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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Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
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A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
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Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
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Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
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premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
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Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
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Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
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fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
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Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin