Soviet customers stand in line outside the just opened first McDonald's in the Soviet Union on January 31, 1990 at Moscow's Pushkin Square. ( AFP / VITALY ARMAND)

Photo shows Moscow's first McDonald's restaurant opening in 1990, not chain's closure in Russia

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

A photo has been shared hundreds of times in social media posts that claim it shows Russians queuing to purchase their final meal at a McDonald's restaurant before the American fast-food giant closed all outlets in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Although local media reported that Russians flocked to McDonald's restaurants after the closure was announced, the photo has been shared in a false context. It was taken by an AFP photographer in January 1990 at the opening of the first McDonald's restaurant in the Soviet Union.

The photo of a long queue in front of a McDonald's restaurant was shared on Twitter on March 10, 2022.

The tweet's simplified-Chinese caption translates to English as: "Getting a bite even if there's a queue! Video from Moscow on the evening of March 8, local time, after fast-food chain McDonald's announced it would withdraw from Russia, the line of cars stretched to almost half a mile."

A screenshot, taken on May 25, 2022, of the Facebook post

McDonald's, along with many Western businesses, announced it would pull out of Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, AFP reported.

The company, which claimed to have employed 62,000 workers in Russia, closed all of its 850 restaurants across the country in March.

The photo was also shared hundreds of times alongside a similar claim on Twitter, Facebook and Gettr.

It was also embedded in a news report on MSN by Taiwanese magazine Bella that made a similar claim.

Although local media in Russia reported here and here that Russians flocked to McDonald's restaurants in March 2022 before outlets closed, the photo has been shared in a false context.

An analysis of the photo shows a Soviet Union flag underneath the large McDonald's logo that overlooks the queue outside the restaurant.

Screenshot of the photo with the Soviet Union flag magnified by AFP

A reverse image search on Google found the image was originally taken by an AFP photographer on January 31, 1990.

The photo's caption reads: "Soviet customers stand in line outside the just opened first McDonald's in the Soviet Union on January 31, 1990 at Moscow's Pushkin Square."

McDonald's claims that it served more than 30,000 customers on its opening day in Moscow.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the Facebook post (left) and AFP's photo (right).

A screenshot comparison of the photo in the Facebook post (left) and the AFP photo 

McDonald's former restaurant in Pushkin Square, Moscow, can be seen here on Yandex Maps.

Ukraine conflict