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McDonald’s Golden Arches Go Dark in Russia

Fast-food chain will continue to pay its employees as locations shutter temporarily in both Russia and Ukraine

A line outside a McDonald's in Moscow.

Pelagiya Tihonova/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Over 30 years after the first McDonald’s opened in Moscow — still one of the most pointed symbols for the end of the Cold War — the fast food chain announced that it would temporarily shutter its 850 locations in Russia in light of the country’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The fast-food chain’s CEO Chris Kempczinski announced the decision Tuesday, March 8 as pressure on McDonald’s — as well as other major companies like Coca-Cola — to take action in Russia continued to mount. McDonald’s, as The Associated Press states, has also temporarily closed its 108 locations in Ukraine. Together, locations in the two countries contributed 9% — or $2 billion — to McDonald’s annual revenue.

“[O]ur values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,” Kempczinski said. “Years ago, when confronted with his own difficult decision, Fred Turner explained his approach quite simply: ‘Do the right thing.’ That philosophy is enshrined as one of our five guiding values, and there are countless examples over the years of McDonald’s Corporation living up to Fred’s simple ideal. Today, is also one of those days.”

Despite the temporary shut-down, Kempczinski said the company would not leave its workers in the lurch, and would continue to pay the salaries of all employees in Russia (as it has for its Ukrainian employees). Kempczinski also noted that McDonald’s and its Ronald McDonald House Charities have been providing aid and support in Europe, including medical care and humanitarian help for families and children crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland. 

“As we move forward, McDonald’s will continue to assess the situation and determine if any additional measures are required,” Kempczinski said. “At this juncture, it’s impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia. We are experiencing disruptions to our supply chain along with other operational impacts. We will also closely monitor the humanitarian situation.”

McDonald’s is far from the only company to pause or pull out of its business dealings in Russia. In the entertainment world, Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, said it would cease business there, while major film studios like Netflix, Universal, Disney, and Warner Bros. have shelved projects and declined to release new movies in Russia. Elsewhere, Toyota stopped production at a St. Petersburg plant while Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen Group suspended vehicle exports to Russia and manufacturing there. Ikea suspended operations at its 17 Russian stores, H&M paused sales in Russia, and even Apple stopped selling its devices in Russia.

From Rolling Stone US