Pro-Putin rapper reopens former Starbucks coffee bars in Russia

A pro-Putin rapper has reopened the chain of coffee shops previously owned by Starbucks under a new name, Stars Coffee, the latest high-profile rebranding of a major Western chain after an unprecedented exodus of companies from Russia.

On Thursday, rapper Timati and restaurateur Anton Pinskiy, the duo that acquired the rights to the chain in Russia, attended the opening of the first of 130 cafes previously owned by Starbucks. During the opening in central Moscow, the couple also unveiled the chain’s new logo, which replaces Starbucks’ iconic siren with a woman wearing the traditional Russian coshnik headdress, but is otherwise quite similar.

Seattle-based Starbucks announced in May that it would exit the Russian market after nearly 15 years, as it joined hundreds of other major Western brands that left the country after Moscow’s invasion of Moscow.

Dozens of Western companies have since agreed to sell their assets at deep discounts to Kremlin-friendly Russian businessmen. Russian authorities have actively encouraged the takeovers, intended to comfort ordinary Russians that they can continue to lead a Western lifestyle amid the country’s growing isolation.

Timati, whose real name is Timur Yunusov, was a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as a self-proclaimed friend of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.

In 2015, the rapper released a song titled My Best Friend is Vladimir Putin which the president describes as a “superhero”. Timati was also behind a pro-government song called Moscow, in which he boasted that the Russian capital “does not hold gay parades”. It became the most “hated” song in the history of Russian YouTube.

Starbucks’ reopening marks the second high-profile rebranding of a Western food chain after former McDonald’s restaurants restarted operations under a new name, Vkusno & Tochka (“Yummy and that’s it”).

Vkusno & Tochka has since been hampered by Western sanctions and has struggled to maintain its old menu, forcing the company to temporarily stop serving its signature fries and potato wedges.

It was not immediately clear what will be on the menu of the new coffee chain.

Shortly after the Starbucks acquisition in Russia, Timati vowed not to disappoint the “millions of coffee lovers” in the country: “We have a chance not only to change the board, but to make a real case of a cool import substitution! ”

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