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By Jim Landers

Posted at Dallas Morning News, March 2014

Two North Texas entrepreneurs with a Ukrainian distillery are scrambling to navigate their vodka business through the political crisis with Russia.

“We have to take a deep breath and pray,” said Eugene Grayfer, the 37-year-old co-founder and chief operating officer of Plano-based Russian Spirits Inc. “Things are moving so fast we just have to believe in our perseverance.”

After investing more than $5 million in a Luhansk distillery and a far-flung distribution system, Grayfer and company president Roman Talis of Frisco were ready to launch Kruto vodka in Dallas on March 17.

On Thursday, however, Talis, who is 54, arrived at the distillery and learned that local and regional officials had petitioned the Russian government to take over the region and give them protection. Talis quickly arranged a meeting with Sergei Kravchenko, the mayor of Luhansk (also known as Lugansk), to see what was going on, Grayfer said.

“Once that [letter to Russia] became public,” he said, “people rose up and said, ‘We do not want to be any part of this.’ They were really mad, and so Luhansk government officials are walking back that statement.”12 miles from RussiaAn account in the March 2 edition of the Ukrainian newspaper Gazeta said the Luhansk Oblast, or the regional government, had objected to the new Ukrainian government. The Oblast council called for reinstatement of Russian as the country’s second official language and for disarmament of the Euromaidan self-defense units that fought with government troops last month. The article said the Oblast council reserved the “right to ask for help from the brotherly people of the Russian Federation,” according to a Wikipedia translation. MORE

Kruto Makes it Smoother.TM
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