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.

Egypt's Army Chief and Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, right, walks with Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu

Red carpet for Russians fuels speculation over Egypt's US alliance

Some analysts interpret Moscow delegation's trip as a shot across Washington's bows

Women's football: Birmingham Ladies make debut on St Andrew's turf

Birmingham City Ladies will make history this evening when they appear at St Andrew's for the first time for the second leg of their Women's Champions League last-16 tie.

Rachael Neustadt with her children, from left, Meir, Jonathan and Daniel

Mother Rachael Neustadt’s fight to return sons from Russia blocked by Moscow court

A former teacher whose Russian ex-husband refused to return their two sons after they went for a visit to Russia has suffered a setback in her landmark legal fight to win them back.

Alvaro Negredo tucks home City’s third

Manchester City 5 CSKA Moscow 2 match report: Alvaro Negredo hat-trick and Sergio Aguero double sends City through and Russian fans packing

Ever since Malcolm Allison declared that his club would now hurl themselves on “the cowards of Europe” and promptly got himself knocked out in the first round by Fenerbahce, the European Cup has cast its shadow over Manchester City.

Putin is a 'proud buff dude' and Russia should not be vilified for anti-gay laws ahead of Sochi Olympic Games, says US swimmer

Richard Alther appeals to Russia President to treat gay athletes with compassion and respect

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s father arrives in Moscow

Lon Snowden expresses gratitude to Russia and Putin for providing safe haven to the NSA whistleblower

Book review: One Night in Winter, By Simon Sebag Montefiore

Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, the author of two books on Stalinist Russia, has also turned his hand to fiction. Inspired by "several true stories", this latest novel revisits Moscow during the last years of Stalin, the Red Tsar – an era characterised by paranoia and high-level betrayals. As the book's epilogue reminds us, "the familiar dilemmas of family life, the prizes and perils of children, adultery and career, have higher stakes than if the story was set in Hampstead."

'I must go': Elton John is due to perform in Moscow and Kazan
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is protesting against “slave labour”

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova goes on hunger strike in jail

A jailed member of the punk band Pussy Riot has launched a hunger strike to protest against living conditions in prison which she says “treat women like cattle”.

Armed Russian security officers storm Greenpeace ship and hold 30 activists at gunpoint, environmental group says

Activists have issued a plea to Vladimir Putin to order the Coast Guard - a branch of Russia's Federal Security Service - to 'holster their guns'

Farah is the current Olympic and world champion in the 5,000m and 10,000m

Mo Farah thinks about going for golden treble in Rio

Mo Farah could conceivably target a golden treble at the next Olympics, according to the great Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie.

A psychiatric hospital was destroyed by fire in the Novgorod region town of Luka.

Thirty-seven die as 19th Century wooden psychiatric hospital in Russia burns down

Fire is thought to have been caused by a patient either smoking or setting himself alight

Alexei Navalny speaks to the press outside his headquarters in Moscow, Russia

Moscow mayor election: Defeat for Vladimir Putin’s biggest rival Alexei Navalny may yet be a pivotal moment

Anti-corruption candidate sought votes by attacking Russia’s president

Opposition candidate in Moscow mayoral election, Alexei Navalny

Moscow mayor election: Alexei Navalny demands new vote after losing to Vladimir Putin's key ally Sergei Sobyanin

Allegations of 'clear falsifications'  by the Putin-backed incumbent lead to calls for a run-off vote and threats of public protest

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links