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.

Putin says pants to painting: Artist flees Russia as portrait of President in women's underwear confiscated from art gallery

A picture of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in women's underwear has been confiscated from an art gallery in St Petersburg ahead of the G20 summit.

Edward Snowden (AFP/Getty)

Edward Snowden 'contacted' Russians two days before arrival in Moscow

Russian newspaper reports Snowden discussed his flight plans with consulate in Hong Kong prior to departure, despite Putin claims his arrival was 'complete surprise'

Prison Break actor and Stoker screenwriter Wentworth Miller has attacked Russia over its new anti-gay laws

'As a gay man, I must decline' - Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller refuses invitation to Russia over their anti-gay laws

Prison Break star Wentworth Miller has published a strongly worded letter declining an invitation to attend a Russian film festival in light of the country’s new anti-gay laws.

Do the kindly Brontosaurus: The prehistoric pose that can get you what you want

Writer Jessica Winter has set the internet abuzz with her suggestion that a prehistoric pose is the ultimate persuasive power. Here, she explains her case – while body language expert Dr Lillian Glass reveals that the humility of the pose makes people receptive

Vitaly Milonov was speaking after Mr Fry called for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics because of homophobic prejudice in Russia

Russian politician Vitaly Milonov brands Stephen Fry ‘sick’ during anti-gay rant

Vitaly Milonov also likened homosexuality to bestiality on BBC Radio 5 live

La Bayadère, Corps de Ballet

Dance review: La Bayadère - The Bolshoi's Olga Smirnova is precise and otherworldly

The Bolshoi Ballet’s Olga Smirnova dances with a moonlit glow. In the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene of La Bayadère, she gives the ghostly heroine a hypnotic beauty. Her bursts of dazzling speed don’t break the smooth flow of her dancing: she’s both precise and otherworldly.

US senator calls Russian president Vladimir Putin a 'schoolyard bully' for refusing to hand over NSA leaker Edward Snowden

A US senator has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of behaving like a "schoolyard bully" over his decision to ignore extradition requests from the US government over NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Twin city calls for gay rights: Manchester uses links with St Petersburg to put pressure on Russia over its new anti-gay laws

Manchester City Council is using its “twinned” status with St Petersburg to pressure Russia  into reconsidering its new anti-gay laws.

Putin’s libertarian benevolence in this case has turned a chilly relationship with US ice-cold

Russia’s granting of asylum to Edward Snowden may have ended nearly six weeks in airport limbo for the man who leaked some of America’s most sensitive intelligence gathering programmes. But it has further poisoned the already severely strained relations between Moscow and Washington.

'Gay propaganda' becomes illegal in Russia

“Gay propaganda” is now illegal in Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial bill into law today.

Russian police arrest gay rights activists at St. Petersburg rally

Russian police have arrested several gay rights activists and anti-gay rights demonstrators who confronted them at a rally in St. Petersburg.

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin come to blows over disputed artworks

Premiers cancel joint opening of exhibition displaying 600 pieces of looted German Bronze Age art

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied accusations that he has stolen a $25,000 (£16,000) diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring

Russian President Vladimir Putin denies stealing £16,000 diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring

Ring was one of many given to the New England Patriots team after they won Super Bowl in February 2005

Crash course: The G8 summit

This year’s meeting of the Group of Eight – or the G8 – begins in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on Monday. The summit draws the world’s most powerful leaders – as well as protests and disruption.

Gerrit van Honthorst masterpiece seized by Nazis sells for record $3.4m

A 17th century Dutch masterpiece that graced the collections of Catherine the Great's art adviser and Russia's Hermitage Museum before being seized by the Nazis sold for nearly $3.4 million (£2.18 million) at auction, a record for the artist Gerrit van Honthorst.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas