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McDonald’s Is Back, Moscow Style, as Russian Economy Stumbles On

Banned from using European airspace, Aeroflot is now focusing on domestic routes and working to switch to Russian planes — a process that will take years. Siemens, which built telegraph lines across the Russian Empire in the 1850s and helped bring the country into the industrial era, announced last month it was pulling out of Russia.

“Sanctions suffocate the economy, which doesn’t happen all at once,” said Ivan Fedyakov, who runs Infoline, a Russian market consultancy that advises companies on how to survive under the current restrictions. “We have felt only 10 to 15 percent of their effect.”

But when it comes to food, at least, Russia is more prepared. When McDonald’s opened in the Soviet Union in 1990, the Americans had to bring in everything. Soviet potatoes were too small to make fries, so they had to acquire their own russet potato seeds; Soviet apples didn’t work for the pie, so the company imported them from Bulgaria.

But by the time McDonald’s pulled out this year, its Russian stores were getting almost all their ingredients from Russian suppliers. So when McDonald’s, which employed 62,000 workers in Russia, announced on March 8 that it was suspending operations because it could not “ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,” one of its Siberian franchisees, Aleksandr Govor, was able to keep his 25 restaurants open. Last month, he bought the entire Russian business of McDonald’s for an undisclosed sum.

On Sunday — Russia Day, a patriotic holiday — he will reopen 15 stores, including the former flagship McDonald’s on Moscow’s Pushkin Square under a still-to-be-disclosed new brand. It is the place where, in 1990, thousands of Soviets famously lined up for a taste of the West.

The hash browns will go by a Russian name, according to a menu leaked to a Russian tabloid. And, since the secret sauce is proprietary, there will be no Big Mac on offer.


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