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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy mulls state action against Russia-linked Lukoil gas stations

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday said the state is considering action against dozens of Russian-linked Lukoil gas stations as he aims to sever financial ties with the nation in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re trying to figure out what to do with them,” Murphy said of the gas stations on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

The Democratic governor last week signed a proclamation directing state agencies to review their authority to suspend licenses of Russia-owned businesses, or of firms that directly invest in Russian or Belarusian enterprises.

There are about 33 Lukoil gas stations in New Jersey, Murphy said. He noted, however, that “they happen to be franchised by local New Jersey interests in most cases.”

“‘But that’s a good example of something that, you know what, not in New Jersey. We’re going to have to figure that out,” Murphy said.

Lukoil, one of Russia’s largest energy producers, has more than 200 gas stations in the U.S. As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to wage war in Ukraine, Americans have called to boycott those stations, a small slice of the Lukoil’s overall business that nevertheless has been targeted in the push to punish Moscow’s economy.

But as Murphy acknowledged, the Lukoil gas stations in New Jersey and other states are franchised and operated by local residents.

The governor’s hedge on Lukoil comes days after the Newark city council unanimously voted to push to suspend the licenses of the two Lukoil stations in New Jersey’s largest city.

Advocates for Jersey’s gas stations have decried the actions, saying they only serve to hurt American small-business owners.

Lukoil in a statement last week called for “the immediate cessation” of Russia’s war in Ukraine. President Joe Biden, who has backed crippling sanctions on Russia’s economy and its ultra-rich oligarchs, faces mounting pressure to halt U.S. purchases of Russian oil. Crude oil prices, meanwhile, are spiking on the volatility.

Murphy, meanwhile, has vowed to take further steps to distance his state’s business from Russia.

“We’re checking to see whether or not we have any investments at all in our pension funds. I suspect if anything it’s de minimis and — there’s a law coming to my desk this week that will take that to zero. We want to make sure there are no other engagements with Russia,” Murphy told CNBC on Monday.

“This is a war of choice, it’s from a war-mongering thug and we’re going to do everything we can to make a statement that, not in New Jersey,” the governor said.

“We have among the largest Ukrainian populations of any American state and we wear that as a badge of honor, and we’re going to stand tall with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in any way we can,” he said.

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