HUNDREDS of jobs could be put at risk due to European Union and US sanctions against Russia, JCB's chairman has warned.
Lord Bamford labelled the sanctions 'absurd' after it was revealed the Rocester-based company, a major exporter to Russia, would be hurt by measures 'coming out of Brussels'. He said decisions being made by EU diplomats could put 'British jobs at risk'.
Lord Bamford's comments came days after EU governments decided to impose further economic sanctions against Russia following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine last month.
In the latest escalation of the worst tensions between the West and Moscow since the Cold War, the sanctions are aimed at Russia's oil industry, defence, dual-use goods and sensitive technologies. However, there are growing fears that the sanctions will have knock-on repercussions for European companies and the region's economy.
Lord Bamford said: "Russia is a very important market for JCB and has been for more than 30 years.
"It appears that JCB is going to be affected by the decision to impose sanctions but to what extent, we are unable to say at the moment.
"We ship both machines and spare parts to Russia and are the market leader for construction equipment in the country. If sanctions restrict sales of machines and spare parts there will be obviously be a major impact on JCB, which could put hundreds of British jobs at risk.
"It seems absurd that a leading UK exporter successfully selling machinery to construction companies and farmers in Russia could be affected so dramatically by EU sanctions coming out of Brussels."
JCB told the Advertiser that the information was only released to the company late on Friday afternoon, just before the workers went off on their annual three week summer break.
Last September, JCB opened its largest dealer depot in the world in Ekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city.
At the time, Alan Blake, JCB's chief executive, described Russia 'as one of the jewels in the crown of JCB's global sales regions'.
He added that almost one in four machines sold in Russia was made by JCB. The company invested £6 million in the new depot. JCB sold its first machine in Russia – a backhoe loader – in 1979 as part of the build-up to the Moscow Olympics.
In May this year, JCB revealed that a slowdown in both Russia and India had contributed to falling profits last year.
Russia is the 14th most important destination for UK exports, according to figures for last year compiled by HM Revenue and Customs. Russia accounts for 9.5 per cent of all vehicle exports from the UK.