'Get out or face our wrath,' Anonymous warns big firms in Russia

After using Twitter to urge more than 30 companies to withdraw out immediately – or suffer repercussions – the hacktivist group has garnered retaliation in its latest scattergun strategy to targeting firms still doing business in Russia.

Anonymous tweeted the following message: “We call on all companies that continue to operate in Russia by paying taxes to the budget of the Kremlin's criminal regime – pull out of Russia! We give you 48 hours to reflect and withdraw or else you will be under [sic] our target!”

A graphic featuring the logos of dozens of major firms, including Burger King, Citrix, Nestle, and Subway, accompanied the admonition.

Nestle, a major food and beverage giant, appears to have received the most ire from the hacktivist group, which dedicated a special tweet to the corporation.

“Nestle, as the death toll climbs, you have been warned and now breached,” it said. “Anonymous is holding you responsible for the murder of defenseless children and mothers.”

It is unclear whether Anonymous has yet successfully breached Nestle's cyber defenses, or if the assertion is simply designed to leverage the threat.

This is not the first time the Swiss multinational has faced criticism for refusing to leave a sanctioned country. Nestle faced criticism in the 1980s for continuing to operate in Apartheid-era South Africa, despite widespread outcry at the time.

Is Anonymous taking things too far?

Aside from Nestle, there was immediate backlash on Twitter over Anonymous' latest social media volley. Other tweeters report that several of the companies listed and shamed have either withdrawn from Russia or are unable to do so due to franchising agreements that make it impossible for them to shut their operations there.

One user retweeted Citrix's earlier March 14 tweet, in which the cloud computing company stated: "Citrix complies with all applicable international sanctions and government legislation [and] has ceased sales and support to Russia and Belarus-based enterprises."

"Otis, Bridgestone, and Citi[group] have already left Russia," another person alleged. "Burger King and Subway can't do that since they operate under a franchise in Russia."

However, not all Twitter users were willing to let huge corporations still based in Russia off the hook. Another user stated, "Corporate offices of Burger King and Subway can stop supplying franchises with supplies." "It's really that simple."

Who should we believe?

On closer scrutiny, both those speaking out in support of the firms named by Anonymous and the critics appear to have a valid point.

While elevator manufacturer Otis has stated that it will no longer accept new orders from Russia as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, it has also stated that it will fulfill existing agreements to perform critical maintenance.

Bridgestone announced on March 18 that it has ceased exports, manufacturing operations, and new business with Russia until further notice.

Citigroup has stated that it will expedite the wind-down of its activities in Russia, which began last year, but, like Otis, does not appear to have intentions to stop doing business there entirely. It has also acknowledged that any withdrawal will take time to complete.

"We will continue to handle our existing regulatory commitments and depositor obligations, as well as support all of our [3,000 Russian-based] staff," the bank stated earlier this month in a statement.

In the case of Burger King, the local operator refused to close its 800 shops in Russia, while Subway cited similar impediments in the face of rising calls for a boycott of its products.

Anonymous also included Halliburton, Koch, Marriott, and Cloudflare in its Twitter post graphic.

Their disparate track records serve as further evidence of the hacktivist group's scattershot approach to naming and shaming firms. While the former has been accused of war profiteering in Iraq to the tune of roughly $40 billion, the latter is considered as critical by those Russians resisting censorship in their own nation.

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