The seismic importance of Putin’s latest move

Vladimir Putin has tonight unilaterally recognised the two breakaway republics in Ukraine. In doing so, he has effectively ended the Minsk peace process. The move also begs the question of whether Putin is recognising the territory that these so-called republics actually hold, or the much larger territory that they claim. If the latter, then that raises the question of whether Russian troops will be used to take that land given that Putin immediately signed ‘friendship and mutual assistance’ treaties with them at the end of his speech this afternoon. The speech, though, went even further than recognising the break-away republics, carving off another chunk off Ukraine after the annexation of

Celebrating Konstantin Paustovsky — hailed as ‘the Russian Proust’

When is a life worth telling? The Soviet writer Konstantin Paustovsky’s six-volume autobiography The Story of a Life combines high drama with heroic misadventure in a comico-lyrical amalgam of history and domestic detail that enchants from start to finish. Why Paustovsky is not better known outside his native Moscow is a mystery. In the mid-1960s he was nominated for the Nobel prize. (He was pipped to the post by Mikhail Sholokhov, the author of the obediently propagandist And Quiet Flows the Don.) Denounced as a ‘counter-revolutionary’ by the Soviet Writers’ Union, Paustovsky belonged to that select band of writers who inspire true fandom. Marlene Dietrich abased herself at Paustovsky’s feet