By Ryan Bridge
Underneath a brand new billion dollar motorway over Vladivostok, working class Russians live in squalor, sleeping in shanty huts made of tin.
They sit on wooden boxes in the summer sun, smoking Vogue cigarettes on dirty gravel, as Mercedes after late-model black Mercedes speeds past overhead, ferrying APEC Leaders from the airport to a flashy compound on nearby Russky Island.
The island was beautified beyond recognition in preparation for the event – its imposing, glass-fronted buildings bear no resemblance to the rest of the city, which Russian authorities tried very hard to hide from visiting journalists.
In the real Vladivostok, life looks tough – the many monstrous apartment blocks are tiny, dirty, and overcrowded.
But President Vladimir Putin wanted to show the world a different side to Russia’s Far East – one that simply doesn’t exist. Yet.
The average wage varies greatly between town and country, but is roughly $20 to $30 NZD a day, though the middle class is expanding rapidly.
Back on Russky Island, the government was giving away free e-books to journalists and putting on a fireworks display from an expensive, newly-erected bridge to the small island – which is home to a university.
Mr Putin wants international investment pumped into the region – but if the bridge was meant to be an example of what to put your money in – I’d suggest keeping your wallet closed because there’s nothing on the other side.
Russian dolls are hollow on the inside, but beautiful on the outside – and depending on where you’re staying – Vladivostok is too.
Click here to hear Ryan talking to Marcus Lush from Russia.