Russian cities cancel New Year fireworks and pledge funds to army instead

Many mobilised Russian men are being sent to the war in Ukraine without proper equipment - Arkady Budnitsky/Anadolu via Getty
Many mobilised Russian men are being sent to the war in Ukraine without proper equipment - Arkady Budnitsky/Anadolu via Getty

Russian regions have cancelled their New Year’s Eve firework celebrations so that they can donate the cash to frontline soldiers and their families instead.

With the army bogged down in Ukraine, mobilised men being sent to war without proper equipment, and the death toll rising, some governors argued that now was not the time to throw a party.

Dmitry Denisov, mayor of Kaluga, a city roughly 100 miles south of Moscow, said that he had cancelled all New Year’s Eve concerts, fireworks and decorations.

“We will direct all these freed-up funds to supporting the mobilised Kaluga residents,” he said on social media. “Our men must be adequately equipped, better than the standard provision demands.”

Similar measures were announced in Siberia’s Tomsk region, Saint Petersburg, Yakutia, Yaroslavl and Nizhny Novgorod.

Moscow fireworks - Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Moscow fireworks - Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

“Children cannot be left without holidays and gifts, but for officials there should be no New Year corporate parties,” said Vladimir Mazur, Tomsk governor.

There has been no news on whether Moscow will go ahead with its traditional New Year’s Eve firework display, usually an annual highlight. It was criticised for holding a display using 30,000 fireworks to celebrate the 875th anniversary of the founding of the city in September, just as Russian soldiers were being routed in Kharkiv.

It comes as the Russian military continues to suffer a number of issues suggesting that it is having problems maintaining and replacing crucial kit.

A Russian fighter jet crashed on a training mission in Primorsky Krai region, Siberia, on Saturday, the seventh crash in three months.

“Sanctions placed on Russia by the West could well be affecting Russia’s ability to manufacture and maintain parts needed to keep aircraft safe,” wrote Michael Bohnert, an engineering analyst at the RAND Corporation, a US think tank.

The Russian ministry of defence said that the pilot of the MiG-31 fighter jet ejected before the aircraft crashed into a remote forest.

Also on Saturday, it was reported that the Russian Black Sea fleet has lost 15 per cent of its fighting capacity since the start of the war.

Opposition Russian news networks said that of the original 74 combat ships and patrol boats, 12 have been destroyed and not yet replaced.

Moskva - Max Delany/Getty
Moskva - Max Delany/Getty

Among those is the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, which was sunk by a Ukrainian surface-to-sea missile in April.

Since then, the Ukrainian military has attacked Russia’s Black Sea fleet at its base in Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean peninsula with aerial drones.

It has also sailed naval drones to the Russian port of Novorossiysk to attack submarines belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The poor performance of the Russian army in Ukraine and the multiple reports of mobilised men being sent to the frontline with outdated kit and only a few days of training have shocked people in Russia.

Since Vladimir Putin called a mobilisation in Russia in mid-September, support for his war has collapsed. A poll by the semi-independent Levada unit showed that only 25 per cent of Russians now supported the war, down from nearly 60 per cent in July.

Protests against the war are banned in Russia and although anti-war feeling may be growing, there are no signs of increased anti-government protests.

But for Russians, news from the frontlines keeps on getting worse. This month, the Russian army retreated from Kherson in southern Ukraine, less than two months after Mr Putin declared it Russian soil and promised to defend it to the end.

The Russian army also retreated from around Kyiv in March and has been fought to a standstill in Donbas, eastern Ukraine.