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Baker signs order instructing state agencies not to do business with Russia

Governor Charlie Baker.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Making good on a pledge from earlier this week, Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order Thursday directing all executive branch agencies to end any contracts with Russian state-owned companies, officials said.

The order also instructs agencies to review any exchanges, partnerships, or affiliations with the Russian government, companies owned by Russia, or entities controlled by Russia.

“With this order, we hope to build on the sanctions the federal government has already placed on Russia for their unjustified attack on Ukraine,” Baker said in a statement. “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts condemns the actions of Russia and stands firmly with the free and democratic nation of Ukraine.”


Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito echoed Baker’s sentiments, saying in the statement that her “thoughts are with all the Ukrainian people during this horrific time.”

The order only addresses companies and organizations owned or controlled by the Russian government. Earlier this week, Baker said his administration was seeking to target companies that are “Russian in their origin,” not only state-owned entities.

On Monday, as other governors called on retailers to remove Russian products from their shelves, Baker said state officials were reviewing thousands of contracts to determine whether Massachusetts was doing business with any Russian-based companies.

Baker said then that he and legislative leaders were wary of imposing orders that could hurt Massachusetts businesses, particularly those that may be run by local Russians.

“I share the concern about shutting down some Russian immigrant family who’s been here in Massachusetts for years and runs a business that may have some sort of Russian overtone,” Baker said at a news conference at the State House. “We’re absolutely taking a look at our contracts and trying to determine if in fact we do have opportunities . . . associated with those contracts that involve Russian companies.”


Spokespeople for Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Baker’s order Thursday evening.

Spilka, appearing alongside Baker on Monday, was skeptical about pursuing broad restrictions, saying the state needs to be careful not to harm small businesses that “may have a contact in Russia.”

“We don’t want to hurt them as well, especially when they have nothing to do with the political scene there and Putin and the oligarchs that are behind this invasion into Ukraine,” the Ashland Democrat said. “I think we need to be cautious as to what we do.”

The governor’s order encourages the adoption of similar policies by public educational institutions, independent agencies and authorities, and other constitutional offices.

It also instructs the state’s Office for Refugees and Immigrants to cooperate with the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and other organizations to support refugees and immigrants from Ukraine.

Thursday’s order comes amid other state efforts to curtail the state’s economic ties to Russia.

A review of the state’s $104 billion pension fund found it had roughly $140 million in “exposure to Russia” as of Friday, including assets, investments, or companies that are Russia-based, officials said.

But Pension Reserve Investment Management officials said the amount is relatively small, accounting for less than 0.02 percent of the fund’s total. Any decision to directly divest from a certain industry or country would need to be done legislatively, according to the state treasurer’s office.


Senator Walter F. Timilty, a Milton Democrat, has filed a bill that would require the pension fund to divest from any company with active “commerce in any form in Russia,” targeting those that are not only based there but also do business in the country.

A letter circulated by the House Republican Caucus also called for action in divesting from any Russian-owned companies.

“President Biden, our European allies, and other nations have already taken a united stand by imposing broad economic sanctions against Russia for its hostile actions,” the letter reads. “It is time for Massachusetts to take similar action by refusing to financially support and profit off those companies whose values run contrary to our own.”

Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.