Image source, Getty Images

McDonald's has said it will temporarily close its roughly 850 restaurants in Russia.

The fast food chain said the halt was a response to the "needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine".

The company, which has had a presence in Russia for more than 30 years, said it was "impossible to predict" when it would reopen, adding that it was also experiencing supply chain issues.

McDonald's said it would continue to pay its roughly 62,000 staff in Russia.

"Our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine," chief executive Chris Kempczinski said in a memo to staff that was shared publicly.

McDonald's has been under pressure as Russian violence against civilians has escalated and dozens of Western companies have taken steps to distance themselves from Russia.

#BoycottMcDonalds was trending on Twitter on Monday and over the weekend respectively.

Well-known firms including Netflix and Levi's have already suspended sales or stopped providing services in Russia.

Image source, Getty Images

McDonald's established its presence in Moscow in 1990, as the Soviet Union was opening its economy, drawing thousands for its burgers and fries.

As tensions with the West increased in 2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea, some of its restaurants were shut as part of an investigation into food standards, which many saw as politically motivated.

The closure now likewise carries symbolic weight, and is likely to influence other firms.

In 1990 I was in the queue when McDonald's opened its 1st restaurant in Moscow: when iron curtains were crumbling & Russia was embracing the West. Today McDonald's announced it is temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia. Hugely symbolic.

— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) March 8, 2022

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

McDonald's owns a majority of its stores in Russia. Combined with Ukraine, the restaurants account for about 9% of the firm's revenue and about 2% of global sales.

It has also temporarily closed its 108 restaurants in Ukraine, where it continues to pay salaries and has donated $5m to an employee assistance fund.

McDonald's said its Ronald McDonald House Charities would remain active in Ukraine and Russia.

"The conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Europe has caused unspeakable suffering to innocent people," Mr Kempczinski wrote. "As a system, we join the world in condemning aggression and violence and praying for peace."

He said the firm had made the decision over the last week. In addition to staff, the move will affect hundreds of suppliers and the millions of customers McDonald's serves in Russia each day.

The fast food chain joins a growing list of western brands to cut ties with Russia over its attack on Ukraine. Unilever, maker of Marmite, Dove beauty products and PG Tips among other products, on Tuesday said it had suspended trade with Russia and planned to halt its advertising and media spending and investments there.

It will continue to supply "everyday essential food and hygiene products" that are made in Russia.

Beauty giant L'Oreal also said it was shutting its stores and concessions in Russia and suspending online sales.

Coca Cola meanwhile is facing boycott calls for not having spoken out about the conflict.