When it opened in 1990, the McDonald’s on Moscow’s Pushkin Square was a symbol of thawing relations with the U.S., attracting long lines and later becoming the fast-food chain’s most visited outlet world-wide.
On Wednesday evening, it stood empty, closed by Russia’s consumer-safety regulator amid the Kremlin’s most-serious confrontation with the West since the Cold War. The agency cited sanitary violations as it said that it had closed four McDonald’s Corp.’s restaurants in Moscow.
Analysts said the move was more likely the latest shot by Russia in response to U.S. and European sanctions over Moscow’s role in the armed conflict with its former Soviet neighbor, Ukraine.
Food inspectors “have been instruments of Russian foreign policy for years,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He cited earlier bans on Moldovan wine and U.S. chicken.