Postcard from... Moscow


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The Independent Online


Red October Island is home to Moscow’s best nightlife, its wild clubs staying open until dawn. A stone’s throw from the Kremlin, the drinking and partying usually make visitors feel a long way away from politics, corruption or other tedious worldly concerns.

But partygoers at Gipsy, one of Moscow’s most exclusive clubs, were given something of a shock last weekend when at around 1am the club was suddenly swarmed with men wearing all-black outfits and balaclavas. It was not a hostage-taking operation but instead a raid by Russia’s drug control agency, who raced through the club with automatic weapons and sniffer dogs looking for drugs. The doors were closed, and nobody was allowed to leave for half an hour; after that, only those with passports were let out.

It was a throwback to a decade ago, when Moscow’s clubs were frequently raided by the drugs police, who would often throw partygoers onto the floor and search them aggressively. However, while it does not take a sniffer dog to understand that many people in Moscow nightclubs are on drugs, there is perhaps a more complicated explanation for the apparently random raid.

Afficionados of the Moscow nightlife scene are certain that sending dozens of drug control officers into the streets in the dead of night does not come cheap, and suspect a rival nightclub to have paid for the raid to put people off Gipsy. Either that, or perhaps the club failed to pay off the right people in the police or other law enforcement bodies.