BURGER fans in Russia today rejoiced at the reopening of McDonald’s branches under a new name after the fast food giant pulled out of the country.
Swarms of people were depicted queuing to get their fries ready after restaurants closed in March, just weeks after Putin launched his bloody war in Ukraine.
The chain has been renamed — with its new name “Vkusno i Tochka,” or “Tasty Full Stop,” a pointed jibe while the OTR-21 Tochka-U ballistic missile is being used by Russian forces firing on Ukrainians.
McDonald’s, which first opened in Russia 30 years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed, had 847 stores in the country until the American giant decided last month to pull the plug and sell its branches.
But despite the cloak of a new name and fake copycat dishes like the “Grandee” burger, fast food aficionados have said the food tastes the same and the venues are decorated exactly the same.
The branches were bought by Putin’s friend Alexander Govor, who was photographed today grinning as he cut a ribbon at a restaurant in central Moscow.
Alexander Merkulov told Reuters the equipment and ingredients for the burger are identical, but some favorites, including the Big Mac and McNuggets, have been left off the menu.
Dozens of people lined up for what used to be McDonald’s flagship restaurant on Pushkin Square, in central Moscow.
The outlet sported a new logo – a stylized burger with two fries – plus a slogan: “The name changes, the love remains”.
Customer Sergei, 15, said: “The taste has remained the same.
“The cola is different, but nothing really changes about the burger.
While some key meals can’t be bought, fast food fans can grab a double cheeseburger for 129 rubles (£1.80) and a fish burger for 169 rubles (£2.40).
McDonald’s iconic Golden Arches have been stripped of the locations to be reopened in Moscow and St Petersburg.
The logo has been replaced by a fresh copy consisting of two fries and a “red dot” hamburger patty against a gray background.
Oleg Paroyev, the director general of the new group, said: “The new name is Vkusno i Tochka.
“Our goal is that our guests will not notice any difference in quality or ambiance.”
The relaunch started on Russia Day, a patriotic holiday honoring the country’s independence, in the same prime location on Moscow’s Pushkin Square where McDonald’s first opened in Russia in January 1990.
He told a press conference in Moscow that tomorrow another 50 restaurants are expected to open across Russia, and about 200 will be ready for business by the end of June.
Russian businessman Alexander Govor, who was a licensee of the chain, bought it after McDonald’s announced in May that it would sell its Russian portfolio of nearly 850 restaurants.
McDonald’s opened its first branch in Moscow’s Pushkin Square in 1990, when 30,000 people lined up for their first Big Mac.
Because of the low Russian wages, it was a luxury in the country at the time.
But the US giant dumped its branches in Russia last month as Putin’s war dragged on — the landscape of Ukraine strewn with rubble amid severe bloodshed.
The company said: “The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the rapidly unpredictable business environment have led McDonald’s to conclude that the company’s survival in Russia is no longer tenable.”
When McDonald’s announced it was closing its Russian restaurants in March, a devastated fan filled its refrigerator with 50 burgers.
Others tried to make some money by selling McDonald’s food on auction sites.
One ad for a “still warm” full meal, consisting of a double Big Mac, a double royal, two large portions of chips, 18 McNuggets and mozzarella dippers, was on sale for £255.
Another distraught fan chained himself to a McDonald’s branch in protest in an attempt to stop it from closing.