Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt

FIDUCIARY SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY

Thursday We are an hour into the flight home to London, and I am writing this from the relative discomfort of the first-class compartment in a British Airways plane. All around me are either relieved Britons, glad to be safely en route for the certainties of home, or strange, rich Russians. And who knows what they are on their way to do?

Thinking about it, those Romanian beggars who have so exercised the Witchfinder General's department are the least of our problems. Almost by definition, a rich Russian -- of whom plenty are on this flight, heading for mansions in Maidenhead and Highgate -- is into something dodgy. It's just that he or she steals millions quietly, while these awkward beggars make pennies all too publicly.

In addition to this thought, I find myself with several other important and weighty matters to muse over. Like, did I make a fool of myself in front of the fabulous Petronella after the state banquet? I have no head whatsoever for alcohol, and they would keep making me drink those toasts in vodka (starting with "Our Wives!" and going on to "Beautiful Women!", I bowed out when it began to get anatomical), and Petronella poured me into a car and brought me back to the Mezhdunarodnaya. Where I may or may not have proposed congress to the lovely economics attache. She said nothing about it the next day -- so here's hoping.

Then there is the case of Arkady Serafimovich Merkin, the head of Doshformin, the section of Gosprom (the economics ministry) that relates most closely to my duties in the fiduciary field. Arkady, a handsome man in his early fifties, with manicured nails and a Yamamoto suit, was my guide to Russian politics in the Putin era. Here are my notes:

"Is not like your party system," Arkady tells me over the caviar (by which time he is smiling too broadly). "If party name is 'Democratic', it means is run by fascist demagogue. …

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