Accessibility links

Breaking News


If the reports are true, Russian Interior Ministry employees might have to travel to old Soviet-era resorts, such as the Cheleken Peninsula in Turkmenistan, rather than flocking to the beaches of Egypt. (file photo)

Russian police officers who'd dreamed of vacationing in the West or hitting the beaches of Turkey and Egypt in 2018 may have to wait another year.

But they still have Turkmenistan.

A Russian tourism association has published what it says is a list of approved vacation destinations for Interior Ministry employees, a move that comes amid broad restrictions on foreign travel for Russian security officers since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in early 2014.

The Interior Ministry has yet to comment on the list published by the Association of Russian Tour Operators (ATOR) that was originally released just before the new year but only grabbed headlines in Russia on January 12.

But the 13 destinations on the list are consistent with images of a purported decree on the matter signed by Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev in late December that have been circulating on Russian social-media sites in recent weeks. The authenticity of these images could not be immediately confirmed.

The ministry and other Russian security agencies in recent years have reportedly issued similar lists for their respective employees since Russia's takeover of Crimea in March 2014, which was followed by the outbreak of a war between Kyiv's forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The United States and the European Union remain off limits for Russian Interior Ministry employees in 2018, according to the list published by ATOR. But it says eight former Soviet republics -- Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- are fair game.

'Safe' Destinations

More Westward-looking former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia are excluded, as is Moldova, which has a pro-Western government, but a president who seeks closer ties with Moscow. The list also includes the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are recognized only by Russia and a handful of other states.

Outside the former Soviet Union, Interior Ministry employees are only allowed to travel to Vietnam, Cuba, and China, according to the ATOR report.

Other popular destinations for Russian tourists like Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Thailand reportedly didn't make the cut, though they had been approved in 2015-16, the Russian news agency RBC noted.

According to images of Kolokoltsev's purported directive posted on social media, the list of 13 approved destinations are considered safe in terms of military, politics, crime, ecology, climate, and health.

One commenter on a police-themed social-media profile posted a purported image of an analogous directive from the federal National Guard showing the same approved destinations as the reported Interior Ministry list, but adds the Maldives as well.

The authenticity of that document also could not be immediately confirmed.

RBC reported on January 12 that Palestinian areas were approved as a travel destination for Russian Interior Ministry employees last year, but that they were excluded from this year's list.

In a Facebook post, the Adzhigardak resort said the statue was a “sign of gratitude for [Putin's] contribution to popularizing ski sports and a healthy lifestyle."

MOSCOW -- Vladimir Putin is not only very much alive, he is also likely to remain Russia’s president until at least 2024 if, as is widely expected, he wins reelection next year to a fourth term.

But that hasn’t stopped the occasional statue popping up to immortalize the 65-year-old Russian leader and ex-KGB officer.

The latest likeness appeared this week in the form of a bronze, 180-centimeter-tall Putin holding skis at a winter resort in the Urals region of Chelyabinsk.

The statue appeared on November 9 as Putin traveled to the region to attend a Russian-Kazakh cooperation forum where he met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

The Adzhigardak resort where the statue was raised posted photographs of it on Facebook, adding that the official unveiling ceremony will be held on November 25.

The Kremlin has carefully cultivated an image of Putin as an athletic tough guy, with photo ops famously showing the president throwing opponents in the judo ring, tranquilizing a charging tiger, posing shirtless outdoors, and swimming the butterfly stroke in a mountain river, among other things. Beefcakey Putin T-shirts and calendars are sold across the country.

However, the sculpture of Putin appeared to be a local initiative -- and a possible attempt to curry favor with the Kremlin. In the Facebook post, the resort said the statue was a “sign of gratitude for [Putin's] contribution to popularizing ski sports and a healthy lifestyle."

The sculptor was identified as Dmitry Kostylev from Chelyabinsk, who spoke to the Argumenty i Fakty newspaper: “The proposal to make a sculpture of the leader of the country was unexpected," Kostylev said. "It is a real responsibility to depict historic figures. The schedule for the work was tight. There was only 1 1/2 months.”

The statue appeared to get a mixed reception online. While many shared the news on Russia's VK social network, with apparent Putin fan groups writing "respect," one user drolly wrote: "Did Putin die?"

The sculpture is not the first of Vladimir Putin.

In December 2011, Zurab Tsereteli, a sculptor close to former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and whose works dot the Russian capital, unveiled a sculpture of Putin in a judo kimono with his arms akimbo.

In 2015, a group of Cossacks unveiled a bust of Putin depicting him as a Roman emperor. The bust was located about 20 kilometers from St. Petersburg on territory belonging to the Cossacks.

Load more

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

Latest Posts