BlaBlaCar, the carpooling giant born in France, has stopped offering its services in Crimea, where it had been operating since 2014. The decision aims to avoid being targeted by the EU sanctions against firms operating on the peninsula, according to company representatives cited by local news website Crimea.Info.
Since Russia took control of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory, in the spring of 2014, both countries have been claiming sovereignty over the peninsula. The EU, the USA and a range of other countries have seen Russia’s move an illegal annexation.
Crimean politicians blasted BlaBlaCar’s latest decision. “BlaBlaCar has lost its chance because of their short-sightedness. Crimea is one of the most popular travel destinations,” Aleksey Chernyak, head of the local parliament’s tourism committee told the Russian media, as reported by The Moscow Times.
BlaBlaCar entered the Russian and Ukrainian markets in January 2014 — just weeks before Russia took control of Crimea — through the acquisition of Ukrainian site Podorozhniki.
Activity in Russia quickly reached a phenomenal level as this country became the company’s largest market, ahead of France. In 2018, BlaBlaCar asserted its leadership in Russia even more strongly with the acquisition of BeepCar, a competing carpooling service run by Mail.Ru Group.
Due to Western sanctions, many foreign and Russian companies have abstained from offering services in the disputed territory. For instance, Russian Railways does not operate train services which run from Moscow to Crimea, notes the Moscow Times.