Walmart is set to ban t-shirts featuring Soviet symbols from its online store after outcry from three baltic states, the Lithuanian government said Tuesday.
In a letter last month, lawmakers from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania urged the retail giant to “demonstrate their corporate responsibility” by removing attire with Soviet imagery.
Lithuania’s Ambassador’s in the US @RolandasKr open letter to @Walmart: Horrific crimes were committed under the Soviet symbols of a sickle-and-hammer. We trust on Walmart to withdraw the T-shirts and other products with USSR symbols. pic.twitter.com/6cQeUHKE1f
— LT MFA STRATCOM (@LT_MFA_Stratcom) September 6, 2018
The former Soviet states also argued that by selling such items, the company “participates in promotion, among its customers worldwide, of totalitarianism, human rights abuse and suppression of freedom and democracy, the values that allowed such corporations as Walmart to grow and prosper.”
In a statement to the Associated Press, Rasa Jakilaitiene, the spokeswoman for Lithuania’s foreign ministry, said a return letter from Walmart this week confirmed “that these items would be removed from sales.”
US retail giant @Walmart tells #Lithuania|n ambassador 🇺🇸 @RolandasKr it will stop selling products with Soviet hammer and sickle symbols after criticism from 🇱🇹🇱🇻🇪🇪. Via @BNSLithuania https://t.co/Kvh6op0Rsg
— Lithuania MFA (@LithuaniaMFA) September 18, 2018
Rolandas Krisciunas, the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, outlined in the initial letter the reasoning behind their campaign.
“Horrific crimes were done under the Soviet symbols of a sickle and hammer. The promotion of such symbols resonates with a big pain for many centuries,” Krisciunas wrote. “When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, hundreds of thousands of our citizens were killed, exiled, tortured, raped, separated from their families.”
“Similar fates struck dozens of millions of other innocent people, including children, across Europe and across the globe.”
Lithuania, which was occupied by Nazi Germany before being annexed by Moscow and absorbed into the Soviet Union, has banned symbols in its country from both ideologies.
The shirts, which were sold by third-parties on Walmart’s website, are also prominent on other online retailers including Amazon.
Jakilaitiene says Lithuania will next request that similar Soviet imagery be taken down from Amazon as well.
Thus far Walmart has not released a statement on the alleged removal of Soviet-related content.