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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dejected Tourists Turned Away at Red Square

MTA guard on Monday standing near a police barricade with a sign that says Red Square is closed until September for repairs.
Natalya Borisovna, a 45-year-old doctor from Novosibirsk, could barely hide her disappointment.

She had been planning a trip to Moscow for months, saving money and dreaming about relieving some of the fondest memories of her student days with a stroll around Red Square.

Instead, she found the square sealed off Monday by police fences. Taped on the fences was a sign: "Red Square closed for renovation until September."

"I am really upset; this is just too bad," said the woman, who only gave her first name and patronymic. "Of course, there are other places I want to see in Moscow, but I was really looking forward to visiting this one."

Authorities shut down Red Square to tourists and passers-by in mid-July. No official explanation has been given, but unofficially the word is that authorities fear a terrorist attack. The closure came shortly after the double suicide attacks at a July 5 rock concert killed 17, including the two female bombers, and a July 10 explosion on Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ulitsa that killed an explosives expert.

While the Russian-language signs say Red Square is closed due to repairs, guards readily acknowledged that this was not so. "I was constantly being asked about what was going on. Now I've hung up this sign and am asked a lot fewer questions," said Vladimir Komarov, a guard at the State Historical Museum on one edge of Red Square.

A police officer stationed nearby said laughingly that the square is undergoing "border stones"repairs, but he could not explain what a border stone was. He then said the explanation about repairs was only an excuse for curious tourists.

"If you were to stand here as long as I have, then everything would be clear," said the officer, Stepan Ivanov.

A narrow fenced-off passage on one side of the square was packed with tourists and abuzz with frustrated and irascible exclamations in Russian, French, German, Korean and other languages. "Too bad Red Square is closed," one tourist said.

"Those idiots, why did they have to seal off the whole square if they are doing renovations on some part of it?" said another.

"We'll have to go to the museum instead," a third said.

The State Historical Museum is covered with banners for exhibitions about the lives of French leader Charles de Gaulle and Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev and the history of World War II. But the attractions seemed to provide little consolation. "It's disappointing," said Joachim Schleich, a tourist from Germany. "This will not spoil the vacation, but I guess they could have done a better job of informing people."

His wife, Corinne, suggested that if authorities were so worried about possible terrorists attacks they could have set up security checks at the entrance to Red Square and let people through.

St. Basil's Cathedral and Lenin's Mausoleum are still open to visitors.

The Federal Guard Service, which provides security for the square, would not comment Monday.

For Natalya Borisovna, the closure was a sad discovery. She said she first visited Red Square with a group of college classmates more than 20 years ago.

"Those were the days," she said. "I know the time of one's youth seems great when you look back at it, but every time I come here -- and I can't afford to do it often -- I like to sort of relive the past."