Chapter 1 – Moscow in Winter

Kirill Volkov, Moscow in December

A typical weather report for an average December day in Moscow would indicate that it is the 6th driest month of the year with around 2.13in – 54mm of rain making it a reasonably dry time to visit. This rainfall is typically spread over 22 days, although this could vary considerably. On the negative side this corresponds to an average of 0.8 hours of sunshine per day.

Not too far off the mark as forecasts go, but on a much more miserable note Moscow had not had one single hour of sunshine so far in December and it was nearly Christmas. The bleak darkness of the clouds and the damp breeze added to the gloom to make Moscow a very dour and depressing place to be. Weather analysts were already predicting that this December would be the darkest on record as if it could be any darker than the previous depressing years.

The daily news reports constantly re-affirmed the governments approach to reduce alcohol consumption by advising Muscovites continually not to drink spirits because drunkenness causes great heat loss and to wear loose clothing to keep blood circulation normal. The thick fur coat could not keep out the biting soul destroying coldness of the Russian winter and a shot of vodka would be a two fingered salute to all the government propaganda. His mind was wandering, and today that was dangerous but that did not deter his thoughts which were hundreds of miles away to the north.

Kirill was thinking of his favourite rooftop bars in St. Petersburg which had color, warmth and style. Although he had very few friends and associates he enjoyed his own company. He could blend into any atmosphere, be almost invisible and listen to the accents of the locals and tourists. More than anything he enjoyed the views and the feeling of being very much alive which he never felt when visiting Moscow, maybe because those visits always meant business and problems!

His favorite places to relax and rejuvenate himself in St. Petersburg included the Makaronniki, the Parusa and the Dom7 Jazz Bar.

Kirill Volkov: “The Wolf”

  • Nationality: Russian
  • Age: 44 (difficult to substantiate, as documents were not available from the orphanage)
  • Occupation: Research Consultant
  • Birthplace: Nizhny Novgorod which is located about 250mi or 400kms east of Moscow
  • City of Residence: St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Height: 6ft or 1.83m
  • Weight: 150lbs or 68kgs
  • Build: Slim, which makes him appear taller
  • Sexuality: Straight (records indicate no diversities)
  • Hair: Short, dark and not receding
  • Facial Hair: Dark short stubble which requires regular grooming
  • Eyes: Amber (Similar to a Siberian Wolf)
  • Appearance: Good looking, no visible scars and no known tattoos
  • Attire: Always dark suits, white or yellow shirts with double cuffs and no ties
  • Languages: Russian, English and German
  • Interests: Hunting, Shooting, Blues, Jazz and Murder Mysteries

Hotel Rooftop:

Kirill was standing on the rooftop of the hotel (525ft – 160m) above the Moscow streets of the Zamoskvorechye (Business) District. He was alone and was not at all surprised by that fact as he walked slowly around while enjoying another of his more personal vices, a cigarette, but not just any cigarette according to the marketing team of the Gallaher Group a British Tobacco Company. It was a Sobranie Black Russian, designed they said for the intellectual gentleman and they claimed that having tasted it once you will never replace the premium tobacco and enchanting taste of Sobranie with any other brand. That last part was true he had smoked them for over 20 years.

Looking Eastwards:

Kirill was looking to the east and just below was the frozen Moskva River which flows roughly east through the Smolensk and Moscow Oblasts, passing through central Moscow. About 70mi or 110 kms south east of Moscow, at the city of Kolomna, it flows into the Oka River, itself a tributary of the Volga, which ultimately flows into the Caspian Sea.

He put the cigarette to his lips and slowly edged around the rooftop in an anti-clockwise direction and faced north eastwards towards Sokolniki Park away in the distance near Sokolnicheskaya Gate. The park had acquired the name from the Sokolnichya Quarter, the 17th century home of the sovereign’s falconers (sokol is the Russian word for falcon). It was created by Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (father of Peter the Great), a keen hunter who loved to go falconing in the area.

Today Sokolniki is a typical Russian park, with an ageing funfair and other amusements for children, and numerous fast food stalls all clustered near the main entrance. It is more than three times bigger than Gorky Park and considered to be a more wild and free space. Towards the middle of the park is the Kafe-shashlychnaya Pod Kedrom where he would get dark rich coffee to go and hot chicken wrapped in freshly baked local brown bread, he never bought the beef because he knew where that came from. He would then enjoy both whilst walking through the centre of the park which is a wilderness home to pines, spruces, birches, oaks, limes and maples. All the trees were native to the Moscow region, as well as a number of non-indigenous trees, such as larches, cedars, walnut and red oaks. The park’s wildlife includes hares, squirrels and weasels, as well as an extensive selection of birds. He always felt at home there no matter what the weather conditions were like and tried to visit the park on every trip to Moscow. This time there would be no possibility due to the heavy schedule and extensive security arrangements that had to be monitored and recorded.

Anti-clockwise looking Northwards:

A few more steps and he was looking northwards beneath the heavy blanket of black clouds towards the Baltschug Kempinski Hotel which has some of the best views possible of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral, which it faces across the Moscow River. The Swiss managed Baltschug Kempinski has one of Moscow’s best Japanese restaurants which he had visited on several occasions and enjoyed every one of them and always wondered where and how they were supplied the extensive fish selection which was not available on the open market to the average Moscovite.

Three kilometres to the north he could make out the spires of the Moscow Kremlin, usually referred to as the Kremlin, which is a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west.

Further North, in the far distance the lights on the Ostankino Tower rose into the darkness of the clouds and he thought of the superb revolving restaurant which he had enjoyed immensely with Katya and Natalya.

A few more paces and the cigarette burnt his fingers and he dropped it to the floor before crunching it underfoot as the cold began to attack his toes and there was still time to observe the surroundings in the quiet loneliness of the rooftop.

Anti-clockwise looking Westwards:

His eyes moved westwards towards the area of the Armoury Museum which he had visited as a young boy on the only excursion he could remember, but he preferred not to remember the atrocities he had endured during those early years.

Further west was the State Tretyakov Gallery and into the distance the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and beyond the clouds over the Arbat District.

Another shuffled step and then the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, he was not a religious man and had no time for the buildings nor the pious people inside them.

Another step and he was in line with the Multimedia Art Museum, he should have made time to visit the museum especially as his specialism was in technology research and viability.

The chill was beginning to devour his whole body and he could see not too far away in the Khamovniki District the observation deck which was on the 87th floor of the OKO Tower in downtown of Moscow City.

Anti-clockwise looking Southwards:

A few more shuffled steps and he could see the Moscow International House of Music Concert Center, a beautiful building with superb acoustics, a truly world class venue. He had missed the opportunity to see any concerts due to his heavy workload and commitments which always impacted heavily on his own personal life.

The door to the rooftop terrace opened and a waiter stepped forward and asked where Kirill would like his drinks. He motioned with his right hand to the empty table a few feet away, the waiter quickly set the drinks down and returned rapidly to the warmth of the interior.

The piping hot black triple espresso hit the back of his throat and bought him back to the reality of the moment, he needed another cigarette and lit one quickly as his thoughts began to focus on the meeting ahead. He had not chosen the location and had been given instructions on the contents of the conference if that was the right terminology for the meeting in which he was to be both the chairperson and the only speaker. Two more mouthfuls of the dark rich coffee, a few more deep breaths of heavy smoke and a gulp of ice-cold water and he was ready to face the day ahead. Kirill smiled and laughed to himself, a rare thing for a Russian, however he was a rich Russian and maybe sometime in the not too distant future he would be a “Happy Russian”, something the rest of the world thought would take a miracle of epic proportions. He clapped his hands and moved towards the warmth behind the glass windows.

The meeting would be conducted in the hotel, one of the tallest buildings in Moscow, centrally located in the city’s upscale area and a short distance from the Kremlin and Red Square. An award-winning hotel presenting the city’s finest setting for business and leisure.

The delegates would be arriving at Domodedovo international airport where they would be given the highest level of VIP treatment possible and none of the official formalities that would greet other international passengers.

The delegates would arrive by jet from Zurich which had been given the appropriate level of clearance to ensure the fastest and most secure entry and exit through Russian airspace and then to the exclusive VIP areas that had been allocated at the airport. Under the terms of the conference agreements each delegate was assigned three places for support staff and associates. This was to ensure the highest levels of security and protection from the prying eyes and ears of international agencies and other interested parties.

The time from landing to being seated in the latest VIP transit vehicles should be 10 minutes at the most. These were unusual delegates and the highest level of support had been assigned by all the applicable agencies and networks. This was almost unprecendented, but these were very unusual circumstances and the conference demanded the highest level of cross-party co-operation or heads would roll and that was enough to ensure the success of the conference.

To say that many people were giving this their highest priority was a true understatement!

The journey to central Moscow would take approximately an hour with a team of close protection experts and full police co-operation.

Each delegate would be given a briefcase with material that would be relevant to their wellbeing during the short but intense conference.

Included in that briefcase was an appendix on smiling in Russia and included some of the following text.

The Russian Smile:

In the Russian communicative consciousness, there is a rule that the smile must be a genuine reflection of a good mood and a good relationship.

There are many types of Russian smiles and non-smiles. This is a brief list and full descriptions have been provided to each attendee of the conference.

  • The closed-mouth smile
  • The “servant’s smile”
  • The non-smile
  • The responsive smile
  • The smile as a symbol of affection
  • The official’s non-smile
  • The genuine smile
  • The smile with no reason
  • The appropriate smile
  • The laugh as a smile

Kirill entered the lift and descended to the meeting rooms on the first floor with a feeling of apprehension and dread as he went over the details of his speech and how it would be received by the delegates. He knew the delegates inside out and was confident that the research and planning could not have been better prepared. He also had to be prepared for the unforeseen and this time he was starting to have some minor but nagging doubts, and that had not occurred in the past. Yes, the adrenalin was beginning to pump through his body and he knew that the self-preservation buttons had been well and truly activated. He began to remind himself of the delegates and he needed a proper drink but knew that would be a mistake because the situation demanded total focus and his future wellbeing could not afford mistakes.

The delegates, or as Kirill thought of them as “The Seven Deadly Sins” were not people who had brought happiness into the world and for the sake of his own survival and longevity in this world he had to be on his guard for the duration of the conference. Some periods in your life are literally life or death moments and the conference would be a long series of moments!