Update | 1 September 2012 The image is from the 2011, not 2012, Victory Day Parade. I managed to find a high-resolution aerial shot of the 2012 Parade that allows us to exclude 2012 That would make the second set of vehicles the SA-22 (Pantsir-S1), not SS-21s. So, both sets of vehicles are for air defense. Credit to G. J. Hickman for convincing me to take a second look. Heck of an eye on that guy.
The internets are exploding over this advertisement in the Brussels subway for the Russian airline Aeroflot.
Upon closer inspection, the aerial shot of Moscow reveals what appear to be two columns of missile launchers rolling down Kremlevskaya Naberezhnaya. The Daily Telegraph is known for neither subtlety nor accuracy and, in this case, does not disappoint:
Russia’s Aeroflot entices visitors with Moscow’s cathedrals and nuclear missiles
As well as the beauty of Kremlin’s golden cathedral spires, sinister nuclear missiles will also welcome tourists to Moscow, according to bizarre billboard advertisements from Russia’s national airline.
Posters advertising Aeroflot’s twice-a-day flights from Brussels to Moscow have appeared under the heading “Discover Russia” on the walls of the Belgian capital’s Metro underground service.
At first sight, the poster is an attractive aerial photograph of the Kremlin and the Moscow embankment with the Christ the Saviour Cathedral seen further down the Moskva river.
But on closer examination, the photograph also shows a convoy of military trucks carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs, including nuclear warheads.
The weapons, some of which appear to be “Topol” mobile nuclear missile launchers, known by Nato as SS-27s, are showcased every year during Russia’s annual May 9 “Victory Parade” held on Red Square.
It is very easy to determine when the picture was taken and, as a result, assess the hardware on the street. These are conventionally-armed missile defense interceptors
and short-range ballistic missiles, not nuclear-capable ICBMs.
The simplest thing is to look at the buildings in the Kremlin, which is the cluster of gold-domed buildings surrounded by the red wall. I noticed that one building — the Palace of Facets — was undergoing construction. This is what the Palace of Facets looks like normally.
Now here are two images — a closeup from the poster (left) and an image taken in November 2011 (right).
It is pretty clear that the image was taken during the construction that was evident in November 2011. It is a safe bet that the image is from late 2011 or early 2012. [I am now sure the image is from May 2011.]
On 9 May 2012, Russia held the annual “Victory Day Parade.” (We can even rule out the first rehearsal day, based on the weather.) The parade route runs through Red Square (below the bottom of the bottom of the image). The vehicles would have passed through Red Square, in front of a large reviewing stand and then turned right, heading up Kremlevskaya Naberezhnaya. Although it is a little hard to see, the vehicles on the poster have already passed by the reviewing stand and are now driving away from the parade and the viewer. We are looking at their back-ends as they head home. (Notice that the first column of vehicles has gone to single file as the road opens to two-way traffic.)
[Here is a high-resolution aerial image of the Victory Day 2012. As you can see, the Palace of Facets is not longer under construction.
You can watch the parade on YouTube. [But you should instead, watch the 2011 Victory Day Parade!] (The video is taken from the Kremlin side of Red Square, meaning the vehicles are moving left to right. The image on the poster, however, is taken from the opposite direction, watching the vehicles move from right to left.)
Looking at the video, as well as the rehearsal images, the first set of 8 vehicles are SA-21 Growler (S-400 Triumf) missile defense interceptors (see: 52:32). The second set of 8 vehicles are SS-26 Stone (9K720 Iskander) tactical ballistic missiles (see: 54:00). A Russian blogger has reached the same conclusion. Neither the SA-21 nor SS-26 is a nuclear-armed ICBM, so the Telegraph is guilty of a little bit of hyperbole.
[Ok, if you watch the 2011 Parade, the method is the same -- but the order of vehicles is different. Looking at the Part 3 of the 2011 parade, the first set of 8 vehicles are SA-21 Growler (S-400 Triumf) air defense interceptors (see: 10:40). The second set of 8 vehicles are SA-22 ((Pantsir-S1)) air defense interceptors (see: 11:56). Neither the SA-21 nor SA-22 is a nuclear-armed ICBM, so the Telegraph is still guilty of a little bit of hyperbole.]
The 2012 [and 2011] parade did include the nuclear-capable SS-27, but that is not what is pictured here. It is pretty easy to exclude the SS-27s. Not only is the order wrong, but there were only three SS-27s in the parade, they were in single file and had totally different support vehicles. Had the image on the poster been taken a few minutes later, then it might have captured SS-27s rolling up the street. Then again, if my grandmother had balls …
Still, the picture is an odd choice for tourism. I suspect that someone at Aeroflot must have just thought it was a pretty shot of the Kremlin. Or maybe someone assumed no one notice. But I doubt the image conveys any deep propaganda message from Kremlin.