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The latest keeper of the republic
Moscow, 14 May 2005 | The cult figure of the Russian goalkeeper has a new incarnation. So writes Jonathan Wilson of CSKA Moscow's Igor Akinfeyev ("Young Keeper of a Russian Tradition," Financial Times). The 19-year-old
Dostoevsky and the gamblers
Saint Petersburg, Russia, 3 March 2005 | Russian lottery Chestnaya Igra, which raises funds for football and other sports stadiums, has found legal trouble due to one of its celebrity endorsers: celebrated native writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. Great-grandson Dmitry has sued for what he claims is illegal use of the author's image on a lottery ticket. He also objects to the use of his
A burovaya, or screw-drill oil rig, rests on the Siberian tundra.
In Noyabrsk, "a tiny, ice-white blip that is permanently covered in hoarfrost," the reporters meet Sibneft functionaries and ask company workers how one man, Abramovich, came to gain a £5.3 billion portion of a company privatized only 10 years ago. The answer, naturally, is complicated, but involves Abramovich's close relationship to former president Boris Yeltsin, the acquisition of employee shares by questionable means—allegedly facilitated by the government—and the impoverishment of fellow Russians, which enabled the 37-year-old Abramovich and other speculators to consolidate their holdings. Left behind on the hoarfrost, though, are those suffering the economic and environmental consequences. Says Mikhail Karpenko, who has lived in Noyabrsk since 1974:
Abramovich never spent his nights in the back of an oil fire-heated truck. He never assembled the rigs when a gusher was struck or helped carve out the rail tracks and roads that brought in more labour. But he did scoop up the shares of those too poor and uneducated to appreciate their potential value. He did hustle thousands more out of their stake in Russian oil as the economy collapsed around them. He won. Russia lost.
Levy and Scott-Clark also talk to Nenet tribespeople, to whom Sibneft pays meager compensation for exploiting the oil-rich territory. Sitting in a chum made of animal hides, Nadezhda says the compensation is £280 per year. "Is it a good deal? The trees are dying. In the summer, the fish float up dead in the river. The reindeer are sick. Once, we thought our world was so large. You could ski for miles and never see a chum. Now, the oil rig flares are getting nearer and Sibneft tells us we have to move."
Update: Investigative reporter John Sweeney of BBC2 had a look-see into the Abramovich empire (Sweeney Investigates, 20 January 2005), following on the research of Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins in Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere. The conclusion seems to be that Abramovich is not shifty, just lucky, having bought state oil assets when they were available on the cheap. The most severe critique is that he has helped plunder the worth of his native soil and given little in return. "[S]ince the fall of the Soviet Union," writes Jim White of The Telegraph ("Chelsea Fans Might Soon Ask When Will Abramovich Really Put His Hand in His Pocket," 22 January 2005), "for all the proliferation of Moscow's McDonald's and Mercedes outlets, inward investment into Russia from the West is less than one seventh of the amount of capital that has flowed the other way. Much of that money has fetched up in Chelsea." | back to top