Russia McDonald's Crackdown: Sanitation Or Sanctions?

Russia is closing down McDonald's restaurants, and many media outlets aren't buying its "sanitary violations" reasoning.

Russia McDonald's Crackdown: Sanitation Or Sanctions?
Daniel Kruczynski / CC BY SA 2.0

Seems like Russia isn't exactly loving it, as Russian officials shut down four McDonald's locations in the country's capital over suspected violations of the sanitary code.

Russia's consumer protection agency released a statement saying it found numerous violations of the code during inspections carried out from Aug. 18 to Aug. 20, although it didn't go into detail.  

Among the locations closed was one in Pushkin Square, which made history in 1990 when it became the first McDonald's ever to open in Russia. 

It's impossible to ignore that these closures come during a time of rising tensions between Russia and the West over the conflict in Ukraine, and many say the country's relationship with the U.S. is as bad as it's been since the fall of the Soviet Union. 

So is this move against McDonald's a kind of passive-aggressive, Cold War-style power play, or just a coincidence? A lot of outlets are going with the first one.

As Businessweek reports, there's a precedent for this kind of politicized closure in Russia, with the government shutting down a candy factory owned by Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko. 

And just a few weeks ago, the Russian government put an embargo on the import of a wide variety of food from the U.S., the E.U. and other Western allies in retaliation for the numerous sanctions the West has levied on Russia. (Video via Deutsche Welle)

But what do the Russians think of the ban? The BBC interviewed a few.

"I know a lot of young people do like those burgers.'"


"Personally, I think 99 percent of this is politics. Closing these restaurants is Russia's response to Western sanctions."

And less than a month ago, as The Washington Post reports, the same Russian agency found violations at locations in Novgorod and filed a suit to ban what it called substandard products, including the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. 

And a month before that, state-sponsored Russian TV's U.S. branch RT America ran this parody:

"Mmm, yummy, it's McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. All-white meat, boneless chicken factory-farm treated with vaccines and hormones — "

"Cut! Just read the ingredients. Don't tell them about the factory farm stuff."

Russian officials plan to expand the inspections into other McDonald's restaurants in the country, which has more than 400. 

This video contains images from David Holt / CC BY SA 2.0 and Daniel Kruczynski / CC BY SA 2.0.