UPDATE: April Fools!!!
President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has been invited to become Grand Marshal of the 2015 NYC St. Patrick's Day parade.
According to a press release published on its homepage by parade committee, the committee has personally written to the Russian president to invite him to become the parade's Grand Marshal in 2015.
The historic invite will silence longtime critics who say the parade is not inclusive, Dunleavy said. "A Russian citizen has never been selected to become Grand Marshal before, never mind an elected head of state," A spokesman explained.
"This goodwill gesture demonstrates that our parade has never and will never discriminate. Despite our political differences, we can all come together on Fifth Avenue on the one day when everyone is Irish."
This year mayor Bill de Blasio held the traditional St Patrick’s Day breakfast at his official residence with Irish prime minister Enda Kenny in attendance, but he declined to join the parade.
Observers estimated that the crowd at this year's parade was only about half the size as in previous years. It is understood the parade committee feel a banner name like Putin's could help revitalize the parade's public appeal and underline its message.
"Putin's recent moves to de-escalate the tensions over Crimea and the Ukraine have impressed us," the spokesman said. "We also admire the way he has handled demands made by anti-family forces within his own nation."
It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for the committee to release the name of a candidate before their participation has been confirmed, suggesting that the Russian president has already accepted, though a Kremlin spokesman refused to be drawn on the subject.
The spokesman said that Putin was very honored to receive the historic invite and spoke of the warm relations between Russia and the global Irish family, but he declined to say if the invite will be accepted.
Reaction from LGBT groups, who have long been excluded from the parade, was swift.
"The world should take note," said Stephen Kennedy of GLAAD. "This committee will literally go as far as the Kremlin to insult LGBT New Yorkers."
Michael Furey of the Irish LGBT Group Let Us March told IrishCentral, "They roll out the red carpet for a dictator and have no welcome for us? Putin will feel right at home on the dais watching their endless parade of military power. But it's disgraceful that they invited him. It's a new low," Furey said.