Reports suggest that the pair had urged Huawei to issue a public statement condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but were refused
According to a Sky News report, Huawei UK non-executive directors Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa are set to step down from their positions in protest against Huawei’s silence regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Sources suggest that the two directors had pressed the company to release a statement to condemn the Russian invasion, which began on the 24th of February, but were turned down.
The news comes as wave after wave of companies have announced that they would cease exporting to Russia in previous weeks due to the war. Many companies that had not immediately condemned the conflict – such as oil giant Shell and Coca-Cola – have since bowed to the immense social media pressure and halted their Russian operations.
While both Sir Andrew and Sir Ken have not commented on the decision, Huawei has released a statement.
"Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa brought considerable experience from the world of business and technology to Huawei UK’s board of directors when they were appointed in 2015 and 2018 respectively,” said the company statement. "Both have shown strong support for Huawei’s commitment to the UK and have helped uphold the highest standards of corporate governance and we thank them for their invaluable guidance."
The pair of resignations follow those of former BT Chairman Sir Mike Rake in 2021 and former BP CEO Lord Browne in 2020, both of whom stepped down as a result of increasing uncertainty about Huawei UK’s future in the wake of government policy.
An anonymous source being quoted in the report notes that Huawei had “historically not commented on matters of external politics”, arguing that Sir Andrew and Sir Ken’s decision to step down was not related to allegations that Huawei has been assisting Russia with its domestic network security since the onset of the crisis.
Like so many international companies, Huawei’s largest competitors, Ericsson and Nokia, both announced last week that they have suspended equipment shipments to Russia. In many ways, this leaves the Russian market as something of an opportunity for Huawei, leaving them the last major network equipment player available to the Russian mobile operators.
MTS, for example, currently uses equipment from Nokia for the majority of their network, potentially leaving them in dire straights in the coming months. A firm like Huawei, naturally, could theoretically replace this equipment, though the process would be costly and time-consuming for the operators themselves.
However, taking advantages of these opportunities could be far more dangerous than it initially seems. With so many governments and companies sanctioning Russia, the logistics of supplying the country would be no small feat. Meanwhile, firms that choose to continue to support Russia could find themselves facing legal troubles of their own.
Earlier this week, the US government said that they would cut off Chinese firms from American equipment and software if they continued to supply equipment to Russia. The Biden administration said that it would “essentially shut down” Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation, China’s largest semiconductor company, if it did not respect US sanctions against Russia.
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