Vladimir Putin wasn’t having a great day. The Russian president had spent the August morning in a helicopter over Khabarovsk, near the Chinese border, surveying flood damage that had left tens of thousands of people homeless.
On a frosty Moscow evening in December, Alisher Usmanov is wearing a boyish grin. Russia’s richest man, who rarely smiles in public, has been elected to a second term as president of the International Fencing Federation, which is holding its annual congress in the Russian capital for the first time.
Vladimir Putin was lonely and homesick after moving to Moscow to work in the Kremlin in 1996 and planned to return to St. Petersburg within a year, according to a friend, documentary filmmaker Igor Shadkhan.
“Are you totally out of your mind?” Russian newspaper tycoon Alexander Lebedev exclaimed as he jumped to his feet. He stared combatively at property developer Sergei Polonsky, who had taunted Lebedev for ridiculing his claim to be a major charity donor.