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.

Wladimir Putin won Russia's presidential election and addresses supporters in Kremlin, Moscow

Putin wins 'tainted' election

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rolled to victory in Russia's presidential election today, according to exit polls cited by state television, but the vote was tainted by claims of violations, including "carousel voting" in which voters were bused around to cast several ballots.

A Russian removes a Putin election poster from an apartment block in Moscow yesterday

Crack down on opposition? I'll do nothing of the sort, vows Putin

As Russia votes, with one clear leader, Shaun Walker reports from Moscow on the would-be President's plans

Leading article: Russia's new reality calls for a new-style president

The first requirement is that these elections be free and fair, but it’s hard to be optimistic on this score
Pavel Pogrebnyak, pictured scoring for Fulham at QPR, has made a bright start in the Premier League

Can Pogrebnyak be a Russian revelation after a string of flops?

The Weekend Dossier: Arshavin has familiar company as Russia’s Premier League restarts – Roman Pavlyuchenko will be playing for Lokomotiv Moscow

Russian exiles 'behind killing of journalist'

A former policeman arrested over the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has claimed that London-based anti-Kremlin exiles were behind her murder, according to a Russian newspaper report yesterday.

Six killed in Russia apartments gas blast

At least six people were killed and 12 others injured when part of a nine-storey apartment building in southern Russia collapsed following a natural gas explosion, officials said today.

Channel One footage shows Adam Osmayevunder the escort of masked agents following their raid in Odessa

Critics say report of election-day plot to kill Putin is a PR stunt

Russian and Ukrainian authorities yesterday said they had uncovered a terrorist plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin, an announcement that raised eyebrows owing to its disclosure only days before the presidential elections.

Channel One footage shows Adam Osmayevunder the escort of masked agents following their raid in Odessa

Opposition MPs smell a rat over election-day plot to kill Putin

Chechen man arrested before telling state TV his 'goal' was to murder Russia's Prime Minister

Putin warns America not to act on 'bellicose itch' over Syria

Vladimir Putin lashed out at American interference on the world stage yesterday, ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

Samba is Blackburn's most valuable player

Chris Samba exit good for Blackburn says Steve Kean

Christopher Samba's departure will help Blackburn's squad pull together in their fight against relegation from the Barclays Premier League, according to manager Steve Kean.

Plot to assassinate Putin foiled claims Russian television

Russian and Ukrainian security groups have foiled a plan to assassinate Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after Russia's March 4 presidential election, Russia's pro-government Channel One television said on Monday.

Opinion polls predict that Vladimir Putin will win the election easily

Politicians stage hunger strike for right to stand in Russian election

Protest in provincial town highlights growing sense of frustration with corrupt officials. Shaun Walker reports from Lermontov

BAT is still boosting its payout despite a decline in smoking

The cigarettes giant British American Tobacco still managed to fire up its rewards to shareholders despite a continued decline in smoking in western Europe and the United States.

Valter Litvinenko said his son Alexander, top, was a British spy

Litvinenko's father brands him a traitor and begs for forgiveness

Tearful parent of former KGB agent who was poisoned in London pleads for end to his exile

The Ladykillers, Gielgud, London

Critical mass: The Independent's cultural picks of the year

We've seen 12 months of famous returns, fabulous new works, and once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions. Relive the best here...

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Lake Garda, Venice & Verona from £629pp
Dubrovnik
Vietnam
Bruges
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 12 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