McDonald's Temporarily Shutters All Locations in Russia as Country Invades Ukraine

"We cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine," McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski stated in a letter sent to company employees

McDonalds Russia
Photo: Pelagiya Tihonova/Anadolu Agency via Getty

McDonald's is closing its locations across Russia temporarily amidst the country's invasion of Ukraine.

In a letter sent to company employees Tuesday, CEO Chris Kempczinski announced that McDonalds would "temporarily close all our restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the market."

The fast food giant employs 62,000 people in Russia and currently has 850 locations in the country, according to Kempczinski.

Although he noted that McDonald's has "become an essential part of the 850 communities in which we operate" in Russia, he added, "Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine."

Referring to the temporary closure of hundreds of McDonald's locations across Russia, he added, "We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners, which is why we are prepared to support all three legs of the stool in Ukraine and Russia. This includes salary continuation for all McDonald's employees in Russia."

Kempczinski did not provide a specific date for when McDonald's would re-open its Russian locations.

"As we move forward, McDonald's will continue to assess the situation and determine if any additional measures are required. At this juncture, it's impossible to predict when we might be able to reopen our restaurants in Russia," he stated. "We are experiencing disruptions to our supply chain along with other operational impacts. We will also closely monitor the humanitarian situation."

McDonalds Russia
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty

McDonald's opened its first Russian location 32 years ago, according to CNBC. The outlet reports that 84% of the company's restaurants in Russia are owned by McDonald's; the rest are franchises.

The company's decision to close its Russian restaurants comes as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues. Russian forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24, the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. More than a million Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend. "Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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