KGB

By David Gallerano
♦ “Why would Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who gasses his people to break a stalemate in a war he and his clan regard as existential and almost certainly cannot win, voluntarily surrender an arsenal he has been holding largely in reserve?” This and other questions in today David Gardner’s analysis of the situation in Syria.
♦ In a New York Times’ op-ed Vladimir Putin directly addresses the American people and their political leaders on Syria: “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States”.
♦ Russian expert Michael Metzger illustrates how Putin’s move to avert the US intervention in Syria was inspired by secret KGB chess tactics.
♦ Life in Egypt has “shrunk politically, geographically and socially, with the vast majority of the public high on fascistic nationalism”. Sarah Carr explores the effects of the clampdown on the daily life of the Egyptian peopleRead more

Esther Bintliff

Two weeks ago a masked assailant threw acid in the face of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin. The attack has cast a shadow over the reputation of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet troupes, as Courtney Weaver explains in her fascinating report on the tensions and rivalries that have emerged at the Moscow ballet in recent months.

What’s it like to dance at the Bolshoi? Here are four videos, and four dancers (well, three dancers and one choreographer, to be precise) who made their mark there over the years. For the sake of brevity, we limited ourselves to four, so they can only gesture at the Bolshoi’s long and varied history; please share your thoughts – and recommendations – in the comments.

1) Galina Sergeyevna Ulánova In this video from the Bolshoi’s official youtube channel, you can watch one of its most famous ballerinas – and one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed – fluttering across the stage, pressing down her net skirts, and talking about her favourite role (Giselle). Joseph Stalin himself is said to have ordered the transfer of Ulánova to the Bolshoi from its rival, the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad, in 1944 (“Although Leningrad was where the revolution started, Stalin never cared for it. He saw it as a rebellious city,The Economist notes in its obituary of Ulánova). Read more

Gideon Rachman

It was always my impression that spies generally try to keep out of the papers, and out of the law courts. Judged by those standards, MI6 is not doing a very good job – and neither is the CIA. Read more

James Blitz

James Blitz on why Vladimir Putin’s visit to London on Thursday is probably the most remarkable diplomatic moment of this Olympic fortnight.  Read more

John Paul Rathbone

The days when a foreign correspondent occasionally felt like George Smiley died with the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in South America, if you squint, those old John Le Carré days of Russian espionage can sometimes seem as though they are back  – at least if the Gazprom representative that I met recently in Bolivia is anything to go by. With his watery smile, impeccable manners and icy handshake, he seemed to have stepped out of KGB central casting. Read more