Royal reception highlights Moscow's latest shortage

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The Independent Online
PANIC swept Moscow yesterday as it was discovered there may not be enough dinner jackets in the city for those lucky enough to have been chosen to meet the Queen at a reception. Fashion shops are opening almost daily in the Russian capital but few have thought to stock dinner jackets.

Most Muscovites will have to settle for catching a glimpse of the Queen during her Red Square walkabout today or seeing her on television, but even that prospect seems to excite them inordinately. 'Presidents and Prime Ministers come here all the time but when will we ever get another chance to see a real Queen?' enthused Natasha, a housewife who was window-shopping outside Bradley's of London on Old Arbat Street yesterday.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived in a freezing Moscow at the start of a four-day state visit - the first to Russia by a British monarch.

Because the Russian media's coverage of the Royal Family has been generally respectful, many people do not know about the marital scandals. But even those who do know seem to want to ignore stories of human frailty which might tarnish their image of the monarchy.

'All these rumours about Diana being unfaithful were whipped up by journalists to make money,' said Maya, an economist.

If Russians respect the monarchy, it is because they see it as having provided Britain with stability as well as the pomp and ceremony which they have missed during the grey decades of Communism. 'Your Queen is above the fray of politics, that is what we like about her,' said Yuri, a pensioner.

'Yes,' chimed in his wife, Yevgenia. 'She's colourful and does nothing. We used to have a boss like that at work. We called her the Queen of England.'

(Photograph omitted)