Düsseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, had well-established economic ties with Russia before its invasion of Ukraine. Stephan Keller, who has served as the city’s mayor since November 2020, tells fDi that Düsseldorf has put its partnership with Moscow on hold and is helping Ukrainian refugees.

Q: How is the war in Ukraine impacting companies based in Düsseldorf?

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A: I think the consequences of the war in Ukraine have just started to be seen. For example, we heard from chemical and consumer goods multinational Henkel that they have some problems. Our energy utility is also struggling to keep up the supply of gas. This is a problem for us. 

Apart from that, the company Messe Düsseldorf has completely shut down all of its Russian premises. They had a very active branch in Moscow, which is not operating anymore. Traditionally there were quite a few links from Düsseldorf to Moscow. We were twin cities with a lot of economic ties, most of which were promoted through Messe Düsseldorf.

Q: What is the future of Düsseldorf’s collaboration with Moscow?

A: We stopped it. We didn’t actually end it, rather we are having a break and seeing what happens in Russia. But as long as Russia is leading this war, and the city government of Moscow is very active in suppressing public protests against the war, there is no basis for communications with any official partners in Moscow.

We recently picked up a partnership with the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi on the south-western border with Romania. We are trying to promote that now and use that to supply humanitarian help for Ukraine as well. 

Düsseldorf seems to be one of the points of major attraction for Ukrainian refugees. In mid-March, we accommodated more than 2500 people. We have managed to give them a bed, food and healthcare, but it’s a big challenge. It seems that German cities are affected very differently. There are some cities with hardly any refugees. But big cities like Düsseldorf, Cologne and Essen tend to have more than they can cope with.

This article first appeared in the April/May 2022 print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.