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TOPIC: st petersburg


How Much Longer Can The Russian Economy Survive Sanctions?

The head of the Kremlin boasted at the recent forum in St. Petersburg International Economic Forum about Russia’s economic resilience against Western sanctions. But behind the scenes, Russian business leaders tell a different story.


MOSCOW — "The most effective sanction to weaken the Kremlin? Not to target us and punish us, but to give us visas instead ... to abandon the sinking the ship!" This businessman's iconoclastic perspective embodies the anxiety one could detect percolating just below the surface at the "Russian Davos" Forum in St. Petersburg last week.

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Officially called the "International" Economic Forum, the annual event organized by Vladimir Putin is meant to attract foreign investors — but this year, the elite of the national business community were cut off from the rest of the world. "Just among Russians... And forced to line up behind the regime and its economic strategies that lead us to a dead end," says the same source, a Russian manager in one of the main state-owned companies.

Like so many others, this man in his 40s, a typical representative of the new upper middle class, with a foreign passport in hand, educated in the West, liberal and multilingual, discovered his name on the lists of Western sanctions. Directly or indirectly, a large part of the Russian business world has been caught up in the European and U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

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Elite Exodus: Russians Escaping The War, And Its Consequences

Estimates are that more than 200,000 people have already crossed Russian borders since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine. It looks to be the start of a mass exodus of well-to-do and middle class Russians that could further decimate the economy.

ST. PETERSBURG — Lining up to board the 6:30 a.m. bus from St. Petersburg to Helsinki, all his future packed in a single suitcase, a young Russian explains why he’s chosen to leave his native land, using a brutal movie metaphor: “Someone in this country has put a contract out on my life.”

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The hitman in this plot is, of course, Vladimir Putin: Since the Russian President launched his invasion of Ukraine, a growing number of citizens back home have been grappling with the decision to stay or go.

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REvil Bust: Is Russian Cybercrime Crackdown Just A Decoy From Ukraine?

This weekend’s unprecedented operation to dismantle the cybercriminal REvil network in Russia was carried out on a request and information from Washington. Occurring just as the two countries face off over the Russian threat to invade Ukraine raises more questions than it answers.

The world’s attention was gripped last week by the rising risk of war at the Russia-Ukraine border, and what some have called the worst breakdown in relations between Moscow and Washington since the end of the Cold War. Yet by the end of the week, another major story was unfolding more quietly across Russia that may shed light on the high-stakes geopolitical maneuvering.

By Friday night, Russian security forces had raided 25 addresses in St. Petersburg, Moscow and several other regions south of the capital in an operation to dismantle the notorious REvil group, accused of some of the worst cyberattacks in recent years to hit targets in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West.

And by Saturday, Russian online media Interfax was reporting that the FSB Russian intelligence services revealed that it had in fact been the U.S. authorities who had informed Russia "about the leaders of the criminal community and their involvement in attacks on the information resources of foreign high-tech companies.”

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A World Snapshot: Poisoned G20 Gift, Mayor Crack Scandal, Eclipse

See the solar eclipse through shades, the Boston Red Sox win the Series, a "poisoned" USB key and other images that have made news in the past seven days.

(cover photo: Imahinasyon)

Vladimir Tikhomirov

One Small Step Toward Smarter Cities In Russia, With Help From Japan

SESTRORETSK — There was a time when this northwest Russian city was considered the engine of the workers’ revolution. It had been the largest weapons factory in Imperial Russia, and just after the launch of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, workers frequently set off from here to expropriate property from the Czar’s followers in nearby St. Petersburg.

Nearly 100 years later, the city is promising to be the engine of another revolution. Japanese urban innovation specialists and architects from the prestigious Nikken Sekkei office and a Russian development company are planning to transform an area of Sestroretsk into Russia’s first bonafide Smart City.

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Smarter Cities
Emily Liedel

Better City Living, A Personal Quest From St. Petersburg To Basel And Back Home Again

Our Worldcrunch Impact special editor has lived in half a dozen different cities around the world, always with an eye out for the local features that improve modern life.

PORTLAND — In Madrid, I lived a short walk away from an open-air market that sold a vast variety of fresh vegetables and carefully cured meats at affordable prices. In Paris, a low-cost cooking class near my apartment taught me French haute cuisine while creating a genuine sense of belonging to the neighborhood where I lived.

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Luis Lema

Syria And The Russian Reset Fail: How Putin Turned The Tables On Obama

The Syrian crisis will dominate the G20 summit in St Petersburg. While the U.S. readies a lonely military strike, Russia's President presents himself as protector of international law.

GENEVA – When she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton famously called for Washington and Moscow to "hit the reset button." And from the Russian perspective, mission accomplished.

Vladimir Putin will certainly struggle to hide his satisfaction when he welcomes the G20 leaders under the splendor of Saint Petersburg, city of Czars.

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Oleg Khokhlov and Diana Khromvskikh

Dancing Bears: Can Old-School Russian Circus Survive In Cirque du Soleil World?

Circuses in Russia are facing animal cruelty accusations and competition from abroad.

ST. PETERSBURG - The fact that the St. Petersburg State Circus troop was unhappy about the naming of Vyacheslav Polunin as their new director was not really unusual - performing arts institutions around the country seem to always protest when they get a new leader. In a letter addressed directly to President Vladimir Putin, the troop expressed concern that Polunin would turn the 135-year-old circus into a cabaret. They didn’t bother complaining to Vladimir Medinskii, the Minister of Culture, who was behind the change in circus leadership. Medinskii had visited the circus at the beginning of the year and came away with an “oppressive feeling.”

The President didn’t answer, of course. “Changes are always difficult,” Polunin said. “The only way to return the Russian circus to its rightful place on the world stage is by combining tradition with a search for new ideas.”

The animal rights’ organization Vita is behind some of those supposedly new ideas. It recently released a 10-minute video of circus rehearsals in which five animal trainers beat circus animals - including two monkeys, a group of poodles, an ostrich and a kangaroo. The video was shot in January, 2012, and when Vita filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office, it turned out that the video was shot at a rehearsal of the St. Petersburg State Circus.

When Polunin took over at the beginning of the year, the scandal was still alive, but he was already promising to address the issue of "circus animals."

Irina Novozhilova, the president of Vita, is not waiting for an answer from the prosecutor. Last week she sent the Minister of Culture a request to establish Russia's “first cruelty-free circus” in St. Petersburg - which is to say, a circus without animals. Polunin asked the audience to speak up, and many well-known cultural figures voiced their support for an animal-free circus.

The circus community is also writing letters. “In hiding behind false slogans about the humanization of the circus, animal rights organizations are colluding with our foreign competitors and are trying to forbid animal trainers from performing on Russian stages,” reads the declaration on the Russian Circus Company’s website.

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Russia: 100 St. Petersburg Cops Fail (Voluntary) Drug Test, Get Fired



ST PETERSBURG - The police force in St. Petersburg and the surrounding region were recently given a ‘voluntary’ drug test, although no members of the force refused to take the test. Around 100 officers failed the test and were subsequently fired, Kommersant reports.

The police spokesperson could not explain why those officers who presumably knew they would fail the drug test took it anyway.

In addition, according to laws on police conduct, officers found to have run-ins with the law must be dismissed from their jobs. Kommersant reports that the St. Petersburg force also had to dismiss 63 officers for themselves having legal problems, mostly related to traffic violations.

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