Moscow all red for the May 9 Parade

from Marco Imarisio, our correspondent in Moscow

Tests in the sky, bars decorated with flags and posters: «It seems to be back in the time of the USSR». Beyond the choreography, the date could mark the end of the “special operation” and the beginning of the “war”, to have more men and money

The guys from the Irish pub have been ordered to remove all that greenery from the window. The large letters of the name of Joyce descent, the contoured silhouette of Bono from U2, and while we’re at it, the four-leaf clover. At most, they can paint it red: this must be the color of the capital for the parade on May 9th.

Moscow, what an effort. In the morning, military planes whiz across the skyreproducing the Z-shaped formation, the symbolic letter of the Special Military Operation. Meanwhile, the army occupies the city for night trials, cutting it in two. Each shop has now received the Celebration Kit, and urged by the Muscovite policemen, they hasten to display posters and symbols that seem to come from the time of the Great Patriotic Victory. “It was not since Brezhnev’s time that we saw so many hammer and sickle” says Mikhail, the owner of the restaurant on Pushkinskaya, who was not even born at the time of the great stagnation of the early 1980s.

We are in the area where at the beginning of the Special Military Operation people went to look for signs of dissent, the protests that were supposed to become mass, and we know how it went. Now the army is only more concerned with checking that the statue of Mayakovsky in the square of the same name is paved with red flags edged with yellow gold. Yet, even the mother of every May 9, even more important and solemn than that of the seventy year old, has its beautiful contradictions. It will take place in 28 different cities, and a total of 65,000 soldiers will participate. At the most important parade, the one on Red Square, only 129 vehicles will parade compared to 191 in 2021, when there was already a smaller edition due to Covid. Ten thousand men will march, including the Cossacks, but the year before there were two thousand more.

It is not a question of the propensity to save, so the Kremlin argues, but of a surge of sobriety due to the moment. The Special Military Operation is not a war, it is forbidden to call it that, but Putin could declare war after two months of fighting, something very different from the possibility of general mobilization vehemently excluded by its spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The same person who last February 23 had always vehemently excluded the hypothesis of an imminent invasion of Ukraine. It could instead be an intermediate step, the formalization of the ongoing conflict, which would allow the use of more men and finances. Everyone talks about it, even the state television, May 9 has become a date with an almost messianic value. Other than the parade, the red ribbons and old photos of Red Army soldiers entering Berlin.

This year there is a concern that cannot escape the Kremlin’s loyal public opinion dowsers. Maybe it will just be a matter of appeasing it by declaring a small victory on the day of the Great Victory. Some signs are already there. Yesterday afternoon the Minister of Defense Serghey Shoigu caused many a sensation already felt. In front of his staff he said, live on every possible channelthat Mariupol is under Russian control, apart from the “few Nazi remnants” stuck in the Azovstal factory. These are the same words he used during his meeting with Putin on April 21st. Perhaps they insist on Mariupol because there is nothing else to party with. The well-informed military sites report that on that very day Shoigu told the president that he could not keep his promise of a conquest of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions by 7 May.

Meanwhile, the only sure thing is there difference between the real economy and that perceived by the Kremlin. Restaurants are becoming more and more empty. The ruble goes on a swing, like the prices of food in the supermarket. And the guys from the faux-Irish pub started closing early in the evening. Moscow is red from head to toe. But all the paraphernalia that will shine in Red Square will not be gold.

May 4, 2022 (change May 4, 2022 | 22:22)

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Moscow all red for the May 9 Parade

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