Russian imperialism

Russia: Oligarch Enemies

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On 25 October, Russian state security agents stormed a private plane and arrested at gunpoint the dapper 40 year old Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man, worth £4.7 billion.

Khodorkovsky headed the recently merged YukosSibneft, Russia's biggest private company and the world's fourth-largest oil producer with half-year profits in 2003 of £1.3 billion. His arrest marked the climax of a four-month, high-profile investigation. Three of his associates were already facing charges, one with ordering a murder, and a fourth had gone into exile.

Georgia: Tipped by the Velvet

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In scenes not seen in the former Soviet states for a decade, tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets to topple a corrupt regime.

On live television Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, favoured by the west but detested by his people, was interrupted mid-speech addressing parliament. Thousands poured into the building as he looked on helplessly. Within hours he was gone.

Russia: The Theatre of War

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The brutal storming of a Moscow theatre by Russian forces last month led to the deaths of 117 hostages and all 50 hostage takers.

At least 113 of the hostages were killed, not by gunshot wounds, but by the deadly poison gas the Russian forces pumped into the theatre. The symptoms of the survivors led scientists such as Professor Steven Rose to conclude that the gas used was a variant of the nerve gas BZ developed by the US military in the 1970s. Some have since argued that the gas may have been a derivative of heroin. Whatever it was, the Russian authorities refused to disclose what gas was used, even to the doctors treating the victims, citing reasons of national security.

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