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

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

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

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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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 15 May 2015
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future