Preparations are underway in Volgograd for Putin's visit to mark the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. Usually the regions limit themselves to “window dressing”, but this time the local authorities really sent the city back in time – the police in NKVD uniforms marched in the central square, dogs disappeared from the streets along with the Volgograd governor (he has not been seen in public since January 24).
NKVD march and Z vehicles
During the parade in the central square of Volgograd, which has been renamed Stalingrad for a day, police officers dressed in NKVD uniforms marched through the square, the “Chekists” leading the march. Also taking part in the event were military vehicles bearing the letters Z and V. Military leaflets were dropped from onto the square from planes. The day before, monuments to Joseph Stalin, George Zhukov and Alexander Vasilevsky were erected in the city, and Stalingrad road signs were set up.
Interior troops had taken part in the defense of Stalingrad - 10th Rifle Division of the Interior Troops of the NKVD had suffered heavy losses. In October 1942, the division became part of the Separate NKVD Army (70th Army).
Disappearance of the governor and dogs
Since January 24 no one has seen the Volgograd Governor Andrei Bocharov in public. Nor has he attended the parade. Perhaps he is in quarantine in the run-up to Putin's visit.
Also missing from the city streets are dogs; under ordinary circumstances there's quite a lot of them in Volgograd, stray animals being one of the city's major problems. According to local media reports, the animals were placed into a kennel for the duration of the Stalingrad Victory celebrations. After the end of the mass events, they will be returned to their habitat, the reporters were told by the head of the municipal company responsible for capturing dogs during the visit of the Russian president.
Crumbling houses along the highway “draped” with banners
Volgograd journalists say that the city has become “unusually clean and quiet” ahead of Putin's arrival. Here, too, some “window dressing” took place - road markings were painted on the wet asphalt in front of the mayor's office, and crumbling houses with unsightly cracks in the facades were draped with banners. But those cosmetic changes have only been made to the houses lining the highway, where the presidential motorcade is likely to pass.
Mamayev Kurgan closed to the public
On the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Stalingrad, people will not be allowed to visit Mamayev Kurgan, one of the most important locations where fierce fighting had taken place during the defense of the city. Visitors will not be admitted to:
- Mamayev Kurgan from 11:00 to 16:00;
- the Battle of Stalingrad panorama museum from 10:00 to 18:00;
- the panorama museum will be open from 18:00 to 22:30.
A similar situation occurred almost exactly one year ago – on January 27, the anniversary of the lifting of the Leningrad Blockade, St Petersburg's authorities closed the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery to the public because of Putin's visit. The Russian president laid flowers in solitude “for epidemiological safety reasons”. And in Ekaterinburg, on December 2022, people on public transport were prohibited from alighting as the presidential motorcade approached.
Internet shut down, city center closed off
According to journalist Farida Rustamova, who cites her subscribers in Volgograd, as of midnight all mobile operators have switched off the Internet in the central neighborhoods. This is also confirmed by Volgograd journalists.
Traffic restrictions have also been imposed, now it's impossible for all types of vehicles to pass through the city center. Yandex.TrafficJams shows that traffic is congested in the city center, with local media reporting serious traffic jams.