Moscow cancels long-running St Patrick's Day parade
A St Patrick's Day parade that attracted green-clad crowds to central Moscow for the last 19 years has been cancelled as part of the city's battle against traffic jams, organisers said Thursday.
St Patrick's Day swiftly caught on in the city, where the first Irish pub opened in the early 1990s, and the parade has been held since 1992 on the huge Novy Arbat highway in central Moscow.
The holiday on March 17 marks the anniversary of the death of Ireland's patron saint.
Lack of Celtic origins has been no barrier to an audience of thousands of expats and Russians, many wearing green scarfs or green facepaint, for a parade that last year featured trumpeting policemen and a show of Irish dog breeds.
This year's event has been cancelled after talks with the Moscow city government, headed by a new mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, since October, the Irish Business Club, which organises the parade, said in a statement sent to AFP.
"It is hoped that this decision will assist the local authorities in executing priority traffic congestion policies under the new mayor," the organisers said.
Organisers added that "unpredictable extremes in weather conditions" had also been a factor in the decision.
Moscow city government's press service stressed Thursday that it did not order the cancellation.
"We did not ban anyone from doing anything," a spokesman told the Interfax news agency.
Sobyanin has declared fighting the city's snarled traffic as one of his key goals, although the problem is exacerbated by officials, whose cars are equipped with blue flashing lights.
The street where the St Patrick's Day parade is held is regularly closed off for the Russian president's motorcade to pass through.
The organisers will replace the parade with an indoor Irish music festival three days after the holiday.
© 2011 AFP