Thursday, 2 August 2012

Moscow braces itself for paratrooper day celebrations

Moscow is bracing itself as celebrations of Russian paratrooper day take place around town. On Aug. 2, paratroopers from all over the country flock to Moscow, where they celebrate in the parks and swim in fountains. This year, the city will increase security measures, and alcohol sales will be limited. Almost 3,000 policemen and army members will be on duty in the city. The celebrations started with a parade along Ulitsa Ilyinka in central Moscow from Prorok Ilya Church to Red Square. The paratroopers placed flowers by a monument on Suvorovskaya Ploshchad and will also visit several cemeteries to pay respect to fallen comrades. Paratrooper officers staged a show by Ryazan Higher School of Paratrooping and there was be a march of paratrooper students before a concert on the Red Square. The celebrations were organized with the blessing of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill with support from Moscow authorities. This year the main celebrations will take place in VVTs, instead of the more usual Gorky Park. Gorky Park, along with Sokolniki and Izmailovo parks and Poklonnaya Gora will also host paratrooper gatherings. The celebratory program will be aimed only for paratroopers and their families, Gorky Park’s authorities announced. As such, cafes will be closed and the fountains will not be operational. “We will switch off the fountain for safety reasons. But we will not drain the water so that the paratroopers can swim in it.” The park will host five mobile field kitchens, and while no alcohol will be sold, it is expected that many will bring their own beverages. Moscow residents are wary of the paratrooper celebrations, as the day is usually full of drunken accidents. Russian Migrants Federation recommended that national diasporas avoid conflicts with heavy-drinking former paratroopers. “We have already told our colleagues to be careful and distance themselves from any provocations,” the Russian Migrants Federation’s president Muhammad Amin told . He said ethnic diaspora members would be advised to avoid parks, train stations and suburban trains. Moscow’s watermelon sales will also be postponed because of the celebrations. “Traditionally in many areas, on the 2nd [of August] melon stands do not work, in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts with celebrating paratroopers. Practice shows that 30 percent of stands on that day close, it is not always Muscovites who sell the produce, but those from the southern regions who fear for the safety of their produce and themselves personally,” said the head of Moscow trade and services department Alexei Nemeryuk. Gay activists, however, are not afraid of going to parks where paratroopers celebrate, said organizer of Moscow banned gay pride marches Nikolai Alexeyev. “No one is going to give our activists any recommendations, I can honestly say that in all the time LGBT movement has existed in Moscow, there was not a single conflict with paratroopers, border guards, or other former military personnel.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, asked the paratroopers “to be restrained” in their celebrations. However, some of those celebrating were not paying attention – by mid-afternoon two drunken paratroopers had already crashed a Tigr military vehicle into a car on Ulitsa Shabolovka and escaped from the scene. The car had a replica of a machine gun attached to the roof, Interfax reported. The celebrations traditionally go on until early morning.

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