$1m mobile and other gifts for oligarch in your life

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The Independent Online

Tired of running out of credit on pay as you go? One Russian mobile phone operator has the answer a number that will give you unlimited calls, anywhere in the world, forever. The only drawback is the price tag $1m (490,000). Once you've got the Sim card sorted, you'll need the phone to match gold-plated and diamond-encrusted, for a mere $1.2m.

These and a host of other items aimed at those with a few million roubles to spare were on sale at the third annual Millionaire Fair, held in Moscow this week. Private jets for those short hops to London, Swarovski crystal-encrusted Mercedes, mini helicopters and vodka infused with gold leaf were among the offerings at the exhibition held in two hangars on the outskirts of Moscow.

At the entrance, scantily clad models frolicked amid mountains of fake million-dollar bills, no doubt matched by the real wealth of the fair's visitors. With more than 50 dollar billionaires and around 100,000 millionaires, the Russians seem destined to keep their image as some of the world's biggest and most frivolous spenders.

Another event this week brought hundreds of the world's biggest names in high fashion and luxury goods to the Russian capital for a conference on luxury. Guests included the designers Tom Ford and Donatella Versace, and as the stiffly suited Belgian diamond merchants and outr young designers mingled at a catwalk display of designer fur items, all were in agreement that Russia was a gold mine for those in the business of peddling expensive wares. "This will be a huge market for us," said one American delegate working for a business offering timeshares in renovated European castles.

The venue for the conference was highly appropriate. Moscow's newest luxury hotel, the Ritz Carlton, is one of the most expensive in the world, with the most simple room costing around 550 per night.

More than one European conference delegate mentioned that the decor seemed more tacky than luxurious, with gilt columns and gaudy chandeliers galore. But a Russian woman, having tea in the foyer, said it was "beautiful and exotic", commenting that "they even have real Africans manning the lifts".

Delegates could enjoy drinks overlooking Red Square and the Kremlin from the hotel's rooftop terrace, with a cocktail featuring vodka and a lobster claw going for about 50, or shots of pure oxygen a snip at 30.

Of course, for the majority of Russians, life is more borscht than bling, and with the average salary in Russia around the 250 mark, even an afternoon snack at the Ritz Carlton would be a major outlay, while acquiring the immortal Sim card and diamond mobile phone would cost more than 300 years' of wages.

But Yves Gijrath, the Dutch entrepreneur behind the Millionaire Fair, was philosophical about the cavernous wealth gap. "There will always be differences in wages," he said to Russian television. "That's why we're sitting here today and not in a communist system."

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