Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

In the Old Days Flying Was Just One Big Party

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

In the Old Days Flying Was Just One Big Party

Article excerpt

Byline: Evgeny Lebedev

PACKING my bags again. This time it's an early flight to Moscow where, as you might have heard, my father is having "a little local difficulty" as my British friends would say. Flying to Russia these days is a far cry from the party planes of old. In Soviet times the flights were a riot. Travel, especially foreign travel, was such a rarity that people would just go crazy. The alcohol would be flowing, everyone would get totally smashed, and the stewardesses were gorgeous. Working for an airline was the only way most women could get to go abroad so Aeroflot was swamped with applications and took its pick of the prettiest. The combination of booze, beautiful women and powerful men (away from their wives) made for some pretty crazy parties. It's all a lot tamer now, of course, but there's still an echo down the years: the cabin crew even to this day have to repeatedly announce that passengers must stop drinking the cheap airport booze they've brought on board. Russians will always love their liquor... SHAMEFUL INJUSTICE IT'S BEEN truly moving how many supportive messages I've had for my Dad as he fights these charges over what's fast becoming the most famous televised punch since John Prescott's. I don't condone what my father did for a second. But the charge should fit the crime: to claim this was hooliganism due to a political disagreement -- maximum sentence seven years -- is just ludicrous. I've written and talked a lot lately about the monstrous treatment of Pussy Riot in the Russian courts, and now the selfsame charge is placed on my dad! The legal system in Russia is a bad, bad joke. Of course, the family are all worried Dad will be sent to jail, but he refuses to flee. He prefers to stay in Moscow and make his case: that he is being victimised for the anticorruption exposees of his newspaper Novaya Gazeta. He's upset many powerful people and they are exacting their revenge.

BACK TO SCHOOL SOME 24 hours after that miserable moment when my dad was charged, I was giving a speech about the importance of media freedom to the sixth formers at the City of London School. I'd been invited by my old politics master who now works there.

It was great to meet him again, especially as he remembered to wear the tie I gave him when I was doing my A-levels (I guess it was a bribe in the hope of getting a better grade). The students he's teaching now are so bright, they served as a perfect tonic. One asked how I felt about British dislike for the Russian oligarchs over here. Great question: for the most part, I can't stand them either. They give Russia a bad name, with their yachts, vulgar behaviour and trashy lifestyles. I urged the kids to seek in Russia its great culture and beauty: its literature, music and art, which all get forgotten behind the image of these oligarchs. …

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