Russia watchdog shuts four McDonald's in Moscow

McDonald's outlet in Moscow - file pic McDonald's operates hundreds of restaurants in Russia

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Russia's main consumer watchdog has temporarily shut four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow as part of an investigation into food standards.

Watchdog Rospotrebnadzor claimed the restaurants had breached "numerous" sanitary laws.

McDonald's said it was looking at the complaints, adding its "top priority is to provide safe and quality products".

The watchdog also announced checks at McDonald's in the Urals, in central Russia, said the Itar-Tass news agency.

The Moscow closures and the unscheduled Urals checks come amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over the crisis in the Ukraine.

Previously, when diplomatic tensions have been high, the regulator has controversially banned products including wine from Georgia, cheese from Ukraine and apples from Poland, according to BBC Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford.

Earlier this month, Russia imposed a "full embargo" on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries, in response to sanctions over Ukraine.

The regulator's actions in Moscow and the Urals are part of an ongoing investigation into McDonald's food standards in Russia.

'Extraordinary decision'

In July the watchdog filed a lawsuit in Moscow urging the restaurant chain to withdraw certain products.

McDonald's said that restaurants on Pushkin Square, Manezh Square and Prospect Mira in Moscow had been temporarily closed, and said it wanted to "re-open the restaurants as soon as possible".

"We will continue taking care of our employees and will do our best to continue the success of McDonald's business in Russia," the firm added.

Quentin Peel, former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, told the BBC that the checks and closures were "propaganda".

McDonald's opened in Moscow 24 years ago, and has been seen as a symbol of Western capitalism in Russia, Mr Peel said.

"It's an extraordinary decision, because McDonald's is the great symbol of the West, but at the same time they've set up the most extraordinary network of suppliers in Russia to keep the whole system going.

"There are now something like 300 McDonald's across the country, and they've got an enormous network of people providing them with potatoes, and beef, and everything that goes into the product... In fact, it's going to hit an enormous number of people inside Russia."

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