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Calls for UFI’s Russian members to be suspended

Russian members of UFI should be “suspended” from the organisation in response to Putin’s war on Ukraine, a global conference has heard.

A special session was held at International Confex on Tuesday to highlight how eventprofs can help support those suffering the atrocities committed on behalf of the Kremlin.

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, joined ExpoPlatform CEO Tanya Pinchuk to speak at #EventsWithUkraine having already led efforts to make an impact in our industry.

It was highlighted how a number of associations and businesses have stepped up to provide funding, humanitarian aid and take measures against Russian-linked individuals and enterprises.

Trevor Foley, managing director of tfconnect, spoke from the audience as he challenged UFI to suspend its members from Russia and told how he wrote to a number of event planners urging them to put pressure on the organisation.

He said: “Russian members should be suspended. I put a note out to Clarion, Informa, anyone that’s a British member – tell UFI what you think.

“When FIFA and the Paralympics committee tried to fudge the issue they were told that wasn’t acceptable. We effect every industry, every sector, we can do our bit.”

Nick Dugdale-Moore, UFI head of regions, would not be drawn on the global association’s positioning on the war. It was heard that a meeting would be held on Thursday to set out what steps could be taken against Russia.

He added: “We have members all around the world, this isn’t an issue we can decide independently – this is something that has to be ratified by our members. Our board of directors is our highest decision-making power to approve that.”

Doug Emslie, CEO of Tarsus Group, highlighted how SISO had decided to take a raft of measures to support Ukrainians while also banning Russian members from accessing the society’s events. It was also heard AEO was working to provide funding but stopped short of measures against individuals or businesses.

IMEX Group was the first major organiser to announce it would be suspending Russian businesses from its events. Carina told how they “didn’t feel it was right” to take money from those companies.

She said: “We want to make a stand about that. We also didn’t think it was right to give them a platform to benefit from the global exhibitions industry.

“We decided to suspend the participation of Russian state enterprises. We were very keen not to discriminate against Russian people, that’s why we wanted to limit it around Russian state enterprises.”

Tanya, who is originally from Ukraine, told the audience she was thankful for the stand Carina had decided to take with her organisation. But she warned that the invasion currently happening is a “disaster” for Russia as well.

She told how news operations in the country are like “George Orwell’s 1984” where civilians are under a “police state” which is “calling black white and white black”.

It comes after she launched the #EventsWithUkraine campaign calling on industry professionals to give support to forces fighting against Putin’s military and provide support to those impacted by the invasion. Tanya has also previously called on event directors to take a stand by banning or boycotting Russian businesses.

She added: “Sometimes I feel like a traitor being here and not fighting there. This is an example for the whole world how we can stand together to defend freedom, free speech and democracy.

“What’s happening now is an unexpected disaster. But it’s not a disaster just for Ukraine or the rest of the world, it’s a disaster for Russia as well. They are sending young boys to kill innocent civilians – a lot of innocent people in Ukraine are dying.

“This person can be stopped – that’s what we are trying to do by running our campaign. Now I feel like I made the right choice in joining the exhibitions industry. I think that we have a power to support protest. We as an industry here can reach out to any business internationally.”

Mykyta Fastovets, CTO and co-founder of ExpoPlatform, highlighted how measures against the Kremlin should let the Russian people know the cost of Putin’s actions.

It came in response to a point made in the audience that actions against businesses could be counterproductive as it may cut the possibility of information flow.

Mykyta, who is also originally from Ukraine, added: “These are things that (Russians) as an international community benefit from. This isn’t a punishment for you, but this effects your daily lives because your government has decided to break international rules, morals and standards.”

If you would like to help Ukraine in the fight against Putin’s war you can contribute with a donation to Ukrainian forces with a SWIFT bank transfer or the British Red Cross who are providing food and shelter to those in need.