MOSCOW, Dec 31 (Reuters) – People in central Moscow prepared late on Saturday to celebrate a somewhat quiet New Year without the usual fireworks and celebrations in Red Square, saying they wanted peace in 2023.
Citing restrictions to combat COVID-19, authorities closed the famous Cemetery Square in the center of Moscow and increased the number of police on nearby side streets.
New Year’s Day is a major seasonal holiday in Russia, while Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas on January 7.
“We hope that there will be a predictable year, we hope that there will be world peace, which may seem strange in such a situation,” said Alexander Svetov, a resident of Moscow.
“We hope that people on each side of this conflict will be happy and there will be peace,” he continued, referring to what President Vladimir Putin called a 10-month “special military operation” in Ukraine.
People gathered in Red Square and missed the chance to witness the traditional New Year’s fireworks display, instead looking at Christmas markets in wet streets, brightly lit shopfronts and trees decorated with baubles.
New laws adopted in March prescribe fines and prison terms for defaming or spreading “deliberately false information” about the armed forces.
“I’m sure that the unexpected, severe, aggressive events will definitely moderate. Next year there will definitely be a good turn,” predicts 68-year-old Yelena Popova.
He said the canceled fireworks show was an act of solidarity with what was happening in Ukraine.
“Let’s not pretend that nothing is happening – our people are dying there. Holidays are celebrated, but there should be limits,” he said.
Tatiana, who did not give her full name, said she hoped for “world peace, clear skies, happiness and health for all”. He said the Russian troops were unquestionably “spiritually we support them”.
Reported by Reuters; Editing by David Lungren and Daniel Wallis
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