Putin's latest war that wants to take over Ariston and all Russian companies

Blackmail? What is behind Moscow's sudden and unannounced decision to “nationalize” the Italian Ariston factory on Russian territory? There is war in Ukraine with the sanctions imposed since the beginning of the conflict, but there is, also and above all, the attempt to block, at the last minute, the possibility of using Russian assets frozen in Europe in favor of Kiev.

On Friday, Putin signed and published a decree temporarily transferring the Russian subsidiaries of Ariston and Bosch to Gazprom Domestic Systems. It was possible thanks to a rule introduced in Russia in 2023 that allows the government to seize the assets of companies from countries considered “hostile”. There are precedents. In fact, Moscow did the same thing last summer with the Russian branches of Danone and Carlsberg, just before the two companies announced their intention to leave the country. Now it is the turn of the Italian Ariston which in 2023 produced 100 million euros in revenues in Russia. The plant near St. Petersburg occupies a site of 64 thousand square meters and has 300 employees, including those from the commercial network.

The reactions came immediately. Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani summoned the Russian ambassador to Italy and Brussels described Moscow's move as a “clear sign of Russia's contempt for international law”. Putin, therefore, is once again on the hunt for Western companies, just on the eve of the Italian-led G7. A signal. An action in response to the grip of Western sanctions triggered by the war in Ukraine. One of the latest reports from the European Commission is clear: the Russian economy has become a war economy, that is, the growth is due to the increase in military spending. The ruble has lost more than 20% against the dollar and rates have been increased to 16% with inflation hovering above 7%. Sanctions cost Moscow and the war needs money.

But nationalizing the branches of companies from “hostile” countries that have not left Russia is not just a reaction to the sanctions that continue to rain down on Moscow. It is also a political and economic tug of war over the future management of frozen Russian assets. Europe (and the US) want to use that money to support Ukraine. That's around 3 billion euros a year derived from interest on seized Russian assets. Moscow spoke clearly a few days ago. In case the West confiscates its frozen assets in favor of Ukraine: “We have a draft law, which we are ready to consider immediately, on retaliatory measures. And the Europeans will lose more than us,” the spokeswoman said of the upper house of the Russian parliament, Valentina Matvienko, to the state news agency Ria.

And on the eve of the decision here is the “nationalization” of the Italian and German branches of two companies. A move by Moscow to put pressure on Rome and Berlin? Brussels called for the immediate revocation of the provision signed by Putin, defining Russia as “an unpredictable actor even in the economic field”. Meanwhile, a negative start today for Ariston, a group listed on Euronext Milan. And concern on the part of the unions.