Diamonds used to flow around the Soviet Union. Millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, paid to and from the state, with many of them ending up in central vaults in Moscow. Then the Soviet Union collapsed and a well-connected entrepreneur called Andrei Kozlenok tried to turn the diamonds into cash for the struggling Russian government – by taking them to America, to San Francisco, and selling them off.
Except lots of the money went missing. And eventually, after years of lavish living in California, so too did Kozlenok.
This week’s Slow Newscast is called From Russia with Diamonds. Part One is available in the Tortoise app today. It’s the culmination of a 20-year quest by my colleague Giles Whittell to find out precisely what happened to those diamonds, to the missing proceeds, and to Kozlenok himself – and his search has not been in vain. Giles managed to do something that no other reporter has achieved: track down Kozlenok and speak to him. Parts of the interview feature in today’s podcast.
I shan’t spoil what happens here, not least because Part Two of From Russia with Diamonds will be available in the app tomorrow – in which you’ll hear more from Kozlenok. But I will say that this story is about Putin’s Russia now as much as it’s about Communist Russia then. It’s about kleptocracy, control, and good old-fashioned greed. It’s a thriller with chilling implications.
Please do listen to both parts in the app – ad-free and exclusive to Tortoise members – before they reach other podcast platforms on Thursday.
As for this week’s ThinkIns…
- Simon Sinek is an inspirational speaker – and I mean that literally. In his disarming and relaxed way, he has a knack for zeroing in on how we can see things, how we can do things differently. His last appearance at a ThinkIn, back in our newsroom in 2019, was packed. Tonight, at 6.30pm BST, he returns. And the digital-only setting means that even more people will be able to attend.
- Tuesday evening is Open News, and the eve of Boris Johnson’s speech at Conservative party conference. We’ll be discussing what the prime minister might – and should – say after a week of fuel shortages and heartfelt questions about policing in London and beyond.
- On Wednesday evening: who are the biggest Covid profiteers? Our Slow Newscast last week reported on the lengths to which Pfizer has gone to make money during the pandemic. But we know that Pfizer has not been alone.
- On Thursday, the chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver will visit our virtual newsroom – alongside Alessandra Bellini from Tesco and Christina Adane from Bite Back – to discuss the health claims made on food packaging… and whether they’re all a con.
We’re always eager to see our members at ThinkIns, whether in person or on screen, but we also know that it’s not always possible for you. So please don’t forget that you can watch full video of past ThinkIns on both the Tortoise app and website – including last week’s conversations with Ed Balls and Caitlin Moran.
Have a very good week.
Editor & co-founder