McDonald’s bows to pressure and closes all its Russian restaurants

‘Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,’ says chief executive

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McDonald’s is temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia and pausing all operations in the country, a decision that will affect 62,000 jobs, after mounting calls for action after the invasion of Ukraine.

The burger chain said it would continue to pay the salaries for all employees in Russia and its charitable arm, Ronald McDonald House Charities, would also continue in the country.

In a message to staff and franchisees, Chris Kempczinski, the chief executive of McDonald’s, said the situation was “extraordinarily challenging for a global brand like ours”, which he said worked with hundreds of local suppliers and partners producing its food. “We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners,” he said.

But he added: “Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine.”

McDonald’s and other western food and drink companies including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have faced calls to pull out of Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. The film-maker and actor Sean Penn called on Americans to boycott the brand.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told CNN two days ago that “all western companies must withdraw from Russia” on humanitarian grounds. “We were upset to hear companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s remain in Russia and continue providing their products,” he said.

McDonald’s, which has operated in Russia for more than 30 years, said it could not predict when it may be able to reopen its restaurants there and would “continue to assess the situation and determine if any additional measures are required”. It said it would “closely monitor the humanitarian situation” as well as disruption to its supply chain.

McDonald’s is also paying full salaries to its Ukrainian employees and has donated $5m (£3.8m) to an assistance fund for employees as well as supporting relief efforts led by the International Red Cross.

The McDonald’s shutdown comes after a host of other consumer brands including Netflix, Levi’s, Burberry, Ikea and Unilever, the owner of Marmite and Ben & Jerry’s, announced they had halted business in the country.

Leading professional services firms including KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte have also cut off businesses in Russia and Belarus.

Companies around the world have been scrambling to assess their links with Russia after the US, EU and UK sought to isolate it economically with sanctions.

Sanctions have also made it illegal for US, EU or UK companies to serve some of the biggest Russian businesses, including banks such as Sberbank, Gazprombank and VTB.

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