Fast food chain McDonald’s may find itself in the center of a diplomatic dispute between the United States and Russia.
Tensions flared this week as Russia responded to a U.S. Department of Justice order requiring the Moscow-funded news organization RT, originally named Russia Today, to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, blasted the announcement saying, “The war the U.S. establishment wages with our journalists is dedicated to all the starry-eyed idealists who still believe in freedom of speech. Those who invented it, have buried it.”
In a tit-for-tat move, Russian president Vladimir Putin respond with a law that will expand the list of foreign agents acting in Russia to include western news outlets. Under the law, such news outlets would be forced to market themselves as “foreign agents” and to disclose their funding.
And now it seems the American hamburger has entered the fray of international politics. Boris Chernyshov, a 26-year-old Moscow lawmaker in the federal Russian Assembly, wants to label the fast food restaurant as a foreign agent over claims of misleading advertising.
“The food sold by American fast food restaurants, according to some studies, negatively affects the body and human health,” Chernyshov said. “In advertising, a positive image of consumption of these products is presented.”
Under the law, restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC would have to designate their advertising in Russia as “the messages of foreign agents”, says Chernyshov. “The second step will be the legislative initiative to include American fast food networks in the appropriate registry.”
The U.S. and Russia have battled over western fast food chains operating in the country in the past. In 2014, Russian health officials shut down four Moscow McDonald’s restaurants over “sanitary violations”. The move was widely seen as retaliation over sanctions levied onto Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow’s Pushkin Square is home to the world’s busiest McDonald’s. There are 430 McDonald’s restaurants across the country and they employ some 35,000 Russians.
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