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Billings bars pull vodka brand from shelves citing Russian military action in Ukraine

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Posted at 5:28 PM, Feb 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-26 19:29:21-05

BILLINGS — On Saturday, the owners of three bars in Billings pulled the brand of Stolichnaya vodka off their shelves as a form of protest against the military actions taken by Russia against Ukraine over the past few days.

"The best thing we could do was to pull a Russian product off of our shelf just to stand in solidarity with them. This comes down to being a human rights issue overall," said Rachel Worshek, general manager of Divide Bar and Grill.

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Divide Bar and Grill general manager Rachel Worshek speaks with MTN News on Saturday.

Your Moscow mule will now be made with Skol vodka at Divide Bar and Grill, Muzzle Loader Cafe, and Powder Horn Lounge and Casino. Those Billings establishments add to the list of other bars and government alcohol organizations across the U.S. and Canada who are boycotting Russian spirits.

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A Moscow mule is garnished with a lime at Divide Bar and Grill in Billings.

Worshek said the businesses owners, Darrin Williams and Jarred Weisen, along with management made the decision to pull the vodka on Friday.

"What's happening over there is absolutely devastating. If we can do one small thing, that is enough for us. Our voice is super small. We're just a small restaurant group in Billings, but we decided that one move would speak volumes," Worshek said.

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The back label on a bottle of Stoli vodka.

The restaurants' announced the move to pull the vodka in a Saturday social media post that has received dozens of comments in support and hundreds of likes.

Two Billings sisters having lunch at Divide on Saturday agreed with the decision to pull the vodka.

"I think every place should do this. Every place should just disassociate with Russia completely and we just need to bring them down," said Barbara Quesenberry.

"I think it's a real stand up thing that they are doing," Michele Geer added.

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(left) Billings sisters Barbara Quesenberry and Michele Geer said they support a boycott of Russian products.

While the Stoli brand certainly sounds Russian, it has a turbulent history tied to the country.

Stoli vodka is currently produced in Latvia, a former Soviet republic that joined NATO in 2004. According to CBS News, Latvijas Balzams makes the liquor, and that company is part of a business group controlled by Russian-born billionaire Yury Shefler who left Russia 10 years ago after falling out with the Kremlin over his support of opposition political parties.

The Stoli website was headed with a banner on Saturday indicating the brand's support of the Ukrainian people.

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A screenshot of the Stoli vodka website taken on Feb. 26, 2022.

RELATED: Gunfire, explosions reported in Kyiv as fighting erupts across Ukraine