Voi has been warned it must sever its ties with Russia if it wants to continue operating its fleet of e-scooters in Bristol.
Dan Norris, the west of England mayor, expressed deep concern about two Russian businessmen owning a 4% stake in the Swedish company at a joint press conference with Voi’s chief executive, Fredrik Hjelm.
Labour politician Norris “grilled” Hjelm about the firm’s Russian shareholders – Alexander Eliseev and Ilya Yushaevv – threatening that “other providers are available” if Voi is not seen to be doing everything in its power to distance itself from them.
After the press conference, Norris said: “The people of western England want to know that Voi is not linked with the bad things we are hearing about in Ukraine.
“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 Russia but it’s my job, knowing the strength of feeling, that we minimise those dubious links wherever they are.”
The Russian businessmen, who reportedly have links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, have transferred their voting rights to Mr Hjelm. And now Hjelm is “exploring” what the firm can do “while respecting Swedish law and shareholder rights. You can’t just take shares from an investor, they own the shares.”
But he said it may be some time before they are willing to sell their shares as recent falls in the value of shares made it unlikely that they would find a buyer at a price they would accept.
Voi’s e-scooter fleet in Bristol is its largest in the UK with riders taking more than four million trips on the electric vehicles since October 2020 when the trial began.
As it stands, Voi will continue to operate in Bristol until November in line with the UK trial extension.