Russian watchdog shuts four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow
By Polina Devitt and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia ordered the temporary closure of four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow on Wednesday, a decision it said was over sanitary violations but which comes against a backdrop of worsening U.S.-Russian ties over Ukraine.
The four restaurants ordered to suspend operations by the state food safety watchdog included the first ever McDonald's in Russia, which opened in the last days of the Soviet Union, and which the company says is its most frequented in the world.
On Wednesday evening, the lights were off inside the restaurant - which is usually crammed with diners - and a sign on the door said it was shut "for technical reasons."
The watchdog, known in Russia as Rospotrebnadzor, said in a statement inspectors had found numerous sanitary violations. A source at the watchdog said it had sealed off parts of the restaurant premises.
Asked if the decision was a retaliation for the United States and other countries imposing economic sanctions on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine, the source declined to comment and referred to the statement about sanitary violations.
McDonald's Russian unit said in a statement: "We are studying the essence of the claims to determine the steps necessary to open the restaurants for the customers as soon as possible."
McDonald's corporate headquarters in the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Russia's first McDonald's opened on Moscow's Pushkin Square in 1990, when it was viewed as a sign that, under reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Cold War tensions with the United States were starting to thaw. Continued...