Blog: Simon WarburtonFried cabbage's off

Simon Warburton | 15 July 2015

Security - Russian style

Security - Russian style

Attending the recent Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, security was as tight as I've experienced anywhere.

A river of black Mercedes limos decanted CEO after Russian politician after ex-Prime Minister, until the level of hierarchy reached right up to President Vladimir Putin himself.

A cordon of steel was thrown around the peninsular with multi-layered details of security including what looked to be most of the St Petersburg Police Force, replete with a warship lurking off the coast.

One of those ex-Prime Ministers was Tony Blair - somewhat of a toxic brand back home in the UK but currently feted around the world by governments of all hues - while his wife extraordinarily now sits on the Renault board.

During one session, the panel chairman repeatedly referred to Blair as 'Mr Prime Minister,' a title the former Premier did nothing to dissaude being used, instead just flashing the famous gigawatt smile.

Breaking back out of that ring of security to hail a taxi proved a job of epic proportions most days - with the drivers of St Petersburg eyeing the chance to hike their normally reasonable fares.

One evening as it was proving impossible to find a cab the organisers offered to let me travel in the staff coach - there were hundreds of helpers at the event - and be deposited near a tube station.

And so from being in the slightly unreal bubble of cloistered protection, surrounded by significant numbers of security with black glasses and earpieces chaperoning dignitaries, I suddenly found myself in a suburb of St Petersburg in evening rush hour.

Thousands of St Petersburgers were rushing hither and thither and I took some time just to stand and watch the multitude do what any homegoing crowd does, chat and gossip, shout and argue, all while pouring down into the Metro.

Days earlier I had managed to become lost on the Moscow Metro and I repeated the feat with flying colours on this one, plunging a vast distance underground to try and find an approximate service that would deposit me nearish to my hotel.

People kindly helped out in pointing me the right way and after a couple of abortive forrays on the wrong line, I eventually reached my billet to be greeted by the phrase when ordering some food: "Unfortunately we don't have any fried cabbage."

Well, just the once, just the once mind, I felt I could live without the fried cabbage and opted for the rations left on the menu.

Sectors: Emerging markets

Companies: Mercedes, Renault

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