Russia Denies Sanctions Revenge On McDonald's
Russia's food safety agency has denied it has closed four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow as an act of revenge for US sanctions.
Rospotrebnadzor insisted there was no political motivation behind the decision to shut the burger chain's operations, saying it was responding to complaints from customers on quality and safety grounds.
The body confirmed on Thursday it was carrying out unscheduled checks at McDonald's outlets in other regions and cited numerous breaches of sanitary rules for its action in Moscow.
The closures and inspections were announced after Moscow and the West imposed tit-for-tat sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Alexis Rodzianko, the CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said of the action against McDonald's: "Obviously, it's driven by the political issues surrounding Ukraine.
"The question on my mind is: Is this going to be a knock on the door, or is this going to be the beginning of a campaign?".
A spokeswoman for the regulator, Natalya Lukyantseva, told the Reuters news agency: "Checks were started due to complaints."
She declined to disclose the number of McDonald's restaurants which were being checked though outlets were being inspected in at least four regions, including further restaurants in Moscow.
Those closed in Moscow include one on Pushkin Square, which McDonald's said was the busiest in its global network and its first outlet in Russia - opening for the first time in 1990 and hailed as a symbol of the cold war's end.
McDonald's, which operates 438 restaurants in Russia, said in a statement that it was reviewing the Rospotrebnadzor watchdog's claims - adding that its "top priority is to provide safe and quality products" for its customers.
Sanctions - first imposed on Russia by the West - were a response to the country's actions in Ukraine which saw the annexation of Crimea and later the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
Earlier this month Russia banned the importation of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products from the European Union, the United States and other Western countries.