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Keeping the Guests Happy

From the Moscow Times:

The 1,400 members of the press were herded about in small groups by sometimes catty chaperones. “Don’t leave my side,” one of them told her gaggle of reporters. “If you are seen walking around alone in the conference center, you will be taken for an outsider or a spy, and appropriate actions will be taken.” Things were not much more relaxed during the late-night parties on the deck of the Estonian liner. About one-fifth of the male guests on the upper deck Friday were grim, dark-suited men, who scrutinized the other guests from the back of the room. The watchers stayed stone cold sober until the parties wound down at about 3 a.m. Asked whether he was with any of the state security services, the largest and most sullen of them said, “I’m here by myself.” He was seen in a security detail the next day. The heavy security appeared to affect one of the forum’s speakers, Yevroset CEO Yevgeny Chichvarkin, who took a swipe at regulators and security firms in general in his speech Saturday, saying, “Several million adult men are effectively engaged in the industry of distrust.” About half of the female guests on the cruise liner Friday night appeared to have no visible connection to the forum, except that they were escorting foreign delegates. “What forum?” one of them said. Rumors circled about secret VIP parties around the city for the more distinguished guests, and the highest-profile personage seen at Friday’s party was billionaire Rustam Tariko, the head of the vodka-and-banking conglomerate Russky Standart. Just in case the bar ran dry, he brought with him a bottle of his own vodka, even though a dozen uniformed waitresses stood about, carrying laden trays of the stuff. After the forum’s final news conference Sunday, Gref and Matviyenko rushed off to a gala dinner on the banks of the Neva River that featured the entire orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, 12 grand pianos, a fireworks display, a performance by teen pop trio Serebro and an open bar made entirely of ice. Gref held court with Matviyenko at the top table, and got up to dance, albeit stiffly, with award-winning singer Larissa Lusta. About 1,000 guests, including most of the forum’s speakers and panelists, were in attendance. Gentlemen in shiny suits gave 1,000 ruble tips to the waiters, and young women emerged in pairs from bathroom stalls with men who seemed to have the sniffles. Along with their sea scallops, crab legs and whiskey, some of the Japanese guests enjoyed the company of Russian girls who hung on their arms and laughed a lot, without having a language in common.