Editorial Comment by Russia Profile Staff06/15/2012
Russia Profile brings you some of the best analysis on top stories in Russia today. But there’s always more behind them. Each Friday, our writers provide their own take on the news, offering unique commentary to put events into a different perspective. This week, Dan Peleschuk explains why political unrest in Russia is a good thing, and Tai Adelaja plumbs the curious case of Alexander Bastrykin.
Editorial Comment by Russia Profile Staff06/08/2012
Russia Profile brings you some of the best analysis on top stories in Russia today. But there’s always more behind them. Each Friday, our writers provide their own take on the news, offering unique commentary to put events into a different perspective. This week, Dan Peleschuk ponders everything that could go wrong with the Euro 2012 championship in Ukraine, while Tai Adelaja deliberates taking out a car loan…or maybe not.
Editorial Comment by Russia Profile Staff06/01/2012
Russia Profile brings you some of the best analysis on top stories in Russia today. But there’s always more behind them. Each Friday, our writers provide their own take on the news, offering unique commentary to put events into a different perspective. This week, Dan Peleschuk vents his frustration with the Russian bureaucracy and Tai Adelaja wishes Russia would be devoid of Western influence.
Editorial Comment by Russia Profile Staff05/25/2012
Russia Profile brings you some of the best analysis on top stories in Russia today. But there’s always more behind them. Each Friday, our writers provide their own take on the news, offering unique commentary to put events into a different perspective. This week, Dan Peleschuk ponders the significance of meeting in the middle while Tai Adelaja wonders why capital keeps fleeing Russia.
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Russia Profile brings you some of the best analysis on top stories in Russia today. But there’s always more behind them. Each Friday, our writers provide their own take on the news, offering unique commentary to put events into a different perspective. This week, Tai Adelaja paints a vivid picture of Russia’s crème de la crème at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, while Dan Peleschuk discovers that Ukraine has not yet perished – in fact, it’s doing well.
The Movers and Shakers
By Tai Adelaja
If you think the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is a place where mere mortals get to hobnob with the rich and famous yearly, think again. And the signs are there for all who care to look. For three long days, a seemingly endless line of chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz snaked its way up the Nalishnaya Street toward the venue. Many of the cars seem concept-based and most are so-so new. Intelligence officers, disguised as traffic policemen, waved their striped batons. Wand-type metal detectors were swiped over and around journalists’ abdomens. So, here we are – Russia's rich and powerful are coming.
On the first day, a hush descended over the crowd of journalists at the Press Center. Then someone whispered: “The landlord is here.” President Vladimir Putin, in a larger-than-life screen presence, talked about everything that was wrong with the West, that is, everything that makes Russia a great investment and tourist destination. Hours later, Western oil executives got a taste of that wonderland. “The chief executives of BP, ConocoPhillips, Shell and Chevron stood with a dozen colleagues in a dark, chair-less foyer, shifting from foot to foot as they waited three hours for an audience with the Russian president,” was how Reuters put it.
If I were to corrupt my Lord Jesus, I would say: it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of the needle than for ordinary Russians to enter the club of Russian movers and shakers.
In another part, Russian billionaire-turned-politician Mikhail Prokhorov gingerly entered a hall with a permanent grin on his face. Towering above everyone else like the biblical Goliath, the billionaire instantly became the focus of everybody’s attention. Perhaps some felt obliged to say “hullo” and, in turn, forced the oligarch to bend his six-foot eight-inch frame in order to kiss his well-wishers. But his curtsy was of little help to the shorter men of this world, many of whom stood on the tips of their toes, hoping to gently peck him on the cheek.
Oh yes, I had a glimpse of former Deputy Prime Minister and the new head of Rosneft Igor Sechin and the First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov. It was at a session curiously named “Realizing Russia's potential” and I saw some of that potential in action. Gathered here were those in and out of favor with the powers-that-be. They were trying to talk investors into something very important, when suddenly, former Rosneft CEO Eduard Khudainatov, tried to gate-crash into their meeting. He was shoved out of the room, literally.
Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished
By Dan Peleschuk
I guess I can say I was wrong. Several weeks ago, as the Euro 2012 soccer championship was starting to kick off in host countries Poland and Ukraine, I had serious doubts about Ukraine. It had less to do with the media hype that billed it as breeding ground for race-motivated violence and widespread, endemic corruption (though they were right about the latter). Rather, it was about my own personal misgivings about Ukraine’s competence to host a high-profile international event. Ukraine is not Europe, I thought, and there were bound to be problems – if only on an interpersonal level, due in large part to a sort of “clash of civilizations.”
But as the games draw to a close, I find myself somewhat befuddled. Not only have the myths been dispelled about racism and violence – there were no serious incidents of any nature reported by police – but it also seems to have been a resounding success for Ukraine. Thousands of soccer fans descended on the post-Soviet nation with one aim: to enjoy the games. No politics, no fear – just fun. Many, it turns out, knew at least generally what to expect of Ukraine; it’s no secret that the country is still developing, and its image in the West is nothing short of shoddy. But it seems that people were prepared, not discouraged.
Here in Kiev, the atmosphere is festive. Khreshchatyk, the main downtown boulevard, has morphed into a pedestrian-friendly “fan zone.” Natives and foreigners alike stroll by leisurely, absorbing the sights and sounds of what amounts to Ukraine’s European “coming out” party. At the beer stands that line the street, Germans laugh loudly. Italians lay back, enjoying cigarettes and the afternoon sun. Americans, though visibly confused at times, discover the nuances of a land they had previously known only through jokes and bad press.
Ukraine has emerged from Euro 2012 intact, with few of the media’s pre-game fears realized.
Of course, there are still sore spots. Bus rides from the brand new terminal at Boryspil airport have doubled (when I inquired about this, the driver smirked shamelessly and told me, “What do you expect? It’s the Euros”). The airport, though renovated, is still overwhelming and offers little direct transportation downtown. Soccer jerseys cost upward of $100 at fan kiosks on Khreshchatyk. And, somewhat gaudily, giant soccer balls lay sporadically along the route between the airport and downtown – as if post-Soviet Ukraine hasn’t been adorned with enough tacky monuments to capitalism.
But most of this is expected and ultimately inescapable for an international event, no matter in which country it’s held. And although it’s true that Ukraine still has a long way to go on many fronts – democracy, human rights and catching up to European standards of living, among other spheres – it seems that the Euro 2012 games, politics aside, can be marked as a success for the country. “Ukraine,” as the first lines of the national anthem declare, “has not yet perished.” As for the rest, only time can tell.
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