MOSCOW – Who were the unpatriotic Russian bureaucrats who dared spend the New Year's holidays away from the motherland? And who were the stalwarts of Russian statehood who spent their holidays on Russian soil?
The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia on January 14 attempted to get to the bottom of this thorny issue in an article that seemed to yearn for Russian isolationism.
The article by journalists Natalya Bashlikova and Anastasia Kashevarova, titled Bureaucrats Abandoned The Motherland For The New Year Holidays, praised those officials who stayed home for the winter break.
"The majority of governors, parliamentarians, and federal bureaucrats spent the holidays in Russia, taking heed of the unofficial directive of the federal center to abstain from travel abroad during a period of economic difficulties and international sanctions," Bashlikova and Kashevarova wrote.
They lauded those "who spent their New Year's in Russia working," including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Aleksandr Tkachev, governor of Krasnodar Krai.
But the article swiftly moved on to naming and shaming the officials who didn’t.
Pskov Oblast Governor Andrei Turchak, for example, had the gall to visit the resort town of St. Moritz in Switzerland, as did Ildar Gabdrakhmanov, deputy governor of the Moscow Oblast. Rustam Minnikhanov, leader of Russia's Tatarstan Republic, meanwhile, saw in the New Year in the United Arab Emirates. Leonid Markelov, head of the Mari El Republic, had the audacity to take his family to Italy.
The authors also chided Konstantin Dobrynin, a Federation Council member from Arkhangelsk, for posting photographs of himself at a "warm coastal resort."
And Mikhail Prokhorov, founder of the Right Cause party, the article noted, spent the holidays at his chalet in Courchevel in the French Alps.
The article in the staunchly pro-Kremlin daily was oddly similar to opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's habit of exposing Russian officials' luxury real estate holdings in the West.
The Izvestia article also drew attention to Aleksandr Sidyakin, a lawmaker for the United Russia party, who it alleged was on holiday in the Andes in South America.
But news broke later in the day on January 14 that Sidyakin and another United Russia lawmaker, Oleg Savchenko, had traveled to fly the Russian flag from one of the mountain range's treacherous icy peaks.
According to media reports, the two had not been in contact with their base camp for 24 hours, spurring fears that they had run into trouble.
After several hours, however, the pair subsequently turned out to be safe.
Nikolai Bulayev, first deputy head of the United Russia faction, criticized those taking holidays outside Russia.
"I personally don’t remember the last time I was abroad," Bulayev told "Izvestia.
"I spent the New Year's holidays at home in Ryazan Oblast: I met with voters, opened a kindergarten, visited a school, and even went hunting. I just don’t like being abroad."
-- Tom Balmforth