View a slide show of how Putin and Medvedev spent their summer vacation.
This week, there was a miracle in Moscow: Bono came to Russia and rescued a forest. The forest was in Khimki, just outside Moscow's northwestern edge, and, after years on the chopping block, it was in the process of being cleared to make room for a badly needed highway to St. Petersburg. Russian activists had been protesting the planned destruction of the ancient trees, a destruction that seemed spiteful and senseless, and one that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his cronies appeared to have decided on without consulting the people who lived there or considering any alternatives that would save the federally protected reserve. For years, the protesters were ignored, arrested, and, once, beaten half to death. Nothing worked and, this summer, the trees started to fall.
Until Wednesday night, that is. Bono's band took the stage at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium and, in front of 60,000 people, he took out his black acoustic guitar and started to strum the opening chords of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." And then he said, "Yuri?"
Out came Yuri Shevchuk, the frontman of the perestroika rock group DDT, with his scruffy beard and his glasses, and he started to sing along to the chorus. Like Bono, Shevchuk is no regular rocker. In May, he shocked Putin by engaging the omnipotent prime minister in a heated spat on the lack of social equality and freedom in Russia at what was supposed to have been a civilized lunch for the artists of St. Petersburg. ("Your words have weight, so use them," Shevchuk admonished Putin. "My weight is 76 kilograms," Putin snorted.)
The Sunday before Bono's concert, Shevchuk had thrown his political heft behind the campaign to save the Khimki forest with a benefit concert performed in Moscow's city center. The concert only drew 3,000 people and the Moscow authorities wouldn't let him hook up his sound equipment, so he played a mute set -- but it brought the protest to the heart of the capital. That didn't sit well with big shots in the Kremlin, nor were they overjoyed when Bono, who spent Tuesday strolling the sun-drenched boardwalks of Sochi with President Dmitry Medvedev, brought Shevchuk up on stage before thousands and gave him a hug the very next night. Bono had gotten an open letter from Shevchuk before the concert about Khimki, and he spent the hours before his Moscow show giving pre-concert interviews to Russian papers in which he said he wished he'd known about the Khimki forest so he could've brought it up with Medvedev.