'One country, one family, one Russia': the Kremlin celebrates the anniversary of the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories | International

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From a bird's eye view, Red Square seemed like a communion of Russian patriotism this Friday. Thousands of people packed the enormous esplanade to celebrate with a macro-concert the first anniversary of the illegal annexation of the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, occupied by Russia only in part since the start of the war. Dozens of Russian flags fluttered in the wind and from the stage the Kremlin singers encouraged people to chant nationalist slogans. However, at ground level, the reality was different. Except for members of some patriotic organizations, practically no one wore any patriotic symbols and all the paraphernalia was handed out by the event organizers. Furthermore, many of those present admitted to having been guests to attend the event because of their universities and companies, and were content to attend a free concert. The anniversary party was called under the motto of One country, one family, one Russia.

“Nothing, this is nothing, I don't like it,” responded with a serious expression a third-year student at Sinergiya University who was forced by his teachers to go to the event. Around him, five companions agreed with that opinion with a slight bow of their heads despite the presence of police officers and many strangers around them. None of them wanted to share his name as a precaution.

“We had to come, they brought us here,” he emphasized without a second's hesitation when asked what they were doing there. Another friend stressed that “many” of those present did not share that patriotic fervor of the Kremlin, and a third put his hands on his head and exclaimed: “Really?!”, when asking them in the middle of Red Square how they saw the situation. on the front a year and a half later. As they retreated, they indicated with a frown that the war was going badly.

Putin decreed this week that September 30 would from now on be the Day of Reunification of the New Regions. That day last year, the president signed in the Kremlin the annexation of the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, territories that he does not fully control and in which Kiev's armed forces are now carrying out a counteroffensive. Shortly before, pseudo-referendums on integration into Russia were held in those areas for four days despite the bombs, the intimidation of the occupying forces and the majority of the Ukrainian population having fled their homes. A year later, Ukrainian forces continue their tough counteroffensive to the east and south to recover lost territory.

The Moscow macro-concert was organized this Friday just after working hours. The Telegram news channel Mozhem Obyasnit (We can explainwith more than half a million followers), revealed alleged Work offers from the organizers about 600 rubles for participating as extras in the public. Likewise, he also said that some public companies had offered free transportation to employees displaced to the place.

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Attendees to the concert organized in Moscow's Red Square, this Friday. MAXIM SHIPENKOV (EFE)

In any case, many other spectators gladly attended the patriotic macro-concert. “It's a fantastic party,” said Nikolai, a Muscovite in his 60s who was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. “They gave me entry into work and I came,” he admitted before pointing out that he attended the event “to support” his people when asked what he thinks about the war continuing in those regions a year after the proclamation of the annexation. “Before I had Ukrainian acquaintances, now I don't. “It was better before,” he acknowledged.

Red Square was packed with young people, especially university students and members of youth organizations. One of the organizing groups, Mega Volontior, indicated on its website several instructions for attending the concert. One, that the audience had to be “preferably under 35 years old,” although “they may be older.” The second, and more indicative that the Kremlin wanted to have everything under control, was the etiquette code to avoid uncomfortable symbols on the screen: “You do not need to bring any paraphernalia, everything will be given to you by the organizers at the time,” the group added. .

A few minutes after the festival began, many people were leaving the place. Others did not even enter and only made an appearance as far as the turnstiles. “Our country is getting bigger,” said Marina, a middle-aged woman from Krasnodar who gave the ticket to this journalist.

The festival was also attended by some foreigners, especially university students. Some young women from India preferred “not to talk about politics” with this newspaper, although a Mexican student who preferred to remain anonymous did. After two months in Russia, he was convinced that Moscow's cause is just. “War is nothing more than a different form of foreign policy. All countries apply war in one way or another, and it seems to me to a certain extent good that Russia is at war and not destabilizing other governments, as other countries do. "It seems to me to be a position, if not peaceful, then less hypocritical than that of other countries," said this Data student, also convinced that Russia is an "orderly" State.

The motto of the event was One country, one family, one Russia and it was the fourth official pro-war concert since the beginning of the invasion in February 2022, although unlike the previous three, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, did not appear before the public. The president did not attend this nationalist event because, among other reasons, his agenda for the day included precisely a video conference at the inauguration of the Russia-Latin America Forum in Saint Petersburg. During his speech, he stated that Moscow and Latin American states “have traditionally had much in common in their views on international issues,” and evoked, like his follower of Red Square, the figure of Che Guevara.

Putin did attend the first macro-concert of the war, the one that took place on the anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2022 at the Luzhniki stadium, where he divided the country between “patriots” and “traitors.”

In the next event, on September 30 of last year, the Kremlin celebrated in Red Square the proclamation of the illegal annexation of the four occupied Ukrainian zones in a soulless concert that left as a memory the exaltation of one of the propagandists. “Be afraid, Old World, devoid of true beauty, true faith, true wisdom, ruled by maniacs, perverts and Satanists. Be afraid, we have arrived! ¡Come on! (it's time, in Old Russian),” Ivan Ojlobystin, a Russian ultranationalist filmmaker and former priest, said from the stage. The last concert was organized on February 22 on the occasion of Defender of the Fatherland Day.

The motto of the macro-concert was criticized by some opponents for being reminiscent of the slogans of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. One of the protagonists of the event was Yaroslav Dronov, known by the stage name Shaman, adding gasoline to the fire despite the Kremlin's insistence that his is supposedly a fight against Nazism. The 31-year-old singer has published several ultra-patriotic songs in a style that imitates Nazism. One of his last songs, My strugglehas been subtitled in German as Hitler's book of the same name; and another topic, Usrecorded precisely in Red Square, shows in the video a black fur coat and an armband with the Russian flag that evokes the style of the officers of the Third Reich.

While thousands of kids watched the Red Square concert, Putin signed the call for 130,000 young people to complete mandatory military service. The law prohibits recruits from being taken to the front and the Ministry of Defense assured this Friday that they will not fight in Ukraine. The call to military service, which occurs between October 1 and December 31, also includes young people from the occupied territories in Ukraine.

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