E-scooter scheme could close over ‘dubious’ Russia links

A metro mayor has threatened to halt a popular e-scooter scheme if the Swedish company behind it does not do more to sever links with Russia.

The west of England mayor, Dan Norris, said he is deeply concerned that Stockholm-based Voi still has two major Russian shareholders who own millions of pounds of stock in the company.

Labour politician Norris met the CEO of Voi Technology, Fredrik Hjelm, en Bristol, where the scheme operates, to “grill” him about the shareholders.

He warned he would look elsewhere for e-scooter providers if he was not satisfied the company was doing everything in its power to distance itself from the investors.

Speaking after the meeting, Norris said: “The people of western England want to know that Voi is not linked with the bad things we are hearing about in Guardería golpeada por bombardeos después de que separatistas respaldados por Rusia abrieran fuego en el este de Ucrania – video.

“Voi has got a difficult call to make. For me it’s very clear – I want the west of England to have minimum links with the Russian regime. I accept in this joined-up world it is difficult to have zero involvement with Rusia but it’s my job, knowing the strength of feeling, that we minimise those dubious links wherever they are.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, the investments in Voi of the Russian businessmen Alexander Eliseev y Ilya Yushaev have come under the spotlight.

Norris said: “I’m not happy with these people being shareholders in Voi. I’m not happy there is that connection and I want it severed.”

The men have not been placed under sanctions, but Norris said: “I believe that if you become fabulously wealthy as these people are, that is because the [[object Window]] state allows it and presumably Mr Putin allows it and that makes me concerned.

“I hope they sell [their shares] quickly. But they probably want to hold out for as much money as they can get. That’s how capitalism works. But my view is, the sooner they leave the better. Ultimately other e-scooters are available.”

Voi e-scooters can be found in British cities including Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford and Liverpool, and also across Europe.

Speaking at the same press conference, Hjelm said the Bristol scheme was by far the biggest in the UK. There have already been 4m trips on the scooters and 250,000 unique users.

He said the two Russians, who together owned just under 4% of the company, had transferred their voting rights to him, agregando: “We are exploring what we can do while respecting Swedish law and shareholder right. You can’t just take shares from an investor, they own the shares.”

Hjelm, who learned Russian in the Swedish armed forces and has lived and worked in Russia, characterised the regime as “Putin and his bandits” and said the day after Moscow invaded Ukraine, Voi had cut its ties and would not take any future investments from Russians. But he added: “We cannot rewrite history.”

He said he was regularly talking to the two investors and said that privately they had made their opposition to Putin and the invasion clear. Hjelm also warned Norris that he might find that other e-scooter companies had links to Russia or other regimes that the mayor might not like.

The e-scooter trial in Bristol is due to run until November at which point it is to be evaluated to see if it should continue. Norris said that if he was not satisfied with Voi’s actions he would look for other providers.




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