McDonald's has announced it will sell all 850 restaurants in Russia after 30 years. The popular fast-food chain said they couldn't "ignore the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine."
Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s CEO, explained: “It is impossible to imagine the Golden Arches representing the same hope and promise that led us to enter the Russian market 32 years ago."
Kempczinski said he would prioritise paying staff members until the sale was completed and until employees had "future employment with any potential buyer."
The fast-food giant was one of the first Western restaurants to open in Russia back in January 1990, during the final months of the Soviet Union.
Over 30,000 people queued for their meals across 27 cash registers. A further 27,000 people applied for jobs with only 600 positions available. This new Western opening represented the thawing of Cold War tensions and a move towards peace.
Back in March, McDonald's said they would be "temporarily" closing their restaurants in what some called a "hugely symbolic" move.
In an open letter earlier this year, Kempckinski said the firm understood the "impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners" and that McDonald's was prepared to support employees by continuing to pay their wages.
"Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine," he penned.
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BBC's Moscow correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, turned to Twitter to comment on the decision.
In 1990 I was in the queue when McDonald's opened its 1st restaurant in Moscow: when iron curtains were crumbling & Russia was embracing the West. Today McDonald's announced it is temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia. Hugely symbolic.— Steve Rosenberg (@Steve Rosenberg) 1646764269
He wrote: "In 1990, I was in the queue when McDonald's opened its 1st restaurant in Moscow: when iron curtains were crumbling & Russia was embracing the West. Today McDonald's announced it is temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia. Hugely symbolic."
Another recalled their personal resonance with the opening: "Oh, the deliciousness of the milkshake, my first taste of America at the Moscow McDonald's in the early 1990s. While mom waited at the US embassy to submit our refugee papers, grandma & I stood in the snaking McD line," they said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 6 million others have fled Ukraine.
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