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Yakunin Says Answer to Ukraine Lies in Past

Published: July 2, 2014 (Issue # 1818)



  • Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin speaks to journalists at a forum in Sochi.
    Photo: Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti

SOCHI Vladimir Yakunin is convinced that Ukraines forced amputation from Russia is a triumph for Otto von Bismarck, who plotted the whole thing in the 19th century.

The head of Russias giant state rail company is fired up about politics. He might as well be the U.S., the EU, Canada and Australia have branded him a member of President Vladimir Putins inner circle, frozen his assets and declared him persona non grata over Russias behavior in Ukraine.

Yakunin, whose company Russian Railways is the countrys biggest employer with 1.2 million staff, looked relaxed and confident as he sat down around a table with over a dozen international journalists last month at the annual 1520 Strategic Partnership international business forum in Sochi.

As he has done at previous forums, Yakunin, 65, dispensed with the curt, to-the-point remarks he gives to Russian media, opening up to the foreign press to ad lib about Germanys first chancellor, Ukrainian fascists and Russias appetite for new territory.

It was a question from an Estonian journalist about Russian-Estonian rail cooperation that jerked Yakunin from discussion of the Russian rail market into geopolitical fulminations.

Ukraine has been ground zero in a geopolitical tug-of-war since November, when then President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned plans to sign an association agreement with the European Union and chose instead to pursue closer ties with Moscow. Kievs central Maidan square immediately filled with protestors outraged that Yanukovych had sold out Ukraines European future. A three-month confrontation culminated in snipers firing on protestors. Yanukovych fled and Russia stepped in to defend Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainians from the new government which it branded nationalist and illegitimate by annexing Crimea and massing troops on Ukraines eastern border.

The Estonian journalist raised the concern that exists among the people of Baltic countries that after seizing Crimea from Ukraine in March, Russia could go on to engulf them as well. Mr. Yakunin was asked whether he could dismiss these fears.

Yakunin grew up in Estonia, then one of the Soviet socialist republics. Ironically, the country of Yakunins childhood was one of the first to call for his name to be blacklisted.

Hackles raised, Yakunin turned to the subject of international relations with the passion and precision of a veteran scholar, and one who sees Ukraine as a very Russian cultural zone:

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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