the move will primarily hurt Americans.

The council made the move because Lukoil is based in Moscow, but according to the Associated Press, the Newark stations have local owners and receive their gas from a local refinery. This follows a recent trend of U.S. cities and states trying to sever ties with companies perceived to be connected to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, even companies like Stoli vodka that are no longer tied to the country.

The decision to suspend the licenses was unanimous, according to the AP. The decision must be approved by the city's business administrator before it can go into effect.

Council member Anibal Ramos Jr. sponsored the resolution, telling the AP the council was "horrified by the images we are seeing" of the violence in Ukraine. "Today, Newark is standing in solidarity with a number of countries around the world who are supporting democracy and taking sanctions against the Russian Federation," he said.

However, Roger Verma, one of the Lukoil franchise owners in Newark, told CBS he does not understand how this will help the situation.

"I stand with Ukraine, and I'm full in support of Russian sanctions. However, I am baffled and confused how shutting down an American-based small-business owner is sending a message to support," he said.

Lukoil was founded in 1991 as a state-owned company, then went private in 1993. In 2000, it acquired Getty Oil, which brought locations to the U.S. There are currently Lukoil locations in more than 30 countries, its website says.

In a statement, Lukoil's board of directors expressed its "deepest concerns about the tragic events in Ukraine," adding that the company will continue to operate in all the countries where it has locations.

"Calling for the soonest termination of the armed conflict, we express our sincere empathy for all victims, who are affected by this tragedy," it said. "We strongly support a lasting ceasefire and a settlement of problems through serious negotiations and diplomacy."

Ramos told CBS the council hopes the resolution is temporary "in the sense that, you know, the Russian Federation ends this invasion of Ukraine."

But Verma added that even if it is temporary, it will still have a strong impact on the business.

"We're just coming out of COVID, where we were totally almost broke," he said. "This is gonna put us out of business."

The offices of Ramos and Newark Business Administrator Eric Pennington did not immediately respond to Newsweek's requests for comment.

Update 03/04/22, 11:30 a.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Lukoil, gas station, Moscow
The Newark City Council in New Jersey voted to suspend operating licenses for Russia-based Lukoil stations even though the franchises are owned by locals. Above, the Lukoil logo at one of its stations in Moscow on April 16, 2021. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images