McDonald’s closes restaurants in Russia, marking end of closer ties between Moscow and West

A new day has dawned for Russia’s fast-food lovers, with former McDonald’s restaurants set to reopen under new branding and ownership, more than three decades after their arrival.

The relaunch is slated to begin on Russia Day, a patriotic holiday celebrating the country’s independence, at the same flagship location in Moscow’s Pushkin Square where McDonald’s first opened in the country in January 1990.

As the Soviet Union crumbled, McDonald’s came to embody a thawing of Cold War tensions, and it was a vehicle for millions of Russians to sample American food and culture.

The brand’s exit is now a powerful symbol of how Russia and the West are once again turning their backs on each other.

McDonald’s last month said it was selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, Alexander Govor. The deal marks one of the most high-profile business departures since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

People walk past guards in Soviet-style military garb in front of a fast-food restaurant with red and yellow branding
McDonalds was the first American fast-food restaurant to enter the Soviet Union.(AP: Vicktor Yurchenko/File)

McDonald’s iconic golden arches have been taken down at sites across Moscow and St Petersburg, where they will make way for a new logo comprising two chips and a hamburger patty against a green background. The reopening will initially cover 15 locations in Moscow and the surrounding region.

The new chain’s name remains a closely guarded secret. A change in the name of the McDonald’s app on Friday to My Burger generated some online excitement, but the chain’s press team said this was only temporary.

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