Tuesday, April 29, 2014
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Broken country: a masked man surveys the damage to Mariupol Town Hall in east Ukraine
WORLDS APART ON A WISH LIST FOR PEACE Diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis in Ukraine cannot keep up with the rapidly deteriorating situation on the ground, writes Nikolai Gorshkov
PETER GREENAWAY INTERVIEW
The British filmmaker on Russian art, cinema and his exhibition in Moscow
Ukraine crisis Dangerous game Instability in Ukraine has focused attention on energy security P.03
Analysis Crimea’s bumpy road The now-Russian region rolls up its sleeves for the tough tasks of reform and reconstruction P.06
fter an initial burst of optimism that the diplomats might have negotiated a way out of the crisis, the great Geneva hope for peace in Ukraine is dead in the water. The agreement reached in Geneva between Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU to create a process of deescalation and to pull back from confrontation ended before it had a chance to begin, just like the compromise on February 21 between Ukraine’s President ViktorYanukovych and the opposition. Just as in February, events on the ground have overtaken the political efforts. The shooting yesterday of Gennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, in an apparent assassination attempt, was the latest sign that the situation is unravelling rapidly in the east of the country. Armed proRussian separatists also seized control of another town, Konstantinovka, with shots fired at the main police station as the so-called “green men”in military uniforms, aided by locals, took control of the building. The seizure and detention of a group of military monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) by rebels in the eastern city of Sloviansk has further increased international concern. The self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of the city proposed yesterday to swap the men, four Germans, a Dane, a Czech and a Pole, for his supporters arrested by authorities in Kiev. Russia, an OSCE member, has called for the men to be released as soon as possible. Germany urged Moscow to use its influence with the pro-Russian separatists to secure the release of the monitors and “to distance itself clearly from such acts”. The US and the EU moved yesterday to impose another round of sanctions on Russia, accusing Moscow of failing to implement the Geneva agreement, further undermining the accord’s prospects. The US imposed visa bans and asset freezes on seven more Russian government officials, including two described as part of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. The list included Igor Sechin, a close Putin ally and former deputy prime minister who now heads the oil giant Rosneft; Vyacheslav Volodin, the presidential first deputy chief of staff in the Kremlin and Sergei Chemezov, head of the giant Russian Technologies Corporation who served in the KGB with Vladimir Putin in East Germany. The US sanctions also targeted 17 Russian
companies with asset freezes and banned export licences for“any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities”. An EU meeting in Brussels was expected to put another 15 Russian officials on its blacklist. Shortly after agreeing in Geneva to defuse the standoff with the south-east, the authorities in Kiev resumed an army operation in what they called a response to“terrorists”and foreign infiltration. Since Easter Sunday, several people, mostly civilians, have been killed in skirmishes and there have been many reports, some yet to be confirmed, of more clashes and casualties. Kiev and the West blamed Russia for the outbreak of hostilities, with President Barack Obama saying he had always been pessimistic that Russia would stick to what was agreed in Geneva. This scepticism was obvious even before the Geneva meeting, with US officials playing down expectations of a breakthrough or of Russian concessions meaningful enough to avoid a third wave of American and European sanctions. Yet the Geneva outcome was hailed by all sides as far better than appeared possible. So what was agreed at Geneva and who was supposed to stick to the agreements? The joint statement by Russia, the US, EU and Ukraine listed “initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens”: •All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned all expressions of extremism, racism and anti-Semitism. •All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to their legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated. •Amnesty will be granted to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons. •The constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies. It is evident that steps towards national dialogue had to be taken by the Ukrainians themselves, while the international community was expected to be “assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures”. However, US Secretary of State John Kerry
made it clear Washington would hold Moscow responsible for controlling the pro-Russian protesters in the south-east, and having them leave government buildings and disarm. But there was a problem – they were not represented at Geneva and refused to abide by its agreements. Moscow tried to persuade Kiev,Washington and Brussels to invite the supporters of regional autonomy to Geneva, but failed. This was seen as a diplomatic victory for Kiev, but it turned out to be an own goal.
New power players
Within two years of its inception, the reset policy went into overload with the Libyan crisis
While Mr Kerry insists the onus is on Moscow to rein in “the force of mob”, Moscow says the protesters in the south-east are not its“puppets” and that it cannot order them to abide by the Geneva accords while the other side is carrying out an army operation against them and branding them terrorists.“Instead of realising that there is something wrong in the Ukrainian state and making attempts to start a dialogue,” President Putin said during a nationwide TV phone-in, “they began to use the threat of force even more and stooped so low as to send tanks and aircraft against civilians. This is not the road to follow; there should be a path of dialogue among all the inhabitants of the country, wherever they live.” The main hurdle on this path, according to Andrei Sushentsov, a partner in the Foreign Policy think-tank, is the fragmented nature of Ukraine’s political scene. “New players have popped up suddenly. Until November 2013, few had heard of the Right Sector, who became the most energetic part of the opposition. A month ago, armed men showed up in Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Donetsk, unexpectedly to Russia too – their provenance is unclear but they are now a force that must be taken into account.” Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute for the Commonwealth of Independent States, believes only a compromise can save the accords. “Russia looks at things rationally and understands not everyone in the south and east aspires to join Russia. Likewise, the powers-thatbe in Kiev do not lend themselves to easy manipulation by the US or anyone else. At the same time the US does not see the need for now to put more pressure on Kiev to seek compromise.” The need for compromise is especially poignant at a time when the world remembers the CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
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Unity is lost in translation Society Divisions over language are not clear-cut but Russian speakers feel threatened YULIA KUDINOVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Tongue double brings trouble”. That might have resonated with the members of Ukraine’s parliament whose first decision after President Viktor Yanukovych departed in February was to repeal a 2012 law that gave individual regions of Ukraine the right to have Russian recognised as a second state language alongside Ukrainian, permitting its use in official documents, in dealings with local officials, and in areas such as courts and schools. The decision was cancelled by Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, who ordered MPs to set up a working group to consider a new language law that would take into account the interests of people in both the mainly Ukrainian-speaking west and in the south and east, where Russian is widely spoken. But the parliament’s move offended the millions of Ukrainians for whom Russian was either their mother tongue or preferred language and fuelled pro-Russian sentiment in Crimea and in the east of the country. The “trouble” was not that they did not understand one another: almost all Ukrainians understand both languages and there is a high level of mutual comprehension between the two languages. The Russian language dominates in major cities below a line from Odessa to Kharkiv and in Crimea, while Ukrainian is
Sixty per cent of songs played on the radio are in Russian. One of the biggest daily newspapers in the country is in Russian
the main language in the north and west and in the countryside. The language divide is a legacy of the Soviet Union, where Russian was the dominant language in its 15 republics. The Soviet collapse left Russian minorities in many newly independent states, such as Kazakhstan or the Baltic republics, who were expected to know languages they had ignored. Some states made Russian an official language alongside the national tongue. But the Baltic states made knowledge of their languages a condition of citizenship, something resented by many Russians. So thousands of people, particularly in Estonia and Latvia, where Russian speakers are a quarter and a third of the population respectively, have no citizenship. Ukraine has a similar language problem. According to a 2010 poll by the Research & Branding Group, Ukrainian is the language of 65pc, compared to 33pc for Russian. Politicians have been criticised for not speaking the national language properly. MrYanukovych and former prime minister Nikolai Azarov were more proficient in Russian than Ukrainian. This is true even of nationalist leaders such as former prime ministerYulia Tymoshenko or former boxing champion Vitali Klitchko. During February’s uprising, Mr Klitchko several times addressed thousands of nationalist supporters in Kiev’s Maidan Square in Russian. The nationalists are calling for Ukrainian to be granted dominant status. “We are not calling for Russian to be banned or trying to infringe people’s individual rights”, says Artiom Lutsak, a leader of the nationalist Right Sector. “All people in Ukraine have the right to speak their language, provided they also speak Ukrainian.” The Ukrainian expert Alexander
‘We have finally come back home’ Vox populi A majority of Crimea residents welcome the region’s new status, but some face difficult choices ERADZH NIDOEV SPECIAL TO RBTH
A little over a month has passed since Crimea became a part of the Russian Federation. But what is the current mood on the streets? And what do the locals think about their lives at present and in the future?
Alexander, boat captain Alexander, 28, is the captain of a small boat and has been conducting boat tours around Sevastopol for the past 10 years. He has lived in Sevastopol all his life and his parents live here, too. He and his family were in favour of Crimea joining Russia. A month after his wish came true, he realises life is not changing for the better as quickly as he would like. “Our city is a
military and tourist centre. Millions come to visit us, but you can see what condition the city is in. Even this pier is scary to walk on. “Now, after joining, Russia is our only hope. I have not seen any support from Kiev for as long as I’ve lived here. I haven’t felt like a Ukrainian for the past 20 years, and I’m happy about Sevastopol’s new government. I’m alarmed about the events in Ukraine and we’re worried about the people who live there.”
Alexey and Vadim, military servicemen Alexey and Vadim are Ukrainian citizens. They have served with the Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol all their lives and are at a crossroads. Ukraine doesn’t want them back but they are still associated with the Kiev military, which is seen as being run by nationalists. In his late 20s, Alexey is in a difficult situation. He has served in Sevastopol for several years; his wife is Russian and his children live here. “Here, being a Ukrainian serviceman means that you are considered a fascist. But I can’t go back to Ukraine, either. If I visit my parents, the Ukrainian police
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
Kava, from west Ukraine, believes the government’s intolerance led to the language divide. “The state policy is dominated by the Ukrainians in the west, who think their opinion is the only valid one. This approach has not allowed cohesion in the country, because the inhabitants of Crimea and other regions in the southeast felt they were treated like second-class citizens for speaking the ‘wrong’ language.” The language dispute was politicised after forces in favour of closer relations with the EU came to power in 2005. Ten years ago Russian was the dominant language in Kiev; today it is Ukrainian. Conversations in both languages are common, for example where one speaker would say something in Russian and the other would reply in Ukrainian. Another Ukrainian phenomenon is sourjyk, a mixture of the two languages spoken by more than 20pc of the population. Television channels broadcast in Ukrainian only but a studio guest can choose to speak in Russian. By law, all public signs must be in Ukrainian. But in the stairwell of apartment buildings it is common to read notices in Russian (for example, that “the lift is out of order”). Sixty per cent of songs on the radio are in Russian. Russian films in cinemas or on television are subtitled or dubbed into Ukrainian. One of the biggest daily newspapers in the country, Segodnya, is only published in Russian, while many other publications have two versions (one in Russian and one in Ukrainian) or are in Ukrainian only. Books and newspapers in Ukrainian are hard to come by in the south-east of the country, while one cannot find any newspapers published in Russian in the west of Ukraine.
will have me in handcuffs in no time. To them, I am a traitor.” But his colleague Vadim sees this situation as temporary misunderstanding and hopes for a better future. He considers himself to be Ukrainian, although his father is Russian. All of the relatives on his mother’s side live in Ukraine, and his father’s relatives live in Russia. He hasn’t experienced any harassment for being Ukrainian from local Russians and he has decided he doesn’t want to go back to Ukraine; they don’t need any patriots there, but only nationalists. “I don’t want to work for the Right Sector,”Vadim confesses. “Besides, I have a wife and a sixmonth-old child; where would I take them?” Alexey and Vadim are still officially enlisted in the Ukrainian Navy. There are a total of 400 servicemen in their position and they have already been issued with Russian uniforms and divided into groups of 15. They are waiting for retraining courses and will serve Russia.
Vladimir, ship engineer “I’m a pure-bred Crimean and my roots go all the way back to Potemkin,” Simferopol resident Vladimir Nikolaevich says, proudly. He is 58 and has been officially retired for the past three years. But he still works as a ship engineer at a Norwegian company. “I was on a ship during the referendum and could not vote. But if I could, I would have voted for Crimea to join Russia. I have relatives in Ukraine – a cousin. He thinks that we, Crimeans, are traitors. But we still talk, regardless of our differences.
Worlds apart on a wish list for peace
Divided loyalties? Even nationalist leaders have made speeches in Russian in bilingual Ukraine
“I haven’t made up my mind about the new Russian government in Crimea. Overall, they’re doing good things. They’re starting to deal with corruption. To be honest, I don’t think I’m going to miss Ukraine.”
Oleg, freelance Oleg Skvortsov, 26, was born in St Petersburg. In 1992, a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he moved with his parents to Sevastopol. He was five at the time and considers himself Ukrainian. He has refused to become a Russian citizen. “I believe that Crimea is part of Ukraine,” he says. “I’ve had long discussions about this with my parents, who support Russia. It’s a problem of identity. Many people here identify as Russian and want to be part of Russia, and I can understand that. I respect their wishes, but I think that the referendum was illegitimate. No legitimate referendum can be put together in just two weeks. “I think I’ll tie up any loose ends here and move to Ukraine in the summer. I work remotely for a Russian photography school, so I can work from wherever I want so long as I have a laptop and an internet connection. I really hope that Ukraine doesn’t fall apart.”
Yuri, businessman Yuri, 31, has lived in Simferopol since he was 16. His father is from Crimea and his mother is from western Ukraine. Yuri makes metal roofing. He has to stand in long queues at banks several times a week in order to send money to business partners in mainland
historic meeting on the Elbe between Soviet and American troops that brought the end of the Second World War one significant step closer. On the 65th anniversary of this meeting, on April 25, 2010, Russia’s then President Dmitry Medvedev issued a joint statement with President Obama paying tribute to“the courage of those who fought together to liberate Europe from fascism”. The spirit of the Elbe was supposed to be kept alive with the help of the “reset button” that was presented to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the mistranslation of the word “reset” into the Russian for “overload” proved ominous for the initiative. Within two years of its inception, the reset policy went into overload with the Libyan crisis.“Medvedev supported the western partners, supported the [UN Security Council] resolution on Libya,” Mr Putin reminded his audience on April 17. “It was about establishing a no-fly zone for the Libyan government air force. And what did this really lead to? To [Nato] airstrikes, to the overthrow of Gaddafi, his murder, the murder of the US ambassador and to disintegration of the country. That’s what created distrust. That’s when the reset ended.” If Russia felt misled by the West on Libya, she was bound to feel more anxious about the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. Russia’s security concerns appear to be the key to unlocking the promise of the Geneva accords. Since 1991, Russia has been trying to persuade Nato to agree to a new, all-inclusive security arrangement covering the whole of Europe and all the way to the Pacific. What she saw instead was a relentless expansion of Nato towards its borders. Moscow hoped a breakthrough in solving its security concerns had been reached with the formation of the Nato-Russia council in 2002, designed to assure an “all-weather” resilient dialogue, even when relations were tense. “The Ukraine crisis has shown that this platform is not working,”Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defence Anatoly Antonov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta, after Nato decided to suspend co-operation with Russia. “In Brussels they are discussing just one thing – how to punish Russia.” Press reports that Moscow has stopped all top-level contacts with Washington have been dismissed by Mr Lavrov. He said: “I am discussing this [Ukraine] almost daily with John Kerry. In Geneva, we all agreed that there must be a reciprocal approach to any illegitimate action in Ukraine.” The failure to make progress after the Geneva talks does not bode well for the holding of presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25. Separatists in the eastern Donetsk region are also still intent on holding an independence referendum on May 11. Whether the West and Russia like it or not, they need each other to tackle challenges far bigger than Ukraine. One Western leader who had his own brush with Moscow over a major international crisis 10 years ago, in Iraq, has urged a“wilfully blind West”to understand its long-term interests in countering Islamic extremism and to make common cause if necessary with Russia and China on the issue. In a speech to Bloomberg on April 23, Tony Blair warned:“The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is destabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation.” The spirit of the Elbe calls for a bold step towards each other to secure this peaceful coexistence, be it in Ukraine or the wider world.
Ukraine because Ukrainian financial institutions no longer operate in Crimea, and Russian financial institutions have yet to be fully established. “All Crimean residents will experience some difficulties while the banking system gets sorted out,” he says. “But it’s not so bad. It wouldn’t be any better in Ukraine, I’m sure. Everyone says that we are a subsidised region, but I believe that with the right leadership and investments we can improve the economy. Like everyone else, I thought about leaving before Crimea became a part of Russia, but now I want to stay. I’m sure once things get sorted out here, everything will be OK.”
Anya and Vika, schoolgirls Anya Malynina and Vika Martinenko, both aged 17, are 10th-grade students at one of the public schools in Sevastopol. They are happy about being Russian citizens. Both of their families are Russian and they consider themselves to be Russian. “We had such a great referendum,” says Vika. “People were out on the streets celebrating all night. We all walked around with Russian flags, and Russian flags were hanging outside of people’s houses. Everyone was happy; everyone was really happy.” Vika wants to become a lawyer and Anya wants to be an economist. Neither girl is interested in politics, but thinks that they can’t remain indifferent under the current circumstances. They want people to stop believing bad rumours about life in Crimea. “We have finally come back home,” Anya says.
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Ukraine crisis THIS SUPPLEMENT IS SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA_www.rbth.co.uk_Tuesday, April 29, 2014_P3
Oil and gas The conflict has created a serious threat to global security of supply as politicians put rhetoric before economic reality
Dangerous game: no one wins when energy becomes a political football NIKOLAY PAKHOMOV
es is nuclear. The governments of European countries are recovering from the shock of the Fukushima accident and dusting off plans to build nuclear lants. But these plans will have no effect on Europe’s dependence on energy exports from Russia, since Russia today supplies the EU with 30pc of its uranium. If nuclear power becomes more widespread, this percentage could rise significantly. Neither is there any prospect of replacing Russian energy through imports from other regions. Plans to increase exports to Europe from West and East Africa remain on paper – which is not surprising, given the chronic instability of many countries there. No less complex is the political situation in the Middle East and North Africa: the Arab Spring has seriously destabilised these regions.
Gas delivery sources for the European Union
The Ukraine crisis has focused attention on energy security, with many European leaders saying the continent must cut its dependence on Russian oil and gas. But the main threat to global energy security comes from politicising the issue – confrontational rhetoric, finger-pointing and an unwillingness to reach agreement threaten to set back international economic development. There are two distinct issues: Europe’s energy security and Ukraine’s political future. But the key point is that the second problem is a hindrance to solving the first. Ukraine’s geographical location, and the fact that pipelines for oil and gas exports to Europe were built (in Soviet times) through Ukrainian territory, makes Europe dependent on agreements between Moscow and Kiev, which in turn hinge on the rapidly changing political situation in Ukraine. As a result, the European Union is faced with the need to harmonise its policies on Ukraine with its interests to ensure energy security. In recent years, this has become a difficult balancing act: support from Europe and the United States for the “Euromaidan” protests led to political instability in Ukraine, with detrimental repercussions for relations between Moscow and Kiev.
The American energy boom
Is Russia an essential partner?
One consequence of this was a deterioration of the economic situation in Ukraine and the inability of the transitional government to pay for gas from Russia. This in turn reignited the risk that if supplies of Russian gas were again suspended, Ukraine would, as before, start dipping into reserves of Russian gas that were intended for Europe. However, many international media commentators have accused Moscow of attempting to exploit the difficulties of energy co-operation to put pressure on Europe, despite the fact that it would be irrational for Russia to do so: a significant proportion of the country’s revenue, and hence its economic development, depends on successful energy co-operation with Europe. It is clear that even the targets of sanctions in RussianUkrainian politics and business are not worth putting this collaboration in doubt. The outcome of this development was a new campaign to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. However, Europe is unlikely to be able to find an alternative source in the near future. At issue is the continent’s ability to increase oil and gas production to meet its energy needs. Can Europe replace Russian energy with renewables? Hardly. In time frame, scale and economics, they are unlikely to replace Russian energy in the foreseeable future. According to a report by the US Department of Energy, even in 2035 three-quarters of the world’s energy needs will still be met by oil, gas and coal. The EU is committed to ensuring that just 20pc of European energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. Perhaps the only area of the European energy sector that is expected to see major chang-
VESTI FINANCE.RU DATA
THE NUMBERSdeliveries to the EU Gazprom
Comparative length of the pipelines (km)
2012. Numbers in million cubic metres. Statistics: Gazprom Group
The distance between the Earth and the Moon
pc of the world’s total natural gas reserves are in Russia. The country is Europe’s dominant gas supplier, providing about a quarter of EU supplies.
billion cubic metres of Gazprom’s gas was sold to Germany last year. It is Europe’s largest purchaser of Russian gas, ahead of Turkey (26.6bn) and Italy (25.3bn).
billion cubic metres is the total volume of natural gas delivered by Gazprom to Europe in 2013. The amount of gas sold was 23 billion cubic metres more than in 2012.
The total combined length of Gazprom’s pipelines
Punishment threats GAZPROM GROUP DATA
EU Energy Consumption of Russian Natural Gas (%) 52.2
BP STATISTICAL REVIEW OF WORLD ENERGY 2013 AND EUROGAS
Like it or not, we’re in it together International relations Economic self-interest will help reduce Russia-Ukraine tensions
to remain officially neutral. Judging by the response of the European Commission to Vladimir Putin’s letter to 18 countries that buy Russian gas, it is clear the EU insists on stable supplies of Russian gas to Europe, through the early settlement of disputes with Ukraine. The main headache for Gazprom now is not only to ensure natural gas flows to Europe, but also to fill the underground gas storage (UGS) stocks of Ukraine. Without sufficient reserves, at around 20 billion cubic metres in the UGS of Ukraine, Gazprom will not be able to provide a steady supply to the EU in the coming autumn and winter.
DMITRY MIGUNOV, INNOKENTIY ADYASOV LENTA.RU
The political conflict between Russia and Ukraine has overshadowed the economic relationship between the two countries. Russia needs to collect debts for natural gas from Ukraine, as well as negotiate trade and production deals, so close economic ties can lead to a reconciliation. The key issue is the supply of natural gas. Naftogaz of Ukraine owes Gazprom $2.2bn (£1.3bn). The Russian monopoly has increased the price and plans to make its Ukrainian counterpart pay in advance. Kiev is willing to pay to Gazprom $268.5 per thousand cubic metres while Gazprom wants $485. With planned supplies to Ukraine from this month of 23 billion cubic metres, the difference between Gazprom prices and what Naftogaz is willing to pay is about $5bn. It would seem that all the ingredients for a conflict are in place, with the possibility of Gazprom cutting supplies to Kiev. But the situation is different from gas conflicts in 2005-06 and 2008-09, when Brussels tried
Access to markets is vital
For many sectors of the Ukrainian economy, the loss of the Russian market would have disastrous consequences
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Could the US save Europe? In recent years the country has seen a boom in hydrocarbon production from unconventional deposits. As a result, Washington is competing with Moscow for supremacy in global oil and gas production. The US has slashed oil imports, gas prices have fallen and projects to export liquefied natural gas are on the table. But all these positives for global energy security have no direct bearing on Europe. First, domestic demand for gas and oil is so great that any additional energy will be consumed by the US market. Sectors of US industry oppose gas exports – cheap gas boosts national economic development, they say. Second, that gas is cheap only where it is produced; the main issues are how to deliver it to European consumers and at what cost. Any answers to these questions expose the extent of the risks and costs involved, and the burden will fall not only on America, but on Europe, too. Given the policy of fiscal discipline to which European countries are trying to adhere (with varying degrees of success), the question arises as to where the funds will be found. Even if all the necessary steps in this complex, expensive and risky process are taken, where is the assurance that US liquefied gas will head for Europe, rather than, say, Japan, where the profit margins are far juicier? Moscow believes Europe has no real alternatives to the Russian-European energy partnership. The Kremlin is well aware of this fact: Russian leaders have never linked the future of this co-operation to any political decisions.
The second main issue is access of Ukrainian goods to the Russian market. The interim government of Arseny Yatsenyuk has managed to combine a free trade zone with the CIS and the EU. On April 4, the European Parliament abolished export duties on Ukrainian goods temporarily, while keeping export quotas for some Ukrainian products. The EU has cancelled 94.7pc of import tariffs on industrial products made in Ukraine and 80pc of tariffs on agricultural products until November. However, Brussels has placed limits on some imported duty-free products: Ukrainian grain, pork,
beef, poultry, and prepared foods. The Ukrainian government is in a hurry to ratify the economic part of the Association Agreement with the European Union. There is a simple explanation for this. At the end of July 2012, Ukraine ratified a profitable agreement for itself, involving the establishment of a free trade zone in the CIS. Consequently, almost all Ukrainian products, including metal pipes and sugar, began to come into Russia and the Customs Union free of duty. This regime still applies to Ukrainian exports to Russia. However, Moscow says the signing by Kiev of an economic agreement with the EU would mean the automatic cancellation of all privileges for the import of Ukrainian products into Russia. For many sectors of the Ukrainian economy, the loss of the Russian market would have disastrous consequences. The major industrial enterprises that would suffer from the loss of the Russian market are in eastern and southern Ukraine, so the anti-Kiev mood there would grow.
issue of Ukraine’s withdrawal from the CIS free trade zone. It also seems Moscow wants to maintain the status quo, too. Last but not least, Russia does not want a sovereign default in Ukraine, which would make it difficult for Kiev to repay loans to Russia. This includes payments on the Eurobonds issue, of which Russia bought $3bn in December, as well as private loans taken out by Ukrainian banks and companies from Russian financial institutions. As the saying goes: “If you owe the bank $1,000, it is your problem; if you owe it $1m, it is the bank’s problem.”
Military co-operation MULTIMEDIA
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Status quo suits both parties It is significant that, having announced the possibility of leaving the CIS and withdrawing its representative from the executive bodies of the Commonwealth, the Ukrainian government has not raised the
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Brussels and other European capitals are threatening to punish Russia and wind down purchases of Russian energy. These threats are at least a decade old but Europe has yet to take any steps towards a radical change in the balance of its energy imports. It is in Russia’s interests to develop partnerships with China, Japan and South Korea. The Ukraine crisis has again caused European politicians to discuss the curtailment of Russian-European energy co-operation. It remains to be seen whether these conversations will lead to serious measures against Russian energy. If so, not only are they unlikely to help resolve the Ukrainian crisis, but will have dire consequences for global energy security.
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The total debt on these loans by the end of 2013 had reached $28bn. So Moscow clearly wants an early and successful conclusion of negotiations between the IMF and Kiev, because the refinancing of Ukraine greatly reduces the possibility of sovereign default by Kiev. Another area where interests coincide is co-operation on military-industrial technology. It would cost Russia at least $20bn if it refused to buy products from Ukrainian subcontractors and set up production at home, experts say. Given that Russia has a federal budget deficit this money would not be easy to find. Some of the technology would also be impossible to produce. So economic realities are likely to help reduce political tensions between Ukraine and Russia and pave the way for a compromise.
27 NEXT issue May
Year of Culture P4_Tuesday, April 29, 2014_www.rbth.co.uk_THIS SUPPLEMENT IS SPONSORED BY ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA
INTERVIEW Peter Greenaway on making a film about Eisenstein in Mexico, the life cycles of Russian art and the avant-garde as illusion
‘Cinema has died – I even know when it happened’ GETTY IMAGES/FOTOBANK
Now only a small number of people attend the cinema. This is understandable – we’re not nocturnal, why should one sit in darkness?
What is your approach, your interpretation? In the West, people know Mayakovsky and Malevich; Rodchenko and Lisitsky a little less. But as for other avant-garde artists, their knowledge goes no further than their names and a minimal acquaintance with their works. Even in the case of the most famous figures of the time, we have only a very slight idea what kind of people they were. We plunged into the study of the context to incarnate them on the screen and understand their psychology. My contribution to the final result is the text, or rather a collage of their manifestos, newspaper headlines, letters and so on. I selected 12 characters of different degrees of fame and tried to get them to interact with each other It is not
Looking back at Russia’s Tarantino DARIA DONINA RBTH
The films of the Russian director Alexei Balabanov, with their heady mix of crime and extreme violence, have been compared to early Quentin Tarantino. Now Balabanov is being honoured with a first British retrospective. Covering the years 1997-2012, the films are showing at the May fair Hotel Theatre in London until May 25 as part of UK-Russia Year of Culture. Balabanov, who died last year, is best known for his portrayal of Russia in the Nineties, particularly in the brutal dramas Brother and Brother 2. One of Balabanov’s most disturbing movies, the porn-themed Of Freaks and Men (1998), which provoked mixed feelings in
Animating the avant-garde
When and where did you first become acquainted with the Russian avant-garde? I studied to be a painter and Russian avantgarde was a part of a course on the transformation of art in the 20th century. Until that time, artists illustrated the Holy Scripture or ancient stories, and ideas that could be expressed in the portrait or landscape genres were associated with moralising and didacticism. Painting became a respected profession for the first time in the 20th century. But for me as a filmmaker, the avant-garde became relevant in connection with Sergei Eisenstein. I have just returned from Mexico, where we are shooting a film about Eisenstein’s work for the local film industry. To understand Eisenstein, one needs to dive deep into the artistic context of his times. And by the time I was 16 or 17, I already knew something about most of the key figures in the Russian avant-garde.
that difficult to turn the avant-garde into a play: they talked all the time, argued, sometimes very rudely – Malevich did not like Eisenstein, Kandinsky considered himself more talented than the others, and so on. I did not want to turn it all into a melodrama; the main thing is their works, and words are only swarms around them. My work limited itself to the script: everything you see is the work done by Saskia. She managed to think up how to use my text, how to place screens, she selected actors (almost all Russian). Initially we planned to do this project in the Tretyakov Gallery, and wanted to compare the golden age of Dutch art with the avant-garde, but it didn’t happen for financial reasons. What has been changed in the Manezh version? We had to concentrate exclusively on Russian artists. Dziga Vertov, El Lisitsky and Alexander Rodchenko turned out to be perhaps the most important for me – to a large extent, these three artists began the things being practised everywhere now. Of course, Mayakovsky is also interesting, but there is a problem in the translation, although we can’t say this exclusively concerns the literature – as visual literacy also must be taught. We thought a lot about how to do this. I assume an objective museum display cannot exist. All museums were created artificially – someone built them and someone formed the collection. For example, Tate was built by sugar producers; Guggenheim Museum in NewYork was established by merchants.
The Golden Age of the Russian Avant-Garde is showing at the Moscow Manege (Manezhnaya Ploshad 1) until May 18. It dramatises art from Russia’s influential avant-garde movement, which was a phenomenon that swept through the former Russian em-
pire and the post-revolutionary period in the Soviet Union, mainly between 1890 and 1930. The avant-garde encompassed a number of separate art movements including Primitivism, Constructivism, Suprematism and Futurism. The exhibition fea-
tures a giant multimedia installation covering 5,000sq m. Three towers stand inside a huge lit black box. Each side of the three towers has a screen. The 12 screens broadcast a 15-minute presentation, with scenes blending actors with images from more than 400 avant-garde works, photographs and film reels. In the short films, avant-garde characters who may never have met in life will meet, talk and argue in dramatisations devised by Peter Greenaway and his wife, the Dutch director Saskia Boddeke.
by the fact that we do not know how it was in reality. As for images and texts, we perceive history primarily through written sources, and believe they are authentic in some sense. Picasso painted variations on Las Meninas by Velázquez, Francis Bacon remade works by Raphael. After that, most people, unfortunately for me, watch movies for the stories, and painting is no more than a tale for them.
You always complain that there is no imaginative cinema, but only a literary one. However, when you find yourself in front of a picture, you are looking for a book, a detective story in it. Perhaps the most important historical work in English is The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. However, it is clear Gibbon wrote about Britain, selecting relevant examplest. History is our playground and any actions in it are justified
While studying the history of the avant-garde, have you found the answer to the main question about it – why did it end? I think art trends have their own life cycles. At first, they are powerful, but their effect gradu-
even his most ardent fans, can only be compared to The Idiots by Lars von Trier and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini. However, Balabanov is a purely Russian film director in spirit and a product of his time. He never cared for the glory of foreign film festivals, preferring to express his love of his country and the views of a true Russian Orthodox Christian. All his films were about Russia. He once said: “I don’t like festivals. They are boring. I don’t know anyone in the government. I don’t keep in touch with anyone. I live in St Petersburg, and I don’t hang out anywhere. All I do is make films. It’s a good thing if they like them upstairs, too. What’s the harm in that?” Although Balabanov was frequently perceived by critics and the public as a master of black humour who glorified violence, his films were not limited to crime dramas. He worked in a wide range of genres, completing 14 feature films. He also made the lyrical and melancholic It Doesn’t Hurt Me; the sardonic parody Blind Man’s Bluff; Morphia – a screen adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Notes of a Country Doctor and The Castle, based on
Franz Kafka’s story of the same name. Brother and Brother 2 have become Balabanov’s best-known works. During his 2012 presidential run, Mikhail Prokhorov adopted the phrase “Truth is the real power” – the motto of the films’ main character Danila Bagrov – as his campaign slogan. Whether Brother, which portrays the relationship between a former soldier and his hitman brother, was Balabanov’s best film is debatable. The key to its success is that it was made at the right time in the right place – Russia in the early Nineties. Brother was the first film to dramatise what was on the news every day, and the characters spoke in everyday language. The character of Danila Bagrov eventually acquired mythical status as a noble champion of the humiliated and insulted. Despite the hype around the Brother series, Balabanov’s later works are no less worthy of attention. In these films, the director used allegory and complicated metaphors in darkly violent films. Cargo 200, for example, is a psychological thriller that combines the features of a B-movie with a strong anti-war message. His love of parables is particularly evident
An exhibition of dramatisations of classic art works of the Russian avant-garde has been put together by British film director Peter Greenaway and his wife, Dutch theatre director Saskia Boddeke. The Golden Age of Russian Avant-Garde is at the Moscow Manezh centre as part of Russia-UK Year of Culture.
As a young man, Balabanov wanted to be a lifeguard and save people’s lives. He never thought about being a filmmaker.
ally dissolves and fades away. History can demonstrate a number of examples of the short lives of art trends. The Pre-Raphaelites existed only for six months, and then they quarrelled. However, I digress. Mao Zedong was asked: “What do you think about the French Revolution?” He replied: “It is still too early to draw conclusions.” This also applies to the historic position of the avant-garde.You have asked why the avant-garde ended, but people cannot even agree on the date of its beginning. Some people say that it dates back to 1905, while others believe that it started in 1917. According to some versions, the avant-garde ended by 1928, and perhaps existed until the early Thirties, when “socialist realism” was finally established as a style convenient to the authorities. However, actually, the avant-garde is a bit of an illusion, don’t you think? Do you work with art because it is difficult for you to find money for new movies? Or is the creation of such installations more interesting for you? Cinema has died and I even know exactly when it happened – on September 30, 1983, when the first modern television remote control appeared on the market. Now only a small number of people attend strange places known as the “cinema”, as compared with the watching of movies and videos at home. This is understandable – why should one sit in darkness? Man is not a nocturnal animal. Cinema has turned into wallpaper. Besides this, movies are based on literary narratives that have changed little since the 19th century. Cinema does not have its own Joyces or Borgeses. For more than 8,000 years, our life has been dictated by men of letters, they wrote all the holy books, all the instructions – from nappies to aircraft carriers. Maybe it is high time to change the paradigm in the digital age. However, cinema surely has nothing to do with this. Interview by Valentin Dyakonov First published in Kommersant
in his late work. At the television release of his final completed film, Me Too, in February 2012, the director described its genre as “fantastic realism – a new genre where everything is real except the story”. Balabanov knew he was sick when he was working on the film and Me Too is thus saturated with a sense of inevitability. At the end of the movie, the character portrayed by Balabanov himself drops dead in the snow. When director Alexei German died in February last year, some critics declared that there was only one film director worth knowing left in Russia – Alexei Balabanov. Now Balabanov is also gone. Both men left unfinished projects: Balabanov had been working on a script with the tentative title My Brother is Dead for a film about Stalin’s youth, while German’s last film, The History of the Arkanar Massacre, is being completed by his son Alexei German Jnr. Balabanov’s last project will also most likely be finished by his son, Fyodor Balabanov. Many film fans see these projects as representing the passing of the torch to the new generation, which may yet produce the next great Russian filmmaker.
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Rise of the budget blockbuster JOY NEUMEYER SPECIAL TO RBTH
The film Stalingrad looks like a major Hollywood production, with spectacular explosions, a soaring score and a love story between a German officer and a Soviet civilian. But the Second World War epic was made 6,000 miles from Los Angeles by Russian director Fyodor Bondarchuk. It earned Russia’s biggest domestic box office since the fall of the Soviet Union, 1.67bn roubles (£31m) after its release last October. Though Russia’s economy has faltered since 2008, its film industry has been shooting big movies like never before. An unprecedented three of the top 10 movies at the Russian box office last year were domestic. Stalingrad was followed by Yolki 3, the third film in a popular Christmas comedy series with domestic earnings of $38m (£22.7m), and Legend No. 17 a hit about Soviet hockey star Valery Kharlamov that catapulted its star, Danila Kozlovsky, to fame and earned more than $29.5m. The collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia’s state-supported film industry struggling for survival and led to an invasion of popular Hollywood films. Meanwhile, the habit of going to the movies was in decline as Russians began watching DVDs or downloading films. In the early 2000s, Russian blockbusters floundered; in 2000, the action movie Brother 2 earned only $1m at the box office, and was the only Russian movie in the top 10 for national ticket sales. The top movie that year in Russia, Gone in 60 Seconds, fared little better, at $1.4m. But the past several years have seen Rus-
sians going to the movies again in record numbers. From 2004 to 2012, the number of cinemas in the country more than tripled; since 2009, Russia has had the fourth-biggest box office sales in Europe. The percentage of Russian films on the national market is still relatively small: last year, they gained 18pc of total box office earnings, or £132m out of £728m, up from 12pc in 2012. But in a country where budgets are many times smaller than their Hollywood counterparts, the figures are impressive. Stalingrad was made for $30m, one of Russia’s most expensive films. In contrast, the recent US spectacular The Lone Ranger cost at least $250m. Rather than hampering the film industry’s growth, the poor economy has boosted it, says producer and film critic Anton Mazurov. “Among viewers there’s a desire for escape. Cinema provides a distraction from real life,” he says. In the vanguard of the new Russian blockbusters was Night Watch, a 2004 vampire fantasy set in contemporary Moscow that grossed more than $16m in Russia and almost $34m worldwide. In 2008 came Hipsters, which followed Moscow’s jazz-loving youth counterculture of the early Fifties. The popular Vysotsky: Thank You for Being Alive was a biopic about the rebellious Soviet singer-poet Vladimir Vysotsky, while a surprise hit last year was Gorko, a sharply observed wedding comedy. Made for $1.5m and filmed on hand-held cameras, it grossed more than $25.5m at the box office. Many recent Russian hits have in common “special effects with an individual twist,” says Ekaterina Mtsitouridze, head of Roskino, which promotes Russian films abroad. While Hollywood spectacles such as The Lone Ranger can be weighed down by their size, she says, smaller-scale Russian films flourish under strong figures such as Bondarchuk, and producers Anatoly Maksimov and Konstantin Ernst, who
million pounds was the amount of state funding provided for the national film industry in Russia in 2013.
million pounds was taken at the box office by the most successful Russian blockbuster, Stalingrad. The movie’s budget was $30m (£18m).
was the percentage share achieved by domestic films from total box-office receipts at Russian cinemas in 2013.
worked on Night Watch and Vysotsky.“I know how scrupulously they worked on the screenplays as a whole and each individual scene, down to minute details,” Mtsitouridze says. Unlike Hollywood, the Russian film industry is again heavily dependent on state funding, which totalled 6.7bn roubles (£112m) in 2013. Around half of all Russian movies officially receive government money, up from 19pc in 2010. In reality, Mazurov says, the percentage could be as high as 90pc, as many films receive state money indirectly. Films that cover the Ministry of Culture’s favourite themes, such as the Second World War, tend to get the biggest prizes. Almost half of the budget for Stalingrad came from the ministry’s cinema fund. Despite noteworthy hits, the Russian film industry is in “crisis,” lacking the training, organisation and funding to grab a bigger share of the market, says Ilya Bachurin, who runs the studio Glavkino with Bondarchuk and Ernst. The solution, he says, is more blockbusters. “The government should focus their efforts on supporting big films,” he says. “If we’re making dozens, even hundreds of small films each year, we can’t get the audience’s attention.” Others say dependence on state-backed projects is the problem.“It’s an absurd model that spawns mutations, like atomic radiation,”says Mazurov. “At a certain point, we’ll just be making Yolki 3,Yolki 7 and Yolki 10 and cinematography as an art form will cease to exist.” The Ministry of Culture is developing new cultural guidelines that include measures to protect the film industry, such as quotas for the percentage of Russian films shown in theatres and tariffs on foreign movies. The proposals have met with opposition in the industry.“This will do nothing but hurt the Russian film market,” says Mtsitouridze. It would make the industry more insular when Russian films offer more appeal to western audiences than ever.
Cinema Lucrative films made with modest amounts of money inspire a Russian revival
CALENDAR UK EVENTS
|MAY 3-JUNE 21 OPUS NO.7 BY THE DMITRY KRYMOV LAB BRIGHTON DOME CORN EXCHANGE, BRIGHTON (MAY 3-8); UEA SPORTSPARK, NORWICH (MAY 14-17); BARBICAN CENTRE, LONDON (JUNE 4-8, 11-14); NORTHERN STAGE, NEWCASTLE (JUNE 19-21)
Dmitry Krymov, one of Russia’s most influential theatre directors, and the Dmitry Krymov Lab bring their highly acclaimed play Opus No.7 to the UK. The oppression of Soviet Jews and the censorship of Shostakovich under Stalin are depicted through larger-than-life puppets, duelling pianos, living walls, blizzards of newsprint and epic images conjured up from the simplest of materials. Krymov presents a genre-defying double bill that will entertain and prompt deep reflection on universal themes. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/136
|MAY 16 Screen stars: clockwise from top left, Fyodor Bondarchuk (right) speaks to an actor on the set of Stalingrad; a scene from Hipsters; Sergei Bezrukov as the Soviet-era bard Vladimir Vysotsky and Konstantin Khabensky in Night Watch
BG 60: A CONCERT TO MARK BORIS GREBENSHIKOV’S 60TH BIRTHDAY ROYAL ALBERT HALL, KENSINGTON GORE, SW7 2AP
The concert, entitled BG 60, will celebrate the greatest hits from Akvarium’s four decade-spanning history, as well as introduce some of the rock band’s latest creations. Boris Grebenshikov is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of Russian rock music. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/120
|MAY 29-JUNE 3 RUSSIAN COSMISM: MODERN & CONTEMPORARY ART ERARTA GALLERIES LONDON, 8 BERKELEY STREET, W1J 8DN
An authority on modern art, Maxim Boxer unveils his first exhibition, Russian Cosmism: Modern & Contemporary Art, at the London branch of Erarta Galleries. Boxer tries to capture the essence of an early 20th-century movement in Russian art by bringing together the work of early masters such as Mikhail Larionov and contemporary artists, including the acclaimed Igor Makarevich and Leonid Tishkov. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/128
|UNTIL MAY 27 THE ERARTA MAY FAIR RETROSPECTIVE Scan this code to watch our video file Cinematryoshka about Russian cinema and film directors
ERARTA GALLERIES LONDON, 8 BERKELEY STREET, MAYFAIR, LONDON W1J 8DN
Erarta Galleries is a Russian project devoted to the popularisation of Russian contemporary art on a global scale. This time it presents a huge variety of artwork from artists featured at the gallery, past and present, and those to be featured in future. May Fair aims to showcase the vibrancy and variety of approaches to art making. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/129
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|UNTIL SEPTEMBER 20 RUSSIAN REVOLUTION IN ART AND RUSSIAN AVANT-GARDE: 1910-1932
FILM HITS OF THE SOVIET ERA INSPIRED BY BRITAIN
Anglophilia has been a tradition among educated Russians for centuries. Even in the Soviet Union, social and political differences were put aside for the sake of the “good old England” image so dear to Russian hearts. When Soviet filmmakers depicted capatilist horrors, the story would be set in the US or some other “capitalist den” – but never the UK. Britain remained the land of serious literature and polite detectives solving crime with a sense of humour. As a result, almost all Soviet films that featured the UK were detective stories, comedies or classic adaptations.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson 1979-1986 This TV film series made by director Igor Maslennikov was by far the most successful attempt to capture the British spirit through the Soviet lens. Never mind the fact that most of the misty London street scenes in the series were filmed in Riga, Latvia. Holmes, as portrayed by Vasily Livanov, was unique and at the same time very true to Conan Doyle’s original, because Livanov added wit to Holmes’s mostly unemotional and rational character. Dr Watson (Vitaly Solomin) is remembered no less fondly because, unlike in many other film
adaptations, he is a fully fledged character and not just a narrator remaining perpetually in awe of the detective’s superior wits. Holmes’s catchphrase from the films “Elementary, Watson,” became a kind of meme in the USSR, although it was never used in this form in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) 1979 Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome was so popular in the USSR it was included in official school curriculums for 13 year-olds. The film was a light-hearted musical comedy starring Seventies Soviet sex symbol Andrey Mironov
as J. He also played five other roles in the film, including J’s aunt and Jerome himself. Russians gleaned from this film a somewhat caricatured image of Victorian gentlemen: they were a bit awkward, kindhearted and romantic, wearing striped swimsuits and funny hats. The role of the River Thames, where most of the action takes place, was taken by the Neman, near the city of Sovetsk in the Kaliningrad region. The story starts in London and Soviet filmmakers found an amusing way to get around the fact they couldn’t film there. The streets were drawn in graphite pencil and several dozen vintage toy
cars were filmed to recreate the London traffic of 1889. Goodbye, Mary Poppins 1984 This well-loved children’s musical film was more inspired by than based on PL Travers’s novels. Unlike the books, it is set in contemporary Eighties England. Mary Poppins is played by Natalya Andreychenko who, also quite unlike the original Mary, is astonishingly beautiful. The film is an odd mixture of “old England” – featuring a perfect home, with English-style furniture and maid, in which everyone is very polite and neatly clothed – and contemporary western culture, with jeans, state-of-the-art
tape recorders and western rock music.
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And Then There Were None 1987 Of all the films based on this thrilling story, only Stanislav Govorukhin’s version adhered to the original text with its dark tone and ending. The island filming took place in Crimea and the castle of Mr Owen was a set design so well-made it quickly became a tourist attraction. And Then There Were None explored the darker side of the fictional English character, with crafty plans and intrigues masterfully described by Agatha Christie. The film is widely acknowledged as one of the best Soviet detective thrillers.
St Petersburg Gallery presents an impressive collection of works featuring rare items and big names. It explores the dynamics of the figurative and non-figurative schools in Russian avantgarde art. Among the sculptures, paintings and myriad media are works by Wassily Kandinsky, Mikhail Larionov and Natalia Gonchorova. ukrussia2014.co.uk/article/124
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ART OF DIPLOMACY
THE COLD WAR NEVER REALLY ENDED: LET’S STOP IT NOW
What must be done to reduce tensions in Ukraine
Sergei Karaganov POLITICAL SCIENTIST
Alexander Yakovenko AMBASSADOR
The crisis in relations between Russia and the West is being discussed in relation to the annexation of the Crimea and the reaction to it, the fate of Ukraine, and sanctions. But although important, these are side issues. The main issue is Moscow’s intention to change the rules of the game imposed by the West on Moscow for the past quarter of a century. Having failed, and having no desire, to adapt to those rules, Russia is abandoning any attempts to become a part of the West. The most important factor in this decision is the West’s refusal to end the Cold War. It ended formally a quarter of a century ago, after which the West expanded the zone under its military, economic and political influence and control. Russia’s interests were not considered as the West treated it as a defeated power. But Russia did not consider itself defeated. Versaillesstyle policies were being imposed on Russia without the direct taking of territories or imposition of formal contributions but with the implication that Russia should have a very lowprofile place in the international system. What was particularly irritating to the Russian political class was the deception and hypocrisy when promises were not kept and the ideas of spheres of control and influence in global politics were declared outdated. Meanwhile, the West was steadily expanding its unacknowledged sphere of influence. Moscow proposed the accession of Russia to Western institutions and the transformation of them into pan-European ones. Boris Yeltsin spoke of the desirability of Russia’s membership of Nato, a question also raised byVladimir Putin. The response to proposals to conclude a new treaty on European security, or create a common human, economic and energy space from Vancouver to Vladivostok – the Union of Europe, or of the Greater Europe – was consistently negative. Such agreements could have stopped the struggle for spheres of influence. The most important reason for the severity of the Ukraine crisis is that all the parties involved, including the US, are at a developmental dead end. Europeans are unable to overcome the crisis of the European project. Russia is unable to articulate a development strategy or national goals. It has become clear that with the current bureaucracy and corruption, no working model can be provided to merely maintain the country’s long-awaited sovereignty, let alone for its development. It seems that either explicitly or subconsciously, all the parties wanted an external enemy or crisis. The West is preparing for a new round of the policy of containment and rejection on the Cold War model. Russia was
Boris Yeltsin spoke of the desirability for Russia’s membership of Nato, a question also raised by Vladimir Putin
prepared: results have proved favourable so far and Crimea has been masterfully annexed. Moscow seems to have decided not to retreat until it achieves its goals. Among them is not just the reunion with Crimea or with other lands, which temporarily strengthens the legitimacy of its power. Its main aim is to end the unfinished Cold War which the West has de facto continued to lead and even to conclude a peace treaty on favourable terms. The minimum aim is to make it impossible or prohibitively costly for the West to further unilaterally expand its influence and control into regions Moscow considers vital to its security. I am not sure the Ukrainian state is viable, even after the departure of Crimea. But a collapse, especially a violent one, would bring exorbitant risks and costs for Ukrainians, Russians and other Europeans, not least because there are 15 nuclear power plants in Ukraine. Some of the Russian elite are likely to have the maximum aim in mind – a reunion with most of Ukraine. This is unrealistic and unacceptably expensive – at least until Russia becomes an effective state and an attractive society which most Ukrainians would wish to join. Crimea, the end of the Cold War in Europe and the beginning of a long-awaited new round of reforms would be enough. This is the only scenario that would make it possible to make use of the newly found legitimacy of the Russian leadership post-Crimea and make the rhetoric about the need to counter“hostile forces in the West”instrumentally useful. This scenario would maintain Russia’s de facto posi-
tions in the east and south-east of Ukraine, with semi-autonomy for its western territories. But this will only be possible if Russia and the EU understand a zero-sum struggle is counter-productive and do not fight for the unilateral inclusion of Kiev into their spheres of influence. They must try to save Ukraine together, using it as a means to rapprochement. My dreams of a Union of Europe which will end the Cold War and lay the groundwork for the merger of the soft technological power of Europe with the resources, hard power and will of Russia may look optimistic. But such integration is in Russia’s interest, as it would prevent its further isolation from European civilisation. It would also help the EU, which needs a new development goal to end the internal crisis that condemns it to be a third-rate international player. And it is beneficial for the world, as there would be a third – in addition to China and the US – pillar of the world order, making the latter much more stable. Maybe the turmoil in Ukraine, which is far from over, will lead to clearer thinking. For the foreseeable future, Russia has lost its hopes of joining the West. But it has not yet made a choice to be anti-West or anti-European. The author is Dean of the Faculty of the World Economy and International Affairs at the High School of Economics in Moscow and honorary chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policies. This article was first published in Izvestia.ru
No regrets on the bumpy road to Crimean reconstruction
Tim Lewin SPECIAL TO RBTH
“I just want life to be normal again,” pleads a small business owner as Crimea faces its most challenging economic upheaval since 1992. Crimea has often contemplated independence after becoming an autonomous republic within Ukraine that year. But when the Kiev government collapsed earler this year and anarchy prevailed, Russia looked a much more appealing option. With no planning and minimal thought for practicalities, Crimea took the emotional decision to rewrite its political affiliations and move back in with its historical family. The aftermath has proved as much of an organisational challenge to Russia as it has to Crimea. In 1992, post-Soviet Union Ukraine chose independence, while Russia took the federal route, retaining close ties with former satellites. Since then, ways of life and business have diverged, along with commercial and political affiliations. Now the upheaval in Crimea is enormous. Lawyers, accountants and other professionals must be retrained and recertified; the laws are suddenly different, from traffic to child protection. Money and bill-paying has changed; time went back an hour to match Moscow, passports need to be changed; banking and savings, travel, television, radio, are all different. Life for small and medium-sized businesses became a trial of ingenuity and resourcefulness on a par with the bad old days of the early Nineties; but morale remains high and there is so far no sign of regret that Crimea decided to return to Mother Russia. “One look over the fence to see the terrible events in Ukraine and we
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Ask any Crimean what they want most and the answer is likely to be, ‘I want my country to be open again’
know we were right,” is the sentiment generally expressed across Crimea. “We are confident that, however hard and confusing times are now, they will get better quickly, more quickly than in Ukraine”. Russia is not complacent about the chaos the change of allegiance has caused, chaos not mitigated by the confused and arbitrary application of punitive measures by Europe and the US. Crimea is suspended in a sort of Never-Never Land to which it is only possible to travel via Moscow. Access to other countries that previously maintained open and profitable trade with Crimea has been ended by the threat of reprisals. Flights from even close allies of Moscow such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Belarus have been suspended; more than 160 Black Sea cruises scheduled to visit Crimean ports have cancelled their visits with an immediate impact on small businesses. Tourism in general has taken a hammering. Hundreds of thousands of Russians are planning to ditch foreign holidays in favour of Crimea, but they face logistical problems. Russia has slashed air fares and cancelled VAT on travel to Crimea but there will not be enough plane seats for all who want to go. Tourists visiting Ukraine used to be able to travel by train, road or air. Rail and road, both crossing large tracts of Ukraine, accounted for 70pc of visitors. Road and ferry across the inland Sea of Azov was popular, but this route is now full of commercial traffic bringing consumer products previously “imported” through Ukraine to Crimea. Such is the demand for space in ferries that the Russian government wants to charter extra ships from Greece. Only half the usual number of tourists is likely to visit Crimea this year. A bridge across the narrow straits between Russia and Crimea to carry road, rail, water, gas and electricity is now seen as essential. This poses an engineering challenge and is unlikely to be completed before 2018. So that is the mountain Crimea needs to climb: the EU and the US have made it
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impossible for companies to trade directly with Crimea and business with the EU has slumped by 90pc. Until Russia, the EU and the US can resolve their political ambitions over Ukraine, and Ukraine’s deep economic crisis, this situation is unlikely to change. The victims, as ever, are ordinary people who just want life to return to normal. So what about the upside? Russia has proposed a raft of support measures for Crimea, some of which are already improving lives. State employees have already had their salaries adjusted to Russian levels, 25pc higher. The retraining of civil servants, judges, lawyers, accountants and notaries public is under way. Businesses are being relicensed, VAT is being adjusted and taxes are being rationalised. Russia has also proposed a range of putative investment projects to improve business and tourism. The creation of a special economic zone with far-reaching tax benefits is a high priority. The regeneration of the Crimean film industry is under way and will be accompanied by a package of tax incentives; Crimea was a centre for filmmaking before the birth of Hollywood and enjoyed a lucrative existence until the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is also a proposal for a casino and entertainment complex for the coast west of Yalta. Essential services such as water, electricity, banking, post and mobile networks are being improved. Much of Crimea was already covered by subsidiaries of Russian telecoms giants so apart from the billing currency this has been relatively easy to change. Russian banks already had branches in Crimea so the infrastructure was there. But the utilities will need huge international investment. Ask any Crimean what they want most, the answer is likely to be “I want my country to be open again.” Tim Lewin is an organiser and consultant for major financial, cultural and arts projects in Russia and Ukraine,and the UK Honorary Consul for development in Crimea.
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What RBTH readers think about the hot topics. From facebook. com/russianow
Yana Maxwell on Russia-US relations I’m a citizen of both Russian and US and it’s hurting to see that these dear-to-me countries are going back to the Cold War. It’s the 21st century!
Victoria A Malko on the Ukrainian crisis To resolve this crisis, all countries will have to agree that the military should be reduced to the minimum necessary to keep order within a country’s borders. Any imbalance in military strength leads to a desire to exercise the use of force and impose diktat on others whether they like it or not.
Francis Boima on the creation of a special zone for casinos in Crimea Whatever the case, at least the Russians are trying to develop the peninsula, something the Ukrainians have woefully failed to do all these years in spite of the beautiful landscape and geographical location of the Crimea.
he situation in Ukraine is tense, though there are signs of diplomatic progress. At the Geneva meeting on April 17, Russia, the US, the EU and the K i e v a u t h o r i t i e s a g re e d principles that, if implemented, may lead to de-escalation. They include disarming illegal armed groups, vacating illegally seized public buildings and spaces, an amnesty for all protesters and the launch of an inclusive, transparent and accountable constitutional process. All parties condemned and rejected expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, these provisions have been interpreted in Kiev and in western capitals as commitments undertaken by Russia with regard to the situation in eastern Ukraine. It is hard to consider this approach as anything but a deliberate distortion of reality. First, it is wrong to portray the situation as if the main problem is in the east of Ukraine. Yes, people have taken up arms and seized public buildings.What our western colleagues don’t want to see is that these actions are a reaction to what happened in Kiev – to the violent unconstitutional coup, to attempts to curtail the status of the Russian language, to calls by extremists for punitive operations in the east, to the inability of the authorities to end provocation or begin meaningful dialogue with Russian-speaking regions. One cannot expect people to go home when no steps are being taken to end threats from Kiev and western Ukraine. Second, it is unacceptable that the situation in the east is described as a result of Russian meddling. We haven’t seen the slightest proof of that. Kiev and Washington are unable to corroborate their claims by anything else but the fact that the activists speak Russian and hold Kalashnikovs – which is also the case for most Ukrainian servicemen in that area. British reporters on the ground overwhelmingly agree the protest movement has local roots and is manned by local residents. That Russia can order them to stop protesting is pure fantasy. In short, by blaming eastern activists and Russia, Kiev and their western backers are trying to divert attention from the lack of positive steps on their part. Instead of disarming the Right Sector extremists, the authorities in Kiev are continuing to threaten the east with an “anti-terrorist” operation to be performed with the participation of “civil society activists”. Those are openly recruited by the neoNazi Right Sector group in Maidan square in Kiev. The protest camp in central Kiev is still in place, and the authorities have announced that the Geneva agreement doesn’t apply to it since it is“lawful”.No amnesty law has been passed. The constitutional process remains behind closed doors with no eastern participation. In this context, it is amazing to read western politicians praising the efforts by the Kiev government in“implementing”the Geneva accords and calling upon Russia to follow suit. As with many other international and domestic crises, the key thing that Ukraine is lacking is trust. The authorities in Kiev badly need to take urgent, clear and meaningful steps that could, if not generate confidence, at least limit the current level of mistrust that the east feels towards them. Time is running out, and not only in terms of growing frustration and determination of the eastern movement, but also in the light of the dire economic situation in Ukraine. If the current leaders continue to see the situation exclusively through the prism of “Russian aggression” instead of addressing the real problems, they risk plunging their country into an economic abyss. Such a scenario is deeply troubling for Russia and the Russian people, who wish their Ukrainian brothers and sisters well, but the risks are increasing with every passing day.
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Feature www.rbth.co.uk_Tuesday, April 29, 2014_P7
Peaks of beauty – and a few beasts
Travel The remote grandeur of Ergaki Nature Park in Siberia is a paradise for intrepid hikers. Just watch out for the hungry bears…
How to get there
ANNA GRUZDEVA SPECIAL TO RBTH
The Ergaki ridge at the heart of the Western Sayan mountains is one of the most popular nature parks in Russia. Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world enjoy camping holidays in the park, which is in southern Siberia, north-east of the Altai and west of Lake Baikal. The mountains’ southern peaks extend into Mongolia. The wooden pointer for the nature trail, near the M-54 highway, promises an easy way and a relaxed walk to our first stop, Svetloye Lake. There is a prepared road ahead, laid with logs and sawdust left over from construction works. But within 100 yards, the trail gives way to muddy roads, where the soil has been washed out by the rain, with puddles, fallen trees and stone boulders. The nature trails, cosy wooden houses and cafés close to the highway are fine for a gentle weekend hike; the more remote areas are an unforgiving place for the inexperienced or poorly equipped walker.
A haunting silence The prize for the serious hiker is a haunting silence and the beauty of the wild taiga. Narrow paths offer stunning vistas of mountain scenery; Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films could easily have been shot here. But the Ergaki mountains are also conveniently compact (you can see half of the mountain sights in a week), and the variety of landscapes surprises even experienced travellers. The park’s recreation and tourist area covers more than 600 square miles and includes more than 60 peaks, imposing mountain ridges and passes. There are many waterfalls and some of them are more than 600ft high. Views of cliffs cutting through the clouds give way to cedar forests, alpine meadows and marshes. White glaciers are found alongside fiery Siberian globeflowers and turquoise lakes with clear streams. The water in the Ergaki mountains is icy, pure and has a sweetish taste – you can’t buy water like this anywhere in the world. Popular activities in the mountains include climbing, horse riding and rafting. In 2005, the ever-growing human pressure on the mountain territory became the catalyst for the creation of a special protected zone: the Ergaki Nature Park.
Sleepless in the tent “Hear that?” A sharp clang of metal utensils and a lingering human cry came from a neighbouring red tent just 100 yards from our camp. Your body is paralysed with fear: it’s a bear. This primal fear is hard to imagine for city dwellers or those who have only seen a bear in the zoo. While shivering from something other than the cold, you unwittingly come to the conclusion that the brown bear is not a Siberian myth, some hackneyed stereotype or a harmless symbol in a logo, but a real and very large animal that takes soft steps and breathes heavily and noisily. You must take care not to bump into one. The bear problem in the Ergaki mountains is not exaggerated. The bears here have been fed by thoughtless tourists for a long time: the animals have learnt to pierce a can of condensed milk with their claws, have tasted and
The bear tore up the backpack, then sucked vegetable oil from a bottle. The next night he was sniffing in our direction. MULTIMEDIA
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from Moscow. It then takes about two and a half hours by car along the Abakan–Kyzyl highway (the M54, which is also known as the Usinsky Trakt) to Ergaki, where there are
enjoyed campers’ stews, and have grown to love their sweets. But most importantly, they are no longer afraid of people, which gives more unwanted work to the natural park’s rescue teams every year. So (as revealed by a trail of footprints after the event) a young bear came to visit our neighbours in the camp. This happened because a group of tourists, who had arrived at Svetloye Lake when it was already dark, did not have time (or perhaps were just too lazy?) to hang a backpack containing their food high in a cedar tree, but left it on the ground instead. The bear tore up the backpack, then sucked vegetable oil from a bottle. The next night he was sniffing around in our direction. However, a large dog, which appeared on the shore along with new campers in the evening, drove the bear away to the forest with its barking. As it got dark, however, there was little reassurance – wherever there is a young bear, there is a female bear. But the popularity of the Ergaki mountains is growing despite the scavenging bears. The natural park’s employees point out that the influx of tourists has increased by 10-15pc every year, meaning that the percentage of inexperienced travellers is also increasing. The problem with bears hunting for visitors’ food around their tents also remains… and careless tourists are largely to blame.
Living mythology The Ergaki mountains are also surrounded by myths. The ethnographer Mongouch KeninLopsan, a Tuvan shamanism researcher, notes that the Ergaki Sayan Ridge has long been a sacred territory for the Tuvan people, where the initiations of shamans are conducted. Today, numerous yoga tours offer their own “initiations”in the mountains and sometimes one can observe group exercise routines or hear chants coming from the forest. Some tourists who do not take part in such disciplined spiritual practices also believe there is magic in this landscape. They can be found building, sharpening or cutting items that have a secret power for them, and tying colourful ribbons on trees and bushes. At the Arrow station (which is at the confluence of the Taygishonok and Left Taygish rivers) we were met by a peculiar mountain idol for tourists – an old tree stump with a formidable chiselled face and a big hole for the mouth. At night, the wooden statue looks like the
This traditional Russian sweet has no analogues anywhere else in the world, but originates from the love for tea-time which Russia and Britain share. Centuries ago pastila was produced solely from apple juice
parking charges. Alternatively, you can catch the Abakan–Kyzyl bus along the same road. It stops at the Tormozakovsky bridge, Tushkanchik river and the Pod’emniy stream.
Balancing act: a huge stone provides shelter for walkers in the nature park
Places to eat Put safety ﬁrst and use a guide Mountain hikes should be led by an experienced guide who knows the nature park routes, features and attractions, as well as all the pitfalls of the Ergaki mountains, including the often wet summer weather. During our hike, for example, it was raining for seven out of the 14 days. It is important to follow the rules to protect the park’s environment, which can be found on the official website in the eco-tourism section.
and was known as postila, derived from the verb postelit’ (to lay or spread), which referred to the method of cooking on a baking tray. Now this forgotten delicacy is available not only in Kolomna, but in London as well.
Find out where to get this delicious Russian dessert on thekompass.rbth.co.uk/article/143
ANNA GRUZDEVA (4)
The closest towns to the Ergaki mountains are Kyzyl, Abakan, Minusinsk and Krasnoyarsk. But the most convenient starting point is Abakan, which has four flights a day
Camp food: boiling cedar cones to get rid of the resin
There are many cafés in the park near the highway and recreation centres. However, in the summer, it is up to visitors to bring their own food to the taiga. It’s important to follow the rules: it’s forbidden to cut trees to light fires in the park. Tourists should prepare their food on gas stoves.
Where to stay In summer, most travellers go to the mountains as soon as they arrive and live in tents in the wild. However, the Ergaki mountains also
have six recreation centres that offer horse riding tours and hiking in summer, while in winter, tourists can stay in comfortable houses
tent city’s reliable guardian. In reality, it has no protective magic: there are bear droppings here and there at the station.
The stars on show “Did you happen to see a man anywhere on the trail?” rescuers asked breathlessly as they ran past our camp by the river. The search for missing travellers by teams from the Ministry of Emergency Situations accounts for 20 of the 70 to 80 rescue operations each year. But our two-week hike was, thankfully, uneventful. Despite our wet shoes, our shoulders
with cafés and saunas. Fans of downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling often come to the
mountains in winter to enjoy more active holidays. This is also a lovely place to spend the New Year holiday with a group of friends.
aching from our backpacks, and our feet sore from the difficult crossings, we didn’t want to leave the Ergaki mountains. We make a kissel (fruit drink) with real bilberries, and again I regretted not having taken a map of the constellations with me – in the cloudless weather, the sky above the mountains turns into a flickering astronomy textbook. No wonder then that for us, natives of an uninspiring urban environment, the majestic Ergaki mountains and quiet forests have become a natural alternative to the monastery, the best escape from civilisation.
Sport P8_Tuesday, April 29, 2014_www.rbth.co.uk
Kvyat on fast track to F1 glory James Ellingworth SPECIAL TO RBTH
Bowled over: the Russian team is using more home-grown players as the game grows in popularity
ELENA POCHETOVA (4)
A search for new boundaries Cricket The quintessentially English game is winning passionate fans in Russia ANDY POTTS SPECIAL TO RBTH
A Russian cricket team sounds as exotic as Swan Lake performed by Morris dancers, and not just to British ears. Few Russians know much about cricket, a game redolent of the British Empire. A fledgling cricket scene emerged in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg, but was swiftly halted by Communist suspicions about a “bourgeois”pastime. For most sports fans here, it’s an almost mythical activity with a bizarre lexicon of its own, often confused with the similar-sounding croquet. Viktor Solukhin, a Moscow-based member of Cricket Russia, has a definition of the game, however, that a member at Lord’s would easily recognise.“Cricket is a simulation of human life condensed into five days,” he says, a particularly ambitious claim in a country where five-day Test matches remain a distant dream. But ambition is one thing that Russia’s fledgling cricket community has in vast quantities. If those dreams are realised, a Russian team hopes to be able to host ICC tournaments and even play in future Olympics if the game returns to the world’s biggest sporting stage. Solukhin had an unusual journey towards cricket. In his childhood, which was spent mostly in China, he had some West Indian neighbours who introduced him to the rudiments of the game. Later, living in Hong Kong, he started to watch local teams. Now 36, he’s been playing organised cricket for about a year and, like many late starters, he finds many of the techniques take time to master. “I played some street cricket when I was 13, but only sporadically,” he says. “At university, I was on the fencing team, but I also played tennis, which helps a lot. The hardest technique for me is the square cut and it took me all year to make any progress with my off spin.”
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controversial former England star Kevin Pietersen. With more investment and access to a full-size field, he’d love to play more full-size cricket, but the thrill of the first delivery every Sunday justifies the efforts to grow the game.
From Cwicket to cricket Those efforts are an echo of the work done by Cricket Russia. After years of playing at Moscow State University’s Baseball Arena, with an artificial surface that offers little to the spinners and a lightning-fast outfield that punishes fast bowlers, the organisation now has its own field in the eastern Moscow suburb of Karacharovo and a further site near the city’s outer ring road. Chopra has translated the rules of the game into Russian, making the sport less confusing for prospective players; Russian TV coverage on cable TV features commentators speaking a bizarre mix of English cricketing terms dragged through the complex mill of Russian grammar to produce a sonic soup that makes little sense to anyone. The national team, which plays with an increasingly Russian accent, is competing more frequently with its peers in Eastern Europe and plans to host a four-nation tournament in Moscow in July. With support from the ICC, there is hope of establishing regular “indigenous player tournaments” with teams drawn exclusively from domestically produced players under 25 – no naturalised expats, no Russians returning from school or university in a cricket-playing country. That would capitalise on the interest already shown among 600 or so players involved in 44 regional centres.
Developing local talent Solukhin is a beneficiary of Cricket Russia’s decision to pitch the game squarely at local players rather than maintaining the cosy expat club that had grown up around the United Cricket League in the capital. The organisation, which gained ICC affiliation in 2012, acknowledges that this was a divisive decision, but states its case plainly on its official website: “Unless we popularise cricket among native Russians and no longer remain as an expatriate-based cricketing community, Russian cricket will go nowhere. The Russian cricket team does not want to be taunted as an Indian or Pakistani Second XI and be the butt of jokes on social media.” That process, spearheaded by Cricket Russia’s president Ashwani Chopra, has seen recent touring sides draw heavily on local talent, starting with a tournament in Bulgaria in 2012. The following year the national squad comprised 21 players and officials, 12 of whom were of Russian origin, while last month’s appearance at the prestigious Goa Premier League Twenty20 competition involved a squad of eight Russians and seven expats, including Chopra. Another key part of the game’s development involves moving beyond Moscow. In Bataysk, a town near Rostov-on-Don, deep in the heart of Cossack territory, Konstantin Kiziavka is
an evangelical convert to cricket’s charms. Unlike Solukhin, Kiziavka came to the game via a traditional local sport, Chizh. That bat-and-ball game, popular in the south of Russia, led him to baseball, which was “interesting, but didn’t capture my enthusiasm”. Then in 2007 he caught a glimpse of cricket, studied the rules and realised it was the game he was looking for.“It’s the perfect game with bat and ball, it couldn’t be better,” he says. At first he played with friends and family, struggling for equipment (which has to be imported from England or India) and with the challenge of bowling with a straight arm. A few adaptations of the rules led to the creation of “Cossack Wicket”, or “Cwicket”, and the establishment of a mini-cricket league: games played with a single wicket and a taped-up tennis ball, open to men and women of all ages. “We’ve taught about 500 people to play and we’ve run a league for the past three seasons,” Kiziavka says. “We got to know some Indian students and play both real cricket and Cwicket with them. We’ve also got a good relationship with Ashwani Chopra, and we’re looking forward to showing him what we’ve done here.” For Kiziavka, a local journalist, spreading the sport is a labour of love. The stripped down game in Bataysk recalls the impromptu street cricket seen in the Indian sub-continent, although for the moment it’s not easy to make the transition up to the fully fledged game. He funds the costs of developing the league from his own salary and eagerly follows online broadcasts of the international game, with an affection for New Zealand and a soft spot for the
Could Russia be the next big power in Formula One? It seems strange, but it just might be possible. Back in 2010, when Russia won the rights to host F1 for the first time, the site of the new track at Sochi’s Olympic Park was a muddy mess. Now, with six months to go until the first race, Russia is surging forward. For Daniil Kvyat is fast. Seriously fast. It’s been only a year since the first Russian in F1, Vitaly Petrov, left the sport, but Kvyat seems like a driver from another generation. Kvyat is 19 and fresh-faced while Petrov is a decade older, but the main differences between them are ones of style. Cheerful and slightly bumbling, Petrov was something of a throwback. With his stubble, halting English and often reckless driving style, he would have been barely out of place as a teammate to Seventies British champion James Hunt – although without the Englishman’s legendary appetite for sex and booze. Throughout Petrov’s three-year stint at the pinnacle of motor sport, he often seemed a little confused about how he had ended up in F1 and where he was going. While he was fast enough on his day, making the podium at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, my abiding memory of his career is an onboard shot of him waggling a useless steering wheel as he slid towards a barrier in Malaysia, adrift with a broken steering column. Kvyat could not be more different. For a start, he is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, as well as his native Russian, making it a breeze for him to discuss the details of car set-up with his mechanics at Toro Rosso. I once saw Petrov, by contrast, make at least 10 rather confused attempts at recording a five-second English voiceover. In conversation, Kvyat is personable and comfortable with the media, a perfect fit for the whirlwind of press conferences and corporate events that confront the modern F1 driver. He can, however, seem a little bloodless, a man certainly keener to discuss the intricacies of technical gizmos than Petrov, who once gleefully told a group of journalists, including myself, how he wanted “to come back [to the top 10] and kick everyone’s a---s”. On the track, he’s something special. The first time I saw him was in 2012 when he blitzed two Formula Renault 2.0 races at the newly built Moscow Raceway, adapting immediately to a track neither he nor anyone else had driven before. Kvyat won the GP3 series last year and has made a strong start to his career in F1 by any rookie’s standards, taking three points from his first two races at Melbourne’s Albert Park and Malaysia’s Sepang, all the more impressive when you consider that he had never raced before at either of those tracks. Eleventh place at the last race in Bahrain was also respectable, and Kvyat went one better in Shanghai in April securing 10th place and another point. The Toro Rosso, with its long nose, is nowhere near fast enough to be a race winner, but should be good enough to put Kvyat in the fight for some strong top-10 results this season. He’ll need them. The Italy-based Toro Rosso is the second team for Red Bull, home of reigning champion Sebastian Vettel. There are two possibilities for any Toro Rosso driver – impress the management and, like Vettel and his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo, you could be promoted to Red Bull’s main team to fight for the title; fail and you’ll be ruthlessly cast aside. The first Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in October will take place on a 5.85km (3.6 mile) street circuit that encompasses many of the landmarks made famous during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Kvyat is the only Russian in the frame to compete in the race. After failing to keep his race seat with back-of-the-grid outfit Caterham last year, Petrov is spending 2014 in the German DTM touring car series and has little apparent hope of making an F1 comeback. A couple of other promising youngsters could make the leap in coming years, most obviously Sergei Sirotkin, who was in line to become the youngest-ever F1 driver this season with Swiss team Sauber before doubts arose over his lack of experience and rather vague sponsorship arrangements. Sauber say they are still keen to get his career back on track with an F1 race drive, but the 18 year-old has been forced to spend 2014 in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, where he sits fourth in the championship after two races. Another promising Russian, Nikolai Martsenko, is also there. Across the Atlantic, Moscow-born Mikhail Aleshin is making a splash, with a sixthplace finish in his first IndyCar race on April 14, and reviving a career that went off the boil when he failed to build on some good results in lower-level European series. But one black mark on Russia’s motorsport record is the fact that the only F1 team to fly a Russian flag, Marussia, have failed to make progress and remain firmly at the back of the grid with rumours swirling of financial problems. Still, the big picture remains positive for Russia, which now has its first F1 race and its first driver who looks a potential race-winner some day. Roll on Sochi!
Our future goals for cricket in Russia are to take part in the Olympics, if and when cricket returns, and to achieve ICC Associate Membership. It’s entirely up to the ICC whether cricket becomes an Olympic sport or not. ASHWANI CHOPRA TEAM FOUNDER AND CAPTAIN
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