Does the Russian president have the right to vacation abroad? What is written in the laws regarding this issue?
What does a head of state usually do during his vacation? How do heads of Russian regional governments and President Dmitry Medvedev’s foreign colleagues spend their vacation? Argumenty i Fakty (AiF) journalists and experts looked into these questions.
Mikhail Krasnov, head of the Constitutional and Municipal Law Department at the State University Higher School of Economics (SU HSE), says that there are no laws or subordinate acts regarding Russian presidents vacationing abroad; the president makes his own foreign travel decisions. He may even go on a vacation. But during his vacation, he remains the head of state with full authority and responsibilities. In this situation, it’s better to spend the vacation at home, especially because experience shows that a vacation usually ends up being spent on business-related events.
Since the beginning of last week, Medvedev has been spending his time in Sochi. It isn’t the first time that he, as a president, is spending his time at the Bocharov Ruchei. Throughout the year, several meetings and sessions have been held here. In fact, Medvedev had a very tight schedule. In August (with his wife Svetlana and son Ilya) he decided to combine his Volga cruise with visiting the Volga regions. The trip was cancelled due to the military actions in South Ossetia.
This year, his family accompanied him once again. The president began combining work with leisure and business with pleasure at a casual meeting with parliamentary party leaders. It was held in one of the Krasnaya Polyana hotels. In the middle of these events, the statesmen, while swinging their feet on the ski resort’s chairlifts, got to the top of one of the trails in order to assess the future of the Olympic slopes. Medvedev said that he had already skied there last winter.
There are also many other pleasing activities to do in Sochi besides preparing one’s skis for the winter. The president used every chance he had to swim in the sea. After his talks with the president of Finland, Tarja Halonen, Medvedev took his guest for a ride on a yacht on the waters off of Sochi. And as for Angela Merkel, who also arrived for talks, he was forced to “return a favor” a nice dinner with dishes from the Caucasian cuisine. During their July meeting in Munich, it should be remembered, Medvedev was treated to Bavarian sausages and beer.
One of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s business meetings, which was also held in Sochi last week, ended with a badminton match at the Bocharov Ruchei. His main supporter ended up being the president’s dog, a Golden Retriever named Aldo. It became known that while in Sochi, the president does not let go of his camera. While returning from “inspections” of Olympics-related construction, he even managed to take some shots from a helicopter window and said that he now had a personal record of how the work is progressing at the Imeretinskaya Valley. In other words, next year there will be a reference point to which he will be able compare.
Prime minister “got hooked” on Tuva
Putin spent both of his August mini-vacations this year (3 days) and last year (1 day) in Tuva. The prime minister’s recreation agenda is suitable only for real men: rafting in a rubber boat on the Khemchik River, fishing and horse riding. This year a photo of Putin circulated in the global press: him swimming butterfly style (the most difficult style) in the fast-moving mountain river. Local residents told AiF that not too many people are capable of such a swim. The water temperature barely exceeds 10 degrees Celsius.
The prime minister’s leisure time also includes a traditional cultural program: sitting by a bonfire and watching Tuva throat singers. This year, the high-ranking guest was once again treated to shows performed by singing groups “Hun-Hurtu” and “Chirgilchin” (by the way, their international tour is planned for several months in advance).
Incidentally, last week the Russian prime minister was in Sochi the dream holiday spot for any Russian vacationer. But as the White House press service explained to AiF, his being at the main holiday resort can hardly be called a vacation. His days were filled with business meetings and travel. However, the Riviera residence has all necessary amenities to relax during the weekend. It may be smaller than Bocharov Ruchei, but it has a pool and a sauna. And the Lada Niva is always nearby, which, the prime minister confessed, he acquired for travel and fishing trips as well.
Extra: A vacation similar to the prime minister’s costs $2,500
The prime minister’s 10-day journey in Tuva (which is not even the wildest area that Putin has chosen for vacation) costs from 35,000 to 50,000 rubles. The tour program includes accommodation in tented camps, rafting and meeting with sheep herders, all of which was included in Putin’s agenda. For this, the price of tickets from Moscow to Kyzyl needs to be added, an additional 25,000 to 30,000 rubles.
The south became a trap for kings and the general secretary
The tradition of vacationing in the south was proposed by Emperor Alexander I. In the fall of 1825, he arrived in Taganrog and died there from typhus. Alexander II began vacationing in Livadia Palace in the Crimea in 1861. His successor, Alexander III, died there of chronic nephritis in 1894, though he preferred to vacation in Finland. There the emperor sailed, fished, made fish broth, was once arrested by the Finnish police for illegally poaching crayfish. The last Russian czar, Nicholas II, also visited the Crimea: Bakhchisaray, Sevastopol, Foros, Alupka, Yalta, Gurzuf -- and for the first time met his wife, Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, in Alushta.
All Soviet leaders, with the exception of Lenin -- who, when he vacationed, did so in the Gorki settlement in Moscow Oblast -- preferred the south. Stalin vacationed until 1928 on the outskirts of Nalchik; later he preferred shores of the Black Sea in the Caucasus. Khrushchev enjoyed spending his vacation time in Crimea, especially in the state cottage between Livadiya and Oreanda. There he entertained himself by swimming, (they say he used an inflatable rubber tube) and fishing. But in 1964, when Khrushchev missed the coup and was replaced, he was vacationing in the Caucasus. 27 years later, a similar story happened with Gorbachev. The State Committee of the State of Emergency (GKChP) pulled the country from under his feet while he was relaxing in Foros.
In the 1970s, Brezhnev took a fancy to the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, which was built in 1955. It was near the Matsest and its mineral waters, which had a good effect on the general secretary’s joints.
Andropov’s resort preference had unfortunate consequences. In September 1983, Andropov caught a cold during his vacation in New Oreanda, Crimea. Ultimately it brought him to his grave. The incoming general secretary, Chernenko, was advised to go to the “Sosnoviy Bor” (Pine Forest) cottage located in the Kislovodsk area, at an altitude of about 1000 meters. The condition of Chernenko, who had long suffered from asthma, became worse. He soon died.
Governors prefer to go abroad: Who goes on vacation, and how they usually spend it
In the winter, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko typically flies away to a ski resort for a week, and in the summer she is sure to go to the sea. “I have spent many consecutive vacations in Greece,” Matviyenko told AiF. “I love that country: I have many friends there, I speak Greek, like the local cuisine, music... and even dance the sirtaki!”
Representatives of the mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, refused to comment on his leisure activities.
The governor of Krasnodar Krai, Alexander Khloponin, divides his vacation into two parts. The first part he spends in his home in Moscow’s suburbs with his wife and daughter, and the second he spends traveling with them. During the New Year’s holidays he prefers to spend his time skiing and snowmobiling, usually at the French Courchevel. In the summer he usually travels in Italy and France with his family.
The president of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiev, takes time off in early spring and late fall. In the spring he works on his health in the Czech Republic, and in the fall he relaxes on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. This year Shaimiev used 2 weeks in March to go to Carlsbad with his wife, Sakina-Khanum.
And, everyone else…?
US President Barack Obama plans to take a vacation with his family at a ranch located on the coast of Massachusetts. The British prime minister, Gordon Brown, limited himself to a trip to Scotland; he has a house in the village of Fife.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife went to Côte d'Azur to Carla Bruni’s family villa near Saint-Tropez. The prime minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, will spend a part of his vacation on the restoration of L’Aquila, which was shattered by an earthquake, and will stay in his residence near Milan.
And the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, began her vacation with a visit to the Wagnerian Festival, which takes place annually in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth. It turns out that the chancellor’s husband loves the opera. Then the couple went to the Italian Alps.
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