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No fry zone: Macca's, Starbucks abandon Russia as US bans oil imports

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A US ban on imports of Russia’s oil has ratcheted up punishment for the invasion of Ukraine as McDonald’s and Starbucks closed outlets and Moscow promised safe passage for some to flee after Kyiv said one route was shelled.

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As the number of refugees created by the biggest assault on a European country since World War II surpassed two million, several of the most internationally famous brands added to the Kremlin’s global isolation on the 13th day of the incursion.

McDonald’s, a symbol of capitalism that opened in Russia as the Soviet Union fell, and coffeehouse chain Starbucks will temporarily close stores, while Pepsi will stop selling its soft drinks and Coca-Cola is halting business in the country.

A ban on Russian oil and other energy imports will drive up US energy prices but President Joe Biden said it was necessary to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” he said on Tuesday.

“Russia may continue to grind out its advance at a horrible price, but this much is already clear: Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin.”

Moscow describes its actions as a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis.

Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for an invasion that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe and could hurt a global economy trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Civilians fled the besieged city of Sumy on Tuesday in the first successful “humanitarian corridor” opened since Russia’s invasion but Ukraine accused Russian forces of shelling another evacuation route, from Mariupol in the south.

Talks between Kyiv and Moscow over safe passage have previously failed, with Ukraine opposing routes out of the country to Russia or its ally Belarus.

Moscow was ready to provide humanitarian corridors so people could leave capital Kyiv as well as Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol on Wednesday, said Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defence Control Centre.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy renewed calls on Tuesday for more sanctions and no-fly zones, something the West has rejected for fears of escalating the conflict.

Western sanctions had focused mainly on individuals and financial institutions. Oil and natural gas from Russia, the world’s biggest exporter, had been excluded.

The United States is not a leading buyer of Russian oil and Europeans, who are far more reliant on it, have been more reluctant to take that step.

Britain said it would also phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022. The EU published plans to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year.

In Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of people have been sheltering under bombardment for more than a week. Many tried to leave on Tuesday along a safe corridor but Ukraine’s foreign ministry said Russian forces violated a ceasefire and shelled it.

International Committee of the Red Cross spokesman Ewan Watson said people in Mariupol were fast running out of electricity, heat, food, and drinking water.

Residents were also leaving Irpin, a frontline Kyiv suburb.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian troops repulsed efforts by Russian forces to enter the eastern city of Kharkiv on Tuesday, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.

Five people, two of them children, were killed late on Tuesday when Russian planes attacked the town of Malyn, northwest of Kyiv, and destroyed seven houses, the state emergency service said.

Western countries say Russia’s initial battle plan for a rapid strike to topple Ukraine’s government failed early in the war, and Moscow has adjusted tactics for longer sieges of cities.

In a sign of the risk that the war could expand, Poland said it was ready to deploy all its MIG-29 jets to Rammstein Air Base in Germany and put them at the disposal of the United States.

Zelenskiy on Saturday appealed to NATO countries to transfer warplanes to Ukraine.
Within Russia, the war has led to a severe new crackdown on dissent. Police arrested at least 100 protesters on Tuesday, the OVD-Info monitoring group said.

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