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Russian restaurants in New York report harassment, loss of business after invasion in Ukraine: "We have nothing to do with the war"

Russian restaurants in NYC voice support for Ukraine 01:58

NEW YORK -- New Yorkers are showing their support for Ukrainian businesses across the city, but many Russian-cuisine restaurants are empty.

Their owners tell CBS2's Ali Bauman they stand passionately with Ukraine.

The line wrapped around the block Friday for Veselka, a beloved Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village.

"People are coming out in droves to eat and commiserate, sympathize and purchase whatever we can," restaurant owner Jason Birchard said.

Birchard says he and his staff are touched by the support. They're donating proceeds from sales of their borsch to Ukrainian relief efforts.

"As of today, we've raised $25,000 from the sales of borsch in these last two weeks," Birchard said.

It was a much different Friday night at Russian Samovar in Hell's Kitchen, where business is down 60%.

"Business is hurt beyond belief right now, especially coming out of COVID. We have nothing to do with the war. We want the war to end," restaurant co-owner Misha von Shats said.

Russian Samovar pre-dates the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Von Shats is half Ukrainian, as are most of his employees.

"Everybody that defected the Soviet Union came here. This was the safe haven, so just because it's 'Russian' Samovar doesn't necessarily mean it's Russian," he said.

Across the street, sales are also down at Russian Vodka Room. Its manager, who is Armenian-American, says they've been getting harassed on the phone.

"Somebody trying to call all day today and cursing, just saying bad words," manager Archy Kagramina said.

Both restaurants now display Ukrainian flags.

On the Russian Tea Room's website, there's an assertion it "renounces Russia's unprovoked acts of war in the strongest possible terms."

"We support our Ukrainian friends who are dying right now," Kagramina said.

"We did not invade Ukraine, Putin invaded," von Shats said.

While their awnings read "Russian," their workers avow their hearts are with Ukraine.

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