McDonald’s said Tuesday it is temporarily closing all of its 850 restaurants in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Chicago-headquartered burger giant /zigman2/quotes/203508018/composite MCD -0.26% said it will continue paying its 62,000 employees in Russia “who have poured their heart and soul into our McDonald’s brand.”
But in an open letter to employees, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempckinski said closing those stores for now is the right thing to do. “Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,” Kempczinski said.
Kempczinski said it’s impossible to know when the company will be able to reopen its stores.
McDonald’s has also temporarily closed 100 restaurants in Ukraine and continues to pay those employees.
McDonald’s could take a financial hit because of the closures. In a recent regulatory filing, the company said its restaurants in Russia and Ukraine contributed 9% of its annual revenue, or around $2 billion.
Its location at Pushkin Square in Moscow, opened to great fanfare in 1990 as the first in the Soviet Union, was for a time billed as the top McDonald’s location in the world and has remained among Europe’s biggest in the decades since. A number of McDonald’s locations in Russia were shuttered by a state regulator in 2014 amid tension between the U.S. and Russia , again over Ukraine.
Notified on air during an MSNBC interview on Tuesday of the McDonald’s decision, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, commended the company, saying it was doing the right thing in further demonstrating U.S. resolve and unity.
Unlike other big fast-food brands in Russia that are owned by franchisees, including Yum Brands /zigman2/quotes/209029767/composite YUM +0.53% units KFC and Pizza Hut and Restaurant Brands International’s /zigman2/quotes/202094900/composite QSR +0.23% Burger King, McDonald’s owns 84% of its Russian locations.
Pressure has been mounting for McDonald’s and other companies like Coca-Cola /zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite KO -1.71% and PepsiCo /zigman2/quotes/208744353/composite PEP -0.22% that remain in Russia to pull out. Many corporations have ceased operations in the country in protest of the Ukraine invasion.