Update: As of late March 2, Buhler Industries has announced Konstantin Babkin, a potential target of Canadian government sanctions, has been dropped from the company’s board of directors. Read more here.
Buhler Industries, the Manitoba-based farm equipment maker that is 97 per cent owned by Russian manufacturer Rostselmash, has launched a fundraiser to support the Red Cross in Ukraine.
“Buhler Industries Inc. continues to stand with Ukraine and condemns the actions of the Russian Federation. Our hearts are with those affected in Ukraine and around the world. This is an injustice that no person or people should have to endure. Farming across the world, and specifically in Western Canada has deep ties to Ukraine. Through heritage, the dealership community and in multigenerational farms, Ukrainian farmers are the backbone of agriculture in Canada,” says a company statement, issued March 2.
“We would like to take this time to acknowledge our colleagues, friends, dealers and farmers, and express our deepest and continued condolences,” the company says.
Buhler says it will match every donation to the Red Cross made by staff and dealers up to C$100 thousand.
The company, which makes Versatile tractors and Farm King equipment, has tried to distance itself from its Russian connections following the invasion of Ukraine last week.
Buhler’s Russian directors have been mentioned as possible targets of the Canadian government’s sanctions, which could potentially include freezing assets in Canada.
Konstantin Babkin, an executive with Rostselmash who has been a director on Buhler’s board since 2007, is also the leader and co-founder of the Action Party (sometimes translated as Party of Business) in Russia, which is known to be friendly with Putin and the Kremlin. Babkin was supportive of Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014.
“We should not stop at Crimea,” he said in a video filmed at a rally in Moscow at the time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin toured the Rostselmash combine manufacturing plant in Rostov-on-Don with Babkin in 2018 and joked that he’d become a combine operator if he didn’t win the upcoming election.
Buhler’s board chair Dmitry Udras and chief executive officer/director Yury Ryazanov are reportedly members of the Action Party as well, and have also been mentioned in conversations as possible targets for sanctions.
As of March 2, none of the individuals associated with Buhler were on the Canadian government’s sanction list. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has said further sanctions are still to be announced.
Buhler, which is publicly traded on the TSX, has its roots in Western Canada, as the company was founded in Morden, Manitoba in 1932. Rostselmash became the majority owner in 2007, and increased its ownership to 97 per cent in December 2021, buying out the remaining shares held by company founder and namesake John Buhler.