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Putin clamps down on Big Macs

Four McDonald's (MCD) in Moscow were slapped with safety violations Wednesday by the Russian consumer-safety regulator. The McDonald's restaurants in Pushkin Square, Manezh Square and Prospect Mira were forced to temporary close their doors to customers.

"Clearly this is related to the ongoing sanctions battle with regard to Russia's activity in Ukraine," says Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman. "It's Russia's way of acting tough."

According to The Wall Street Journal, the shut down of the fast-food restaurants "is the Kremlin's most serious confrontation with the West since the Cold War."

McDonald's operates 435 restaurants in Russia and employs 37,000 Russian workers, a McDonald's spokesperson told the WSJ. The food retailer's Russian restaurants account for less than 5% of McDonald's operating profit.

McDonald's responded to the store closures on its media relations site:

"We are closely studying the subject of the documents to define what should be done to re-open the restaurants as soon as possible. We will continue taking care of our employees and will do our best to continue the success of McDonald’s business in Russia."

Related: Fast-food workers win small battle against McDonald’s

McDonald's has been the target of Russian regulators before. The Russian federal consumer protection agency filed a lawsuit against McDonald's last month over claims that the menu items Filet-o-Fish sandwich, Royale Burger, chicken burger and cheeseburger contained “two to three times" the amount of calories advertised. The Russian agency said dangerous bacteria, such as E. coli, were found in the Caesar Roll and Vegetable Salad.

U.S. multinationals with a major presence in Russia include John Deere (DE), PepsiCo (PEP), Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and ExxonMobil (XOM).

The McDonald's news underscores that "Russia is a risky place to do business," notes Newman.

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