The big show begins at 11 a.m. local time in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. 200,000 spectators will celebrate the invasion of Ukraine for six hours. Pop starlets who have proven themselves as staunch Kremlin patriots over the past year will heat up the crowd. During the course of the day, the Russian Commander-in-Chief will also appear on stage in person: Vladimir Putin.
So that nothing gets out of hand at the show, nothing is left to chance - not even who the 200,000 spectators will be. Tickets for the event are nowhere to be bought. There is no event scheduled for February 22 on the Luzhniki Stadium website. The show is not listed at all on other ticket sites either – as if nothing is happening at all.
And yet participants and volunteers are being searched online who will appear as "flag bearers, organizers or navigators" at a big show in Luzhniki Stadium on February 22. Applicants are lured with promises that Putin will appear.
In fact, the targeted recruitment of viewers is a tried and tested procedure for putting on a Putin show. In Russia, such events have long been referred to as putings, a combination of the words Putin and meeting.
To fill the stands, students and officials are carted together. That's what happened at the last show of this kind on September 30th last year. At that time, the annexation of Ukrainian territories should be celebrated. (Read how Red Square was filled for the occasion here.)
The beginning of the war a year ago is celebrated on Wednesday. And again, students and officials should ensure that Putin gets the right setting for his appearance. In the past week, advertisements for recruiting extras for the show have appeared on numerous Telegram channels and in VK groups. Viewers for a wide variety of TV formats are usually sought here - but now and then on for the puttings.
According to a typical ad, such as that published on the Massovki.net Telegram channel, "a patriotic concert dedicated to February 23" will be held at Luzhniki Stadium. Stars like Philip Kirkorov, Klava Koka, Stas Mikhailov, Polina Gagarina and Grigory Leps are announced - all without exception loyal to the Kremlin. The extras are promised 500 rubles and freebies as a reward. "Mass extras" between the ages of 35 and 40 are particularly welcome.
Students are also being rounded up again. So, some students of the Moscow Polytechnic University received messages asking them to come to the concert for free and bring friends. Those who wish to do so must send photos of their passports for FSO verification. The news also mentions a "celebratory event dedicated to Defender of the Fatherland Day." This holiday is officially scheduled for February 23 in Russia, but will be extended to three days this year.
The students of the Gubkin University of Oil and Gas in Moscow received similar invitations. They are promised seats near the stage, blankets and exemption from lectures. The Timiryazev Agricultural University went a step further, apparently stating that absenteeism can only be excused for very serious reasons.
His last appearance at the Luzhniki Stadium ended in disgrace for Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin boss appeared on the stage for just a few moments, protected by a box made of bulletproof glass. His appearance was overshadowed by technical problems. In retrospect, everyone was only talking about Putin's wardrobe anyway: a jacket for 1.45 million rubles.
At that time, viewers were promised 500 rubles, two free sausages and porridge. Some were quickly disappointed with their reward. It turned out that barley porridge was distributed - one of the cheapest varieties currently available in Russia.