MOSCOW: People in central Moscow prepared late on Saturday (December 31) to celebrate a somewhat subdued New Year’s Eve without the usual fireworks and celebrations in Red Square, with many saying they wanted peace in 2023 .
Authorities closed the famous cobbled square in the heart of Moscow, citing restrictions to combat COVID-19, and increased the number of police on nearby side streets.
New Year’s Day is Russia’s main seasonal holiday, while Orthodox believers also celebrate Christmas on January 7.
“We hope there will be a predictable year, we hope there will be world peace, oddly enough in such a situation,” said Moscow resident Alexander Tsvetov.
“We hope that people are happy, on each side of this conflict, and that there is peace,” he continued, referring to what President Vladimir Putin calls the 10-month “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Deprived of the chance to gather in Red Square and watch a traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks display, people walked the wet streets, looking at Christmas markets, brightly lit shop windows and ornate trees.
New laws adopted in March prescribe fines and jail terms for discrediting or disseminating “deliberately false information” about the armed forces.
“I am sure that those very, to put it mildly, unexpected, harsh and aggressive events will surely moderate. Next year there will be a change for the better, for sure,” predicted 68-year-old Yelena Popova.
The canceled fireworks display, he said, was an act of solidarity with what was happening in Ukraine.
“One must not pretend that nothing is happening, our people are dying there. There is a party going on, but there must be limits,” he said.
Tatyana, a woman who did not give her full name, said she hoped for “world peace, clear skies, happiness and health for all.” No doubt the Russian troops were having a difficult time “so we are supporting them spiritually,” she said.