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Sunny Days in Moscow

Sunny Days in Moscow

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not gone as quickly as the Kremlin once predicted, but a recent visit by a group of military students to a park in Moscow was a much speedier affair.

Hit by a sudden blast of early May snow, their instructor moved his young charges quickly along, the sooner to get somewhere warm. But they did take the time to stop for photos in front of the captured enemy armaments on display.

Among the biggest trophies were M1 Abrams and Leopard tanks. Ukraine had hoped that the vaunted American- and German-made war machines would help turn its fortunes on the battlefield.

They have not.

Now, after two years of war, with the Kremlin’s early military stumbles in Ukraine receding in memory, the mood in Russia is increasingly upbeat.

“The word ‘victory’ is everywhere in Moscow these days,” a New York Times Russia correspondent, Valerie Hopkins, reported recently.

The students’ tour came just three days before Russia celebrated Victory Day, which commemorates the Nazi defeat in World War II. But they, like other Russians venturing out into the cold that day, were relishing their country’s more recent military successes.

Victory Park was originally built to commemorate the Russian defeat of Napoleon. It also displays military equipment from the Second World War.

The big draw when the students were visiting, however, were the NATO tanks captured in Ukraine. Many, including the Abrams, were seized in February, when Avdiivka, a longtime Ukrainian military stronghold, fell to the Russians.

“There has been so much talk about these Abrams, about these Leopards,” marveled one onlooker as he took in the neutered Western behemoths sitting idle in the Russian snow.

“They are all standing here,” he said. “We are looking at them.”

Written by Eric Nagourney.

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