* Courts back food safety regulator's decision on closures
* McDonald's says rulings unjustified, will appeal
* Closures comes amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine
* Regulator suspends work at a fourth Moscow branch
(Adds closure of one more restaurant in Moscow, details)
MOSCOW, Aug 27 Russian courts on Wednesday
backed the temporary closure of three McDonald's
restaurants in Moscow for breaches of sanitary rules, amid a
standoff with the West over Ukraine, while the state food safety
watchdog suspended work at a fourth.
The three restaurants - on Moscow's Manezh square, under the
walls of the Kremlin, at Pushkin Square and on Prospect Mira -
have been closed since last week on the orders of the watchdog,
Rospotrebnadzor. The court rulings confirmed that decision.
Rospotrebnadzor has introduced sweeping checks, including
unscheduled inspections, at McDonald's restaurants across the
On Wednesday it ordered the temporary closure of a fourth
branch in the capital - the sixth nationwide.
Russian businessmen have said the crackdown is linked to the
crisis over Ukraine, which has soured U.S.-Russian relations and
led to a round of sanctions and trade restrictions.
Rospotrebnadzor has denied that its actions are politically
McDonald's said it would appeal the court rulings, which
ordered the three Moscow branches to be closed for 90 days.
"We do not agree with the courts' decisions and will appeal
them according to established procedures. We will continue to
take care of our employees and do everything we can to continue
successful operations in Russia," said a spokeswoman for the
U.S. firm in Russia.
A lawyer representing McDonald's in the court, Maksim
Titarenko, was also quoted as saying the courts' decisions to
close the branches were unjustified.
"The court has ordered the maximum penalty under this
article of the administrative offences code although there are
no grounds for it," Interfax news agency quoted Titarenko as
A court in the Urals region delivered a similar ruling on
Wednesday when it ordered the closure of a McDonald's restaurant
in the city of Yekaterinburg for 85 days, backing the food
safety watchdog's decision the day before.
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. Almost 1
million people a day visit its restaurants in Russia.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Additional reporting by Natalia
Shurmina in Yekaterinburg; Editing by Louise Heavens and Pravin