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MOSCOW, August 29, 19:17 /ITAR-TASS/. US fast-food giant McDonald's said on Friday it would close 18 restaurants across Russia in September for a planned modernization.
“Modernization work will be carried out in several days, and then the outlets will return to normal operation,” the company said.
McDonald’s plans to modernize five restaurants in St. Petersburg, two in Moscow, two in the wider Moscow region, two in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and seven more across the country.
McDonald's has temporarily closed 12 restaurants in Russia following food hygiene inspections in recent weeks.
Six outlets have closed throughout the entire Krasnodar region, four in the city of Krasnodar, and two in Sochi, southern Russia. Three have closed in Moscow, one in Serpukhov in the wider Moscow region, one in the southern Stavropol region and one in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city.
Moscow courts on Wednesday ordered a 90-day closure of three McDonald's restaurants in the city center over breaches of sanitary rules. These included the famous location on Pushkin Square that brought McDonald's to Russia just before the fall of the Soviet Union, a branch on Manezh Square under the Kremlin walls, and on the thoroughfare Prospect Mira.
Russia's food safety agency Rospotrebnadzor is currently checking 100 restaurants of the fast-food chain nationwide, the company press service told ITAR-TASS.
Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets said there was no “total plan” to inspect all the chain's outlets in Russia. She claimed activities were being carried out “in accordance with the general plan, and based on some cases of violations of sanitary-epidemiological legislation”.
Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Russian authorities were not planning to close down McDonald's chain nationwide.
“No-one is talking about it at all (banning McDonald's in Russia),” Dvorkovich said after inspectors took to the road. But some businessmen in Russia said checks had been driven by souring relations between Russia and the West over events in Ukraine.
“Obviously it's driven by political issues surrounding Ukraine,” said Alexis Rodzianko, president and CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.
Outlets closed as Russia introduced a year-long embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed by those nations on Russia.
McDonald's operates 435 restaurants in 85 Russian cities and rates the country one of its top seven markets outside the United States and Canada, according to its 2013 annual report. The company employs nearly 37,000 people in Russia, serving more than one million customers a day.