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Cablegate: Russkiy Island: From Ice Fishing Paradise to Apec Host?

VZCZCXRO1986
RR RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHYG
DE RUEHVK #0003/01 0150324
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150324Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0868
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC 0029
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0939

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VLADIVOSTOK 000003

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PREL SENV RS
SUBJECT: RUSSKIY ISLAND: FROM ICE FISHING PARADISE TO APEC HOST?

VLADIVOSTO 00000003 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary. Consulate staff chose the coldest day of the
season at minus 21 centigrade to visit Russkiy Island, the
purported site of the 2012 APEC summit. It is immediately
apparent that the island has a long way to go before it is ready
to accept many international visitors, let alone host one of the
world's major economic summits. While it has a reasonable
one-lane road that circumnavigates the island, it almost
entirely lacks stores, hotels, and other tourist infrastructure.
There are doubts, furthermore, that a planned bridge to the
island can be completed in time for the summit. At the moment,
the island only serves local summer tourists who relax in
relatively primitive conditions along the seaside. The island's
relatively pristine nature and proximity to the city of
Vladivostok make it an attractive location, however. If the
government is serious about hosting APEC on Russkiy in four
years, construction will need to begin soon. End summary.

ICY PASSAGE
-----------------

2. (U) The 25-year-old ferry broke ice most of the way to the
island, and some consternation arose when the regular noontime
run was cancelled due to heavy ice, but the afternoon ferry came
and "rescued" the travelers from the island. Russkiy has a long
and proud history as a bulwark against invaders, guarding the
Peter the Great Gulf with its heavy artillery emplacements on
the island's highest points. While batteries capable of firing
250 kilogram missiles every 40 seconds still loom over the Gulf,
Russkiy is now a tourist destination in the summer and a haven
for ice fisherman in winter. The gun turrets are open to the
public, even in winter, and the guide requests a minimum of an
hour to show visitors all the ins and outs of military life at
an artillery station. The bunks are still intact, and the
museum boasts antique weapons, including an American rifle from
World War I.

3. (U) Russkiy Island is home to some 4,000 year round
residents. There are few shops, no restaurants, and no other
amenities, but there is a public bus, and the ferry that most
residents use to commute to Vladivostok. The 15km-by-20km
island has a decent, one-lane dirt road circumnavigating it, but
apart from that there is very little in the way of
infrastructure. The only hotels on the island are summer
"resorts" that would appear rather primitive to most
international tourists or business travelers. In winter, almost
nothing is open: we searched unsuccessfully from one end of the
island to the other for a place to buy tea, which in even the
smallest Russian town would not require such a pilgrimage.

SEE THAT BRIDGE?
-----------------------

4. (U) Residents we spoke to did not seem overly optimistic
about the chances of APEC turning life around on the sleepy
island. One resident said the planned 3.2-km bridge to the
island could not be built in time. There is a shorter stretch
of water between Vladivostok and Russkiy, but that would require
demolishing homes in the "elite" Egersheld district of
Vladivostok, hence the longer span. Another used the
Chernomyrdin quote that has almost become a Russian proverb
about trying for the best, but ending up with the same old
thing. There is already a joke about the bridge, perhaps
recycled from Soviet times. A group of Russian officials
visiting San Francisco were treated to a sumptuous reception.
When the Russians asked where the money for the feast came from,
the Americans pointed out a window and answered, "See that
bridge? The tolls bring in revenues and the city prospers." A
year later it was the American turn to visit Vladivostok, where
they too were hosted at a fine reception. When they asked how
the reception was paid for, their Vladivostok hosts pointed out
a window and answered, "We were thinking about building a bridge
over there, but instead we used the money for this reception."

5. (U) In any case, Vladivostok itself is gearing up for
change, with new hotel contracts reportedly being signed and
talk of new international flights this spring. There is also
talk about casinos, restaurants, an aquarium, and other
amenities on Russkiy Island, but so far, there is no
construction underway for any of these projects. Marriott and
Accor Group, a French hotel company, are both reportedly
planning to build hotels in downtown Vladivostok in advance of
the APEC Summit, but no hotel chain has yet committed to
Russkiy. Note: Diplomats have had on again off again access to
Russkiy Island, On this trip, the local MFA and Border Guards
assured us that the island is now completely open and indeed no
documents were checked. It seems this issue was finally
resolved during the last Consular Bilateral meeting in
Washington. End note.

6. (U) Comment: Russkiy Island certainly looks pristine, and is
a nice contrast to Vladivostok's busy streets. The ferry ride

VLADIVOSTO 00000003 002.2 OF 002


is part of the experience, and on this trip we even saw seals
poking their heads through the ice and an eagle looking for
scraps from the ice fishermen. Undoubtedly, something of the
character of Russkiy Island would be lost in a massive
development plan, but if done right, the island can still
attract visitors with its picturesque bays and miles and miles
of trees. As with so many critical issues in the Far East, the
big decisions will be made in Moscow. No doubt the ice
fishermen will make their way to Russkiy Island come what may.
ARMBRUSTER

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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