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Ukraine weighs heavily on Moscow’s mind as the New Year’s holiday approaches.


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past the Christmas market in Red Square in Moscow, Russia December 26, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Vibrant Christmas markets and sparkling ice sculptures welcome visitors to Gorky Park, but some Moscow residents admit they are struggling to feel fun before the traditional New Year celebration.

At interviews on the streets in the center of the capital, several people also said they noticed a scarcity of Western goods this year as they shopped for food and gifts.

When asked if the 10-month conflict in Ukraine had affected her mood, a woman named Maria answered without hesitation.

“In person. Yes. It’s hard to be happy when you understand that people out there are going through such terrible times,” she said during a visit to Gorky Park one recent evening.

“To be honest with you, there’s always hope that things will improve, but it doesn’t seem to get better,” she added with a sad smile.

Ivan, a man interviewed nearby, mentioned the conflict indirectly but said he would still celebrate.

“A holiday is still a holiday. Although some of our comrades are doing things that I don’t want them to, this is still a children’s, grandparents’ holiday. And it should be kept that way. “, he said.

New Year’s Day is Russia’s main seasonal holiday, while Orthodox Christians also celebrate Christmas on January 7.

This year, there are inevitable reminders of the Ukraine conflict. The Latin letters Z, V and O – symbols adopted by the Russian military – are brightly lit near the entrance to the famous park.

On Red Square, a booth has been set up for people to donate gifts and humanitarian aid to the army, with upbeat Soviet-era music playing outside.

Several interviewees said their seasonal shopping has become more difficult due to the impact of Western sanctions on Russia related to what President Vladimir Putin called a “military operation”. his special” in Ukraine.

Vladislav Pukharev, the owner of a market that sells New Year’s trees for people to decorate in their homes, said prices have increased because the trees are harder to find and more expensive to transport.

“People are starting to spend less. They’re buying smaller trees than last year. But they’re still buying natural plants,” he said.

However, jewelry maker Evgeniya said her sales in a seasonal market were up sharply compared to last year.

Outside a supermarket, retired Natalia said “50% of the goods” had disappeared from the shelves. When asked to describe her mood, she said: “Absolutely terrible. I think everyone shares that.”

Student Matvey said he misses Western brands so he spent less on clothes this year. He said one of his friends had to enlist in the army and was sent to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.

When the conflict started, he said, “I felt a little empty. I didn’t know what to do with it. But then I accepted it.”

Natalia, a young woman, said she noticed there was very little cheese and she couldn’t buy her favorite Portuguese wine.

Her father Leonid interrupted her: “Oh what a tragedy… There’s a lot of Crimean wine. It’s delicious. Our wine, Russian.”

Some interviewees said they would try to welcome the new year in the usual way, even though it was difficult.

“Although I’m not ready to celebrate as usual, it still needs to be celebrated. We need gifts, etc. I think we need to combat this feeling of uncertainty,” researcher Ekaterina said. speak.

At the tree market, Moscow resident Daniela Khazova said she had “complex emotions” this year.

“Holidays are almost no longer vacations. Now I just want to be with the people closest to me,” she said.

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