Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Alexei Zimin, a Russian London-based chef, realised that the large “Z” outside his fashionable Soho restaurant, Zima, could be a liability.
Until a little more than a month ago, Alexei would only post beautifully curated photos of his cooking on Instagram. But now he’s taken to post anti-war protest songs and rallying his tens of thousands of followers to focus on Ukraine. Before the war, Zima, which serves shuba, borsch, stroganoff and berry infused vodkas, was always fully booked. After 24 February, that changed: it didn’t matter that most of the kitchen staff were Ukrainian – or that Zima had pledged to donate 10% of its revenue to the Red Cross. The restaurant faced a flood of cancellations and started to receive abusive phone calls.
Zimin’s story is just one that the Guardian’s Archie Bland encountered while reporting on the intended and unintended effects of the recent wave of protests against all things Russian. He tells Nosheen Iqbal that while history shows that boycotts can have a real impact, they’re also a blunt instrument.
The Russian journalist Leonid Ragozin, who was in Moscow when the war began, has been watching the effect that measures such as sanctions and boycotts are having on ordinary citizens. He says that although it’s still early to gauge their lasting impact, there is a risk of further isolating supporters of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and entrenching their beliefs.
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