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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

For Veterans, Politics Has Spoiled Victory Day

Victory Day is a traditional time for celebration and camaraderie for the men and women who defended the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, but Moscow's veterans on the eve of this year's holiday were subdued.


City authorities had planned one of the most extravagant celebrations in the 48 years since the end of World War II, but veterans interviewed Friday said that a bloody confrontation between pro-Communist demonstrators and the police last weekend had tainted the spirit of their holiday.


"There won't be much celebrating to speak of", said Pyotr Fedosev, 77. "Politics has spoiled the whole thing".


Fedosev, interviewed as he picked up his holiday zakaz -- a bundle with butter, mayonnaise, cheese, canned fish, and a bottle of wine -- at a special store for veterans on Ryzhsky Proyezd said he was sure the violence would be repeated.


Several ultra-nationalist groups, such as the National Salvation Front and Working Russia, have said they plan to ignore restrictions imposed by Moscow city authorities on demonstrations and march to Manezh Square on Sunday morning.


Their plans are officially separate from those planned by city authorities for the veterans themselves.


But with both groups holding parades and demonstrations in the city center at the same time, veterans like Fedosev said their holiday could be ruined.


"We all fought together", he said, "and now people are all fighting each other".


The Moscow government's cultural committee has organized gatherings for veterans in 42 locations, mostly movie theaters and local parks, according to committee chairman Igor Bugayev.


The showcase of the celebration will be the opening of Victory Park on Poklonnaya Gora, a giant memorial complex built partly on money out of veteran's pockets.


Festivities will begin Sunday with a parade of 1, 200 veterans and a 300 piece military marching band at 9: 30 A. M. on Pushkin Square, moving down to Manezh Square. From there, 35 buses will transport the veterans to Poklonnaya Gora for opening ceremonies, lunch, and a concert.


The festivities are by far the most extravagant of any in the recent past, and some veterans accuse the city government, which is firmly in President Boris Yeltsin's camp, of using the holiday to woo support for economic reforms.


"I'm amazed", said Mikhail Dmitrikov, 69, who marched in the original Victory Day parade in May 1945. "I've never seen anything like this. I've gotten invitations to three different events".


He added, "I think they're trying to distract us with all this".


Bugayev denied the festivities were an attempt to court the veteran's lobby.


"It's nothing like that", he said. "You just have to understand the meaning of this holiday for people here. It is one of our most important national celebrations".