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Burger King stays open in Russia, with earnings redirected to humanitarian relief

SAINT-PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - 2020/03/18: Burger King logo seen at Galeria Shopping and Entertainment Centre. (Photo by Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
RBI has 800 franchised Burger King locations in Russia. (Photo by Sergei Mikhailichenko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Restaurant Brands International (RBI) says it will redirect its earnings from its 800 franchised Burger King locations in Russia towards humanitarian efforts supporting Ukrainian refugees.

The fast-food chain operator, which also runs Tim Hortons, Popeyes and Firehouse Subs, released a statement on Tuesday condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The company currently has 800 franchised Burger King locations in Russia that are managed by independent local operators. The locations will remain open, and RBI (QSR)(QSR.TO) says it will redirect the earnings it makes from its franchised operations in Russia towards humanitarian efforts.

"BK Russia is a standalone business owned and operated by our franchisees in the country," an RBI spokesperson said.

"We have long-standing legal agreements that are not easily changeable."

RBI, which operates in U.S. dollars, also says it will commit $3 million to immediately support Ukrainian refugees and donate $1 million to the United Nations refugee agency.

"We are watching the attack on Ukraine and its people with horror and are focusing our efforts in the region on contributing to the safety of Ukrainians seeking shelter and security for their families," the company said in the statement.

RBI also says that Burger King franchisees in more than 25 European countries are partnering with local organizations to distribute $2 million worth of Whopper meal vouchers for Ukrainian refugees.

The decision comes as many major companies opt to shutter operations in Russia in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

McDonald's announced on Tuesday that it will temporarily close its 850 restaurants in Russia but continue to pay the salaries of its 62,000 workers in the country. In an open letter to employees, CEO Chris Kempczinski says "our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine."

Starbucks had initially said it would donate earnings from its 130 Russian locations, which are owned and operated by a Kuwait-based franchise group, towards humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine. The company went a step further on Tuesday, announcing that it would temporarily close those locations while continuing to pay its Russian employees.

With files from The Associated Press

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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