McDonald’s, Starbucks among major brands to pause operations in Russia

By Lucas Casaletto

McDonald’s announced it is temporarily closing all of its 850 restaurants in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The fast-food giant said it would continue paying its 62,000 employees in Russia. But in an open letter to employees, McDonald’s President and CEO Chris Kempckinski said closing those stores is the right thing to do because McDonald’s can’t ignore the “needless human suffering in Ukraine.”

McDonald’s owns 84 per cent of its Russian restaurants. In a recent financial filing, the company said Russia and Ukraine contributed 9 per cent of the company’s revenue last year.

According to the open letter, the company will continue to pay employees in Russia during the closure.

“At this juncture, it’s impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia. We are experiencing disruptions to our supply chain along with other operational impacts. We will also closely monitor the humanitarian situation,” read the letter.


Starbucks Corp. announced on Tuesday that it is suspending all business activity in Russia, including the shipment of its products and cafes. Photo courtesy: Sorin Sîrbu.

Starbucks, Coca-Cola follow suit 

Starbucks said on Tuesday that it is also suspending all business activity in Russia, including the shipment of its products and cafes.

The coffeehouse chain said in a statement that Alshaya Group, which operates more than 100 Starbucks cafes in Russia, will “provide support to the nearly 2,000 partners in Russia who depend on Starbucks for their livelihood.”

Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies’ announced they, too, will be suspending business in Russia.

“Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine,” Coca-Cola said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as circumstances evolve.”

In a news release, PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta said that “given the horrific events occurring in Ukraine,” the company will suspend the sale of its products.

“As a food and beverage company, now more than ever, we must stay true to the humanitarian aspect of our business. That means we have a responsibility to continue to offer our other products in Russia, including daily essentials such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula and baby food,” Laguarta said.

“By continuing to operate, we will also continue to support the livelihoods of our 20,000 Russian associates and the 40,000 Russian agricultural workers in our supply chain as they face significant challenges and uncertainty ahead.”

Consumer goods conglomerate Unilever also said Tuesday that it has suspended all imports and exports of its products into and out of Russia and will not invest any further capital into the country.

The company condemned the war in Ukraine as “a brutal and senseless act by the Russian state.” It said it would continue to supply everyday essential food and hygiene products made in Russia to people there but will keep that under review.

Unilever, which owns hundreds of food and personal care brands, including Hellmann’s and Dove, also said it has stopped business operations in Ukraine and will instead focus on helping its employees.

The announcements from the major corporations come as U.S. President Joe Biden said they would be banning all Russian oil imports. This follows pleas made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to U.S. and Western officials to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions on Russia over the invasion.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada would prolong its military mission in Latvia in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine and plans to send more troops there soon.

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