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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Day Putin Visited the Times

MTReporter Anna Badkhen working in the paper's newsroom on Ulitsa Pravdy.
Who of us could ever forget that sunny day when President Vladimir Putin came to The Moscow Times building?

Nearly everyone, it seems, but it went something like this: Putin walked into the building using that distinctive swagger which only Tom Wolfe's phrase "the pimp roll" can truly do justice.

Flanked by bodyguards, he passed the guards who loved to always stop MT journalists to check IDs. Despite his lack of ID, Putin was allowed into the clunky Soviet elevator, and up he went to the fourth floor, where the paper was located. Alas, he did not stop, going up even further to the floor above to visit the country's biggest-selling paper, Komsomolskaya Pravda, where he talked, literally, for hours and hours.

It could have been worse, he could have gone to Selskaya Zhizn, or Village Life, just down the hall from our office at 24 Ulitsa Pravdy, where some of the biggest Soviet papers were produced.

It was the perfect location for a newspaper. We were in a massive building and had our own giant newsroom with windows so high you could see the snow fall slowly down from the sky and onto the stray dogs outside.

It was a secretive building with numerous nooks, crannies and stairwells to hide, confide, gossip and do whatever you wanted to do in the days before mobile phones. Tired and emotional reporters would retire to the office to have a nap under a reporter's table or to fervently discuss whether then-President Boris Yeltsin was dead or alive.

Owned by the government, the building had its own railway and nuclear shelter -- sadly, we never got to use the first or, happily, the second. Every day, it smelled of stale smoke, old carpets and the type of newspapers that stain your hands.

As Putin left that day without saying goodbye, a large man who resembled a boulder and might as well have had the letters "FSB" on his forehead inquired as to what two MT journalists were doing in the foyer. "What? We can't stand in the foyer of our own building?" one reporter retorted, after the boulder had snorted derisively at our IDs.

He simply smiled and said: "It's not your building. It's our building."

Not long after, in late 2000, we left that building for unrelated reasons to go to Ulitsa Vyborgskaya, where the newspaper was above a pharmaceuticals plant with white costumed workers, hairnets in place, as if straight from a Hollywood-designed drug factory. To the right of the building was a women's prison.

A former sports editor at that office once felt the power of the press, boasting of how his post at the paper had helped him pick up women, well one at least, back in Britain.

He was also responsible for defacing the Manezh fountain. Some readers may remember the traditional picture of Manezh Square with happy swimmers in the fountain, which because of union demands we have to run at least once every year. In one of these pictures, the said editor thought it would be funny to draw a little box on the side of the fountain with a message in it. He intended to remove it but forgot, and the fountain photo was printed with the sign "Beware of the Sharks." That rare copy is said to be now worth 200 times its cover price.

A few years later, and the newspaper is now located in a furniture factory, the spirit of which has no doubt enhanced our coverage of the new Cabinet. The newsroom is on the third floor with ceilings that hardly have the reach of Ulitsa Pravdy but still are tall enough to watch snow cover the stray dogs below. They are taller than the apartment of former MT journalist Nick Allen, who last year built a Tyrannosaurus Rex out of backyard junk. Marusya lived in a 5-square-meter room and eventually had to leave though the window to get to the Darwin Museum, where she is now on display. No monsters beloved by children have arrived or left through a window here yet, but there is always time.