U.S., Ukraine officials grab some McDonald's fries to celebrate chain in Kyiv

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Ukraine

KYIV (Reuters) - Over large fries and a cherry pie, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday credited his American counterpart Antony Blinken with helping get the U.S. fast-food restaurant McDonald's to reopen in Ukraine after Russia's invasion.

The two top diplomats grabbed a quick bite at a McDonald's in Kyiv before a joint news conference and after Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Blinken is on a two-day trip to Ukraine, the first by a top U.S. official since Kyiv's counteroffensive began in early June.

Speaking to reporters while they ate, Kuleba recalled how he told Blinken by phone after Russia's invasion how important it would be for the fast-food chain to return to Ukraine.

"The secretary said he heard me and he will look hard at what can be done," Kuleba said. A few days later his team received a phone call from the U.S. embassy about the request, he said.

"I think having McDonald's in the country is a message: a message of confidence... This is how the comeback of McDonald's started - in the phone conversation. And this is why we're here tonight."

The world's biggest burger chain closed its restaurants in Ukraine and Russia in March 2022, following Moscow's invasion of the eastern European country.

But it reopened some branches in Ukraine in September 2022 while in Russia, the U.S. company sold its outlets. They reopened in June 2022 under new Russian branding.

Blinken said McDonald's was eager to come back to Ukraine and the two diplomats wanted to mark the food chain's return with a quick visit.

"We've been saying to each other .. the next time I was in Kyiv we should get a chance to stop by," Blinken said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)