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Russian Millennium

Russian Millennium

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Russian Millennium

408 pagine
5 ore
Mar 31, 2020


Moscow, 1999, and Russians are preparing for the presidential elections, due in Spring 2000 when Boris Yeltsin would step down. A popular candidate plans to amass a covert campaign fund which he will use to propel himself into the Kremlin.
Baron Pierre de Vincennes, international facilitator to oligarchs and governments, creates the fund through a web of crude-oil transactions. In parallel, the Baron clandestinely acquires a Russian nuclear submarine, laid-up in a naval dockyard. This vessel is re-commissioned and mobilised to its new Arab owners…
These activities become inextricably entwined which become a catalyst to a series of brutal intimidations and murders in the UK by Russian assassins that baffle Scotland Yard and Interpol…
The action is exacerbated by two millennium events and the Baron attempts to use the ensuing global political confusion to his own advantage. However, did he miscalculate?
Russian Millennium is a fast-paced thriller, portraying the consequences of ruthless pursuit of power, fuelled by blind ambition, greed and sexual blackmail.
The action unfolds from London to Marbella, Moscow to Geneva and the Black Sea ports of Novorossiysk and Sevastopol.
Mar 31, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

JAMES THOMAS James Thomas also known as “J. T.” to the stars, has been Steve Harvey's legendary barber for over 20 years. Most noted for his “Steve Harvey Lining,” James is regarded as one of the best Master Barbers of all time. In the world of glamour and glitz, his client list has included celebrities such as Rickey Smiley, Cedric the Entertainer, Kirk Franklin, the late great Bernie Mac, and more. In addition to The Kings of Comedy Tour, James has worked on a number of movies and television shows. After listening to the many issues and concerns of his clients about their hair care products, he was inspired to create his own line of products to meet their needs. He is the founder of the Thomas Hair Internal System (THIS) hair care product line. James is also the Chief Operating Officer for “Against the Grain” magazine and he has started a weekend segment on the Steve Harvey radio show entitled “Ask James” where he provides hair care tips to radio listeners. REVONNE LEACH-JOHNSON Revonne grew up in Yazoo City, Mississippi. She holds a BS in Computer Science from Jackson State University and a Masters of Science from Johns Hopkins University. She has self-published two poetry books with her sister Cassandra entitled “A Poetic Tribute to the Legends Who Lunched with Oprah” and “A Poetic Tribute to the Young'uns Who Lunched with Oprah.” She is currently working on a book that details the injustices experienced by the 1980 Yazoo City High School Girls Basketball team. She lives in Maryland where she is a wife and mother of two.

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Russian Millennium - Thomas James


About the Author

James has spent over three decades living, travelling and working around the world in the international oil and gas business. His career has enabled him to visit most locations in this novel and many of the fictional characters and events are modelled upon actual people and occurrences. He currently resides in Berkshire, balancing his lifestyle between writing, playing golf and entertaining his ever-growing clutch of grandchildren!


This book is dedicated to my family and friends whose patience has been remarkable, plus, but not least, the Baron…

Copyright Information ©

James Thomas (2020)

The right of James Thomas to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

Any person who commits any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Austin Macaulay Publishers will not be liable for any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of the contents of this book.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.

ISBN 9781528973991 (Paperback)

ISBN 9781528974011 (ePub e-book)

First Published (2020)

Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd

25 Canada Square

Canary Wharf


E14 5LQ


I acknowledge the assistance that Penny Black gave me in the initial drafts of this novel.

Chapter One

March 12th 1999 – Moscow

The President of Maikopia, Victor Trypov, stood up slowly from his chair at the head of the table. Enjoying the attentive gaze of his small party of personally-invited guests, he raised his champagne glass, its hand-crafted flute reflecting brilliant colours from the light of the overhead chandelier.

"Na Sdarovie!" he boomed.

The toast was returned in enthusiastic collective unison. The small exclusive group had been gathered for over three hours in the dining room of Victor’s private suite, situated on the top floor of Moscow’s Krasnipolski Hotel with spectacular views of the most famous Moscow skyline, and had all enjoyed a sumptuous feast. The magnificent sandstone building was formerly a town palace of the Czars’, but had recently been luxuriously refurbished after decades of neglect. Its six floors overlooked the four-traffic lane Moskvoretskaya Bridge, crossing the river Moskva that flowed through the capital. Although the room was furnished to accommodate twenty people in sumptuous comfort, the four diners had enjoyed their evening in an informal but intimate atmosphere, served by discreet staff that not only outnumbered their clientele, but made their presence almost non-existent. The president’s guests included a Russian presidential candidate, an English bank executive, and a white Cameroonian, both a diplomat and businessman.

Victor had been elected president of the Maikop Republic in 1993 when he was only thirty-three years old. Maikopia was sandwiched between the Volga and the Don deltas, with outlets to the Caspian Sea. The small state was relatively unknown outside of Russia until after the era of Perestroika. Thereafter, the advent of post-Cold War western involvement in oil exploitation in the former Russian states surrounding the Caspian Sea had brought her into the international eye. Plus, her extrovert leader’s complete and utter obsession with chess and his hosting of international tournaments in his country had maintained the gaze and bemusement of the world’s press. The President loved his country and the people loved him. Having just won this second election, he would not have to contest his seat again for another six years. His power base in the new confederation was reinforced by his position as an elected member of the Russian Federation Council and as Chairman of the Russian Chamber of Industrialists. His own personal fortune was said to exceed that of the annual revenue of Maikopia, estimated at in excess of 500 million dollars. He had every reason to feel especially happy tonight.

It was 2 am local time and the night was still young. Business was almost concluded and the newly re-elected President was in the mood to celebrate the completion of his latest, but potentially most lucrative and powerful, deal. He looked at his three companions. Seated adjacent to him at the table and joining him in the toast was Sergei Chevenovsky, leader of the National Socialist Party. The National Socialist Party held the third largest number of seats in the Duma. However, being a member of the Russian Parliament was but a stepping-stone to greater things, because Chevenovsky had his eye on the Presidency. Since 1996, when he had lost heavily with less than eight percent of the vote in the national election, he had been President Boris Yeltsin’s most vociferous and antagonistic political opponent. But new elections were due, just around the corner in the spring of the new Millennium.

Yes, and cheers to our new British partner, and the success of his project, our own Swiss bank! Trypov continued in perfect English, standing and crashing his half full glass against that of Peter Styles, the elegant British banker sitting on his left.

Peter joined in with the toast, Yes, good health, and continued prosperity to us all, at the same time, wondering how the crystal managed to sustain such impact without shattering. As if reading his thoughts, Victor said in his heavy Chechen accent as he sat down,

Another Russian product that we will send to the world, made in Maikopia!

Peter smiled, and with regained confidence, extended his toast,

To the prosperity of Maikopia, the jewel of the CIS. Then he paused as he raised his glass to the fourth member of the dinner party, Baron de Vincennes. The handsome diplomat, a master of timing born of years of protocol training, waited until there was a lull in the room before extending his own congratulations. This culminated in a raised eyebrow to Peter, which no one else noticed. He completed his toast with a friendly jibe about Englishmen.

The fact is, they think they still rule the world even though they don’t speak anybody’s language but their own. This produced a hearty response from the two Russians and their alcohol-induced guffaws resounded around the room.

Peter joined in the light-hearted banter, disheartened that the Baron seem to relish playing on his overtly courteous manner. Although he had been fifteen years in the private banking sector, and was used to meeting wealthy and influential international clients, rarely had his business covered such diverse areas as was being visited this evening, and more than once he had thought he might be playing outside his league. The Baron’s gesture had assured him that everything had gone well, and so he was pleased when Victor rose for the last time. After extending final embraces to his new partners, the leader of the SDP made his way to the door, two attendants appearing from no-where to facilitate the removal of heavy dining chairs effortlessly.

I have some small matter to discuss with my comrade, the Baron, Chevenovsky said to Trypov as he released himself from the embrace. We will join you both later.

The two were representative of the two ends of the Soviet Union pre and post Perestroika. Chevenovsky was the archetypal Russian bear, obese, thick bushy greying hair, round coarse-skinned face and a solid torso that fitted badly into his two-piece suit. A body that had once been all muscle had begun the degeneration into obvious layers of fat. Trypov’s ancestors came from the north, he had typical Mongolian features with delicate hands and feet, a martial arts master physique, an agility that made him look as if out on the steppe he could run circles around Chevenovsky. However, here they were on equal territory, and the Baron had learnt that no matter how much vodka Sergei drank, he was never indiscreet himself – nor ever forgot the indiscretions of others.

The Baron smiled, switching his cigar to his left hand and extending his hand to Victor and Peter. Don’t have too much fun before we arrive, they laughed, and Victor beckoned to Peter to escort him, thereby excusing them both from the meeting and pressing him onward to their next appointment.

The Baron smiled and extracted his cigar, which he held in his left hand like a baton, as he warmly offered his hand to Chevenovsky.

Sergei, my friend, one year from now we will remember this evening, as you sit in the Kremlin as President of the mighty Confederation.

I hope you are right, Pierre, but we have much to do. Trypov is anxious, although he appears relaxed with this deal. He has yet to ask his favour in return, and the way he ingratiates himself with those Ukrainian generals worries me. Remember they have little money and cannot enjoy the finer pleasures of life, so they are very restless and looking for opportunities to fraternise with our friend. These military dinosaurs still control a larger stock of nuclear weaponry than the British, he continued, waving at Peter’s departing back to emphasise his point. And this even though our glorious Ministry of Defence ordered the navy to remove the stock of nuclear weapons from Ukrainian soil. They still have a large fleet of redundant nuclear submarines, lying idle in Sebastopol, though I heard a rumour that the navy is planning to move them to Novorossiysk. I’m having this situation monitored. It could interfere with our strategic plan but worse, could become a big election issue, he continued, However, our priority is to establish your bank urgently and to make sure that we have control of these project funds, with no interference from Maikopia. Pierre, be warned, Trypov will make your life difficult if these transactions don’t run smoothly. His temperament is erratic, and his mood swings notorious, so never become his enemy.

As the Baron pondered this, his expression became more serious. Yes, I have heard of Victor’s behavioural changes. The bank purchase is almost complete, just a few more formalities. Peter is on board, he should have everything under control in Geneva within the month. Trust me Sergei, I know how to deal with Trypov. It will be done in my own way, so subtle that he will believe this project is purely for his benefit.

Sergei put his massive arm around the Baron’s shoulders, gesturing trust and comradeship, as they stepped first into the chill of the Moscow night, and then into the spacious and warm backseat of a 320 Mercedes Limousine, courtesy of the hotel. Sergei spoke softly in Russian to the driver and they set off to join Victor and Peter in the private club.

Chapter Two

March 25th 1999 – London

Stan Wendell walked briskly as he strode along the arrival platform at Victoria station. He had leapt off the Gatwick Express, its thirty-minute journey from the airport into the city had only given him time to review his itinerary and his onward journey. He continued across the street, passed the line of vacant taxis, their diesel engines ticking loudly and their drivers sitting restlessly, awaiting fares from the growing line of luggage-laden passengers in the queue. Instead of joining the queue, he crossed the busy intersection, ignoring the flashing amber pelican crossing. Paying scant attention to the rush-hour traffic, he headed north-eastwards in the direction of Hyde Park, and Wellington’s Monument reminding the world of his historic memory and the successful Waterloo campaign against Napoleon. In fact, Stan’s stride also seemed to proudly display an air of almost military deference, as his highly polished shoes clicked along the damp pavement. It was as if he was on the parade ground, he recalled as his mind flashed back to his training over 30 years earlier. But these pavements dated from the Victorian era, had survived a century of pounding by commuters and visitors. After decades of wear, and from their constant uplifting for installation frequent repair of cables and pipes, these flagstones now sat unevenly, requiring pedestrians to be both attentive and cautious to avoid personal injury.

The early evening twilight was rapidly beginning to shroud all the bustle of the Capital’s commuters, turning their activity into a shadowy motion drama. The collar of Stan’s overcoat was turned up and he now hunched his shoulders slightly, as if to protect his ears and exposed thinning hairline from the biting chill of the late March air. If anyone had been studying his actions closely, they would have sensed that here was a man on a mission.

His head began to strain slightly forward, like that of a sprinter approaching the finishing line of a race. Again, any observer would guess that he was not from London; not that he looked peculiar, nor did he indicate anything particularly foreign by his dress. No, it was just his behaviour generally, another anonymous face joining the throng of commuters, all focused on their immediate missions, and totally unobservant to passing architectural landmarks as they rushed to their trains, buses or homes.

No-one else could know, of course, that parallel to his physical determination, his mind was racing, as he re-lived over and again the events of the last few days.

At five o’clock that morning, local time, equivalent to two o’clock Greenwich Mean Time, he had left his tiny apartment in Southwestern Russia, the largest of the Confederation of Independent States. He had taken a taxi the fifty kilometres to the state airport at Anapa, not that far ordinarily, but a journey of over one hour, on the poorly maintained roads, (not highway, he lamented) and in the cold, dilapidated Russian produced vehicle masquerading as a taxi.

The city of Novorossiysk lies in that area of the former Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Sitting at the head of Tsemes Bay, in the region of Krasnodar, Novorossiysk dominates the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea. The city had originally been founded as a fortress, back in 1838, but subsequently developed into a seaport, particularly after the advent of the steam railway fifty or so years later. Although in pre-revolutionary days Novorossiysk was the largest grain-exporting port of Russia after Odessa, latterly it had become the major Russian port on the Black Sea, with a sprawling infrastructure onshore of shipbuilding yards and a highly active, though secret, naval base.

Over recent years, however, shipbuilding had become a dying enterprise all over the world. This was nowhere more prevalent than in Russia, as the former Soviet Union struggled to balance its budget and reduce spending on its formerly vast military machine. Novorossiysk had always been and still remained the main industrial centre. However, the enterprises that now provided economic support to the whole region though were not shipbuilding, but those that operated and supported with service industries the strategically crucial oil-pipeline storage and loading terminal.

This was a cold metropolis of, tall, black-painted oil storage tanks, jutting into the skyline and blending in with the grey dark landscape. Stark, formerly grey, but now more often rust-coloured pipelines rolled into the city from the hills beyond, terminating in an eyesore of tangled infrastructure at the water’s edge. Here, aging ocean-going tankers added minimalistic breaks to the colour and shape of the landscape, either at anchor in the deep-water harbour, or berthed at the loading jetties.

This unforgiving place was where Stan had been living in his small apartment and plying his trade for his last two working years.

His Aeroflot flight had taken off on schedule from Anapa to Athens, a journey of about three hours. A further three hours in Athens Airport was insufficient time for Stan to visit some of the world-renowned historical sites nearby, so he sat patiently as he read a two-day old Times newspaper whilst waiting for the connection to Gatwick. The following flight was also about four hours, in cramped economy class. International connections to western destinations from Anapa were very limited, the alternatives being through either Istanbul in Turkey, or Frankfurt in Germany. Still, the flights themselves had been pleasant enough, and he had enjoyed the meals and entertainment. He had been deliberate though in drinking only water. He knew that abstaining from alcohol, if only for one day, would certainly make him more alert. He would be able to conduct both himself and his business in a more professional manner. Not that this abstention should have caused Stan any discomfort. He liked a drink the same as most people, but admitted privately that his consumption, particularly of vodka, had steadily increased over the last twelve months.

So, arriving in Victoria, Stan was keen to exercise his limbs after sitting for six hours in economy with cramped legs space.

After landing in the United Kingdom with only hand luggage, his onward journey, through first customs, then immigration and culminating with the Gatwick Express train, had been speedy and free of any complications. He had deposited his small suitcase, packed with clothing sufficient for four days, in a coin-operated left luggage locker at the station. He planned to collect it later, before he checked into the Windsor Hotel in Victoria Street. This would be after his appointment, to which he was now heading with due haste as his schedule was still tight.

His thought processes continued to race, as he swiftly passed landmarks that he recognised from his former existence in London.

For the last twenty years or so, Stan had worked as a marine surveyor, employed by an American Salvage Association, and based in their London offices. For as long as he could remember, he had been constantly on call, making himself available to travel at short notice to the main ports of Europe on behalf of his employers’ clients. These clients included oil companies, ship-owners, insurance underwriters and many other organisations with an interest in the marine world. His assignments, works-scopes and their geographic locations had therefore been diverse. One week he might have been in Hamburg, Germany, crawling inside the steel compartments of a cargo barge, bending down to avoid the low deck head beams, with only a flashlight and his notepad for company. The next week, he could have been in an Amsterdam dry-dock on his hands and knees underneath the keel of a vessel, inspecting damaged propulsion machinery. These were common projects, with his clients being international oil companies or construction firms. The chartered vessels normally transported sections of oil or gas production facility platforms to be installed in some remote offshore location.

His most frequent, and one of his favourite assignments, was the ‘on-hire’ survey, performed prior to acceptance, when a client committed to a vessel for either a single voyage or a fixed term. Usually, this entailed a simple visual walk-around inspection of the ship, for any obvious signs of damage, followed by a check of the gauges for confirmation of fuel levels and lubrication oil readings.

The damage surveys were usually necessary following incidents where the steel-wire rope of ships’ or barges’ anchors had wrapped around the tug’s propeller, or screws as they more commonly called. Usually, these surveys were conducted on behalf of either the underwriter ensuring the cargoes, the vessels owners, or their clients. Often a representative from these organisations accompanied him. So on these jobs he at least had company. Mostly though, he was on his own, therefore it was frequently a lonely vocation.

But this independence suited his character. Often these tasks were completed late morning, and there followed the ‘traditional’ invitation from the master of the vessel to savour an aperitif. The Captain’s dayroom was normally an extension to his cabin or bedroom on the vessel, and the two would share sea stories while enjoying a glass of schnapps or Dutch gin. This type of assignment, and often the aperitif, was particularly welcome in winter. Crawling around steel compartments at zero degrees was physically demanding and seldom soul inspiring. However, Stan’s training had conditioned him over the years to cope with this type of work and he was generally comfortable with his lot. Because of the routine nature of these types of jobs, rarely did he come across anything so unusual that he could not handle it. Occasionally, he had experienced confrontation with ship’s masters. That seemed to particularly happen with vessels registered in Panama or Liberia sailing under flags of convenience. Typical scams included attempts to pass off bogus papers of competency for crewmembers, or counterfeit vessels’ Certificates of Seaworthiness.

But Stan’s integrity had never been compromised. He was as proud today of the letters after his name on his business card, distinguishing his chartered status, as he was the day he was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Surveyors.

Over the past three years though, his career had taken a change. Firstly, a decline in the volume of work had necessitated the U.S. Salvage Company to close its London office. As his employer had no suitable vacancies in their other worldwide operations to which he could be relocated, his position, with several others of his generation, was made redundant. However, the blow of this employment loss had been softened by a generous tax-free severance package, which was equivalent to almost one year’s salary. Stan was therefore re-assured in the knowledge that he did not have to panic into finding another job quickly.

Unexpectedly, however, within a couple of weeks he had been offered, for the first time in his career, an overseas posting. The initial contact had come from a London-based employment agency that specialised in providing marine personnel, from captains to cooks, on oil industry related marine vessels. Although his whole seafaring career had been spent on ocean-going crude oil tankers, and he had thought that his long-term sailing duty was finished, he could not afford to pass up the opportunity of this further nautical assignment. He therefore, although with slight reluctance and some trepidation, had rewritten his Curriculum Vitae. He posted it with copies of his relevant marine qualifications and certificates to the agency. Much to his surprise, having almost immediately forgotten about the initial contact, the following week he was invited to an interview in London, held at the employment agency’s office in Frith Street.

The fact that the company was based in Soho had caused Stan to think that it was a long shot, as most marine agencies had recruitment offices where the action was in the main ports of Aberdeen, Liverpool or Glasgow. He therefore lowered his expectations in his own mind of this exercise developing any further. To say that he was surprised a few days later to receive, formally in writing, an offer of employment, would have been an understatement. The job description did not require him to sail after all. The contract assignment stated the workplace as Novorossiysk in Russia, and the position as an onshore one working as Marine Cargo Chief Superintendent.

He had deliberated for almost half a day, because he had already mentally decided to accept the offer, while treating himself to a two-hour lunch at his favourite brasserie in Covent Garden. He was unfamiliar with the Russian coastal geography, so was not exactly sure where he would be based. After lunch, he visited the library in Tottenham Court road and for a leisurely hour poured over Lloyds Maritime Atlases and Agencies Directories. By the end of the afternoon, he had familiarised himself with the major Black Sea ports and their operating customs and procedures.

His employer was to be a Swiss industrial conglomerate involved in every stage of the energy lifecycle. These included activities known as upstream, such as seismic surveys on land and offshore to determine whether the rocks thousands of feet below were likely to contain fossil fuels, either coal, oil or gas. Downstream activities included the operation of petrochemical plants strategically positioned all over the globe, to benefit from the close proximity of large sources of raw materials. These plants produced products as diverse as lead-free gasoline for automobiles and hi-technology fibres for sports clothing manufacture as well as cellophane plastic wrap for domestic kitchen use.

Stan’s job, though, would be working as a third-party Chief Superintendent, assigned to their oil company clients. These firms were a mixture of western public and far eastern state-owned international oil companies. He would be specialising in the monitoring of crude oil loading operations. This entailed acting on behalf of the company that had chartered either an oil tanker or some other bulk carrier ship, used to transport raw materials or refined oil products to various parts of the world. These vessels would usually spend two to three days loading, then sail with their cargo to discharge at either a refinery or large onshore storage port, such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands. His actual duties and responsibilities were to confirm that what the buyer, his client, was actually paying for, was in fact loaded on the vessel. This was in respect of all elements of the cargo’s specifications. This included its volume in metric tonnes, the technical specification and quality of the product, and making sure that all of the correct documentation was in place. The accurate preparation of product certification, cargo manifests and bills of lading was crucial, as these documents were negotiable instruments in international shipping business. This work entailed a routine of product sampling and testing, and a meticulous programme of paperwork verification. He was dependent upon the employees of the onshore terminal to provide him with records and accurate readings of metered product from their storage tanks. It was a very laborious mostly manual procedure, as computerised metering technology had not yet reached Novorossiysk.

At first, he had found this work interesting. Then after a year or so, interest had slowly lapsed into boredom, as the daily routine had rarely varied over the last two years. His social life was almost non-existent, as the other chief superintendents working with him were Italian and French. Stan avoided invitations to accompany them to the bars after work. Here they could and therefore would converse in many languages, compared to Stan’s restriction to English only, and flirt with the female company. Some were pretty local girls, but others had been introduced from as far away as Kazakhstan and Siberia to try and earn a scant living by plying the age-old trade with lonely foreign workers. But this was not Stan’s scene. He was not an extrovert individual. In fact, he had little charisma about him at all.

His whole life, apart from his cherished Marine Institute, had been a catalogue of failure. His previous job, with three promotion opportunities turned down over ten years, had culminated in redundancy, although his younger, less qualified colleagues had been offered continuity of employment and transferred to other operating offices all over the world. His marriage had ended with his wife finally walking out of the family home four years earlier, when she had returned home to her aging mother in Worcester. Stan suddenly, for the first time in his life, realised that his life was slipping by him. He decided that he had to get to grips with his future, otherwise he risked leaving this earth with no one realising he had ever been there, let alone having made any meaningful impression on mankind.

Then suddenly, a few weeks earlier, something had happened which would upset the equilibrium of his life. He had started to notice anomalies

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