Massachusetts Finding Ways To Divest From Russia

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Russia invaded Ukraine last week — and many Bay State entities are responding with divestment.

Academia, private businesses, and local government have taken actions to show their disdain for Russia’s actions.

That includes the regional government of Plymouth County, which has more than half a million people.

The county’s retirement board decided earlier this week that it would investigate its investments and divest of any holdings with ties to Russia.

The retirement board is responsible for managing the county’s pension system; it covers both town employees and county employees in the region. 

Plymouth County commissioner Jared Valanzola told NewBostonPost that he welcomes the move.

“Like many, I have been shocked, saddened, and horrified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Valanzola told NewBostonPost in an email message. “They’ve indiscriminately bombed civilians, churches, a holocaust memorial, and freedom square. I am pleased the retirement board is looking into their investment portfolio and support divesting from Russia as a show of support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia’s belligerent action.”

Private businesses are also responding to the invasion with their own divestment.

In New Hampshire, the state-run liquor and wine outlets will no longer sell Russian vodka. While Massachusetts doesn’t have state-run liquor outlets, some privately owned liquor stores have voluntarily decided to stop selling Russian liquor.

A pair of liquor stores in Worcester, Massachusetts are no longer selling products with Russian roots in response to the invasion:  McGovern’s Greendale Liquor and O’Hara’s Wine and Liquors. The same is true of the Total Wine & More location in Natick. And in Framingham, Massachusetts, Route 9 Wine and Spirits has pulled all of its Russian liquor off its shelves, according to CBS Boston. Plus, Lukes Liquors is no longer selling Russian liquor at its Rockland, Canton, and Plymouth locations. 

“We support the Ukrainians,” O’Hara’s owner Jimmy Vasiliadis told Spectrum News. “Anything Russian, any products, should not be on our shelves until they get the point that this is not the way to resolve issues.”

The Massachusetts Package Store put out a list of alcoholic beverages from Russia, in case people want to boycott them. Those products include:


Russian Standard Vodka
Beluga Noble Russian Vodka
Russian Standard Platinum Vodka
Baikal Vodka
Baltika (Beer)
Nevskoe Imperial (Beer)
Ochakovo (Beer)
Starka (whisky)
Samogon (Russian Moonshine)
Polugar (Russian Gin)
Kuban-Vino (Wine)
Abrau-Durso (Sparkling Wine)


At Bazaar on Cambridge, a grocery store in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, Russian products are being phased out.

The store plans to sell the Russian products it already has but has no plans to restock those products.

“I’m hoping that this is going to end. I am for peace. Every war is disaster. Simple people are always suffering. We know that and it’s not right no matter what,” Bazaar on Cambridge co-owner Sabina Roytman told WBZ Radio.

Even the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has taken action against Russia. It notified the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow last week that it is terminating the MIT Skoltech Program.

Under the program, MIT recruited students and faculty to the Russian university, hosted Skoltech students at MIT, and let MIT instructors teach and conduct research at it.

MIT posted a statement on its web site explaining the move:


In light of the unacceptable military actions against Ukraine by the Russian government, MIT President L. Rafael Reif, in consultation with senior leadership, determined that MIT’s relationship with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) must end.

On February 25th, 2022, MIT sent notice to Skoltech that MIT is exercising its right to terminate the MIT Skoltech Program.

This step is a rejection of the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine. We take it with deep regret because of our great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with.

Though we must end the relationship, we are proud of MIT’s work with Skoltech and the research it has produced over the past decade. We affirm our steadfast belief in our colleagues at Skoltech: They are fellow scholars who have devoted themselves to an ethos of openness and who have contributed their own expertise and knowledge to build a unique and pioneering academic center in Russia.

This decision has direct impacts on principal investigators (PIs) at MIT who have been leading Skoltech program projects, and on their students. The Institute is in close communication with the PIs to offer guidance and to make sure that the students involved can complete their research and academic work without interruption.


The anti-Russia actions come at a time when there are pushes in the Massachusetts Legislature for greater divestment from Russia.

State Representative Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate), for example, filed a bill (HD.4886) last week that would cut Russian exports off from Massachusetts. 

“The purchase and/or consumption by any and all consumers and entities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of any and all product made in Russia is banned henceforth commencing immediately,” the bill says.

The bill has 10 co-sponsors with varying political ideologies. They include progressive state representatives like Michelle DuBois (D-Brockton) and Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge), as well as Republican state representatives like David DeCoste (R-Norwell) and Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk). (Connolly is a self-identified democratic socialist.)

Kearney, a U.S. Naval Reserve Officer, thinks the bill is a way to send a strong message to Russia.

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an attack on democracy everywhere,” Kesrney said in a written statement. “As with so many Americans today, my thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainians who are forced to suffer through this invasion which is a clear violation of international law.”

No action has been taken on the bill.

Additionally, a bipartisan group of 58 state legislators asked state treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office to divest the state pension fund from Russian businesses.

“By invading Ukraine, Putin has shown a blatant disregard for the basic principles of freedom, sovereignty, and respect for international law,” legislators wrote in a letter to Goldberg. “Continuing to invest our state pension funds in Russian companies constitutes tacit approval of Russia’s deplorable actions. Divesting our holdings in these companies, however, will send a clear message that the Commonwealth condemns Putin’s actions and supports the people of Ukraine, who have inspired the world with their incredible acts of heroism by standing firm against Russian aggression.”

However, Goldberg told the legislators that she cannot do that unless a law passes directing her to do it.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with you on this important issue and support your efforts to divest state pension funds from Russian companies,” Goldberg told the legislators in a letter, according to MassLive. “Should you decide to act upon legislation to this effect, my office is happy to provide technical assistance.”

In response, Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) filed a bill called “An Act To Combat Unjust Acts of War by Russia (SD.3025) on Wednesday, March 2. His bill directs the treasurer’s office to divest the state pension fund from all companies that have ties to Russia. 

Tarr’s office could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.


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