On May 18, 2022, Ukrainians gave a farewell to Denys Antipov, a war veteran, who was killed by a Russian shell near Izium in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, he volunteered for military service and served as the commander of a drone reconnaissance platoon for two years.
Once Antipov returned home, he launched a company Ua.gifts that made and sold gifts and innovative educational toys. He used to say that “each of us has a child in one’s soul, but within some of us it’s hidden very well.”
On February 24, 2022, after Russia waged a large-scale war on Ukraine, Denys resumed active-duty service. He died on May 11, 2022, on the frontline in East Ukraine. The website of his toys shop still says: “Ua.gifts veteran business is currently in charge of protecting Ukraine against Russian invasion. Hope to come back soon to you. Stay safe.”
The death of Denys Antipov was sponsored by other toy manufacturers.
Many large toy producers suspended their shipments to Russia once the aggressor country launched a massive attack on Ukraine. Danish Lego Group halted supplies to Russia as early as the beginning of March 2022. American company Mattel left Russian kids without Barbies and Hot Wheels. Neither it is possible now to find in Russian shops the toys by Hasbro, another American toy giant, which owns such brands as Nerf, Monopoly, and Furby, and by German Horst Brandstätter Group, which produces Playmobil.
However, some companies are still doing ‘business as usual’ in Russia and financing with its taxes the deaths of brave Ukrainians like Denys. One of them is Spin Master Corp., which is best known for such toys as PAW Patrol, Bakugan, Kinetic Sand, and Rubik’s Cube. Since 2019, the Canadian company has carried out direct distribution of its toys to Russia via its subsidiary Spin Master Rus. It has an office in Moscow on a street that, ironically, is named after the Ukrainian city Odesa.
In early March 2022, in the earnings call the Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President of this Toronto-based company Mark Segal said: “We are carefully watching the situation between Ukraine and Russia”. For the company, the war wasn’t even a big deal as, according to Segal, less than 2% of its gross product sales is derived from Russia.
Nothing has changed since then. The company is still “watching the situation in Ukraine” without taking a stance against the war and cutting ties with Russia. Just one week before the death of the Ukrainian toymaker, Spin Master gathered investors at the Spin Master 2022 Virtual Investor Day, and Moscow was still there on the map of the company’s offices in the investor presentation. And, given the company’s $424.2 million of global revenues for the first quarter of 2022, “less than 2%” means that the company earned around $8.5 million in Russia just in the first three months of the year. To put it in other words, while Ukrainians have been murdered by Russian troops, the company has earned over a million in future taxes for the Russian budget.
The utmost hypocrisy is the company’s recent CSR Report, which was also presented one week before Denys was killed. The company claims: “We are committed to conducting our business affairs with the highest standards of ethics and are dedicated to sound corporate governance”. But no corporate behavior can be considered ethical if the corporation stays silent about the unprovoked and unlawful war that keeps killing adults and children and, moreover, continues to operate in the aggressor country.
The lives of Ukrainians are not toys to play with and then throw away easily. Take action to make Spin Master Corp. appreciate Ukrainian lives, publicly condemn the war, and withdraw from Russia: