Ukrainians have pushed Russian forces back to the east of Kyiv, US official says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a speech to the French parliament in Paris on Wednesday. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called out French business giants Renault, Auchan and Leroy Merlin for their continued presence in Russia, as he urged French companies to leave the country.   

“French companies must leave the Russian market. Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop being the sponsors of Russia’s war machine,” Zelensky said in his video address to the French parliament on Wednesday. 

“Values are more important than profits,” he added.  

For some of the French companies Zelensky called out, the Russian market represents a crucial part of their profits. Russia is the second-most important markets for Renault, ranking only behind the carmaker’s home base France in terms of sales volume, according to the company’s 2021 sales results.   

The Russian market is also crucial for the French home retail giant Leroy Merlin. Present in both Russia and Ukraine, the former represents 18% of the brand’s global activities, CNN’s French affiliate BFMTV reported. 

The company will continue its operations in Russia, Veronique Retaux, a spokesperson for the mother company Adeo Group told CNN on Wednesday. The spokesperson did not provide further details.

Earlier in the week, a Leroy Merlin store in the Retroville shopping complex in Kyiv was hit by an explosion, according to the Ukrainian defense ministry. CNN has geolocated and verified the authenticity of photos on social media showing damage to the store. 

The incident prompted many to call on the company to leave Russia as it itself became an apparent victim of the Russian invasion.   

An online petition was launched on March 20 calling on the Adeo Group and Association Familiale Mulliez, the mother company of Leroy Merlin, to leave Russia. So far it has gathered more than 14,000 signatures.  

Renault confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that its Moscow factory resumed production on Monday, but would last for only three days. The company declined to provide more details when CNN asked why the company is restarting its production for three days.   

Meanwhile, some French companies are cutting their ties with Moscow. French oil giant TotalEnergies announced on Tuesday that it will stop purchasing Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022 as its plan to move towards a gradual suspension of its activities in Russia. 

CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Katie Polglase contributed reporting to this post. 

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