Putin Closing Russian McDonald's for 'Safety' Reasons
Government investigating 200+ locations—but it's likely because of US sanctions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2014 10:17 AM CDT
In this Jan. 31, 1990, file photo, hundreds of people line up around the first McDonald's restaurant in the Soviet Union at Moscow's Pushkin Square on its opening day.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

(Newser) – Vladimir Putin wants to show the world who's the real Big Mac daddy. About half of Russia's 440 McDonald's restaurants are "now under government investigation," with nine locations recently shut down by court order, ostensibly for health and safety violations, Businessweek reports. But (most) others say that the real reason for the supposed watchdogging is that Putin is peeved at US and European sanctions against Moscow because of the ongoing situation in Ukraine and wants to hit the iconic American brand in its wallet. Fines to reopen closed-down locations are said to run as high as $12,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At least two of the McDonald's in Kaliningrad have been shuttered because of alleged E. coli issues, reports the RIA Novosti news agency via the Times. Also closed: Moscow's flagship Pushkin Square McDonald's, which attracted hordes of hungry Russians when it opened in 1990, Bloomberg reports. Of course, by closing the restaurants, Putin could be cutting off his own nose (or the noses of his own people) to spite his face: The shutdown could lead to 37,000 jobs lost by employees, Russian farmers, and food vendors, Businessweek notes. "Nyet," McDonald's basically said yesterday in a short statement it issued on the matter: "We do not agree with the court’s decision and will appeal against it in the superior court."