Russians embrace Kremlin-backed WWII ribbon


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A woman passes a banner for the upcoming Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on April 28, 2015 A woman passes a banner for the upcoming Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on April 28, 2015


Millions of Russians will on May 9 don black-and-orange striped ribbons to mark Soviet victory in World War II, but critics accuse the Kremlin of using them to link wartime glory to current policies.
The ribbon is seen as Russia's answer to the poppy widely worn in Britain to commemorate the sacrifice of service personnel in two world wars and other later conflicts.
With this year's 70th anniversary commemorations attracting much patriotic fervour, the ribbon has become almost ubiquitous.
Three Russian cosmonauts at the International Space Station have already been seen sporting theirs, while officials such as Kremlin administration chief Sergei Ivanov have worn orange-and-black-striped ties.
The use of the ribbon to mark the World War II victory, however, dates back only around a decade.
Russia's confrontation with the West over Ukraine has breathed new life into the state-sponsored ribbon campaign after a lull in recent years.
Dmitry Kiselyov, one of the country's propaganda supremos who leads the campaign, claims the ribbon is a sign of support for pro-Russian militants fighting in eastern Ukraine, who have adopted it as their badge of honour.

Women pose for a selfie in front of the historical Place of Execution decorated with a banner for the upcoming Victory Day celebrations on Red Square in Moscow, on April 30, 2015.
Kiev supporters nickname them "Colorados", referring to the Colorado beetle's orange-and-black colouring.
"Do we feel solidarity with the people of Eastern Ukraine who today are forced to defend this ribbon... with weapons in their hands?" Kiselyov, head of Rossiya Segodnya state news agency, said at the ribbon campaign's launch.
"Yes, we do."
Act of remembrance
Responding to the ribbon's controversial political symbolism, Russia's ex-Soviet neighbours Belarus and Ukraine have each created alternatives.
Belarus has a red and green ribbon, its national colours, while Ukraine has opted for a poppy.

A Russian soldier waits on his WWII-era Soviet tank T-34 in Moscow on April 29, 2015 ahead of the Victory Day military parade night training.
The way the Kremlin is using the ribbon has troubled some.
"They have appropriated the ribbon," said political analyst Sergei Medvedev.
"The name of Victory is being used to sanctify aggression, which Russia fought against in 1941," he said.
In an editorial, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily added: "The orange-and-black ribbon is becoming de rigueur at rallies against the 'fifth column' and liberals. That didn't happen before."
For many, however, wearing the ribbon is a simple act of remembrance.
People taking ribbons from volunteers on a Moscow street one morning in late April talked of pride in Russia and gratitude to those who fought in WWII, mentioning family members who took part.
Irina, a 60-year-old university lecturer in electronics, said she was taking ribbons for herself and her daughter to tie on their cars.
"For us, it's all very alive," she said, her eyes shining as she told the story of how her grandmother took in a wounded Red Army commander and hid him from Nazi forces.
"There are a lot of families like mine," she said.
"Some people come up and say, 'I don't want a ribbon, I'm not a patriot,'" said a student, Semyon, who was handing out ribbons.
"I respect the people who fought for us," Semyon added.
'We support Russia'
The popularity of the ribbon is undeniable. Cars and even a bus braked so the drivers could take one, while almost every passerby did so.

Russian municpal workers scatter sand in front of State Historical museum decorated for the upcoming Victory Day celebrations on Red Square, Moscow, on April 30, 2015.
"Our grandfathers fought. I remember that," said a 21-year-old student, Maruf, in a T-shirt with a picture of President Vladimir Putin.
"We support Russia, that's it, that's the main thing," said Sergei, a businessman.
Each day, volunteers at that distribution point -- one of 20 in Moscow -- hand out around 10,000 free ribbons, said an organiser.
The ribbon is also sold commercially, although the campaign's organisers frown on this.
The image of the ribbon, which is not a trademark, features on everything from ice cream and salad packaging to utility bills.
Some observers complain that this ubiquity has devalued the ribbon and the concept of victory.
"The Victory 'brand' is being cheapened and devalued by cakes (and) circus shows... and even by the ease with which you can join in by tying it on your wing mirror or on a handbag," said the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily.

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