Moscow nightclub hosts early party for Trump

Nataliya Vasilyeva
Associated Press

Moscow — Twenty-four hours before Donald Trump was to be sworn in as president of the United States, several dozen people packed a Moscow nightclub to get a head start on celebrating.

“Trump, Trump — it is unbelievable. Trump, Trump, he’s a superman, Trump, Trump — symbol of America. Trump, Trump, he’s really president,” the Thursday evening crowd at Arbat 13 heard an 82-year-old, Soviet-born crooner sing in English.

The small jazz club located a stone’s throw from the Stalin-era tower housing Russia’s foreign ministry might have been early, but it isn’t the only place in the capital that Ronald Reagan associated with an “evil empire” to be toasting Trump.

Across from the U.S. embassy compound in central Moscow, the Russian Army store put up a poster with the incoming president’s picture to advertise inauguration day discounts of 10 percent for embassy employees and American citizens.

“Russians celebrate a lot. We celebrate Russian holidays, foreign holidays. I welcome it because it’s not a secret that Russians were glad that Trump won,” Arbat 13 club owner Igor Khaletsky said when asked why Russians would want to party in honor of a U.S. president.

Months before the November election, Russian lawmakers openly rooted for Trump. Kremlin officials also made remarks which clearly indicated Moscow preferred to see the wealthy businessman in the White House rather than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But inside the Kremlin, the initial euphoria over having a Putin admirer in the White House is giving way to skepticism that any meaningful detente with the U.S. can be achieved, according to four senior officials in Moscow.

Controversies over alleged Putin-ordered hacking to help Trump get elected and a leaked dossier claiming the Kremlin has blackmail material on him has transfixed Washington, where a bill to impose harsher sanctions on Russia is gaining bipartisan support. The backlash appears to have forced many of Trump’s cabinet picks to take tougher lines on Russia in their confirmation hearings than the Kremlin anticipated, the people said.

Russian officials could be deliberately talking down expectations from Trump, of course, in an effort to undermine suspicions they secretly aided his campaign.

The inauguration party on Thursday at the underground jazz club attracted a curious crowd: Canadian tourists, an American personal trainer, Russian friends of the night’s performers, and the owner of a provincial restaurant called Trump.

“I thought this was like a comedy event, more of a spoof of the fact,” said Joe MacInnes, a Canadian who came with two friends and was slightly bewildered. “Are they making fun of the fact that the world thinks that Russia is supporting Trump?”