UPDATE 1-Russian Deputy PM says no plans to ban McDonald's - Itar-Tass
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MOSCOW Aug 23 (Reuters) - Russian authorities are not planning to close the McDonald's chain in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich was quoted saying on Saturday, after inspectors visited a number of restaurants run by the fast-food company.
"No one is talking about it at all (a ban on McDonald's in Russia)," Dvorkovich was quoted saying by Itar-Tass news agency, in what could be a reprieve for the food chain, which considers Russia as one of its top markets.
Russia's food safety watchdog has launched inspections of McDonald's restaurants across the country against the backdrop of a standoff with the West over the Ukraine crisis and has closed three of its outlets in Moscow, citing breaches of sanitary regulations.
The outlets were closed as Russia introduced a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway, in retaliation for Western economic sanctions over Moscow's involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
A symbol of U.S. capitalism, McDonald's operates 440 restaurants in Russia and considers the country one of its top seven markets outside the United States and Canada, according to its 2013 annual report.
It opened its first restaurant in Russia, on a main Moscow thoroughfare, in 1990, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The outlet was one of the three restaurants that were closed by the authorities earlier this week.
The food safety watchdog has made coordinated inspections of McDonald's restaurants in many Russian regions, including in central Russia, Moscow and the Urals.
"It has just happened that the inspections were completed at the same time," Dvorkovich said, according to the report. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Christian Lowe and David Holmes)