McDonald’s said on Friday that a total of 12 of its branches in Russia had been temporarily closed over the state food safety regulator’s allegations of sanitary violations.
The U.S. fast-food chain, which has 440 restaurants in the country, also said that more than 100 inspections were under way at its restaurants in various regions of Russia.
The food safety agency, Rospotrebnadzor, said it ordered the closures for sanitary reasons, but they coincided with heightened tensions over the Ukraine crisis, in which the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia and Moscow has hit back by banning a wide range of Western food imports.
Three McDonald’s restaurants – on Moscow’s Manezh square, under the walls of the Kremlin, at Pushkin Square and on Prospect Mira – have been closed since last week on the orders of the agency. A court challenge was rejected on Wednesday.
Russian businessmen have said the crackdown is linked to the crisis over Ukraine, which has soured U.S.-Russian relations and led to a round of sanctions and trade restrictions. Rospotrebnadzor has denied that its actions are politically motivated.
Russia is one of McDonald’s top seven markets outside the United States and Canada, according to its 2013 annual report. Almost 1 million people a day visit its restaurants in Russia.
“We are studying the essence of claims in order to determine the necessary actions for the swift re-opening of restaurants for visitors,” McDonald’s said in a statement.
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