Muscovites said goodbye this Wednesday to brands such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, symbols of Russia’s opening to the West that decided to suspend their activities due to the conflict in Ukraine.
McDonald’s Corp said on Tuesday (03.08.2022) that it will temporarily close its 847 restaurants in Russia, increasing pressure on other global brands to stop their operations in the country following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Iconic symbol of burgeoning capitalism
The closure of McDonald’s restaurants will also have symbolic significance in Russia, where the first location to open, in central Moscow in 1990, became an iconic symbol of burgeoning American capitalism when the Soviet Union fell.
McDonald’s said it would continue to pay wages to its 62,000 employees in Russia. Because of its sheer size and global reach, the chain is often copied by other companies if it takes a stance on an issue or makes a major operational change.
Pushkin Square McDonald’s
Lena Sidorova, an 18-year-old dance student, liked to go to the emblematic McDonald’s in Pushkin Square, the first American fast food place that opened its doors in Russia at the end of 1990, in full ferment under perestroika.
Not very often, but once a month, so as not to break the diet too often,” smiles Lena, before saying that she was “sad” to hear of the closure of her “bad food paradise”.
Big global brands such as McDonald’s and PepsiCo Inc have come under pressure to stop operations in Russia.
“Blame the West”
“I hope it’s a temporary measure,” adds the young woman, for whom the sanctions “are not Russia’s fault, but the West’s.”
McDonald’s, which has 850 stores in Russia, is the favorite place of two other Muscovites, Stepan Grountov and Stanislav Logvinov, two students at a transportation university.
“It’s really sad, but what is the relationship between McDonald’s (and the conflict in Ukraine)?” asks Stepan, a 17-year-old Belarusian. For him, the closure of this place where “everyone goes to a party” is “a tragedy”.
“But the real tragedy is what is currently happening in Ukraine, where two sister peoples are facing each other,” adds the young man.
The student dreams of the day when “rockets stop raining on cities” and “a compromise is found.”
McDonald’s said it would continue to pay wages to its 62,000 employees in Russia.
“Donbas is worth a McDonald’s”
“The lives that are saved in Donbas are much more important than eating well,” says his partner Stanislav, 18.
“Let them close if they want!” reacts Nikolai Kopylov, 42, who leaves the restaurant with a Big Mac in hand. “Donbas is worth a McDonald’s,” he adds.
“You can’t keep a guest at home if he wants to leave,” says Ilia Borodinov, 34, who often goes to McDonald’s with his 7-year-old daughter.
Starbucks temporary closure
The same goes for regular customers of another American chain, Starbucks, which also announced the temporary closure of its 130 Russian coffee shops.
Svetlana Issaieva, a 42-year-old manager, drinks her favorite coffee at a Starbucks next to the Kremlin before starting her sports class. “I like her coffee, which always reminds me of my years working in the United States” twenty years ago, she says.
The logo of the McDonald’s restaurant in Russia, in St. Petersburg during the sanctions.
Next door, Aliona, 23, works on her computer. A refugee from Donbas, she came to work in Moscow 18 months ago and says she is “shocked” by the decision of the big Western brands to close their doors in Russia.
“Punishment of the pro-Western middle class”
“The West has always made the difference between the government and the people,” she says. “But here they are punishing precisely that 20% of the population, that famous middle class traditionally considered pro-Western,” says this young woman who prefers not to give her last name. .
FEW (AFP, Reuters)