Meetings Ban Russian Participants in Reaction to Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

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As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, the meetings industry takes actions, from taking an in-person meeting in St. Petersburg virtual to banning Russian exhibitors.

IMEX Frankfurt, one of the prime events for the meetings and hospitality industry held in Germany each year, has decided to ban Russian companies from its 2022 show as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, IMEX CEO, Carina Bauer and Chairman, Ray Bloom, said on March 1,

“Sadly, today we have taken the decision to suspend Russian state enterprises from participating at IMEX in Frankfurt 2022, as a direct result of the current political situation. We do this with a heavy heart, understanding that the world is in an unprecedented situation. Our hearts go out to everyone who is affected and especially the people of Ukraine. All of us wish for a speedy and peaceful resolution to this conflict.” Comments to the LinkedIn posting of the decision were unanimously positive. As one person said, “Thank you IMEX Carina Bauer and Ray Bloom for your decision and clear statement. I know that it is not aimed against our Russian colleagues in the MICE industry, but as part of the sanctions against the Russian state and the Putin’s regime.”

IMEX is far from alone in deciding it had to take action in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The International Congress of Mathematicians’ (ICM) decision to hold its International Mathematical Union event in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July 2022, had been facing objections and calls for a boycott long before Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine due to concerns over human rights violations, its “openly aggressive laws towards the LGBTQ community,” and Russia’s “aggression toward other countries.”

But last week’s military incursion into Ukraine was the last straw for the Germany-based ICM. On Feb. 26 pulled the plug on the in-person event and flipped it to virtual, saying the “recent developments in Russia and Ukraine have changed the situation dramatically” and make it “impossible for the IMU to host the ICM and the [General Assembly] as traditional in-person events in Russia.”

Just one day earlier, GSMA, which organizes the giant Mobile World Congress show, announced that it was banning some Russian exhibitors from its show floor, and that it would not be holding a Russian pavilion at its tradeshow this week in Barcelona. The show is expected to draw up to 60,000 attendees to this year’s hybrid event after going virtual in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

GSMA explained the decision on its website, saying, “The GSMA strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The situation is fast-moving, and we understand that various governments are considering broader sanctions against Russia. In light of this emerging situation and considering the tragic loss of life, MWC seems immaterial under the circumstances. MWC is a unifying event with a vision to convene the mobile ecosystem to progress ways and means that connectivity can ensure people, industry, and society thrive.

“The GSMA follows all government sanctions and policies resulting from this situation. There will be no Russian Pavilion at MWC22. Security for the event is constantly reviewed and adjusted as information emerges.”

In a TechCrunch article, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained, “We want to cut off Russia’s industry from the technologies desperately needed today to build a future,” said Ursula von der Leyen. “Our measures will weaken Russia’s technological position in key areas, actually from which the elite makes most of their money. And this ranges from high-tech components to cutting-edge software. This will also seriously degrade the Russian economy in all areas in the future.”

In his opening address, GSMA Director General Mats Granryd stressed the need for the mobile industry to take the lead. He said, “More than ever, responsible leadership is the way, and let me say that the GSMA strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine…Responsible leadership is the way to reject division, to innovate for global recovery, and to unleash the full power of connectivity to transform lives and society.”

Sporting event organizers also are reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by banning Russian athletes from competing. One is the World Games 2022, to be held in July in Birmingham, Ala., which also has said it won’t allow athletes from Belarus to compete. International soccer organizations also are saying nyet to Russian athletes, with both FIFA and UEFA saying they will disallow Russian participants from upcoming events. Auto-racing organizer Formula 1 also has cancelled its Russian Gran Prix event, which had been scheduled for September.

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