Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Russia's Sanctuary for Deposed Leaders

You've probably never heard of Barvikha, Russia.  It's a posh little village on the A105 out of Moscow.   And it might soon be the new home of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.

The village hosts a luxury sanitarium popular with Russian presidents and top drawer nobs.   It also serves as a refuge for several deposed bad guys, the type who understood when they absolutely had to get out of Dodge.

This improbable small town of villas and luxury boutiques, built around the sanitarium, is home to half a dozen or so deposed leaders and members of their families.

In its snowy tranquillity, it offers one strange, possible future for the embattled president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, as Western governments have been pressuring Russia since the northern summer to smooth his departure with an offer of asylum.

 ''The Russians have experience with getting heads of state out in the nick of time,'' said Mark Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Virginia. ''They could be trying to signal to Assad there is an offer, but the window of opportunity is not going to remain open for a long time.''

Leaders' hurried packing and just-in-time flights to this place from angry street crowds or the nearing sound of gunfire brought measures of resolution to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere.
All in all, Barvikha, is for people who aren't accustomed to doing without - anything.   Among other things, it has its own Ferrari dealership and you're quite apt to spot a Bugatti Veyron and plenty of run-of-the-mill Rolls Royces parked on the high street.
And here's what a dascha in Barvikha can look like, this humble 1400 sq. m. retreat: