I was met at the airport on Wednesday by the second secretary of the Russian Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels. A gentleman with exquisite French and perfect manners, he also happily acted as tourist guide during our long drive in. As we passed the headquarters of the city’s charismatic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov he told me a nice little story about a visit the mayor made to Brussels. He had been received there by Jos Chabert, then a minister for the Region Bruxelles Capital. Chabert explained that, as a Napoleonic officer, one of his ancestors had almost made it to Moscow. Luzhkov retorted that one of his ancestors had signed the papers releasing Chabert’s ancestor from prison! Whilst on historical snippets, the headquarters building of the Russian Civic Chamber has an interesting history. It began life in the Tsarist era as a cadets’ barracks. Under the Soviet system it became the headquarters of the chief censors of the Communist Party, so it is a very deliberate irony that it should now house the representatives of Russian civil society.