Travel Passengers dine in the restaurant car of the Red Arrow to St Petersburg

For 150 years the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg ran as straight as an arrow for 403 miles. Straight, but for one big bend near Novgorod. The story goes that Tsar Nicholas was so fed up of officials dithering over the route that he plonked a ruler on the map and drew a straight line between the two cities, accidentally drawing around his finger in the process. Too terrified to point out his error, the builders constructed the railway with the Tsar's bump in place.

Edward Snowden said that he will not be able to return to the US while 'there's no chance to have a fair trial'

Edward Snowden US return: Government hints at possible plea bargain to see fugitive NSA contractor come back from Russia

But the whistleblower says he cannot go home when there’s ‘no chance to have a fair trial’

People look at an 'Upside Down House' attraction displayed at the VVTs the All-Russia Exhibition Center in Moscow

'Upside Down House'

Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after not being given access to medical treatment

Sergei Magnitsky - the final insult: Russia continues to 'desecrate the memory' of the whistleblower lawyer

First he was imprisoned. There he died after being denied medical treatment. Then he was put on posthumous trial. Now the Russian lawyer who dared to expose a £140m fraud is accused of perpetrating the crime himself

Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin visited Sochi earlier this year

Putin’s charm offensive is about more than just the Sochi Winter Olympics

Russia wants and needs help with major modernisation, not just in the energy sector, but with all kinds of capital projects

Maria Alyokhina, the Pussy Riot member who was released under an amnesty today, speaks on the phone to denounce her newfound freedom as a 'PR stunt'

Two jailed members of Pussy Riot Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova released from prison following Russian government amnesty

Alyokhina said the amnesty was a ‘PR stunt’ and she would have stayed in prison if she could

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual press conference in Moscow on 19 December 2013

President Putin backs NSA surveillance as 'necessary' to fight terrorism

But government needs to 'limit appetite' of agency with clear ground rules

Ukrainian protesters shout slogans during a mass opposition rally in Independence Square in Kiev

Russia bails out Ukraine for $15bn – but deal triggers street protests in Kiev

The two countries’ leaders reached agreement at talks in the Kremlin that appeared to begin frostily but ended with them laughing at a ceremony where documents were signed on reducing trade barriers

An estimated 200,000 anti-government demonstrators converge on Independence Square in central Kiev

EU halts Ukraine talks over ‘unrealistic’ demands

Arguments and demands of president and his government “have no grounds in reality”

Red Fortress, By Catherine Merridale: Book review

The corridors of Russian power are studied through the history of the Kremlin

Lloyd Cowan (right) speaks with Toni Minichiello, coach of Jessica Ennis-Hill

Ashling O'Connor: Behind every great athlete is a great coach, but these unsung heroes seldom get the recognition – or the cash support – they deserve

Volunteer coaches provide time worth £7.9bn a year, based on the minimum wage

Keeping the Litvinenko papers secret will smooth the path of one possible Putin successor

Putin's chief of staff Sergei Ivanov was well known to the murdered double-agent

Review: Tatiana, By Martin Cruz Smith

Having survived the KGB and a bullet to the head, detective Renko is going strong

A migrant worke's family at their home in the Tajik capital Dushanbe

Wives appeal to Tajikistan authorities and Moscow to send their rogue husbands home

Wayward migrant workers abandon desperate families in former republics

Donna Bull, 53, was among the 50 people who died when a Boeing 737 crash landed in Russia. She was in the country on a 10 day work trip

Russian plane crash: Briton among 50 killed as Boeing 737 bursts into flames on landing

The Tatarstan Airlines plane was making a second attempt to land when it exploded, killing 50, including British woman Donna Bull

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay

En route to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the torch relay through Russia passed members of the Nivkh ethnic group.

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
3.	Provence 6 nights B&B by train from £599pp
Prices correct as of 20 February 2015
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
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Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable