PARIS — Publicis Groupe is the third of the major marketing holding companies to pull out of operations in Russia, announcing today that it is stopping its business and investments in Russia by ceding the ownership of its agencies to local management, effective immediately.

As the invasion escalates and the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine deepens, Publicis is handing over control of its Russian operations to Sergey Koptev, founding chairman of Publicis in Russia, with the contractual condition of ensuring a future for its 1,200 employees there.

The move follows WPP’s statement last week and IPG’s announcement yesterday that they were also withdrawing from all Russian agency operations, across disciplines.

Arthur Sadoun, CEO and chairman of Publicis Groupe, said in a statement: “Since the start of the invasion, we have been working on exiting Russia as we strongly condemn the unilateral aggression against Ukraine. We were committed to taking strong actions that fully respond to the gravity of the situation.

"But we were determined to take the necessary time to come with a solution that was truly people-first, because our 1,200 employees in Russia are our people too. We couldn’t just abandon them. By ceding control of our Russian operations to Sergey, we are securing a future path for our colleagues while immediately stopping all of our operations, engagement and investment in Russia.”

Publicis owns PR agencies MSL, Kekst CNC, Octopus Group and Taylor Herring, none of which have operations in Russia, although MSL has an office in Ukraine. Sadoun said the safety of Publicis employees in Ukraine “remains our number one focus.”

He said: “We are in daily contact with all 350 of them on an individual basis and doing everything we can to protect them. From security alert systems, to psychological and mental health support, to help with visas, or guaranteeing salaries for everyone for the entire year, we will continue to stand by their side, be exhaustive in the solutions we bring and immediate in the aid we provide.”

In Ukraine, Dmytro Grushevsky, new business director for all Publicis operations in the country, said he and his colleagues "fully supported" the decision: "Moreover, any other decision we would simply not understand and accept. We are all well aware that for the Groupe's business and its shareholders, in terms of finance, pulling out from the Russian business is a significant loss. Yet, in current circumstances it is perhaps the only available option.

"Also, our whole team is very grateful to the Groupe’s top management and colleagues from other countries for the help that they provide us with. This includes assistance in crossing the border and accommodation, as well as assistance with work for those who find themselves in other countries. For those who remain in Ukraine, the Groupe guaranteed the preservation of jobs + now helps with the search for the application of knowledge and skills for those who are ready to work remotely."