Roman Abramovich

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Posted by bender 03/05/2009 @ 00:11

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News headlines
Carlo Ancelotti insists Filippo Galli must accompany him to Chelsea - Times Online
Ancelotti has yet to give Chelsea a final commitment that he will join them in the summer, but the club are increasingly confident that they will get the man Roman Abramovich, the owner, has been pursuing since he sacked Luiz Felipe Scolari in February...
Hiddink Advises Chelsea To Sign Barcelona's Bojan - Report - Goal.com
Outgoing Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has advised Roman Abramovich to try and sign Bojan Krkic from Barcelona. According to Marca, Hiddink told Chelsea's Russian owner to see if he can land the young Blaugrana star. Bojan's opportunities have been...
Tony Bloom says I am Nothing like Roman Abramovich - Calida Gaming
Tony Bloom has taken over as chairman of Brighton and has declined comparisons of himself to Roman Abramovich. Bloom has provided interest free loans that will allow the League one club to finish off its new Stadium at a cost of £93 million,...
Sebastian Coe: It's great to be Blue! - Mirror.co.uk
But dad-of-four Coe, 52, has never taken for granted Chelsea's success since Roman Abramovich took charge of the club in 2003. "I tried to explain to my kids that in their young lives they have seen Chelsea win the Championship twice and any number of...
Roman Abramovich enjoys life pre-credit crunch. Photograph: J ... - guardian.co.uk
As a Chelsea fan I have seen the era of unprecedented wealth come and now go, Roman Abramovich apparently losing a reported 80% of his wealth in the credit crunch, leaving him a measly £3.5bn so I am told, and again I've now got mixed feelings....
Abramovich buys stake in Russian developer - Homes Overseas
Billionaire Chelsea football club supremo and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has purchased a 16% stake in developer Snegiri, according to cre.ru. It is not publicly known how much Mr Abramovich paid, but according to the latest valuation made by...
Roman Abramovich Buys Stake in Snegiri - Property Xpress (subscription)
20-05-09, 9:52, (Property Xpress) - Russian financial tycoon Roman Abramovich has acquired a 16 pct stake in local developer Snegiri, Vedomosti daily reported, quoting a source close to the deal. General manager of Snegiri, Sergey Demin and Johm Mann,...
Roman Abramovich's cheques and bank balance hold key to Chelsea's ... - Times Online
AT 10.35pm on Wednesday, in formation with three bodyguards, Roman Abramovich strolled across the Stamford Bridge turf. He paused to read a text message before glancing up, his gaze lingering on the deserted seats of the Shed End, its blank jumbo...
Short can bring success: Quinn - Sunday Sun
Chairman Quinn revealed that Short was not interested in buying into one of the Premier League's Big Four, but wanted to help an underachieving club realise its full potential – just as, on a far bigger scale, Roman Abramovich has at Chelsea....
Chelsea 2 Blackburn Rovers 0: Match report - Telegraph.co.uk
Chelsea supporters – a vocal minority at least – made clear to Roman Abramovich that they didn't want Carlo Ancelotti as the club's next manager. By Jason Burt at Stamford Bridge “You can stick your Ancelotti up your…” they sang, in rather a surreal...

Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich

Roman Abramovich(IPA: ; Russian: Рома́н Арка́дьевич Абрамо́вич; born on 24 October 1966 in Saratov, Russian SFSR, USSR) is a Russian Jewish billionaire and the main owner of private investment company Millhouse LLC. According to Forbes magazine, as of 5 March 2008, he has had a net worth of US$23.5 billion, ranking him as the fifteenth richest person in the world. He was also considered to be the second richest person currently living within the United Kingdom. Early in 2009 it was estimated that due to the global economical crisis he has lost £3 billion from his £11.7 billion wealth.

In 2003, Abramovich was named Person of the Year by Expert, a Russian business magazine. He shared this title with Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He is known outside Russia as the owner of Chelsea Football Club, an English Premier League football team, and for his wider involvement in European football.

Born into a Jewish family, Roman's paternal grandparents were exiled to Siberia from Tauragė, Lithuania by the Soviets after the occupation of Lithuania in 1940. His mother Irina Vasilevna was a musician and his father worked as a supplier at a construction trust in Syktyvkar. His mother, Irina Ostrowski Abramovich, died from bacteremia as a result of a back-alley abortion when Roman was one year old. His father Arkady Abramovich was killed in an incident on a construction site when Roman was three years old. Abramovich grew up in his uncle's family in Ukhta and with his grandmother, Tatyana Semenovna, in Moscow. Before moving to Moscow he and his sister lived in Syktyvkar, the capital city of the Komi Republic.

In 1973, Abramovich went to first grade at Ukhta School No. 2. In 1974, Abramovich and his grandmother moved in with his second uncle Abram Nakhimovich in Moscow. Abramovich studied at School No. 232, which stressed the performing arts. After graduating from school and botching his university studies, he moved to his relatives in Komi.

Abramovich attended the Industrial Institute in Ukhta before being drafted into the Soviet Army in 1984. After military service in an artillery regiment in Kirach, Vladimirsk region, he studied briefly at the Moscow State Auto Transport Institute before taking a leave of absence from academics to go into business. He later earned a correspondence degree from the Moscow State Law Academy.

The Times has reported that he was a market trader selling black market toys before his association with Boris Berezovsky.

A 2,000-ruble wedding present from Olga's (Abramovich's first wife) parents (about £1,000) was invested by Abramovich in black-market goods such as perfume, deodorants, tights and toothpaste to sell in Moscow in or around December 1987. Abramovich soon doubled, then tripled, the investment, his confidence growing with each business success. "I think he enjoyed the thrill of it," says Olga. "When he returned from trips selling the goods, he was flushed with joy. In 1988, as Perestroika opened up opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Soviet Union, he and Olga set up a company making dolls. "It brought success almost immediately," says Olga, "but I don't think Roman ever imagined that he would become as rich as he is now." Abramovich started his commercial activity in the late 1980s when Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms permitted the opening of small private businesses, known as co-operatives. Mr Abramovich began his business career selling plastic ducks from a Moscow apartment, but within a few years his wealth spread from oil conglomerates to pig farms. In 1992 to 1995 Abramovich founded five companies that conducted resale and acted as intermediaries, eventually specializing in the trading of oil and oil products. In 1992 he was arrested in a case of theft of government property - AVEKS-Komi sent a train containing 55 cisterns of diesel fuel, worth 3.8 million roubles, from the Ukhtinsk Oil Production Factory; Abramovich met the train in Moscow and resent the shipment to the Kaliningrad military base under a fake agreement, but the fuel arrived in Riga. Abramovich co-operated with the investigation, and the case was closed after the oil production factory was compensated by the diesel's buyer, the Latvian-US concern, Chikora International. In 1995 Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, an associate of President Boris Yeltsin acquired the controlling interest in the large oil company Sibneft. The deal was within the controversial loans-for-shares program and each partner paid $100 million for half of the company, below the stake's stock market value of $150 million at the time. The fast-rising value of the company led many observers, in hindsight, to suggest that the real cost of the company should have been in the billions of dollars.

In 1993, Abramovich founded Mekong. He began selling oil from Noyabrsk. He met Boris Berezovsky.

He first met Berezovsky at a meeting of Russian businessmen in the Caribbean in 1993. Berezovsky introduced Abramovich to "the family", the close circle around the then president, Boris Yeltsin, which included his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko and chief security adviser, Alexander Korzhakov.

Together with Berezovsky, Abramovich founded the offshore company Gibraltar-registered Runicom Ltd. and five Western European subsidiaries. Abramovich headed the Moscow affiliate of the Swiss firm, Runicom S.A. In August 1995, Sibneft was created by Boris Yeltsin’s presidential decree. It was rumored that Abramovich was the chief of the organization with Berezovsky promoting the business in higher circles.

In 1995, Abramovich and Berezovsky acquired a controlling interest in the giant Soviet oil company Sibneft. They paid £50 million (about US$100 million) for half of the company and rapidly turned it into billions. The Times claimed that he was assisted by Badri Patarkatsishvili. This acquisition was under the controversial loans-for-shares programme initiated by then President Boris Yeltsin. After Sibneft, Abramovich's next target was the aluminium industry. After privatisation the 'aluminium wars' lead to murders of smelting plant managers, metals traders and journalists as groups battled for control of the industry.

Mr Abramovich discloses that there was a showdown at St Moritz airport in Switzerland in 2001 when Mr Patarkatsishvili asked him to pay $1.3 billion to Mr Berezovsky. “The defendant agreed to pay this amount on the basis that it would be the final request for payment by Mr Berezovsky and that he and Mr Patarkatsishvili would cease to associate themselves publicly with him and his business interests.” The payment was duly made. Mr Abramovich was also willing to pay off Mr Patarkatsishvili. He states that he agreed to pay $585 million “by way of final payment”. Mr Abramovich denies that he helped himself to Mr Berezovsky's interests in Sibneft and aluminium or that he threatened a friend of the exile. “It is denied that Mr Abramovich made or was party to the alleged explicit or implicit coercive threats or intimidation,” he states.

Prior to the August 1995 decree , the defendant informed Mr Berezovsky that he wished to acquire a controlling interest in Sibneft on its creation. In return for the defendant agreeing to provide Mr Berezovsky with funds he required in connection with the cash flow of ORT, Mr Berezovsky agreed he would use his personal and political influence to support the project and assist in the passage of the necessary legislative steps leading to the creation of Sibneft.

Mr Patarkatsishvili did ... provide assistance to the defendant in the defendant's acquisition of assets in the Russian aluminium industry.

In 1999, Abramovich was elected to the State Duma as the representative for the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, an impoverished region in the Russian Far East. He started the charity Pole of Hope to help the people of Chukotka, especially children, and in December 2000 was elected governor of Chukotka, replacing Alexander Nazarov.

Abramovich was the governor of Chukotka from 2000 to 2008. It has been estimated that he spent over $1.3 billion of his own money on the region, which now has one of the highest birth rates in Russia. Under Abramovich, living standards improved, schools and housing were restored and new investors were being drawn to the region.

Abramovich said that he would not run for governor again after his term of office expired in 2005, as it is "too expensive", and he rarely visits the region. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin changed the law to abolish elections for regional governors, and on 21 October 2005 Abramovich was reappointed governor for another term.

Abramovich was awarded the Order of Honor for his "huge contribution to the economic development of the autonomous district ", by a decree signed by the President of Russia.

In early July 2008 it was announced that President Dmitri Medvedev had accepted Abramovich's latest request to resign as governor of Chukotka, although his various charitable activities in the region would continue. In the period 2000–2006 the average salaries in Chukotha increased from about £100 per month in 2000 to £500 per month in 2006.

Boris Berezovsky (his one-time business partner) alleged in 2008 that Abramovich harassed him with "threats and intimidation" to cheat him to sell his valuable shares at less than their true worth. Abramovich has been sued for £2 billion.

Berezovsky is said to have sold his stake in Sibneft for $650 million, or £326 million at today's prices. He received $450 million, or £225 million, for the Rusal shares. He claims the price should have been much higher - £1.2 billion more for the Sibneft shares, and £900 million for Rusal. The former forestry engineer and used car salesman is bringing a total claim of £2.03 billion, a significant part of Abramovich's estimated £10.8 billion fortune. Berezovsky is believed to be worth around £500 million.

On 5 July 2008, The Times reported that Abramovich admitted he paid billions of dollars for political favours and protection fees to obtain a big share of Russia's oil and aluminium assets as was shown by court papers The Times obtained.

Yugraneft, an affiliate of Sibir Energy, is seeking billions of dollars in damages in a lawsuit in London against Roman Abramovich and his investment company Millhouse Capital, alleging that it was cheated out of its Russian assets. It alleges that another of Roman Abramovich's companies, Sibneft, illegally diluted Yugraneft's interest in their joint-company that had oil fields in Russia to 1% from 50%. The proceedings "involve substantial claims to recover the proceeds of the diluted interest", said Sibir Energy, a company co-owned by the billionaire Shalva Chigirinsky.

In 1992 he was arrested in a case of theft of government property: AVEKS-Komi sent a train containing 55 cisterns (tankers) of diesel fuel, worth 3.8 million roubles, from the Ukhtinsk Oil Production Factory (Case No. 79067 for the large-scale theft of state property); Abramovich met the train in Moscow and resent the shipment to the Kaliningrad military base under a fake agreement, but the fuel arrived in Riga. Abramovich co-operated with the investigation, and the charges were dropped after the oil production factory was compensated by the diesel's buyer, the Latvian-US concern, Chikora International.

The Times said that Mr Abramovich "famously emerged triumphant after the “aluminium wars”, in which more than 100 people believed to have been killed in gangland feuds over control of the lucrative smelters. He avoided the fate of a rival oligarch who annoyed the Kremlin and ended up being transported to jail in Siberia for ten years," and "Numerous officials and executives are said to have lost their lives".

Russia's antitrust body said Wednesday that Evraz Holding — part-owned by Kremlin-friendly businessman Roman Abramovich — has breached anti-monopoly rules, overcharging customers for coking coal.

In June 2003, he became the owner of the companies that control Chelsea Football Club in the United Kingdom.

The club also embarked on an ambitious programme of commercial development, with the aim of making it a worldwide brand, and announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art training complex in Cobham, Surrey. Chelsea finished their first season after the takeover in second place in the Premiership, from fourth the previous year, and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. A new manager, José Mourinho, was recruited, and Chelsea ended the following season as league champions. In the five years since the takeover the club have won five major trophies; the Premier League and League Cup twice each and the FA Cup. This five trophy haul during the 2003-2008 period is higher than any other English club alongside Manchester United who have also secured five; the Premier league twice, the European Champions League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

It is argued that Abramovich's involvement with Chelsea has distorted the football transfer market throughout Europe, as his wealth often allows the club to purchase players virtually at will although that has changed in recent years. He did however sanction the transfer of Andriy Shevchenko for a then British record transfer fee of around £30 million.

The spending has, to some extent, seen wealth re-distributed throughout the game, with the combined fee of £12.5 million paid to West Ham United for Glen Johnson and Joe Cole helping to avert administration. In the year ending June 2005, Chelsea posted record losses of £140 million and the club is not expected to record a trading profit before 2010, though this did decrease to reported losses of £80.2 million year ending June 2006.

In a December 2006 interview Abramovich stated that he expected Chelsea's transfer spending to fall in years to come, although he subsequently seemed to move away from this position. He is also present at almost every game Chelsea play and shows visible emotion during matches, a sign taken by supporters to indicate a love for the sport, and usually visits the players in the dressing room following each match, although this stopped for a time in early 2007 as rumours of a feud between Abramovich and Chelsea manager José Mourinho appeared in the press which was due to various arguments between the two men regarding the appearances of certain players, notably Andriy Shevchenko. In the early hours of 20 September 2007, José Mourinho announced his exit as Chelsea manager by mutual consent with the club following a meeting with the board. Former Israel coach and Chelsea's director of football, Avram Grant, was named as his replacement. Ever since Grant had joined Chelsea (in the summer of 2007) there had been friction between him and Mourinho. Mourinho reportedly told Grant not to interfere in team affairs but with Abramovich's backing, Grant's profile at the club rose after he was made a member of the board. This event apparently did not go down well with Mourinho and may have contributed to his surprise exit. On 24 May Avram Grant was sacked as manager by Abramovich. On 11 June 2008, it was announced that Luiz Felipe Scolari would be taking over as manager on 1 July 2008. Scolari was sacked as Chelsea manager on 9 February 2009. On Wednesday, 11 February 2009, Russian coach Guus Hiddink told Dutch radio he expects to become the new manager of Chelsea in the following week.

20092009. As of May 2008, Abramovich has spent approximately £600 million on the club since arriving in 2003.

In March 2004, Sibneft agreed to a three-year sponsorship deal worth $58 million with the Russian team CSKA Moscow. Although the company explained that the decision was made at management level, some viewed the deal as an attempt by Abramovich to counter accusations of being unpatriotic which were made at the time of the Chelsea purchase. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) rules prevent one person owning more than one team participating in UEFA competitions, so Abramovich has no equity interest in CSKA. A lawyer, Alexandre Garese, is one of his partners in CSKA. Following an investigation, he was cleared by UEFA of having a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, he was named most influential person in Russian football in the Russian magazine Pro Sport at the end of June 2004. In May 2005, CSKA won the UEFA Cup, becoming the first Russian club ever to win a major European football competition. However, in October 2005, Abramovich sold his interest in Sibneft and the company's new owner Gazprom, which sponsors FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, cancelled the sponsorship deal.

Abramovich also played a large role in bringing Guus Hiddink to Russia to coach the Russia national football team. Piet de Visser, a former head scout of Hiddink's club PSV Eindhoven and now a personal assistant to Abramovich at Chelsea, recommended Hiddink to the Chelsea owner.

In addition to his involvement in professional football, Abramovich sponsors a foundation in Russia called the National Academy of Football. The organization sponsors youth sports programs throughout the country and has constructed more than fifty football pitches in various cities and towns. It also funds training programs for coaches, prints instruction materials, renovates sports facilities and takes top coaches and students on trips to visit professional football clubs in England, Holland and Spain. In 2006 the Academy of Football took over the administration of the football academy at Primorksy, near Togliatti, Samara Oblast, where over 1000 youths are in residence, following the death at 38 of its founder, Yuri Konoplev.

The proposed merger of Sibneft with Yukos was seen by most as a move to distance himself from Russia, at a time when the Kremlin appears to have decided to bring at least some of the oligarchs to account for their colourful past business practices. Abramovich was a close associate of controversial Boris Berezovsky who sold him his stake in Sibneft, although in July 2005 Berezovsky announced his intention to sue Abramovich in the British courts for pressuring him into selling most of his Russian assets cheaply to Abramovich after Berezovsky fled the country.

The Kremlin press service reported that Abramovich's name had been sent for approval as governor for another term to Chukotka's local parliament, which confirmed his appointment on 21 October 2005.

Chris Hutchins, a biographer of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, claims that the relationship between the former Russian president and Abramovich is like that between a father and a favorite son; Abramovich himself has stated that his relationship with Putin is professional, as signified by his use of the Russian language's formal "вы" in addressing Putin, as opposed to the informal "ты".

Abramovich has been married twice, to Olga Yurevna Lysova in December 1987 (divorced 1990), and to Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina in October 1991 (divorced 2007). He and Irina have five children.

On 15 October 2006, the News of the World reported that Irina had hired two top UK divorce lawyers, following reports of Abramovich's close relationship with the 26-year old Daria Zhukova, the former girlfriend of tennis player Marat Safin and daughter of a prominent Russian oligarch based in London. It was speculated that a future divorce settlement (amounting to a conjectured £5.5 billion) might be the highest ever on record. The Abramoviches replied that neither had consulted attorneys at that point. However, they later divorced in Russia in March 2007, with a settlement reported as being $300 million.

Abramovich has recently boosted his security staff to a 40-person "private army", making him one of the best protected businessmen in the world.

Roman Abramovich sponsored an exhibition of photographs of Uzbekistan by renowned Soviet photographer Max Penson (1893–1959) which opened on 29 November 2006 at the Gilbert Collection at Somerset House in London. He previously funded the exhibition "Quiet Resistance: Russian Pictorial Photography 1900s-1930s" at the same gallery in 2005. Both exhibits were organized by the Moscow House of Photography.

In May 2008 Abramovich emerged as a major buyer in the international art auction market. He purchased Francis Bacon's Triptych for US$86.3 million (a record price for a post-war work of art) and Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping for $33.6 million (a record price for a work by a living artist).

His partner Dasha Zhukova is managing a gallery of modern art in Moscow that occupies a historical Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage building by Konstantin Melnikov. The building, neglected for decades and partially taken apart by previous tenants, was restored in 2007–2008 and reopened to the public in September 2008. Speed and expense of restoration is credited to sponsorship by Abramovich.

Abramovich qualified for the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, with an estimated fortune of £11.7 billion, by virtue of retaining a property in Knightsbridge, London on Lowndes Square.

In May 2008, Abramovich bought the 200 acre former Wildcat Ridge near Aspen, Colorado estate of American businessman Leon Hirsch, founder of United States Surgical Corporation, for £18 million. In September 2008 it was reported in the Daily Express that realtor Paul Grimshaw has been appointed to sell a 11.5M Euro villa and real estate interests in Marbella, mainland Spain for Abramovich.

He owns a private Boeing 767-33A/ER (registration P4-MES, registered in Aruba), known as "The Bandit" due to its cockpit paint detail. Originally the aircraft was ordered by Hawaiian Airlines but the order was cancelled and Abramovich bought it from Boeing and refitted it to his own requirements. Interior details or images are not available anywhere. P4-MES is frequently parked at the Harrods Aviation facility at Stansted Airport, UK.

In September 2008 Airbus completed his new private aircraft, an A340-313X. The quad jet with line number 955 and registration M-ABUS will have the name "Bourkhan" and a modern brown, white and beige livery. Abramovich also owns three Eurocopter helicopters (EC-145, registration P4-LGB, EC-135T1, registration P4-XTC and EC-155B, registration P4-HEC) based on his yachts, Blackbushe airport or at his estate Fyning Hill near Rogate in West Sussex, UK.

In 2004 Abramovich bought two Maybach 62 limousines. He had these customized to be bomb proof and have bullet-proof glass. They were reported to have cost him £1 million. Abramovich also owns a Ferrari FXX, a $2.2 million dollar race-only car, of which only 30 were built. He also owns a Bugatti Veyron (blue on black), Maserati MC12 Corsa, Ferrari 360 and a modified Porsche Carrera GT.

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Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky.jpg

Boris Abramovich Berezovsky (Russian: Бори́с Абра́мович Березо́вский) (also known as Platon Elenin) (born January 23, 1946), is a Russian Jewish business man, billionaire and former mathematician. He is best known for his role as a Russian oligarch, media tycoon and prominent politician during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. He has been described by critics as the epitome of Russian "robber capitalism", but he denies having ever taken part in the violence that tainted Russian business during that era. Berezovsky was at the height of his power in the later Yeltsin years, when he was deputy secretary of Russia's security council, a friend of Boris Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko, and a member of the Yeltsin inner circle, or "family".

Berezovsky made his fortune importing Mercedes cars into Russia in the 1990s and setting himself up as a middleman distributing cars made by Russia's Avtovaz. As well as taking ownership of the Sibneft oil company, he became the main shareholder in the country's main television channel, ORT, which he turned into a propaganda vehicle for Boris Yeltsin in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election. Although he helped Vladimir Putin enter the "family", and funded the party that formed Putin's parliamentary base, Putin moved to regain control of the ORT television station, and to curb the political ambitions of Russia's oligarchs, who were extremely unpopular with the average Russian.

After the ascent of Putin to the Russian presidency, Berezovsky went into opposition and fled the country after being accused of defrauding a regional government of US$13 million. He was later granted political asylum in the United Kingdom. He has since publicly stated that he is on a mission to bring down Putin "by force". In the UK, he became associated with Akhmed Zakayev, Alexander Litvinenko and Alex Goldfarb in what has become known as "the London Circle" of Russian exiles. He is a founder of International Foundation for Civil Liberties. According to Professor Richard Sakwa, Berezovsky's behaviour is always marked by audacity and cunning.

In 2007, a Moscow court found Berezovsky guilty of massive embezzlement in absentia. He was sentenced to six years in jail and ordered to repay the $9 million that the court said he had stolen from the state airline Aeroflot. He has also been accused by Russian authorities of being involved in the murders of several leading critics of the Putin's regime, including Litvinenko and journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in an attempt to destabilize the country and discredit Putin. Arrest warrants for him have been issued in Russia and Brazil for allegations of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering, and he has been under investigation by Swiss federal prosecutors for money laundering since 2003.

Berezovsky survived an assassination attempt in 1994 unharmed. There have been several other alleged assassination attempts on him which he accuses Russian agents of carrying out.

Berezovsky was born in 1946 in Moscow to Abram Markovich Berezovsky, a civil engineer in construction works, and Anna Gelman. Although his parents were Jewish, he adopted the Orthodox beliefs. He studied forestry and then applied mathematics, receiving his doctorate in 1983. After graduating from the Moscow Forestry Engineering Institute in 1968, Berezovsky worked as an engineer, from 1969 till 1987 filling the positions of an assistant research officer, research officer and finally the head of a department in the Institute of Management Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Berezovsky did research on optimization and control theory, publishing 16 books and articles between 1975 and 1989; his Erdős number is 4.

Berezovsky started in business in 1989 under perestroika by buying and reselling automobiles from state manufacturer AutoVAZ. A transcript of an official interview of Boris Berezovsky with The First Post mentions: "In the early 1990s, he explained, he went to Germany, bought old Mercedes saloons at DM 700 a pop, then sold them in Moscow for $25,000: "Not a bad profit." He returned to Germany with 10 friends, and built an empire." Officially, Berezovsky was called upon as an expert in development of optimized system of management of the enterprise. In 1992, a new middleman company, LogoVAZ, was created as a joint-stock company with Berezovsky as its president. In four years it became one of the biggest private enterprises in Russia and in 1993 the turnover of the company exceeded US$250 million. On May 31, 1994 Logovaz became a holding company and Mr. Berezovsky was appointed the Chairman of the Board of Directors. LogoVAZ became an exclusive consignment dealer of AutoVAZ, allegedly enabling a scheme (named ReExport) in which cars were sold abroad and then bought back for sale on the internal market. In another business, May Berezovsky became head of the Automobile All-Russia alliance "АVVА" ("АВВА" in Russian Cyrillic) and became known as the initiator of the "popular car" project (the aim was to create a small and fuel-efficient Russian car).

During the presidency of Boris Yeltsin from 1991 to 1999, Berezovsky was among the businessmen who gained access to the president. He acquired stakes in state companies including AutoVAZ, Aeroflot, and several oil properties that he (together with Roman Abramovich)organized into Sibneft. Berezovsky established a bank to finance his operations and acquired several news media holdings as well. Berezovsky was a leading proponent of political and economic liberalization in Russia. He has frequently entered into politics by investing in the liberal media (his holdings included the television channels ORT and TV6, and newspapers Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Novye Izvestiya and Kommersant), financing liberal candidates, making political statements, and even seeking office himself. His media holdings provided essential support for Yeltsin's re-election in 1996.

Later, when in exile, Berezovsky had to fight legal battles over his holdings. According to New York Times, there is a suspicion that Berezovsky's later critical activities against the Russian government could simply be an attempt to orchestrate a political crisis for Mr. Putin and win political asylum in Britain as a means to protect permanently the wealth he carved out of Russia in the early days, when the pickings were easy.

Berezovsky was briefly executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and later a member of the State Duma (Russia's lower house of parliament). He survived several assassination attempts, including one in which a car bomb decapitated the chauffeur of his Mercedes-Benz 600 in 1994.

In the position of the deputy secretary of the Security Council of Russia, he was also involved in talks on freeing Russian and foreign hostages kidnapped in Chechnya and allegedly transferred large sums of money in exchange for hostages. Berezovsky admitted, that in 1997, he gave $2 million of his own money Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev, who was then Prime Minister of Chechnya. The money was intended for restoration of a cement factory, he said, but he admitted it might have been used for other purposes. Berezovsky had strong ties with Chechens through their Moscow diaspora connections. He said that he "saved at least fifty people, who otherwise would have been killed; most of them were simple soldiers. And believe me, all of this was strictly official, with the full knowledge and consent of the Kremlin." However, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov accused Berezovsky and the Russian government of collusion with the hostage-takers.

The first assault against Berezovsky was launched during Primakov's premiership, when Berezovsky was accused of money laundering when he was at the head of Aeroflot. However, in the event it was Primakov who was dismissed.

According to Alex Goldfarb, an associate of Berezovsky and Litvinenko, in 1999 Berezovsky secured Vladimir Putin's appointment to the Prime Minister position as a result of a secret agreement, where Putin promised his loyalty to Yeltsin and his closest circle including Berezovsky himself. In June 2000 The Times reported that Spanish police discovered Putin had secretly visited a villa in Spain belonging to Berezovsky on up to five different occasions in 1999. According to Ramzan Kadyrov, Berezovsky was strongly opposed to the Second Chechen War but nevertheless supported Putin's 2000 presidential campaign. However Putin later broke the agreement, allegedly when he was infuriated by the critical coverage of the Russian submarine Kursk explosion by ORT TV channel owned by Berezovsky. Putin forced Berezovsky to sell his ORT shares, partly in exchange for promising to free Nikolai Glushkov, a former manager of Aeroflot company and close associate of Berezovsky, according to Goldfarb.

Russia neither welcomed Berezovsky's views on Chechnya, nor his political clout and opened investigations into Berezovsky's business activities. Fearing arrest, Berezovsky fled to London in 2001, where he was granted political asylum. He has been charged with fraud and political corruption, but British courts have rejected all three attempts to get him extradited to Russia. From his new home in the U.K., he has strongly criticized the current Russian administration.

In 2003 Boris Berezovsky formally changed his name to Platon Elenin ("Platon" being Russian for Plato, and Elena is the name of his wife) in the British courts. No reason has been given - but Platon is the name of the lead character in a film Tycoon based on his life. In December 2003 he was allowed to travel under his new name to Georgia, provoking a row between Russia and Georgia.

In recent years, Berezovsky has gone into business with Neil Bush, the younger brother of the U.S. President George W. Bush. Berezovsky has been an investor in Bush's Ignite! Learning, an educational software corporation, since at least 2003. In 2005, Neil Bush met with Berezovsky in Latvia, causing tension with Russia due to Berezovsky's fugitive status. Neil Bush has also been seen in Berezovsky's box at the Emirates Stadium, the home of British soccer club Arsenal F.C., for a game. There has been speculations that the relationship may cause tension in Russo-American bilateral relations.

In September 2005, soon after the Ukrainian government led by prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was dismissed by president Viktor Yushchenko, former president of the Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk accused Berezovsky of financing Yushchenko's presidential election campaign, and provided copies of documents showing money transfers from companies he said are controlled by Berezovsky to companies controlled by Yuschenko's official backers. Berezovsky has confirmed that he met Yushchenko's representatives in London before the election, and that the money was transferred from his companies, but he refused to confirm or deny that the companies that received the money were used in Yushchenko's campaign. Financing of election campaigns by foreign citizens is illegal in Ukraine. In September 2007, Berezovsky launched lawsuits against two Ukrainian politicians, Oleksandr Tretyakov, a former presidential aid, and David Zhvaniya, a former emergencies minister. Berezovsky is suing the men for nearly US$23 million, accusing them of misusing the money he had allocated in 2004 to fund Ukraine's Orange Revolution.

On September 5, 2007, a trial in absentia began in Moscow to examine allegations that Berezovsky had embezzled money from the Russian airline carrier Aeroflot in the 1990s. On November 29, 2007, a Moscow court found Berezovsky guilty of massive embezzlement, and sentenced him to six years in jail. The court found that he had stolen 214 million roubles (nearly $9 million) from Aeroflot through fraud, and ordered him to repay it. Berezovsky called the verdict "a farce". The judge described Berezovsky as part of an organized criminal group that included Aeroflot managers.

A 1996 Forbes magazine article titled Godfather of the Kremlin?, by the Russian-American journalist Paul Klebnikov, portrayed Berezovsky as a mafiya boss who had his rivals murdered. Berezovsky sued the magazine for libel, and the dispute was ultimately settled with the magazine retracting both claims. Klebnikov expanded the article into a book, Godfather of the Kremlin, that Berezovsky did not contest in court. Klebnikov was eventually murdered in 2004.

On July 12, 2007, a Brazilian judge issued an arrest warrant for Berezovsky and a number of other British and Brazilian suspects in connection with an investigation against the Media Sports Investments group, which is suspected of money laundering. Berezovsky is accused of being the main financial backer of MSI. Since Berezovsky, Iranian-born Kia Joorabchian and Noyan Bedru were not in Brazil at the time, warrants for their arrest were forwarded to Interpol. Berezovsky dismissed the Brazilian investigation as a part of the Kremlin's "politicized campaign" against him.

Berezovsky has been investigated by the Swiss financial authorities since 1999 for money laundering and membership of a criminal organization. In 2003, the Swiss Bundesanwaltschaft (General State Prosecutor) started a criminal case against Berezovsky and, amongst others, Nikolai Glushkov, for money laundering through the Swiss firms Ovaco AG, situated at the Monbijoustrasse in Bern, and Anros SA in the Lausanne World Trade Center. Berezovsky claimed the proceedings were motivated by antisemitism. In December 2006, as news broke of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the Bundesanwaltschaft announced that its investigations against Boris Berezovsky were still continuing.

In August 2007, the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General announced that the Dutch tax police had visited Moscow in connection with a handling and money laundering case involving Berezovsky. As Russian media were claiming that a criminal case had been initiated against Berezovsky in the Netherlands on a charge of money laundering, the Dutch prosecuting office or Openbaar Ministerie hastened to announce that he was not the object of any criminal investigation in the Netherlands, while Berezovsky himself responded by saying that he had no business in the Netherlands. Several Dutch newspapers counterclaimed that the name Boris Berezovsky was in fact mentioned in the handling and money laundering dossier, to which the Dutch prosecution officers in function refused to comment.

On October 7, 2006, prominent Russian journalist and an outspoken Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated at her Moscow apartment in what was a suspected contract killing.

On August 28, 2007, Russia's Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika had a meeting with President Putin and the FSB director Nikolai Patrushev, during which he made an official announcement that "our investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya," and that "forces interested in de-stabilising the country, in stoking crisis...in discrediting the national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime. Anna Politkovskaya knew who ordered her killing. She met him more than once." Chaika also said that Politkovskaya's killers are probably connected with the murders of deputy Central Bank head Andrei Kozlov and U.S. journalist Paul Khlebnikov. The person noted by Chaika as the organizer of the murder was unequivocally identified in the media as Boris Berezovsky.

On April 3, 2008, the suspended head of Russia’s Investigation Committee, Dmitry Dovgy, told the press that Berezovsky was behind the murder. He said he was convinced that the murder had been carried out by "Boris Berezovsky, through Khozh-Ahmed Noukhayev," and that her death had been "advantageous" for the former Kremlin insider at that particular moment in time. Dovgy said that the murder was also aimed at undermining confidence in law and order in Russia. "She was such a strong character, in opposition to the authorities. She met with Berezovsky, and, well, they killed her. They didn't believe that we would solve the case so quickly. The organizers wanted to show that well-known people can be killed here in broad daylight, with the law enforcement agencies seemingly unable to solve such crimes," he said.

Many publications in Russian media suggested that the death of Alexander Litvinenko was connected to Berezovsky. Former FSB chief Nikolay Kovalev, for whom Litvinenko worked, said that the incident "looks like the hand of Berezovsky. I am sure that no kind of intelligence services participated." This involvement of Berezovsky was alleged by numerous Russian television shows. Kremlin supporters saw it as a conspiracy to smear Russian government's reputation by engineering a spectacular murder of a Russian dissident abroad.

In September 2005, Berezovsky said in an interview with the BBC: "I'm sure that Putin doesn't have the chance to survive, even to the next election in 2008. I am doing everything in my power to limit his time frame, and I am really thinking of returning to Russia after Putin collapses, which he will." In January 2006, Berezovsky stated in an interview to a Moscow-based radio station that he was working on overthrowing the administration of Vladimir Putin by force. Berezovsky has also publicly accused Putin of being “a gangster” and the "terrorist number one".

Soon after Berezovsky's 2007 statement, Garry Kasparov, an important figure of the opposition movement The Other Russia and leader of the United Civil Front, wrote the following on his website: "Berezovsky has lived in emigration for many years and no longer has significant influence upon the political processes which take place in Russian society. His extravagant proclamations are simply a method of attracting attention. Furthermore, for the overwhelming majority of Russians he is a political symbol of the 90s, one of the "bad blokes" enriching themselves behind the back of president Yeltsin. The informational noise around Berezovsky is specifically beneficial for the Kremlin, which is trying to compromise Russia's real opposition. Berezovsky has not had and does not have any relation to Other Russia or the United Civil Front." Berezovsky responded in June 2007 by saying that "there is not one significant politician in Russia whom he has not financed" and that this included members of Other Russia. The managing director of the United Civil Front, in turn, said that the organization would consider suing Berezovsky over these allegations.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has launched a criminal investigation against Berezovsky to find whether his comments can be considered a "seizure of power by force", as outlined in the Russian Criminal Code. If convicted, an offender is facing up to 20 years of imprisonment. The British Foreign Office denounced Berezovsky's statements, warning him that his status of a political refugee may be reconsidered, should he continue to make similar remarks. Furthermore, Scotland Yard had announced that it would investigate whether Berezovsky's statements were in violation of the law. However in the following July, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that Berezovsky would not face charges in the UK for his comments. Kremlin officials called it a "disturbing moment" in Anglo-Russian relations.

According to Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) agent in London was making preparations to assassinate Berezovsky with a binary weapon in September 2003. This alleged plot was reported to British police. Hazel Blears, then a Home Office Minister, said that inquiries made were "unable to either substantiate this information or find evidence of any criminal offences having been committed". Berezovsky in turn later accused Putin of ordering the deadly poisoning of Litvinenko.

This was not the first alleged plot to murder Berezovsky that had been announced by Litvinenko. On November 17, 1998, during the period that Vladimir Putin was the head of the FSB, five high-ranking officers of FSB's Directorate for the Analysis of Criminal Organisations appeared at a press conference in the Russian Interfax news agency. The officers, including the then-Lieutenant Colonel Litvinenko, accused the head of the Directorate and his deputy of ordering them to assassinate Boris Berezovsky and the FSB officer Mikhail Trepashkin in November 1997.

In June 2007 Berezovsky said he fled Britain on the advice of Scotland Yard, amid reports that he was the target of an assassination attempt by a suspected Russian hitman. On July 18, 2007, British tabloid The Sun reported that the alleged would-be assassin was captured by the police at the Hilton Hotel in Park Lane. They reported that the suspect, arrested by the anti-terrorist police after being tracked for a week by MI5, was deported back to Russia when no weapons were found and there was not enough evidence to charge him with any offence. In addition, they said British police placed a squad of uniformed officers around the Chechen dissident Akhmed Zakayev's house in north London, and also phoned Litvinenko's widow, Marina, to urge her to take greater security precautions. Russia's ambassador to the UK, Yuri Fedotov, said he was not aware of any such plot and told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was "nothing that could confirm" the plot, although British police did confirm that they had arrested a suspect in an alleged murder plot.

Berezovsky said he was told the assassin would be someone he knew, who would shoot him in the head and then surrender to the police. He again accused Vladimir Putin of being behind a plot to assassinate him. The Kremlin has denied similar claims in the past. According to The Guardian, there is speculation that Berezovsky leaked details of the alleged attempt to kill him to the media to antagonise Moscow, once the British authorities had returned the suspected hitman to Moscow. The timing of the story has also been seen as suspicious, coming in the middle of a row over Britain's attempts to charge a Russian businessman and former security agent, Andrei Lugovoi, with Litvinenko's murder.

According to the interview given by a high-ranking British security official to the BBC2 in July 2008, the alleged Russian agent, known as "A" , was of a Chechen nationality. He was indentified by Kommersant as the Chechen mobster Movladi Atlangeriyev; after returning to Russia, Atlangeriyev forcibly disappeared in January 2008 by the unknown men in Moscow.

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Badri Patarkatsishvili

Arkady "Badri" Patarkatsishvili (Georgian: ბადრი პატარკაციშვილი October 31, 1955, Tbilisi, Georgian SSR, Soviet Union – February 12, 2008, Leatherhead, Surrey, United Kingdom) was a wealthy Georgian Jewish businessman, who was also extensively involved in politics. He contested the 2008 Georgian presidential election and came third with 7.1% of the votes. Although his first name was Arkady, he was best-known by the nickname "Badri".

Born in Tbilisi to a Jewish family, Patarkatsishvili's membership of the Soviet Communist party's youth wing, the Komsomol, gave him contacts he found useful later. Between 1994 and 2001, he lived in Moscow. To avoid prosecution on charges of alleged fraud in Russia, he moved to Tbilisi. (Patarkatsishvili's business activities had made him the richest man in Georgia with an estimated wealth of $ 12 billion. In his Russian business deals, he was closely associated with Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. In 1992, he became a deputy chief executive of Berezovsky's LogoVAZ group.

In January 1995, Patarkatsishvili became deputy chief executive with responsibility for finance at Russia's ORT TV. In March – May 2001, he was chief executive of Russia's TV6 channel, which, like ORT, was partly owned by Berezovsky. Early in 2006, he bought out Berezovskys stake in Moscow's independent Kommersant publishing house, which he sold on in August that year to senior Gazprom executive Alisher Usmanov.

In 1997, he oversaw the privatization of the Sibneft oil company in auctions that later seemed to have been fixed. Berezovsky snapped up the stake on offer for a fraction of the market value.

In June 2001, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office charged him with organizing an attempted escape from prison of Nikolay Glushkov - and, in October 2002, with involvement in an alleged grand fraud related to the AvtoVAZ case.

In 2007, numerous allegations of corruption were made against him. He was impeached as president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee, and also quit as a president of Georgian Business Federation. Georgian officials turned largely vocal about Patarkatsishvili's murky past. Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 TV linked his name with several notorious murders in Russia and Georgia, including the assassination of Vlad Listyev.

According to The Times, Roman Abramovich submitted a 53-page court defence that accused Boris Berezovsky and Badri Patarkatsishvili of demanding huge sums for helping him to rise from obscurity. Arkady “Badri” Patarkatsishvili, emerges as the key intermediary, passing messages between Abramovich and Berezovsky. Mr Patarkatsishvili was offered $500 million by Roman Abramovich, the defence papers that were submitted admit, for protecting Roman in Russia's aluminium wars.

Patarkatsishvili claimed to have helped Russian president Vladimir Putin to make his career. He had, he said, recommended Putin to Pavel Borodin, then a senior member of President Boris Yeltsin's Kremlin administration - and his business partner Boris Berezovsky, a Yeltsin insider, had got Putin appointed as Russian FSB director.

On October 29, 2007, he publicly announced his plans to finance ten opposition parties' campaign aimed at holding early parliamentary elections in April 2008. On November 2, 2007, he addressed a large anti-government rally held in downtown Tbilisi and pledged to further support it. He left Georgia for London shortly afterwards. After the demonstration turned violent on November 7, 2007, Georgia's Chief Prosecutor's Office announced that he was suspected of conspiracy to overthrow the government. Nevertheless, he said he would run in the January 5, 2008 snap presidential elections under the slogan "Georgia without Saakashvili is Georgia without Terror." Leaders of the major opposition parties distanced themselves from Patarkatsishvili, who had to run as an independent presidential candidate.

On December 24 and 25, 2007, the prosecutor-general's office of Georgia released a series of audio and video recordings of the two separate meetings of the high-ranking Georgian Interior Ministry official Erekle Kodua with Patarkatsishvili and the head of his pre-election campaign Valeri Gelbakhiani. According to these materials, Patarkatsishvili was trying to bribe Kodua to take part in what the Georgian officilas described as an attempted coup d'état on January 6, 2008, the next of the scheduled presidential elections. The plan included to stage a mass manifestation against the government and to "neutralize" the Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili. The accusations forced Patarkatsishvili onto the defensive. He confirmed that he met with Kodua in London, but denied that the bribe was in connection to an alleged coup plot and claimed instead that his intention was to uncover what he said were official plans to rig the election. He also confirmed that he offered Kodua "a huge amount of money" in exchange for defecting from the authorities allegedly to avert a possible use of force by the government against the planned January rallies.

On December 28, 2007, Patarkatsishvili announced that he would withdraw his bid for presidency, but would nominally remain a candidate until January 4, 2008. On January 3, 2008, he reversed himself, however, and decided to run in presidential elections. In response, his top campaign official Giorgi Zhvania (brother of the late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania) resigned, declaring that Patarkasishvili did not have the unquestionable reputation one would expect of a country's president.

Patarkatsishvali was chairman of the Dinamo Tbilisi soccer club. He served as president of the Georgian National Olympic Committee (GNOC), until being impeached on October 9, 2007.

Patarkatsishvili, aged 52, collapsed at Downside Manor, his mansion in Leatherhead, Surrey, England on February 12, 2008 at 10.45 pm. Ambulance crew members tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the businessman, who was pronounced dead at 10.52 pm. As in any other case of unexpected death, Surrey police treated the case as "suspicious" and launched an official investigation.

The businessman spent his last day in the City of London office of international law firm Debevoise and Plimpton, meeting his business partner Boris Berezovsky, his spokesperson Lord Bell and his lawyer Lord Goldsmith QC, as well as fellow exiles, the Russians Nikolai Glushkov and Yuli Dubov From the City he left for Down Street, Mayfair, to visit Berezovsky's office, and at 7.00 pm was returned to Leatherhead with his Maybach. Shortly after dining, Patarkatsishvili told his family he felt unwell and went upstairs to his bedroom where he was found unconscious after a heart attack.

Preliminary reports indicated a heart attack as the cause of death.According to the first post-mortem tests, the death of Patarkatsishvili appeared to have been from natural cardiac-related causes. According to the pathologist Ashley Fegan-Earl, he could identify a "severity that could have resulted in a sudden and unexplained collapse and death at any time." He also concluded that chest pain that Patarkatsishvili had had and a sudden collapse "were consistent with death due to coronary heart diseases." Patarkatsishvili's father Shalva Patarkatsishvili also died of a heart attack at an early age of 48. The businessman had no history of illness but was reported to have led an unhealthy lifestyle, smoking excessively and taking no exercise. According to Lord Bell, "he always looked 10 years older than he was." However, theories of a possible assassination were considered seriously by some. " number of compounds known to be used by the former KGB can induce heart failure, but leave virtually no trace. One is sodium fluoroacetate, a fine white powder derived from pesticide." The British police checked Patarkatishvili's Surrey mansion for radioactive elements but reportedly found none.

London Lite was first newspaper to inform the British public of the Georgian oligarch's death on the evening of 13 February 2008. In the news of 14 February 2008, Patarkatsishvili's death was covered in The Guardian, The Times, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, etc. Most newspapers discussed Patarkatsishvili's business history, including his close ties with Boris Berezovsky, Roman Abramovich, Alexander Litvinenko, Mikheil Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin.

Associated Press reported that on December 26, 2007, Patarkatsishvili said that he had obtained a tape recording of an official in his homeland's Interior Ministry asking a Chechen warlord to murder the tycoon in London. "I believe they want to kill me," he said. He said the tape had been given to police.

Novaya Gazeta reported the following information. Patarkatsishvili, living in London, was approached by members of the Saakashvili government demanding that he sell his controlling share in the dissident Imedi TV network. Initially, Patarkatsishvili refused, but was then offered an unprecedented deal: exchanging ownership of Imedi for ownership of the entire Georgian railroad system. Being a businessman, Patarkatsishvili reportedly agreed; however, when the Saakashvili side sent him the contract, there was a new clause, which required Badri to invest $2,000,000,000 in the "improvement" of the railroad property. He refused, but died shortly after. Novaya Gazeta's source is one of the lawyers from the legal side of this deal.

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Guus Hiddink

Guus Hiddink at UEFA Euro 2008.

Guus Hiddink (born 8 November 1946) is a Dutch former professional football player and manager. He is recognised for winning the treble with PSV Eindhoven, leading South Korea to a 4th place finish in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, managing the Netherlands into the same position in the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France after losing to Brazil on penalties in the semi-final, leading Australia to the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup — their first appearance in the tournament for 32 years, — and leading Russia to the semi-finals of Euro 2008, Russia's best performance since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

He is currently the manager of the Russian national team, as well as the English Premier League side Chelsea.

Hiddink was born in Varsseveld and started his career as a player in the youth side of amateur club SC Varsseveld. He turned professional after signing on for Dutch club De Graafschap in 1967. Hiddink played at the Doetinchem club under manager Piet de Visser. In 1973, Hiddink and manager De Visser earned promotion to the Eredivisie, the top league in Dutch football. Ever since, the careers of the two Dutchmen have intersected: De Visser scouted numerous South American players, such as Romário (who played under Hiddink at PSV from 1988 until 1990) and current Chelsea defender Alex, for Hiddink's PSV. Also, De Visser, in his role as personal advisor to Roman Abramovich, was influential in bringing Hiddink to the Russia national football team and more recently to Chelsea as caretaker manager following the dismissal of Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari. It was De Visser who introduced Hiddink to Abramovich during a meeting in Eindhoven in 2004. He spent most of his playing career at De Graafschap, including three years under De Visser, and remains a fan of the club. He joined PSV Eindhoven in 1970, but after failing to win a permanent position in the team, he rejoined De Graafschap after just one year and remained there until 1976. He also had stints in the North American Soccer League in the United States with Washington Diplomats from July to December 1976, and San Jose Earthquakes for all of 1977, before returning home to sign for NEC. In 1981, he rejoined De Graafschap and retired a year later. He generally played as a midfielder during his playing days.

Having honed his coaching skills with De Graafschap as an assistant manager, he took over the managerial role at PSV Eindhoven in 1987 (after also holding the assistant manager position there from 1983 to March 1987). It was at PSV where he led the team to its first ever European Cup triumph in 1988 (and The Treble) affirming the Eindhoven club's ranking as one of the three giants of Dutch football, alongside rivals Ajax and Feyenoord. He also won three Eredivisie titles with the club in between 1987 and 1990.

He also had a coaching stint at Turkish club Fenerbahçe in 1990 but was dismissed after one year before joining Spanish giants Valencia. His outspoken nature was demonstrated when during a league game at Valencia's Estadio Mestalla, he ordered a racist banner to be removed from one of the stands. His open attacking brand of football appealed to the Valencia team as well as to the rest of the Spanish Primera League.

Hiddink would face his biggest managerial challenge when he took over the reins of the Dutch national team on 1 January 1995, where he took charge of a team of talented individuals continually racked by internal arguments and disputes. His usual 4-4-2 tactic of deploying wingers backed-up by central midfielders resulted in goals from defensive midfielders such as Philip Cocu and Edgar Davids. Hiddink took a firm approach to the team, an example of which was demonstrated at Euro 1996 when Edgar Davids was sent home after an argument with Hiddink. He was able to prevent further internal conflict in the 1998 FIFA World Cup where his team played some of the more entertaining football in that tournament. The team beat Argentina in the quarter finals 2-1, then suffered a defeat at the hands of Brazil on penalties in the semi-final. This loss signaled an end of another era for Hiddink, as he resigned as Dutch national coach soon after.

He became the manager of Spanish La Liga side Real Madrid in the summer of 1998, replacing Jupp Heynckes, but bad league form and off pitch remarks about the board and finances of Real Madrid saw him get sacked in February 1999. Hiddink then took over the reins at Spanish club Real Betis in 2000 for the rest of the season. His time at Real Betis would end badly with Hiddink being sacked by May 2000.

In the summer of 2000, rumors were rife about his future with Celtic among one of the clubs named as a potential destination. However, the temptation to manage another World Cup-bound international team proved irresistible for him as he became the head coach of the South Korean national football team on 1 January 2001.

Success would not come easily with a team that had appeared in five straight World Cups but had yet to win a single match. South Korea was one of the host nations for the 2002 FIFA World Cup tournament, along with Japan. There was an expectation that the hosts would progress to the second round of the tournament and it was clearly expressed that Hiddink's team was expected to perform to that standard as well.

His first year in charge was not met with favorable reviews from the Korean press, as he was often spotted together with his girlfriend, when some felt he should instead have been taking charge of the team. After a 2–1 loss to the US Gold Cup team in January 2002, he was criticized again for not taking his job seriously. Nevertheless, the team he assembled was a cohesive unit that subsequently proved to be the fittest team at the World Cup. In the World Cup itself, the South Korean team achieved its first ever victory in the first stage (2–0, against Poland), and after a 1–1 draw with the USA and a further 1–0 victory against heavily-favored Portugal, the South Korean team qualified for the second round. Their second round opponents were Italy, who were defeated 2–1 after extra time in a game which recalled North Korea's victory over Italy in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, which ended up with Italy's 1–0 loss by Park, Doo-ik's goal from North Korea. The South Korea public then began to dream of a semi-final berth, which was attained on defeating Spain on penalties, thereby surpassing the record of their North Korean counterparts 36 years before. The South Korean team's run was halted by Germany in the semi-finals. As with the Netherlands team four years before in France, Hiddink led his team into fourth place after a defeat to Turkey in the third place playoff. For the South Korean populace, Hiddink had done a commendable job as football pundits had never expected this level of success. Hiddink became the first-ever foreigner to be given honorary South Korean citizenship. In addition other rewards soon followed - a private villa in Jeju-do island; free flights for life with Korean Airlines and Asiana Airlines, free taxi rides, and so forth. The World Cup stadium in Gwangju was renamed Guus Hiddink Stadium in his honor shortly after the World Cup. His hometown, where a Guuseum was set up, became a popular stopover for South Koreans visiting the Netherlands. The Guuseum is a museum established by his relatives, in Varsseveld, to honor Hiddink.

Hiddink chose to return to his native country and took over the coaching duties at PSV Eindhoven in 2002. During his second spell with PSV, Hiddink won three Dutch league titles (2002-03, 2004-05, and 2005-06), the 2005 Dutch Cup, and the 2003 Dutch Super Cup. In Europe, the 2004-05 Champions League led to PSV's first ever appearance in the semi-final of the tournament since it adopted its current format in 1992–93 (PSV won the European Cup, the predecessor to the modern Champions League, in 1988, with Hiddink as coach). PSV narrowly lost the semi-final to AC Milan, on away goals. In the 2005-06 Champions League season, PSV made it through the group stage, but was eliminated in the first knockout round, having lost 5 of its starting 11 members (Park Ji-Sung to Manchester United, Lee Young-Pyo to Tottenham Hotspur, Mark van Bommel to Barcelona, Johann Vogel to AC Milan, and Wilfred Bouma to Aston Villa) to transfers. This period at PSV would make Hiddink the most successful Dutch coach in history, with six Dutch League titles and four Dutch Cups, surpassing the record of Rinus Michels.

On 22 July 2005 Hiddink became manager of the Australian national team. He announced he would manage both PSV and Australia at the same time, fulfilling a clause in his contract that allows him to coach at both club and national level, but would leave both in mid-2006, after the World Cup finals.

In the play-offs held with Uruguay in Montevideo on 12 November and in Sydney on 16 November 2005, both home teams won 1-0. Australia went on to win 4-2 on penalties – the first time Australia had qualified for the finals in 32 years, and the first time that any team had qualified through winning a penalty shoot-out.

Hiddink was an extremely popular figure in Australia and was referred to affectionately as "Aussie Guus". A telling example of the public affection for him was the Socceroo fans chant of "Goooooooooooos!" during moments of play. Slogans for the Socceroos' World Cup campaign were "No Guus, No Glory", "Guus For P.M" and "In Guus We Trust", as well as the play on words of the famous taunt "Guus your Daddy?". During the World Cup, a Sydney newspaper started a humorous campaign to lure him away from Russia by proposing a national "Guus tax" to pay his wages. More seriously, his reputation was enhanced by his transformation of the national side, with many pundits focusing on the immense improvement to Australia's defense. He is credited with turning a team which conceded many goals under Frank Farina into a solid defensive unit which only conceded one goal away from home to both Uruguay and the Netherlands. Hiddink's assistants at Australia were Dutch legend Johan Neeskens and former Australian International Graham Arnold.

The Socceroos defeated the Japanese team 3–1 during their first game in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals, with Tim Cahill scoring 2 goals (84', 89') and John Aloisi scoring 1 (92') all in the last eight minutes to claim their first World Cup goals and victory ever. An early controversial call by the Egyptian referee that awarded a goal to the Japanese team, despite an apparent foul to Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, had the Australians playing catch up until the last eight minutes. After scoring the first goal, Cahill was lucky to get away with a potential foul when he tripped Japan's Yuichi Komano who had dribbled into the Australian penalty area. The referee missed the incident, and Cahill then broke to score the second on the counter. FIFA's spokesman for refereeing Anderas Werz said that while Japan's first goal was irregular, Egyptian referee Essam Abdel Fatah should also have given Japan a penalty.

Australia followed the match against Japan with a 2–0 loss to Brazil. This left the Socceroos requiring a draw against Croatia in their last group match to qualify for the knockout stage of the FIFA world cup for the first time in their history. After a match fraught with controversy and erroneous decisions from the referee, Graham Poll (including an unprecedented three yellow cards given to the same Croatian player, ironically Australian-born Josip Simunic), the games ended two all, and the Socceroos had their draw.

In the second round, the Italian national team beat Australia 1–0. After sending off Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the 55th minute, Spanish referee Luís Medina Cantalejo, awarded Italy's Fabio Grosso a highly controversial penalty kick eight seconds from the end of normal time, which was converted by Francesco Totti. This put Australia out of the World Cup, marking the official end of Hiddink's tenure as Australia's national coach.

On 10 April 2006 Hiddink announced on Dutch television that he would take over as manager of Russia. He signed a 2½-year contract worth US$ 2.4 million a year plus bonuses, with an option for another two years, on 14 April 2006. His duties for Russia started after the 2006 World Cup, and the team's first match with Hiddink as coach was a friendly on 16 August 2006 against Latvia.

Russia's Euro qualification hopes came into question after a 2–1 loss to Israel. After a win against Andorra, and England losing out to Croatia on the last match day, Russia and Hiddink managed to go secure qualification for Euro 2008, where they managed to reach the semi-finals. With victories against the Dutch national team in the quarter finals, and defending champions Greece in the group stage.

Piet de Visser, a former head scout of Hiddink's club PSV Eindhoven and now a personal assistant to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, recommended Hiddink to the Chelsea owner, following the departure of Avram Grant at the end of the 2007-08 English Premier League season. Hiddink instead choose to exercise the two year extension with Russia, keeping him with them until 2010.

After the sacking of former Chelsea manager Brazilian Felipe Scolari during the 2008-09 English Premier League season, Chelsea confirmed on 11 February 2009 that Hiddink would become Scolari's replacement until the end of the Premier League season, whilst continuing his duties with Russia. Hiddink's first game in charge was a 1–0 victory against Aston Villa at Villa Park. His first game in charge at Stamford Bridge was a 1–0 victory over Juventus in the Champions League knock out stage.

In February 2007 Hiddink was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and fined €45,000 after being found guilty of tax fraud by a Dutch court. Prosecutors had demanded a nine-month prison sentence for Hiddink, who was accused of evading €1.4 million in Dutch taxes by claiming to be a resident of Belgium from 2002 to 2003. The Dutch Tax Intelligence and Detection Service claimed that he hadn't spent enough nights at his Belgian house that he stated was his primary address. Hiddink denied this accusation.

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Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин?·i Russian pronunciation: ; born 7 October 1952 in Leningrad, USSR; now Saint Petersburg, Russia) was the second President of Russia and is the current Prime Minister of Russia as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned in a surprising move, and then Putin won the 2000 presidential election. In 2004, he was re-elected for a second term lasting until 7 May 2008.

Due to constitutionally mandated term limits, Putin was ineligible to run for a third consecutive Presidential term. After the victory of his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 presidential elections, he was then nominated by the latter to be Russia's Prime Minister; Putin took the post on 8 May 2008.

Throughout his presidential terms and into his second term as Prime Minister, Putin has enjoyed high approval ratings amongst the Russian public. During his eight years in office, on the back of Yeltsin-era structural reforms, steadily rising oil price and cheap credit from western banks, Russia's economy bounced back from crisis, seeing GDP increase six-fold (72% in PPP), poverty cut more than half and average monthly salaries increase from $80 to $640, or by 150% in real rates. Analysts have described Putin's economic reforms as impressive. During his presidency, Putin passed into law a series of fundamental reforms, including a flat income tax of 13 percent, a reduced profits tax, and new land and legal codes.At the same time, his conduct in office has been questioned by domestic political opposition, foreign governments and human rights organizations for leading the Second Chechen War, for his record on internal human rights and freedoms, and for his alleged bullying of the former Soviet Republics. A new group of business magnates controlling significant swathes of Russia's economy, such as Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, Yuriy Kovalchuk, Sergey Chemezov, with close personal ties to Putin, emerged according to media reports. Corruption increased and assumed "systemic and institutionalised form", according to a report by Boris Nemtsov as well as other sources.

Putin was born on 7 October 1952 in Leningrad, to parents Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin (1911 – 1999) and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova (1911 – 1998). His mother was a factory worker, and his father was a conscript in the Soviet Navy, where he served in the submarine fleet in the early 1930s, subsequently serving with the NKVD in a sabotage group during World War II. Two elder brothers were born in the mid – 1930s; one died within a few months of birth; the second succumbed to diphtheria during the siege of Leningrad. His paternal grandfather, Spiridon Putin (1879 – 1965), is claimed to have been Vladimir Lenin's and Joseph Stalin's cook.

His autobiography, Ot Pervogo Litsa, (English: In the First Person) which is based on Putin's interviews, speaks of humble beginnings, including early years in a communal apartment in Leningrad. On 1 September 1960 he started at School No. 193 at Baskov Lane, just across from his house. By fifth grade he was one of a few in a class of more than 45 pupils who was not yet a member of the Pioneers, largely because of his rowdy behavior. In sixth grade he started taking sport seriously in the form of sambo and then judo. In his youth, Putin was eager to emulate the intelligence officer characters played on the Soviet screen by actors such as Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Georgiy Zhzhonov.

Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975, writing his final thesis on international law. Whilst at university he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and remained a member until the party was dissolved in December 1991. Also at the University he met Anatoly Sobchak, who later played important role in Putin's career.

Upon graduation Putin was recruited into the KGB. In 1976 he completed the KGB retraining course in Okhta, Leningrad. Then, according to Yuri Felshtinsky and Vladimir Pribylovsky, he served at the Fifth Directorate of the KGB, which combated political dissent in the Soviet Union According to The Washington Post, he was spying on foreigners in Leningrad . He then received an offer to transfer to foreign intelligence First Chief Directorate of the KGB and was sent for additional year long training to the Dzerzhinsky KGB Higher School in Moscow and then in the early eighties—the Red Banner Yuri Andropov KGB Institute in Moscow (now the Academy of Foreign Intelligence).

From 1985 to 1990 the KGB stationed Putin in Dresden, East Germany. Following the collapse of the East German regime, Putin was recalled to the Soviet Union and returned to Leningrad, where in June 1991 he assumed a position with the International Affairs section of Leningrad State University, reporting to Vice-Rector Yuriy Molchanov. In his new position, Putin maintained surveillance on the student body and kept an eye out for recruits. It was during his stint at the university that Putin grew reacquainted with Anatoly Sobchak, then mayor of Leningrad. Sobchak served as an Assistant Professor during Putin's university years and was one of Putin's lecturers. Putin formally resigned from the state security services on 20 August 1991, during the KGB-supported abortive putsch against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

In May 1990, Putin was appointed Mayor Sobchak's advisor on international affairs. On 28 June 1991, he was appointed head of the Committee for External Relations of the Saint Petersburg Mayor's Office, with responsibility for promoting international relations and foreign investments. The Committee was also used to register business ventures in Saint Petersburg. Less than one year after taking control of the committee, Putin was investigated by a commission of the city legislative council. Commission deputies Marina Salye and Yury Gladkov concluded that Putin understated prices and issued licenses permitting the export of non-ferrous metals valued at a total of $93 million in exchange for food aid from abroad that never came to the city. The commission recommended Putin be fired, but there were no immediate consequences. Putin remained head of the Committee for External Relations until 1996. While heading the Committee for External Relations, from 1992 to March 2000 Putin was also on the advisory board of the German real estate holding Saint Petersburg Immobilien und Beteiligungs AG (SPAG) which has been investigated by German prosecutors for money laundering.

From 1994 to 1997, Putin was appointed to additional positions in the Saint Petersburg political arena. In March 1994 he became first deputy head of the administration of the city of Saint Petersburg. In 1995 (through June 1997) Putin led the Saint Petersburg branch of the pro-government Our Home Is Russia political party. During this same period from 1995 through June 1997 he was also the head of the Advisory Board of the JSC Newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti.

In 1996, Anatoly Sobchak lost the Saint Petersburg mayoral election to Vladimir Yakovlev. Putin was called to Moscow and in June 1996 assumed position of a Deputy Chief of the Presidential Property Management Department headed by Pavel Borodin. He occupied this position until March 1997. On 26 March 1997 President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin deputy chief of Presidential Staff, which he remained until May 1998, and chief of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Property Management Department (until June 1998).

On 27 June 1997, at the Saint Petersburg Mining Institute Putin defended his Candidate of Science dissertation in economics titled "The Strategic Planning of Regional Resources Under the Formation of Market Relations". According to Clifford G Gaddy, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, 16 of the 20 pages that open a key section of Putin’s work were copied either word for word or with minute alterations from a management study, Strategic Planning and Policy, written by US professors William King and David Cleland and translated into Russian by a KGB-related institute in the early 1990s. 6 diagrams and tables were also copied.

On 25 May 1998, Putin was appointed First Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff for regions, replacing Viktoriya Mitina; and, on 15 July, the Head of the Commission for the preparation of agreements on the delimitation of power of regions and the federal center attached to the President, replacing Sergey Shakhray. After Putin's appointment, the commission completed no such agreements, although during Shakhray's term as the Head of the Commission there were 46 agreements signed. On 25 July 1998 Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin head of the FSB (one of the successor agencies to the KGB), the position Putin occupied until August 1999. He became a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on 1 October 1998 and its Secretary on 29 March 1999. In April 1999, FSB Chief Vladimir Putin and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin held a televised press conference in which they discussed a video that had aired nationwide 17 March on the state-controlled Russia TV channel which showed a naked man very similar to the Prosecutor General of Russia, Yury Skuratov, in bed with two young women. Putin claimed that expert FSB analysis proved the man on the tape to be Skuratov and that the orgy had been paid for by persons investigated for criminal offences. Skuratov had been adversarial toward President Yeltsin and had been aggressively investigating government corruption.

On 15 June 2000, The Times reported that Spanish police discovered that Putin had secretly visited a villa in Spain belonging to the oligarch Boris Berezovsky on up to five different occasions in 1999.

On 9 August 1999, Vladimir Putin was appointed one of three First Deputy Prime Ministers, which enabled him later on that day, as the previous government led by Sergei Stepashin had been sacked, to be appointed acting Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation by President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin also announced that he wanted to see Putin as his successor. Later, that same day, Putin agreed to run for the presidency. On 16 August, the State Duma approved his appointment as Prime Minister with 233 votes in favour (vs. 84 against, 17 abstained), while a simple majority of 226 was required, making him Russia's fifth PM in fewer than eighteen months. On his appointment, few expected Putin, virtually unknown to the general public, to last any longer than his predecessors. Yeltsin's main opponents and would-be successors, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov and former Chairman of the Russian Government Yevgeniy Primakov, were already campaigning to replace the ailing president, and they fought hard to prevent Putin's emergence as a potential successor. Putin's law-and-order image and his unrelenting approach to the renewed crisis in Chechnya soon combined to raise his popularity and allowed him to overtake all rivals.

Putin's rise to public office in August 1999 coincided with an aggressive resurgence of the near-dormant conflict in the North Caucasus, when a number of Chechens invaded a neighboring region starting the War in Dagestan. Both in Russia and abroad, Putin's public image was forged by his tough handling of the war. On assuming the role of acting President on 31 December 1999, Putin went on a previously scheduled visit to Russian troops in Chechnya. In 2003, a controversial referendum was held in Chechnya adopting a new constitution which declares the Republic as a part of Russia. Chechnya has been gradually stabilized with the parliamentary elections and the establishment of a regional government. Throughout the war Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.

While not formally associated with any party, Putin pledged his support to the newly formed Unity Party, which won the second largest percentage of the popular vote (23.3%) in the December 1999 Duma elections, and in turn he was supported by it.

His rise to Russia's highest office ended up being even more rapid: on 31 December 1999, Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned and, according to the constitution, Putin became Acting President of the Russian Federation.

The first Decree that Putin signed 31 December 1999, was the one "On guarantees for former president of the Russian Federation and members of his family". This ensured that "corruption charges against the outgoing President and his relatives" would not be pursued, although this claim is not strictly verifiable. Later on 12 February 2001 Putin signed a federal law on guarantees for former presidents and their families, which replaced the similar decree. In 1999, Yeltsin and his family were under scrutiny for charges related to money-laundering by the Russian and Swiss authorities.

While his opponents had been preparing for an election in June 2000, Yeltsin's resignation resulted in the elections being held within three months, in March. Presidential elections were held on 26 March 2000; Putin won in the first round.

Vladimir Putin was inaugurated president on 7 May 2000. He appointed Financial minister Mikhail Kasyanov as his Prime minister. Having announced his intention to consolidate power in the country into a strict vertical, in May 2000 he issued a decree dividing 89 federal subjects of Russia between 7 federal districts overseen by representatives of him in order to facilitate federal administration. In July 2000, according to a law proposed by him and approved by the Russian parliament, Putin also gained the right to dismiss heads of the federal subjects.

During his first term in office, he moved to curb the political ambitions of some of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs such as former Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, who had "helped Mr Putin enter the family, and funded the party that formed Mr Putin's parliamentary base", according to BBC profile. At the same time, according to Vladimir Solovyev, it was Alexey Kudrin who was instrumental in Putin's assignment to the Presidential Administration of Russia to work with Pavel Borodin, and according to Solovyev, Berezovsky was proposing Igor Ivanov rather than Putin as a new president. A new group of business magnates, such as Gennady Timchenko, Vladimir Yakunin, Yuriy Kovalchuk, Sergey Chemezov, with close personal ties to Putin, emerged. Corruption grew by the magnitude of several times and assumed "systemic and institutionalised" form, according to a report by Boris Nemtsov as well as other sources. Corruption was characterized by Putin himself as "the most wearying and difficult to resolve" problem he encountered during his two terms in office.

The first major challenge to Putin's popularity came in August 2000, when he was criticised for his alleged mishandling of the Kursk submarine disaster.

In December 2000, Putin sanctioned the law to change the National Anthem of Russia. At the time the Anthem had music by Glinka and no words. The change was to restore (with a minor modification) the music of the post-1944 Soviet anthem by Alexandrov, while the new text was composed by Mikhalkov.

Many in the Russian press and in the international media warned that the death of some 130 hostages in the special forces' rescue operation during the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis would severely damage President Putin's popularity. However, shortly after the siege had ended, the Russian president was enjoying record public approval ratings - 83% of Russians declared themselves satisfied with Putin and his handling of the siege.

The arrest in early July 2003 of Platon Lebedev, a Mikhail Khodorkovsky partner and second largest shareholder in Yukos, on suspicion of illegally acquiring a stake in a state-owned fertilizer firm, Apatit, in 1994, foreshadowed what by the end of the year became a full-fledged prosecution of Yukos and its management for fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion.

A few month before the elections, Putin fired Kasyanov's cabinet and appointed relatively obscure Mikhail Fradkov to his place. Sergey Ivanov became the first civilian in Russia to take Defence Minister position.

On 14 March 2004, Putin was re-elected to the presidency for a second term, receiving 71% of the vote.

Following the Beslan school hostage crisis, in September 2004 Putin suggested the creation of the Public Chamber of Russia and launched an initiative to replace the direct election of the Governors and Presidents of the Federal subjects of Russia with a system whereby they would be proposed by the President and approved or disapproved by regional legislatures. He also initiated the merger of a number of federal subjects of Russia into larger entities. Whilst some in Beslan blamed Putin personally for the massacre in which hundreds died, his overall popularity in Russia did not suffer.

According to various Russian and western media reports, one of the major domestic issue concerns for President Putin were the problems arising from the ongoing demographic and social trends in Russia, such as the death rate being higher than the birth rate, cyclical poverty, and housing concerns. In 2005, National Priority Projects were launched in the fields of health care, education, housing and agriculture. In his May 2006 annual speech, Putin proposed increasing maternity benefits and prenatal care for women. Putin was strident about the need to reform the judiciary considering the present federal judiciary "Sovietesque", wherein many of the judges hand down the same verdicts as they would under the old Soviet judiciary structure, and preferring instead a judiciary that interpreted and implemented the code to the current situation. In 2005, responsibility for federal prisons was transferred from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Justice. The most high-profile change within the national priority project frameworks was probably the 2006 across-the-board increase in wages in healthcare and education, as well as the decision to modernise equipment in both sectors in 2006 and 2007.

One of the most controversial aspects of Putin's second term was the continuation of the criminal prosecution of Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, President of YUKOS, for fraud and tax evasion. While much of the international press saw this as a reaction against Khodorkovsky's funding for political opponents of the Kremlin, both liberal and communist, the Russian government had argued that Khodorkovsky was engaged in corrupting a large segment of the Duma to prevent changes in the tax code aimed at taxing windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion vehicles. Khodorkovsky's arrest was met positively by the Russian public, who see the oligarchs as thieves who were unjustly enriched and robbed the country of its natural wealth. Many of the initial privatizations, including that of Yukos, are widely believed to have been fraudulent – Yukos, valued at some $30 billion in 2004, had been privatized for $110 million – and like other oligarchic groups, the Yukos-Menatep name has been frequently tarred with accusations of links to criminal organizations. Tim Osborne of GML, the majority owner of Yukos, said in February 2008: "Despite claims by President Vladimir Putin that the Kremlin had no interest in bankrupting Yukos, the company's assets were auctioned at below-market value. In addition, new debts suddenly emerged out of nowhere, preventing the company from surviving. The main beneficiary of these tactics was Rosneft. It is clearer now than ever that the expropriation of Yukos was a ploy to put key elements of the energy sector in the hands of Putin's retinue. Moreover, the Yukos affair marked a turning point in Russia's commitment to domestic property rights and the rule of law." The fate of Yukos was seen by western media as a sign of a broader shift toward a system normally described as state capitalism, Against the backdrop of the Yukos saga, questions were raised about the actual destination of $13.1 billion remitted in October 2005 by the state-run Gazprom as payment for 75.7% stake in Sibneft to Millhouse-controlled offshore accounts, after a series of generous dividend payouts and another $3 billion received from Yukos in a failed merger in 2003. In 1996, Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky had acquired the controlling interest in Sibneft for $100 million within the controversial loans-for-shares program. Some prominent Yeltsin-era billionaires, such as Sergey Pugachyov, are reported to continue to enjoy close relationship with Putin's Kremlin.

Although Russia's state intervention in the economy had been usually heavily critized in the West, a study by Bank of Finland’s Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT) in 2008 showed that state intervention had had a positive impact to corporate governance of many companies in Russia: the formal indications of the quality of corporate governance in Russia were higher in companies with state control or with a stake held by the government.

Since February 2006, the political philosophy of Putin's administration has often been described as a "Sovereign democracy", the term being used both with positive and pejorative connotations. First proposed by Vladislav Surkov in February 2006, the term quickly gained currency within Russia and arguably unified various political elites around it. According to its proponents' interpretation, the government's actions and policies ought above all to enjoy popular support within Russia itself and not be determined from outside the country. However, as implied by expert of the Carnegie Endowment Masha Lipman, "Sovereign democracy is a Kremlin coinage that conveys two messages: first, that Russia's regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia's domestic affairs." Some Western observers derided the term as a subterfuge to mask what is otherwise known as dictatorship.

During the term, Putin was widely criticized in the West and also by Russian liberals for what many observers considered a wide-scale crackdown on media freedom in Russia. Since the early 1990s, a number of Russian reporters who have covered the situation in Chechnya, contentious stories on organized crime, state and administrative officials, and large businesses have been killed. On 7 October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who ran a campaign exposing corruption in the Russian army and its conduct in Chechnya, was shot in the lobby of her apartment building. The death of Politkovskaya triggered an outcry of criticism of Russia in the Western media, with accusations that, at best, Putin has failed to protect the country's new independent media. When asked about Politkovskaya murder in his interview with the German TV channel ARD, Putin said that her murder brings much more harm to the Russian authorities than her publications. In January 2008, Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, claimed that a system of "judicial terrorism" had started against journalists under Putin and that more than 300 criminal cases had been opened against them over the past six years.

At the same time, according to 2005 research by VCIOM, the share of Russians approving censorship on TV grew in a year from 63% to 82%; sociologists believed that Russians were not voting in favor of press freedom suppression, but rather for expulsion of ethically doubtful material (such as scenes of violence and sex).

In a 2007 interview with newspaper journalists from G8 countries, Putin spoke out in favor of a longer presidential term in Russia, saying "a term of five, six or seven years in office would be entirely acceptable".

On 12 September 2007, Russian news agencies reported that Putin dissolved the government upon the request of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Fradkov commented that it was to give the President a "free hand" to make decisions in the run-up to the parliamentary election. Viktor Zubkov was appointed the new prime minister.

In December 2007, United Russia won 64.24% of the popular vote in their run for State Duma according to election preliminary results. Their closest competitor, the Communist Party of Russia, won approximately 12% of votes. United Russia's victory in December 2007 elections was seen by many as an indication of strong popular support of the then Russian leadership and its policies.

The end of 2007 saw what both Russian and Western analysts viewed as an increasingly bitter infighting between various factions of the siloviki that make up a significant part of Putin's inner circle.

In December 2007, the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman (VCIOM) qualified the regime that had solidified under Putin as "the power of bureaucratic oligarchy" which had "the traits of extreme right-wing dictatorship — the dominance of state-monopoly capital in the economy, silovoki structures in governance, clericalism and statism in ideology". Some analysts assess the socio-economic system which has emerged in Russia as profoundly unstable and the situation in the Kremlin after Dmitry Medvedev's nomination as fraught with a coup d'état, as "Putin has built a political construction that resembles a pyramid which rests on its tip, rather than on its base".

On 8 February 2008, Putin delivered a speech before the expanded session of the State Council headlined "On the Strategy of Russia's Development until 2020", which was interpreted by the Russian media as his "political bequest". The speech was largely devoted to castigating the state of affairs in the 1990s and setting ambitious targets of economic growth by 2020. He also condemned the expansion of NATO and the US plan to include Poland and the Czech Republic in a missile defence shield and promised that "Russia has, and always will have, responses to these new challenges".

Under the Putin administration the economy made real gains of an average 7% per year (2000: 10%, 2001: 5.7%, 2002: 4.9%, 2003: 7.3%, 2004: 7.1%, 2005: 6.5%, 2006: 6.7%, 2007: 8.1%), making it the 7th largest economy in the world in purchasing power. Russia's nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased 6 fold, climbing from 22nd to 10th largest in the world. In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of Russian SFSR in 1990, meaning it has overcome the devastating consequences of the 1998 financial crisis and preceding recession in the 1990s.

During Putin's eight years in office, industry grew by 76%, investments increased by 125%, and agricultural production and construction increased as well. Real incomes more than doubled and the average monthly salary increased sevenfold from $80 to $540. From 2000 to 2006 the volume of consumer credit increased 45 times and the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million. The number of people living below the poverty line decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008. A number of large-scale reforms in retirement (2002), banking (2001–2004), tax (2000–2003), the monetization of benefits (2005) and others have taken place.

In 2001 Putin, who has advocated liberal economic policies, introduced flat tax rate of 13%; the corporate rate of tax was also reduced from 35 percent to 24 percent; Small businesses also get better treatment. The old system with high tax rates has been replaced by a new system where companies can choose either a 6 percent tax on gross revenue or a 15 percent tax on profits. Overall tax burden is lower in Russia than in most European countries.

Before the Putin era, in 1998, over 60% of industrial turnover in Russia was based on barter and various monetary surrogates. The use of such alternatives to money now fallen out of favour, which has boosted economic productivity significantly. Besides raising wages and consumption, Putin's government has received broad praise also for eliminating this problem.

The flow of petrodollars was the foundation of Putin's regime and masked economic woes. The share of oil and gas in Russia's gross domestic product has more than doubled since 1999 and as of Q2 2008 stood at above 30%. Oil and gas account for 50% of Russian budget revenues and 65% of its exports.

Some oil revenue went to stabilization fund established in 2004. The fund accumulated oil revenue, which allowed Russia to repay all of the Soviet Union's debts by 2005. In early 2008, it was split into the Reserve Fund (designed to protect Russia from possible global financial shocks) and the National Welfare Fund, whose revenues will be used for a pension reform.

Inflation remained a problem however, as the government failed to contain the growth of prices. Between 1999–2007 inflation was kept at the forecast ceiling only twice, and in 2007 the inflation exceeded that of 2006, continuing an upward trend at the beginning of 2008. The Russian economy is still commodity-driven despite its growth. Payments from the fuel and energy sector in the form of customs duties and taxes accounted for nearly half of the federal budget's revenues. The large majority of Russia's exports are made up by raw materials and fertilizers, although exports as a whole accounted for only 8.7% of the GDP in 2007, compared to 20% in 2000. There is also a growing gap between rich and poor in Russia. Between 2000–2007 the incomes of the rich grew from approximately 14 times to 17 times larger than the incomes of the poor. The income differentiation ratio shows that the 10% of Russia's rich live increasingly better than the 10% of the poor, amongst whom are mostly pensioners and unskilled workers in depressive regions (see Gini coefficient).

In 2004 President Putin signed the Kyoto Protocol treaty designed to reduce green house gasses. Although, because the Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from their 1990 levels Russia did not face mandatory cuts since its greenhouse-gas emissions fell well below the 1990 baseline due to a drop in economic output after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

He called for a "fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all". He proposed certain initiatives such as establishing international centres for the enrichment of uranium and prevention of deploying weapons in outer space. In his January 2007 interview Putin said Russia is in favor of a democratic multipolar world and of strengthening the systems of international law.

While Putin is often characterised as an autocrat by the Western media and some politicians, his relationship with former American President George W. Bush, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former French President Jacques Chirac, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are reported to be personally friendly. Putin's relationship with Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was reported to be "cooler" and "more business-like" than his partnership with Gerhard Schröder.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States, he agreed to the establishment of coalition military bases in Central Asia before and during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Russian nationalists objected to the establishment of any US military presence on the territory of the former Soviet Union, and had expected Putin to keep the US out of the Central Asian republics, or at the very least extract a commitment from Washington to withdraw from these bases as soon as the immediate military necessity had passed.

During the Iraq crisis of 2003, Putin opposed Washington's move to invade Iraq without the benefit of a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing the use of military force. After the official end of the war was announced, American president George W. Bush asked the United Nations to lift sanctions on Iraq. Putin supported lifting of the sanctions in due course, arguing that the UN commission first be given a chance to complete its work on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In 2005, Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder negotiated the construction of a major gas pipeline over the Baltic exclusively between Russia and Germany. Schröder also attended Putin's 53rd birthday in Saint Petersburg the same year.

The CIS, seen in Moscow as its traditional sphere of influence, became one of the foreign policy priorities under Putin, as the EU and NATO have grown to encompass much of Central Europe and, more recently, the Baltic states.

During the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, Putin twice visited Ukraine before the election to show his support for Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was widely seen as a pro-Kremlin candidate, and he congratulated him on his anticipated victory before the official election returns had been announced. Putin's personal support for Yanukovych was criticised as unwarranted interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Crises also developed in Russia's relations with Georgia and Moldova, both former Soviet republics who accused Moscow of supporting separatist entities in their territories. John McCain views Moscow's policies under Putin towards these states to be attempts to bully them.

Putin took an active personal part in promoting the Act of Canonical Communion with the Moscow Patriarchate signed 17 May 2007 that restored relations between the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia after the 80-year schism.

In his annual address to the Federal Assembly on 26 April 2007, Putin announced plans to declare a moratorium on the observance of the CFE Treaty by Russia until all NATO members ratified it and started observing its provisions, as Russia had been doing on a unilateral basis. Putin argues that as new NATO members have not even signed the treaty so far, an imbalance in the presence of NATO and Russian armed forces in Europe creates a real threat and an unpredictable situation for Russia. NATO members said they would refuse to ratify the treaty until Russia complied with its 1999 commitments made in Istanbul whereby Russia should remove troops and military equipment from Moldova and Georgia. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, was quoted as saying in response that "Russia has long since fulfilled all its Istanbul obligations relevant to CFE". Russia suspended its participation in the CFE as of midnight Moscow time on 11 December 2007. On 12 December 2007, the United States officially said it "deeply regretted the Russian Federation's decision to 'suspend' implementation of its obligations under the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)." State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, in a written statement, claimed that "Russia's conventional forces are the largest on the European continent, and its unilateral action damages this successful arms control regime." NATO's primary concern arising from Russia's suspension was that Moscow could accelerate its military presence in the North Caucasus.

Putin publicly opposed plans for the U.S. missile shield in Europe, and presented President George W. Bush with a counterproposal on 7 June 2007 of modernising and sharing the use of the Soviet-era Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan rather than building a new system in the Czech Republic. Putin proposed it would not be necessary to place interceptor missiles in Poland then, but interceptors could be placed in NATO member Turkey or Iraq. Putin suggested also equal involvement of interested European countries in the project.

The end of 2006 brought strained relations between Russia and the United Kingdom in the wake of the death by poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London. On 20 July 2007 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown expelled four Russian envoys over Russia's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to face charges on the alleged murder of Litvinenko. The Russian constitution prohibits the extradition of Russian nationals to third countries. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said that "this situation is not unique, and other countries have amended their constitutions, for example to give effect to the European Arrest Warrant".

When Litvinenko was dying from radiation poisoning, he allegedly accused Putin of directing the assassination in a statement which was released shortly after his death by his friend Alex Goldfarb. Goldfarb, who is also the chairman of Boris Berezovsky's International Foundation for Civil Liberties, claimed Litvinenko had dictated it to him three days earlier. Andrei Nekrasov said his friend Litvinenko and Litvinenko's lawyer composed the statement in Russian on 21 November and translated it to English. Critics have doubted that Litvinenko is the true author of the released statement. When asked about the Litvinenko accusations, Putin said that a statement released after death of its author "naturally deserves no comment", and stated his belief it was being used for political purposes. Contradicting his previous claim, Goldfarb later stated that Litvinenko instructed him to write a note "in good English" in which Putin was to be accused of his poisoning. Goldfarb also stated that he read the note to Litvinenko in English and Russian, to which he claims Litvinenko agreed "with every word of it" and signed it.

The expulsions were seen as "the biggest rift since the countries expelled each other's diplomats in 1996 after a spying dispute." In response to the situation, Putin stated "I think we will overcome this mini-crisis. Russian-British relations will develop normally. On both the Russian side and the British side, we are interested in the development of those relations." Despite this, British Ambassador Tony Brenton was told by the Russian Foreign Ministry that UK diplomats would be given 10 days before they were expelled in response. The Russian government also announced that it would suspend issuing visas to UK officials and froze cooperation on counterterrorism in response to Britain suspending contacts with their Federal Security Service.

Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs warned that British investors in Russia will "face greater scrutiny from tax and regulatory authorities. They could also lose out in government tenders". Some see the crisis as originating with Britain's decision to grant Putin's former patron, Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, political asylum in 2003. Earlier in 2007, Berezovsky had called for the overthrow of Putin.

On 10 December 2007, Russia ordered the British Council to halt work at its regional offices in what was seen as the latest round of a dispute over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko; Britain said Russia's move was illegal.

Following the Peace Mission 2007 military exercises jointly conducted by the SCO member states, Putin announced on 17 August 2007 the resumption on a permanent basis of long-distance patrol flights of Russia's strategic bombers that were suspended in 1992. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was quoted as saying in response that "if Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision." The announcement made during the SCO summit in the light of joint Russian-Chinese military exercises, first-ever in history to be held on Russian territory, makes some believe that Putin is inclined to set up an anti-NATO bloc or the Asian version of OPEC. When presented with the suggestion that "Western observers are already likening the SCO to a military organisation that would stand in opposition to NATO", Putin answered that "this kind of comparison is inappropriate in both form and substance". Russian Chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky was quoted as saying that "there should be no talk of creating a military or political alliance or union of any kind, because this would contradict the founding principles of SCO".

The resumption of long-distance flights of Russia's strategic bombers was followed by the announcement by Russian Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov during his meeting with Putin on 5 December 2007, that 11 ships, including the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov, would take part in the first major navy sortie into the Mediterranean since Soviet times. The sortie was to be backed up by 47 aircraft, including strategic bombers. According to Serdyukov, this is an effort to resume regular Russian naval patrols on the world's oceans, the view that is also supported by Russian media.

In September 2007, Putin visited Indonesia and in doing so became the first Russian leader to visit the country in more than 50 years. In the same month, Putin also attended the APEC meeting held in Sydney, Australia where he met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and signed an uranium trade deal. This was the first visit by a Russian president to Australia.

On 16 October 2007 Putin visited Iran to participate in the Second Caspian Summit in Tehran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Other participants were leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. This is the first visit of a Soviet or Russian leader to Iran since Joseph Stalin's participation in the Tehran Conference in 1943. At a press conference after the summit Putin said that "all our (Caspian) states have the right to develop their peaceful nuclear programmes without any restrictions". During the summit it was also agreed that its participants, under no circumstances, would let any third-party state use their territory as a base for aggression or military action against any other participant.

On 26 October 2007, at a press conference following the 20th Russia–EU Summit in Portugal, Putin proposed creating a Russian-European Institute for Freedom and Democracy headquartered either in Brussels or in one of the European capitals, and added that "we are ready to supply funds for financing it, just as Europe covers the costs of projects in Russia". This newly proposed institution is expected to monitor human rights violations in Europe and contribute to development of European democracy.

Vladimir Putin strongly opposes the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. He called any support for this act "immoral" and "illegal". He described Kosovo's declaration of independence a "terrible precedent" that will come back to hit the West "in the face". He stated that the Kosovo precedent will de facto destroy the whole system of international relations, developed not over decades, but over centuries.

Talks on a new Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), signed in 1997, remained stymied till the end of Putin's presidency due to vetos by Poland and later Lithuania.

A January 2009 dispute led state-controlled Russian company Gazprom to halt its deliveries of natural gas to Ukraine. During the crisis, Putin hinted that Ukraine is run by criminals who cannot solve economic problems.

According to public opinion surveys conducted by Levada Center, Putin's approval rating was 81% in June 2007, and the highest of any leader in the world. His popularity rose from 31% in August 1999 to 80% in November 1999 and since then it has never fallen below 65%. Observers see Putin's high approval ratings as a consequence of the significant improvements in living standards and Russia's reassertion of itself on the world scene that occurred during his tenure as President. Most Russians are also deeply disillusioned with the West after all the hardships of 90s, and they no longer trust pro-western politicians associated with Yeltsin that were removed from the political scene under Putin's leadership.

A joint poll by World Public Opinion in the U. S. and NGO Levada Center  in Russia around June–July 2006 stated that "neither the Russian nor the American publics are convinced Russia is headed in an anti-democratic direction" and "Russians generally support Putin’s concentration of political power and strongly support the re-nationalization of Russia’s oil and gas industry." Russians generally support the political course of Putin and his team. A 2005 survey showed that three times as many Russians felt the country was "more democratic" under Putin than it was during the Yeltsin or Gorbachev years, and the same proportion thought human rights were better under Putin than Yeltsin..

Putin was Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2007, given the title for his "extraordinary feat of leadership in taking a country that was in chaos and bringing it stability". Time said that "TIME's Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world—for better or for worse". The choice provoked sarcasm from one of Russia's opposition leaders, Garry Kasparov, who recalled that Adolf Hitler had been Time's Man of the Year in 1938 and an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the magazine's readership.

On 4 December 2007, at Harvard University, Mikhail Gorbachev credited Putin with having "pulled Russia out of chaos" and said he was "assured a place in history", "despite Gorbachev's acknowledgment that the news media have been suppressed and that election rules run counter to the democratic ideals he has promoted".

Putin's name and image are widely used in advertisement and product branding. Among the Putin-branded products are Putinka vodka, PuTin brand of canned food, caviar Gorbusha Putina, Denis Simachev's collection of T-shirts decorated by images of Putin, etc.

Despite widespread public support in Russia, Putin has also been the target of much criticism. Several reforms made under Putin’s presidency have been criticized by some independent Russian media outlets and many Western commentators as anti-democratic..

In 2006 and 2007, "Dissenters' Marches" were organized by the opposition group Other Russia, led by former chess champion Garry Kasparov and national-Bolshevist leader Eduard Limonov. Following prior warnings, demonstrations in several Russian cities were met by police action, which included interfering with the travel of the protesters and the arrests of as many as 150 people who attempted to break through police lines. The Dissenters' Marches have received little support among the Russian general public, according to popular polls. The Dissenters' March in Samara held in May 2007 during the Russia-EU summit attracted more journalists providing coverage of the event than actual participants. When asked in what way the Dissenters' Marches bother him, Putin answered that such marches "shall not prevent other citizens from living a normal life". During the Dissenters' March in Saint Petersburg on 3 March 2007, the protesters blocked automobile traffic on Nevsky Prospect, the central street of the city, much to the disturbance of local drivers. The Governor of Saint Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko, commented on the event that "it is important to give everyone the opportunity to criticize the authorities, but this should be done in a civilized fashion". When asked about Kasparov's arrest, Putin replied that during his arrest Kasparov was speaking English rather than Russian, and suggested that he was targeting a Western audience rather than his own people. Putin has said that some domestic critics are being funded and supported by foreign enemies who would prefer to see a weak Russia. In his speech at the United Russia meeting in Luzhniki: "Those who oppose us don't want us to realize our plan.... They need a weak, sick state! They need a disorganized and disoriented society, a divided society, so that they can do their deeds behind its back and eat cake on our tab.".

In its January 2008 World Report, Human Rights Watch wrote in the section devoted to Russia: "As parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2007 and early 2008 approached, the administration headed by President Vladimir Putin cracked down on civil society and freedom of assembly. Reconstruction in Chechnya did not mask grave human rights abuses including torture, abductions, and unlawful detentions. International criticism of Russia’s human rights record remains muted, with the European Union failing to challenge Russia on its human rights record in a consistent and sustained manner." The organization called President Putin a "repressive" and "brutal" leader on par with the leaders of Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

Vladimir Putin was appointed Prime Minister of Russia on May 8, 2008.

On July 24-25, 2008, Putin accused the Mechel company of selling resources to Russia at higher prices than those charged to foreign countries and claimed that it had been avoiding taxes by using foreign subsidiaries to sell its products internationally. The Prime Minister's attack on Mechel resulted in sharp decline of its stock value and contributed to the 2008 Russian financial crisis.

In August 2008 Putin accused the US of provoking the 2008 South Ossetia war, arguing that US citizens were present in the area of the conflict following their leaders' orders to the benefit of one of the two presidential candidates. .

In December 2008, car owners and traders from Vladivostok and other regions protested against highly unpopular new duties and regulations on the import of foreign-made used cars (the tariff hike was introduced by Putin in violation of the international commitments undertaken by Medvedev at the G20 Summit in November 2008), one of the slogans being "Putin, resign!" This was seen as the first visible public anger at one of the government's responses to the crisis. The following month, the protests continued, with the slogans having become of a mostly political nature.

On February 5, 2009, Russia's liberal democratic political movement, citing the regime's "total helplessness and flagrant incompetence" maintained that "the dismantling of Putinism" and restoration of democracy in Russia were prerequisites for any successful anti-crisis measures and demanded that Putin's government resign.

On 28 July 1983 Putin married Kaliningrad-born Lyudmila Shkrebneva, at that time an undergraduate student of the Spanish branch of the Philology Department of the Leningrad State University and a former Aeroflot flight attendant. They have two daughters, Maria Putina (born 1985 in St. Petersburg) and Yekaterina Putina (born 1986 in Dresden). The daughters grew up in East Germany and attended the German School in Moscow until his appointment as Prime Minister. Putin also owns a black Labrador Retriever named Koni, who has been known to accompany him into staff meetings and greeting world leaders.

Since 1992, Putin has owned a dacha on the eastern shore of the Komsomolskoye Lake in Solovyovka, Priozersky District in Leningrad Oblast. On 10 November 1996, Putin and his neighbours instituted the cooperative Ozero which united their properties. This was confirmed by Putin's income and property declaration as a nominee for the Presidency in 2000. However, this real estate was not listed in his income and property declaration for 1998–2002 submitted before the 2004 elections.

Putin speaks German with near-native fluency. His family used to speak German at home as well. After becoming President he was reported to be taking English lessons and could be seen conversing directly with Bush and other native speakers of English in informal situations, but he continues to use interpreters for formal talks. Putin spoke English in public for the first time during the state dinner in Buckingham Palace in 2003 saying but a few phrases while delivering his condolences to the Queen. He made a full English speech while addressing delegates at the 119th International Olympic Committee Session in Guatemala City on behalf of the successful bid of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

According to the official data submitted during the Russian legislative election, 2007, Putin's wealth is limited to approximately 3.7 million rubles (approximately $150,000) in bank accounts, a private 77.4 square meter apartment in Saint Petersburg, 260 shares of Bank Saint Petersburg (with a December 2007 market price $5.36 per share ) and two 1960s Volga M21 cars that he inherited from his father and does not register for on-road use. Putin's 2006 income totalled 2 million rubles (approximately $80,000). According to official data Putin did not make it into the top 100 most wealthy Duma candidates of his own United Russia party.

On the other hand, there have been allegations that Putin secretly owns a large fortune. According to former Chairman of the Russian State Duma Ivan Rybkin, and Russian political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky, Putin controls a 4.5% stake (approx. $13 billion) in Gazprom, 37% (approx. $20 billion) in Surgutneftegaz and 50% in the oil-trading company Gunvor run by Gennady Timchenko, a close friend. Gunvor's turnover in 2007 was $40 billion.. The aggregate estimated value of these holdings would easily make Putin Russia's richest person. In December 2007, Belkovsky elaborated on his claims: "Putin's name doesn't appear on any shareholders' register, of course. There is a non-transparent scheme of successive ownership of offshore companies and funds. The final point is in Zug Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Vladimir Putin should be the beneficiary owner." This claim, however, has never been supported with evidence.

One of Putin's favorite sports is the martial art of judo. Putin began training in sambo (a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union) at the age of 14, before switching to judo, which he continues to practice today. Putin won competitions in his hometown of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), including the senior championship of Leningrad. He is the President of the Yawara Dojo, the same Saint Petersburg dojo he practiced at when young. Putin co-authored a book on his favorite sport, published in Russian as Judo with Vladimir Putin and in English under the title Judo: History, Theory, Practice.

Though he is not the first world leader to practice judo, Putin is the first leader to move forward into the advanced levels. Currently, Putin holds a 6th dan (red/white belt) and is best known for his Harai Goshi (sweeping hip throw). Putin earned Master of Sports (Soviet and Russian sport title) in Judo in 1975 and in Sambo in 1973. After a state visit to Japan, Putin was invited to the Kodokan Institute where he showed the students and Japanese officials different judo techniques.

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Moscow

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Moscow (Russian: Москва́, romanised: Moskva, IPA:see also other names) is the capital and the largest city of the Russian Federation. It is also the largest city in Europe, with the Moscow metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. Moscow is a major political, economic, cultural, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the world.

It is located on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District, in the European part of Russia. Historically, it was the capital of the former Soviet Union, Russian Empire, Tsardom of Russia and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. It is the site of the Moscow Kremlin, which serves as the residence of the President of Russia. Russian parliament (Gosudarstvennaya Duma and Sovet Federacii) and Government of Russia are meeting also in Moscow.

Moscow is a major economic centre and is home to the largest number of billionaires in the world; in 2008 Moscow was named the world's most expensive city for foreign employees for the third year in a row.

It is home to many scientific and educational institutions, as well as numerous sport facilities. It possesses a complex transport system, that includes 3 international airports, 9 railroad terminals, and one of the world’s busiest metro systems which is famous for its architecture and artwork.

A person from Moscow is called a Muscovite.

Nine years later, in 1156, Prince Yuri Dolgoruki of Rostov ordered the construction of a wooden wall, which had to be rebuilt multiple times, to surround the emerging city. After the sacking of 1237–1238, when the Mongols burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants, Moscow recovered and became the capital of the independent Vladimir-Suzdal principality in 1327. Its favourable position on the headwaters of the Volga River contributed to steady expansion. Moscow developed into a stable and prosperous principality, known as Grand Duchy of Moscow, for many years and attracted a large number of refugees from across Russia.

Under Ivan I the city replaced Tver as a political centre of Vladimir-Suzdal and became the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol-Tatar rulers. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan. Unlike other principalities, Moscow was not divided among his sons but was passed intact to his eldest. However, Moscow's opposition against foreign domination grew. In 1380, prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow led a united Russian army to an important victory over the Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo which was not decisive, though. Only two years later Moscow was sacked by khan Tokhtamysh. In 1480, Ivan III had finally broken the Russians free from Tatar control, allowing Moscow to become the centre of power in Russia. Under Ivan III the city became the capital of an empire that would eventually encompass all of present-day Russia and other lands.

In 1571, the Crimean Tatars attacked and sacked Moscow, burning everything but the Kremlin.

In 1609, the Swedish army led by Count Jacob De la Gardie and Evert Horn started their march from Veliky Novgorod toward Moscow to help Tsar Vasili Shuiski, entered Moscow in 1610 and suppressed the rebellion against the Tsar, but leaving it early next year 1611, following which the Polish-Lithuanian army invaded. During Polish–Muscovite War (1605–1618) hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski entered Moscow after defeated Russians in the Battle of Klushino. The 17th century was rich in popular risings, such as the liberation of Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian invaders (1612), the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising of 1682.

The plague of 1654–1656 killed half the population of Moscow. The city ceased to be Russia’s capital in 1712, after the founding of Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great near the Baltic coast in 1703. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the Muscovites burned the city and evacuated, as Napoleon’s forces were approaching on 14 September. Napoleon’s army, plagued by hunger, cold and poor supply lines, was forced to retreat and was nearly annihilated by the devastating Russian winter and sporadic attacks by Russian military forces.

In January 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Alexander Adrianov became Moscow’s first official mayor. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, on 16 March 1918, Moscow became the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and of the Soviet Union less than five years later. During World War II (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), after German invasion of the USSR, the Soviet State Committee of Defence and the General Staff of the Red Army was located in Moscow.

In 1941, sixteen divisions of the national volunteers (more than 160,000 people), twenty-five battalions (18,500 people) and four engineering regiments were formed among the Muscovites. That November, the German Army Group Centre was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the Battle of Moscow. Many factories were evacuated, together with much of the government, and from 20 October the city was declared to be under siege. Its remaining inhabitants built and manned antitank defences, while the city was bombarded from the air. Joseph Stalin refused to leave the city, meaning the general staff and the council of people's commissars remained in the city as well. Despite the siege and the bombings, the construction of Moscow's metro system, continued through the war and by the end of the war several new metro lines were opened.

On 1 May 1944, a medal For the defence of Moscow and in 1947 another medal In memory of the 800th anniversary of Moscow were instituted. In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, on 8 May 1965, Moscow became one of twelve Soviet cities awarded the title of the Hero City.

In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which was boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries due to the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan in late 1979. In 1991, Moscow was the scene of the failed coup attempt by the government members opposed to the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev. When the USSR was dissolved in the same year, Moscow continued to be the capital of Russia.

Since then, the emergence of market economy in Moscow has produced an explosion of Western-style retailing, services, architecture, and lifestyles. Besides the historical traits of Moscow, it has many different agricultural attributes. In 1998, it hosted the first World Youth Games. Moscow is the seat of power for the Russian Federation. At the centre of the city, in Central Administrative Okrug, is the Moscow Kremlin, which houses the residence of the President of Russia as well as many of the facilities of the national government. Numerous military headquarters, including the headquarters of the Moscow Military District are also based in Moscow.

Moscow, like with any national capital, is also the host of many foreign diplomatic missions. Moscow is designated as one of only two Federal cities of Russia (the other one being Saint Petersburg). Among the 85 Federal subjects of Russia, Moscow is the most populated one and the smallest one in terms of area. Moscow is located within the central economic region.

Moscow is situated on the banks of the Moskva River, which flows for just over 500 km through the East European Plain in central Russia. 49 bridges span the river and its canals within the city's limits.

Moscow's road system is centered roughly around the Kremlin at the heart of the city. From there, roads generally radiate outwards to intersect with a sequence of circular roads (“rings”).

The first and innermost major ring, Bulvarnoye Koltso (Boulevard Ring), was built at the former location of the sixteenth century city wall around that used to be called Bely Gorod (White Town). The Bulvarnoye Koltso is technically not a ring; it does not form a complete circle, but instead a horseshoe-like arc that goes from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to the Yauza River. In addition, the Boulevard Ring changes street names numerous times throughout its journey across the city.

The second primary ring, located outside the Boulevard Ring, is the Sadovoye Koltso (Garden Ring). Like the Boulevard Ring, the Garden Ring follows the path of a sixteenth century wall that used to encompass part of the city. The third ring, the Third Transport Ring, was completed in 2003 as a high-speed freeway.

The Fourth Transport Ring, another freeway, is under construction to further reduce traffic congestion. The outermost ring within Moscow is the Moscow Automobile Ring Road (often called the MKAD from the Russian Московская Кольцевая Автомобильная Дорога), which forms the approximate boundary of the city. Outside the city, some of the roads encompassing the city continue to follow this circular pattern seen inside city limits.

Moscow has a humid continental climate climate (Köppen climate classification Dfb) with warm, somewhat humid summers and long, cold winters. Typical high temperatures in the warm months of June, July and August are around 23 °C (73 °F), but during heat waves, that can occur anytime from may to September, daytime temperature highs often top 30 °C (86 °F) for sometimes 1 or 2 weeks; in the winter, temperatures normally drop to approximately −9 °C (15.8 °F), though there can be periods of warmth with temperatures rising above 0 °C (32 °F). The highest temperature ever recorded was 36.7 °C (98.1 °F) in August 1936, and the lowest ever recorded was −42.2 °C (−44 °F) in January 1940.

Snow cover (averaging 3-5 months in year) is formed at the end of November and melts in mid-March, but in recent years snow cover has lasted shorter than usual; for example, in the winter of 2006-2007 the snow cover formed only at the end of January and melted at the beginning of March; in 2007-2008, the snow cover melted at the end of February, and in the 2008-2009 winter snow cover was formed only at the end of December, which is one month later than usual.

Monthly rainfall totals vary minimally throughout the year, although the precipitation levels tend to be higher during the summer than during the winter. Due to the significant variation in temperature between the winter and summer months as well as the limited fluctuation in precipitation levels during the summer, Moscow is considered to be within a continental climate zone.

Average annual temperature in Moscow is 6.0 °C (42.8 °F), but in last years (2007, 2008) it was higher than 7 °C (45 °F). Last summer light night frost was in first half of 20 century.

Moscow is the seat of power for the Russian Federation. At the centre of the city, in Central Administrative Okrug, is the Moscow Kremlin, which houses the home of the President of Russia as well as many of the facilities for the national government. This includes numerous military headquarters and the headquarters of the Moscow Military District. Moscow, like with any national capital, is also the host of all the foreign embassies and diplomats representing a multitude of nations in Russia. Moscow is designated as one of only two Federal cities of Russia (the other one being Saint Petersburg). Among the 83 federal subjects of Russia, Moscow represents the most populated one and the smallest one in terms of area. Lastly, Moscow is located within the central economic region, one of twelve regions within Russia with similar economic goals.

The entire city of Moscow is headed by one mayor (Yury Luzhkov). It is divided into ten administrative okrugs and 123 districts. Nine of the ten administrative districts, except the City of Zelenograd (number 1 on the map), are located within City of Moscow main boundaries.

All administrative okrugs and districts have their own coats of arms, flags, and elected head officials. Additionally, most districts have their own cable television, computer network, and official newspaper.

In addition to the districts, there are Territorial Units with Special Status, or territories. These usually include areas with small or no permanent populations, such as the case with the All-Russia Exhibition Centre, the Botanical Garden, large parks, and industrial zones. In recent years, some territories have been merged with different districts. There are no ethnic-specific regions in Moscow, as in the Chinatowns that exist in some North American and East Asian cities. And although districts are not designated by income, as with most cities, those areas that are closer to the city centre, metro stations or green zones are considered more prestigious.

In addition to being the capital of Russia, Moscow is the administrative centre of Moscow Oblast. Since Moscow has the status of a federal city, it is administratively separate from the oblast.

Moscow’s architecture is world-renowned. Moscow is also well known as the site of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, with its elegant onion domes, as well as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Seven Sisters. The Patriarch of Moscow, whose residence is the Danilov Monastery, serves as the head of the Orthodox Church. Moscow also hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics. For a long time, the view of the city was dominated by numerous Orthodox churches. The look of the city changed drastically during Soviet times, mostly due to Joseph Stalin, who oversaw a large-scale effort to modernise the city. He introduced broad avenues and roadways, some of them over ten lanes wide, but he also destroyed a great number of historically significant architectural works. The Sukharev Tower, as well as numerous mansions and stores lining the major streets, and various works of religious architecture, such as the Kazan Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, were all destroyed during Stalin’s rule. During the 1990s, however, both the latter were rebuilt amid criticism due to the high costs and lack of historical perspective.

Architect Vladimir Shukhov was responsible for building several of Moscow’s landmarks during early Soviet Russia. The Shukhov Tower, just one of many hyperboloid towers designed by Shukhov, was built between 1919 and 1922 as a transmission tower for a Russian broadcasting company. Shukhov also left a lasting legacy to the Constructivist architecture of early Soviet Russia. He designed spacious elongated shop galleries, most notably the Upper Trade Rows (GUM) on Red Square, bridged with innovative metal-and-glass vaults.

Stalin, however, is also credited with building the The Seven Sisters, comprising seven, cathedral-like structures. A defining feature of Moscow’s skyline, their imposing form was allegedly inspired by the Manhattan Municipal Building in New York City, and their style – with intricate exteriors and a large central spire – has been described as Stalinist Gothic architecture. All seven towers can be seen from most elevations in the city; they are among the tallest constructions in central Moscow apart from the Ostankino Tower which, when it was completed in 1967, was the tallest free-standing land structure in the world and today remains the world’s third-tallest after the Burj Dubai in Dubai and the CN Tower in Toronto.

The Soviet policy of providing mandatory housing for every citizen and his or her family, and the rapid growth of the Muscovite population in Soviet times, also led to the construction of large, monotonous housing blocks, which can often be differentiated by age, sturdiness of construction, or ‘style’ according to the neighbourhood and the materials used. Most of these date from the post-Stalin era and the styles are often named after the leader then in power (Brezhnev, Khrushchev, etc) and they are usually ill-maintained.

The Stalinist-era constructions, usually in the central city, are massive and usually ornamented with Socialist realism motifs that imitate classical themes. However, small churches – almost always Eastern Orthodox – found across the city provide glimpses of the its past. The Old Arbat, a popular tourist street that was once the heart of a bohemian area, preserves most of its buildings from prior to the twentieth century. Many buildings found off the main streets of the inner city (behind the Stalinist façades of Tverskaya Street, for example) are also examples of bourgeois architecture typical of Tsarist times. Ostankino, Kuskovo, Uzkoye and other large estates just outside Moscow originally belong to nobles from the Tsarist era, and some convents and monasteries, both inside and outside the city, are open to Muscovites and tourists.

Attempts are being made to restore many of the city’s best-kept examples of pre-Soviet architecture. These revamped structures are easily spotted by their bright new colours and spotless facades. There are a few examples of notable, early Soviet avant-garde work too, such as the house of the architect Konstantin Melnikov in the Arbat area. Many of these restorations were criticized for their disrespect of historical authenticity. Facadism is also widely practiced. Later examples of interesting Soviet architecture are usually marked by their impressive size and the semi-Modernist styles employed, such as with the Novy Arbat project, familiarly known as “false teeth of Moscow” and notorious for the wide-scale disruption of a historic area in the Moscow downtown involved in the project.

As in London, but on a broader scale, plaques on house exteriors will inform passers-by that a well-known personality once lived there. Frequently, the plaques are dedicated to Soviet celebrities not well-known outside of Russia. There are also many "house-museums" of famous Russian writers, composers, and artists in the city.

Moscow's skyline is quickly modernizing with several new towers under construction. One tower will be the second tallest in the world when it is completed in 2012, the 2,009-foot (612 m)-tall Russia Tower.

In recent years, the city administration has been widely criticized for heavy destruction that has affected many historical buildings. As much as a third of historic Moscow has been destroyed in the past few yearsto make space for luxury apartments and hotels.Other historical buildings, including such landmarks as the 1930 Moskva hotel and the 1913 department store Voyentorg, have been razed and reconstructed anew,with the inevitable loss of every historical value.Critics also blame the government for not applying the conservation laws:in the last 12 years more than 50 buildings with monument status were torn down, several of those dating back to the seventeenth century.Some critics also wonder if the money used for the reconstruction of razed buildings could not be used for the renovation of decaying structures, that include many works by architect Konstantin Melnikovand Mayakovskaya metro station. Some organisations, such as Moscow Architecture Preservation Society and Save Europe's Heritage, are trying to draw the international public attention to these problems.

One of the most notable art museums in Moscow is the Tretyakov Gallery, which was founded by Pavel Tretyakov, a wealthy patron of the arts who donated a large private collection to the city. The Tretyakov Gallery is split into two buildings. The Old Tretyakov gallery, the original gallery in the Tretyakovskaya area on the south bank of the Moskva River, houses the works of the classic Russian tradition. The works of famous pre-Revolutionary painters, such as Ilya Repin, as well as the works of early Russian icon painters can be found in the Old Tretyakov Gallery. Visitors can even see rare originals by early-fifteenth century iconographer Andrei Rublev. The New Tretyakov gallery, created in Soviet times, mainly contains the works of Soviet artists, as well as of a few contemporary artists, but there is some overlap with the Old Tretyakov Gallery for early twentieth century art. The new gallery includes a small reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin's famous Monument to the Third International and a mixture of other avant-garde works by artists like Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky. Socialist realism features can also be found within the halls of the New Tretyakov Gallery.

Another art museum in the city of Moscow is the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which was founded by, among others, Marina Tsvetaeva's father. The Pushkin Museum is similar to the British Museum in London in that its halls are a cross-section of world civilisations, with many plaster casts of ancient sculptures. However, it also hosts famous paintings from every major Western era of art; works by Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Pablo Picasso are all sampled there.

The State Historical Museum of Russia (Государственный Исторический музей) is a museum of Russian history wedged between Red Square and Manege Square in Moscow. Its exhibitions range from relics of the prehistoric tribes inhabiting present-day Russia, through priceless artworks acquired by members of the Romanov dynasty. The total number of objects in the museum's collection numbers in the millions. The Polytechnical Museum, founded in 1872 is the largest technical museum in Russia, offering a wide array of historical inventions and technological achievements, including humanoid automata of the 18th century and the first Soviet computers. Its collection contains more than 160,000 items. The Borodino Panorama museum located on Kutuzov Avenue provides an opportunity for visitors to experience being on a battlefield with a 360° diorama. It is a part of the large historical memorial commemorating the victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 over Napoleon’s army, that includes also the Triumphal arch erected in 1827. There is also a military history museum not to be missed, it includes statues, military hardware, along with powerful tales of that time.

Moscow is also the heart of Russian performing arts, including ballet and film. There are ninety-three theatres, 132 cinemas and twenty-four concert-halls in Moscow. Among Moscow’s many theatres and ballet studios is the Bolshoi Theatre and the Malyi Theatre as well as Vakhtangov Theatre and Moscow Art Theatre. The repertories in a typical Moscow season are exhaustive and modern interpretations of classic works, whether operatic or theatrical, are quite common. State Central Concert Hall Rossia, famous for ballet and estrade performances, is the place of frequent concerts of pop-stars such as Alla Pugacheva and is situated in the soon to be demolished building of Hotel Rossiya, the largest hotel in Europe.

Moscow International Performance Arts Centre, opened in 2003, also known as Moscow International House of Music, is known for its performances in classical music. It also has the largest organ in Russia installed in Svetlanov Hall.

There are also two large circuses in Moscow: Moscow State Circus and Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard named after Yuri Nikulin.

Soviet films are integral to film history and the Mosfilm studio was at the heart of many Soviet classic films as it is responsible for both artistic and mainstream productions. However, despite the continued presence and reputation of internationally-renowned Russian filmmakers, the once prolific native studios are much quieter. Rare and historical films may be seen in the Salut cinema, where films from the Museum of Cinema collection are shown regularly.

There are 96 parks and 18 gardens in Moscow, Including 4 botanical gardens. There are also 450 square kilometers (174 sq mi) of green zones besides 100 square kilometers (39 sq mi) of forests. Moscow is a very green city if compared to other cities of comparable size in Western Europe and America. There are on average 27 square meters (290 sq ft) of parks per person in Moscow compared with 6 for Paris, 7.5 in London and 8.6 in New York.

The Central Park of Culture and Rest, named after Maxim Gorky, was founded in 1928. The main part (689,000 square metres / 170 acres) along the Moskva river contains estrades, children's attractions (including the Observation Wheel water ponds with boats and water bicycles), dancing, tennis courts and other sports facilities. It borders the Neskuchniy Garden (408,000 square metres / 101 acres), the oldest park in Moscow and a former Emperor's residence, created as a result of integration of three estates of XVIII century. The Garden features the Green Theatre, one of the largest open amphitheatres in Europe and able to hold up to 15 thousand people.

Izmaylovsky Park created in 1931 is one of the largest urban parks in the world along with Richmond Park in London. Its area of 15.34 square kilometers (5.92 sq mi) is six times greater than that of Central Park in New York.

Sokolniki Park, named after the falcon hunting that occurred there in the past, is one of the oldest parks in Moscow and has an area of 6 square kilometers (2 sq mi). From a central circle with a large fountain radiate birch, maple and elm tree alleys. A labyrinth composed of green paths lies beyond the park's deer ponds.

Losiny Ostrov National Park ("Elk Island" National Park), with a total area of more than 116 square kilometers (45 sq mi), borders Sokolniki Park and was Russia's first national park. It is also known as the "city taiga", where elk can be seen.

Tsytsin Main Botanical Garden of Academy of Sciences, founded in 1945 is the largest in Europe. It covers territory of 3.61 square kilometers (1.39 sq mi) bordering the All-Russia Exhibition Centre and contains a live exhibition of more than 20 thousand of different species of plants from different parts of the world as well as scientific research laboratory. It also contains a rosarium with 20 thousand rose bushes, a dendrarium, and an oak forest with average age of trees exceeding 100 years as well as a greenhouse on more than 5000 square meters.

Lilac Park, founded in 1958, is known for its permanent sculpture exposition and a large rosarium.

Moscow has always been a popular destination for tourists. Some of the better known attractions include the city's UNESCO World Heritage Site, Moscow Kremlin and Red Square, which was built between the 14th and 17th centuries. The Church of the Ascension at Kolomenskoye, which dates from 1532, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and another popular attraction.

Other popular attractions include the Moscow Zoo, home to nearly a thousands species and more than 6,500 specimens. Each year, the zoo attracts more than 1.2 million visitors. The long days will also afford one more time to cover the immense wealth of historical, cultural or simply popular sites in Moscow.

Moscow possesses a large number of various sport facilities and over 500 Olympic champions lived in the city by 2005. Moscow is home to sixty-three stadia (besides eight football and eleven light athletics maneges), of which Luzhniki Stadium is the largest and the 4th biggest in Europe (it hosted the UEFA Cup 1998–99 and UEFA Champions League 2007–08 finals). Forty other sport complexes are located within the city, including twenty-four with artificial ice. There are also seven horse racing tracks in Moscow, of which Central Moscow Hippodrome, founded in 1834, is the largest.

Moscow was the host city of the 1980 Summer Olympics, although the yachting events were held at Tallinn, in present-day Estonia. Large athletic facilities and the main international airport, Sheremetyevo Terminal 2, were built in preparation for the 1980 Summer Olympics. Moscow had also made a bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. However, when final voting commenced on 6 July 2005, Moscow was the first city to be eliminated from further rounds. The Games were finally awarded to London.

The two most titled multi-sport clubs in the world are Moscow's CSKA Moscow and .

The most titled ice hockey team in the Soviet Union and in the world, HC CSKA Moscow comes from Moscow. Other big ice Hockey clubs from Moscow are HC Dynamo Moscow, which was the second most titled team in the Soviet Union, Krylya Sovetov Moscow, and HC Spartak Moscow.

The most titled Soviet, Russian, and one of the most titled Euroleague clubs, is the Basketball club from Moscow PBC CSKA Moscow. Another strong Basketball club from Moskow is MBC Dynamo Moscow.

Moscow had more winners at the USSR and Russian Chess Championship than any other city. Some of them were the best players in the world.

The most titled Volleyball team in the Soviet Union and in Europe (CEV Champions League) is VC CSKA Moscow.

In Football, FC Spartak Moscow is the club that has won more championship titles in the Russian Premier League than any other team, and were second only to Dynamo Kyiv in the Soviet Union. PFC CSKA Moscow is the first Russian football team who won an UEFA title. FC Lokomotiv Moscow, FC Dynamo Moscow, FC Moscow, Torpedo Moscow and Sportakademklub Moscow are the other professional football teams based in Moscow.

Because of Moscow's cold local climate, winter sports have a large following as well. Many of Moscow's large parks offer marked trails for skiers and frozen ponds for skaters.

Moscow also hosts the annual Kremlin Cup, a popular tennis tournament on both the WTA and ATP tours. It is regarded as a very prestigious tournament and is one of the ten Tier-I events on the women's tour and a host of Russian players feature every year.

Slava Moscow are a professional rugby union club, competing in the national Professional Rugby League. Moscow recently became home to the offices of the Rugby Union of Russia, formerly located in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

Moscow is the home of one club in the Russian Championship of rugby league, RC Lokomotiv Moscow. They often participate in the Challenge Cup the most prestigious knockout competition in rugby league.

In Bandy one of the most successful clubs in the world is Dynamo Moscow.

One of the best Futsal clubs in Europe, is the club MFK Dinamo Moskva.

There is a vibrant night life in Moscow. The major and one of the most popular nightlife areas is around Tverskaya Street.

The southern part of Tverskaya Street near the Manege Square and the Red Square area is known as an area with many expensive, luxurious bars and restaurants, and is considered to be a playground for New Russians and celebrities.

Tverskaya Street is also one of the busiest shopping streets in Moscow.

The adjoining Tretyakovsky Proyezd, also south of Tverskaya Street, in Kitai-gorod, is host to upscale boutique stores such as Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Armani, Prada and Bentley.

There are 1696 high schools in Moscow, as well as 91 colleges. Besides these, there are 222 institutions offering higher education in Moscow, including 60 state universities and the Lomonosov Moscow State University, which was founded in 1755. The university main building located in Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) is 240 meters (787 ft) tall and when completed, was the tallest building outside the United States. The university has over 30,000 undergraduate and 7,000 postgraduate students, who have a choice of twenty-nine faculties and 450 departments for study. Additionally, approximately 10,000 high school students take courses at the university, while over two thousand researchers work. The Moscow State University library contains over nine million books, making it one of the largest libraries in all of Russia. Its acclaim throughout the international academic community has meant that over 11,000 international students have graduated from the university, with many coming to Moscow to learn the Russian language.

Moscow is a financial center of Russian Federation and CIS countries and well-known for its business schools, among the best are Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics; Finance Academy under the Government of RF; New Economic School; The State University of Management, and State University - Higher School of Economics. They offer undegraduate degrees in management, finance, accounting, marketing, real estate and economic theory as well Masters programs and MBA with varied concentrations. Most of them have branches in other regions of Russia and countries around the world.

Bauman Moscow State Technical University, founded in 1830, is located in the centre of Moscow and provides more than 18,000 undergraduate and 1,000 postgraduate students with an education in science and engineering offering a wide range of technical degrees. Since it opened enrolment to students from outside Russia in 1991, Bauman Moscow State Technical University has increased its international enrolment to up to two hundred.

The Moscow Conservatory, founded in 1866 is a prominent music school in Russia, whose graduates included Sergey Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin, Aram Khachaturian, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Alfred Schnittke.

The Gerasimov All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography, abbreviated as VGIK, is the world's oldest educational institution in Cinematography, founded by Vladimir Gardin in 1919. Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin, and Aleksey Batalov were among its most distinguished professors and Mikhail Vartanov, Sergei Parajanov, Andrei Tarkovsky, Nikita Mikhalkov, Eldar Ryazanov, Alexander Sokurov, Yuriy Norshteyn, Aleksandr Petrov, Vasily Shukshin, Konrad Wolf among graduates.

Moscow State Institute of International Relations, founded in 1944, remains Russia's best known school of international relations and diplomacy, with six different schools focused on international relations. Approximately 4,500 students make up the university's student body and over 700,000 Russian and foreign-language books — of which 20,000 are considered rare — can be found in the library of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Among other prominent institutions are the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, also known as Phystech, Moscow Aviation Institute, Moscow Motorroad Institute (State Technical University), and the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology has taught numerous Nobel Prize winners, including Pyotr Kapitsa, Nikolay Semyonov, Lev Landau and Alexander Prokhorov, while the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute is known for its research in nuclear physics.. The highest Russian military school is the Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Although Moscow has a number of famous Soviet-era higher educational institutions, most of which are more oriented towards engineering or the fundamental science, in recent years Moscow has seen a significant growth in the number of commercial and private institutions that offer classes in business and management. Many state institutions have expanded their education scope and increased their student enrolments. Institutions in Moscow, as well as the rest of post-Soviet Russia, have begun to offer new international certificates and postgraduate degrees, including the Master of Business Administration. Student exchange programs with different (especially, European) countries also have become widespread in Moscow's universities, while many schools within the Russian capital will also offer seminars, lectures, and courses for corporate employees and businessmen.

Moscow is known as one of the most important science centres in Russia. The headquarters of the Russian Academy of Sciences are located in Moscow as well as numerous research and applied science institutions.

The Kurchatov Institute, Russia's leading research and development institution in the field of nuclear energy, where the first nuclear reactor in Europe was built, Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics, Kapitza Institute for Physical Problems and Steklov Institute of Mathematics are all situated in Moscow.

There are 452 libraries in the city, including 168 for children. The Russian State Library, founded in 1862 is the national library of Russia. The Russian State Library is home to over 275 kilometres of shelves and forty-two million items, including over seventeen million books and serial volumes, thirteen million journals, 350,000 music scores and sound records, and 150,000 maps, making it the largest library in Russia and one of the largest in the world. Items in 247 different languages comprise approximately twenty-nine percent of the collection.

The State Public Historical Library, founded in 1863, is the largest library, specialising in Russian history. Its collection contains four million items in 112 languages (including 47 languages of the former USSR), mostly on Russian and world history, heraldry, numismatics, and the history of science.

There are five primary commercial airports serving Moscow: Sheremetyevo International Airport, Domodedovo International Airport, Bykovo Airport, Ostafyevo International Airport and Vnukovo International Airport. Sheremetyevo International Airport is the most common entry point for foreign passengers, handling sixty percent of all international flights. Domodedovo International Airport is the leading airport in Russia in terms of passenger throughput, and is the primary gateway to long-haul domestic and CIS destinations and its international traffic rivals Sheremetyevo's. The three other airports particularly offer flights within Russia and to and from states from the former Soviet Union. Moscow's airports vary in distances from MKAD beltway: Bykovo is the farthest, at 35 kilometres (21 mi); Domodedovo is next at 22 kilometres (13.7 mi); Vnukovo is 11 kilometres (6.8 mi); Sheremetyevo is 10 kilometres (6.25 mi); and Ostafievo, the nearest, is about 8 kilometers (5 mi) from MKAD.

There are also several smaller airports near Moscow, such as Airport Myachkovo, intended for private aircraft, helicopters and charters.

They are located close to the city centre, but each handles trains from different parts of Europe and Asia. There are also many smaller railway stations in Moscow. As train tickets are relatively cheap, they are the mode of preference for travelling Russians, especially when departing to Saint Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city. Moscow is also the western terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which traverses nearly 9,300 kilometers (5,779 mi) of Russian territory to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.

Moscow also has two passenger terminals, (South River Terminal and North River Terminal or Rechnoy vokzal), on the river and regular ship routes and cruises along Moskva and Oka rivers, which are used mostly for entertainment. The North River Terminal, built in 1937, is also the main hub for long-range river routes. There are also three freight ports serving Moscow. Besides this Moscow has a bus terminal for long-range and intercity passenger buses (Central Bus Terminal) with daily turnover of about 25 thousand passengers serving about 40% of long-range bus routes in Moscow.

Local transport includes the Moscow Metro, a metro system famous for its art, murals, mosaics, and ornate chandeliers. When it first opened in 1935, the system had just one line. Today, the Moscow Metro contains twelve lines, mostly underground with a total of 177 stations. The Metro is one of the deepest subway systems in the world; for instance the Park Pobedy station, completed in 2003, at 84 metres (280 ft) underground, has the longest escalators in Europe. The Moscow Metro is one of world's busiest metro systems, serving more than nine million passengers daily. There is also a monorail line, operated by the same company. Facing serious transportation problems, Moscow has wide plans of expansion of Moscow Metro.

As Metro stations outside the city centre are far apart in comparison to other cities, up to four kilometres (2.5 mi), an extensive bus network radiates from each station to the surrounding residential zones. Suburbs and satellite cities also connected by commuter elektrichka (electric rail) network. Every large street in the city is served by at least one bus route. There are also extensive tram and trolleybus networks.

A time-saving search engine for tracing Moscow's city transport routes may be found at the Moscow Routes website.

There are over 2.6 million cars in the city on a daily basis. Recent years have seen the growth in the number of cars, which have caused traffic jams and the lack of parking space to become major problems.

The MKAD, along with the Third Transport Ring and the future Fourth Transport Ring, is one of only three freeways that run within Moscow city limits. However, as one can easily observe from a map of Moscow area, there are several other roadway systems that form concentric circles around the city.

In 2006, Mercer Management Consulting named Moscow the world's most expensive city for expatriate employees, ahead of perennial winner Tokyo, due to the stable Russian ruble as well as increasing housing prices within the city.

A significant portion of Russia's profits and development is concentrated in Moscow as many multi-national corporations have branches and offices in the city. The plush offices and the lifestyles of the typical corporate employee in Moscow are often indistinguishable from any Western European city, although the average salary for the Muscovite is a bit lower. Since the 1998 Russian financial crisis, various business sectors in Moscow have shown exponential rates of growth. Many new business centres and office buildings have been built in recent years, but Moscow still experiences shortages in office space. As a result, many former industrial and research facilities are being reconstructed to become suitable for office use.

However, while the overall stability has improved in the recent years, crime and corruption continue to remain a problem hindering business development.

The Cherkizovskiy marketplace is the largest marketplace in Europe with daily turnover of about thirty million dollars and about ten thousand sellers from different countries (including the China, Turkey, Azerbaijan and India). It is administratively divided into twelve parts and covers a wide sector of the city.

Moscow now has 74 billionaires with average wealth of $5.9 billion, placing it above New York, Forbes Magazine said in its annual rich list published on Thursday. According to the list, New York has 71 billionaires, followed by London with 36, Istanbul with 34, and Hong Kong with 30. Russia is second only to the United States in the number of its super-rich. An additional 35 Russians have crossed the $1 billion mark in the past year, helped along by the continued rise of the ruble against the dollar. "Sixteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, with 87 billionaires, is the new No. 2 country behind the U.S., easily overtaking Germany, with 59 billionaires, which held the honour for six years," said Forbes associate editor Luisa Kroll. The United States accounts for 469 (42 percent) of the world's billionaires. Topping the list of Russia's billionaires is Oleg Deripaska with $28 billion, placing him ninth in the world, ahead of the more famous Roman Abramovich with $23.5 billion, in 15th place. Deripaska's holding company, Basic Element, owns huge assets in insurance, auto manufacture, and aluminum, while Abramovich, since selling his oil company Sibneft to Russian state-controlled gas giant Gazprom in 2005, has bought up steel and mining assets. He also owns Chelsea Football Club. Russia's richest woman remains Elena Baturina, the 45-year-old second wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Forbes estimates that she has added $1.1 billion to her personal wealth in the past year, bringing it up to $4.2 billion and putting her in 253rd place globally.

The nouveau riche, also called the "New Russians", often pejoratively, have a reputation for flaunting their wealth; the avenues for doing so, and subtly, have also increased in recent times — a sense of fashion and self-consciousness has instilled itself through the many haute couture and haute cuisine spots in Moscow.

Primary industries in Moscow include the chemical, metallurgy, food, textile, furniture, energy production, software development and machinery industries.

The Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant is one of the leading producers of military and civil helicopters in the world. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center produces various space equipment, including modules for space stations Mir, Salyut and the ISS as well as Proton launch vehicles and military ICBMs. Sukhoi, Ilyushin, Mikoyan, Tupolev and Yakovlev aircraft design bureaus also situated in Moscow. Automobile plants ZiL and AZLK, as well as the Voitovich Rail Vehicle plant, are situated in Moscow and Metrovagonmash metro wagon plant is located just outside the city limits. The Poljot Moscow watch factory produces reliable military, professional and sport watches well known in Russia and abroad. Yuri Gagarin in his trip into space used "Shturmanskie", produced by this factory. The Electrozavod factory was the first transformer factory in Russia. The Kristall distillery is the oldest distillery in Russia producing various vodka types, including "Stolichnaya" while a wide assortment of wines are produced at several Moscow wine plants, including Moscow Interrepublican Vinery. The Moscow Jewelry Factory and the Jewellerprom are important producers of jewellery in Russia; Jewellerprom used to produce the famous and exclusive Order of Victory, awarded to those aiding the Soviet Union's Red Army during World War II. There are also many other industries located just outside the city of Moscow, as well as many microelectronic industries in Zelenograd.

Despite the economic growth experienced in Moscow since the dawn of the twenty-first century, many industries have undergone various crises in recent years. Some of them have been sold to foreign investors, such as OTIS and British American Tobacco, and others have been closed down to make room for new buildings constructed as business centres.

Additionally, some industry is now being transferred out of Moscow to improve the ecological state of the city. Nevertheless, the city of Moscow remains one of Russia's major industrial centres.

During Soviet times, apartments were lent to people by the government according to the square meters-per-person norm (some groups, including people's artists, heroes and prominent scientists had bonuses according to their honours). Private ownership of apartments was limited until the 1990s, when people were permitted to secure property rights to the places they inhabited. Since the Soviet era, estate owners have had to pay the service charge for their residences, a fixed amount based on persons per living area. Due to the current economic situation, the price of real estate in Moscow continues to rise. Today, one could expect to pay US$4000 in average per square meter (11 sq ft) in the outskirts of the city or US$6,500-$8,000 per square meter in a prestigious district. The price sometimes may exceed US$40,000 per square meter in a flat. It costs about US$2500 per month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment and about US$1500 per month for a studio in the center of Moscow.

A typical one-bedroom apartment is about thirty square meters (323 sq ft), a typical two-bedroom apartment is forty-five square meters (485 sq ft), and a typical three-bedroom apartment is seventy square meters (753 sq ft). Many cannot move out of their apartments, especially if a family lives in a two-room apartment originally granted by the state during the Soviet era. Some city residents have attempted to cope with the cost of living by renting their apartments while staying in dachas (country houses) outside the city.

In 2008, Moscow ranked top on the list of most expensive cities for the third year in a row.

As of 2006, there are 8.47 million Muscovites able to work. 1.73 million are employed by the state, 4.42 million are employed by private companies, and 1.99 million are employed by small businesses. There are 74,400 officially registered unemployed working age, of which 34,400 are eligible for unemployment benefits.

The "Moscow International Business Centre" (Moscow-City) is a projected new part of central Moscow. Geographically situated in Presnensky District, located at the Third Ring, the Moscow-City area is under intense development.

The goal of MIBC "Moscow-City" is to create a zone, the first in Russia, and in all of Eastern Europe, that will combine business activity, living space and entertainment. It will be a city within a city. The project was conceived by the Moscow government in 1992.

The construction of MIBC "Moscow-City" takes place on the Krasnopresnenskaya embankment. The whole project takes up 1 square kilometer (247 acres). This area is the only spot in downtown Moscow that can accommodate a project of this magnitude. Today, most of the buildings there are old factories and industrial complexes.

The Federation Tower, now being built is to be completed in 2008, will become the tallest building in Europe when completed.

At overall completion the plan is to have one of the tallest buildings in the world; the Russia Tower is planned to be completed by 2012 at a height of 612,2 meters (2009 ft), second only to the Burj Dubai. Also to be included in the project are a waterpark and other recreational facilities; trade and entertainment complexes, numerous prestigious office and residential buildings, the transport node and the new site of the Moscow government. The construction of four new metro stations in the territory has already been completed, of which two have already opened and two others are reserved for future metro lines crossing MIBC, some additional stations were planned. A rail shuttle service, directly connecting MIBC with Sheremetyevo Airport is also planned.

A Fourth Ring freeway (in addition to Moscow Automobile Ring Road, Garden Ring and the Third Ring) has been designed and is being built around Moscow. It is to be completed by 2012 and will have total length of 61 kilometers (38 mi).

According to the 2002 Census the population of the city was 10,382,754, however, this figure only takes into account legal residents.

For centuries Moscow has been the largest city in Russia and/or the Soviet Union, however the collapse of the latter has led to a decline in Siberian as well as many other Russian cities, so that Moscow's growth and dominance over Saint Petersburg and the rest of the nation has become even more pronounced.

Due to a low birth rate and high mortality rate, the population of Russia has been declining by about 700,000 persons per year since the fall of the Soviet Union. In 2003, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births by approximately 49,400. Whilst the birth rate has risen in more recent years, the average age of Moscow's population continues to increase.

Substantial numbers of internal migrants mean that Moscow's population is still increasing, whereas the population of many other Russian cities is in decline. Migrants are attracted by Moscow's strong economy which contrasts sharply with the stagnation in many other parts of Russia. In order to help regulate population growth, Moscow has an internal passport system that prohibits non-residents from staying in the capital for more than ninety days without registration.

Christianity is the predominant religion in the city, of which the Russian Orthodox Church is the most popular by virtue of being the country’s traditional religion and is deemed a part of Russia's "historical heritage" in a law passed in 1997.. Moscow is also Russian's capital of Orthodox Christianity. Moscow was called "city of 1600 churches" (ru: "город сорока сороков церквей" - city of sorok sorokov (40 x 40) churches) prior to 1917. In 1918 Russia became secular state and religion lost its position in society. After disintegration of Soviet Union in 1991 many of the destroyed churches have been restored and traditional religions are gaining popularity.

In Moscow there are other religious societies besides Orthodoxy: Muslims (Moscow is home to 1.5 million people of Muslim backgrounds, many from countries previously a part of the Soviet Union), Protestants, Old-believers, Single-believers, Judaism and various cult buildings of those religions..

The New Age movement has also led to emergence of some "non-traditional" religions in large cities of Russia. Polls indicate that around 1% of population of Moscow and St.Petersburg self-identify as Buddhists. Many of these are Slavic and have no ethnic connection to Buddhism.

Moscow and Saint Petersburg have often served as the capital for auto theft in Russia, this crime in particular dramatically increased during the early 1990’s. It is estimated fifty cars were stolen per day, with the yearly total ranging from 100,000 and 150,000 vehicles stolen. Pick-pocketing is frequent in Moscow, as well as burglary from vehicles. Organized crime in Moscow and Russia in general, have often been involved with drug trafficking, cyber crime, prostitution, and financial crimes. Robbers in the city tend to pose as taxi drivers, or police officers, it is recommended to not travel alone and to use caution outside of Metro stations. Moscow has historically had a high murder rate per capita. For the year of 1998, Moscow had a murder rate of 18.1 killings per 100,000 residents and was the most dangerous European city; other cities that followed closely behind were Helsinki, Stockholm and Lisbon.

Moscow is the headquarters of nearly all Russian nationwide television networks, radio stations, newspapers and magazines.

English-language media include The Moscow Times and Moscow News which are, respectively, the largest and oldest English-language weekly newspapers in all of Russia. Expert, Kommersant, and Gazeta are Russian-language media headquartered in Moscow. Expert and Kommersant are among the country's leading and oldest Russian-language business newspapers.

Other notable media of Moscow include the Echo of Moscow, the first Soviet and Russian private news radio and information agency, and NTV, one of the first privately owned Russian television stations.

Moscow has many twin cities. In order to find source on the cities, it is found on the sister city's page.

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Source : Wikipedia