Turkey, Egypt, and other favorite vacation spots are out of reach these days for Russians. But the north coast of the Black Sea, spanning from Crimea to Sochi to Abkhazia, offers an affordable alternative.
The exchange of Ukrainian helicopter pilot Nadiya Savchenko for two Russian servicemen appears to be moving ahead. But the deal could also reopen the question of just how involved Russia is with Ukraine's eastern rebellion.
Vladimir Putin took questions from reporters and the public, on topics ranging from his love life to foreign policy. But the overarching theme seemed to be an effort to sympathize with and reassure Russians suffering from the recession.
Amid plunging public trust, the Panama Papers revealed this week that the struggling Ukrainian president holds offshore accounts, and the Dutch resoundingly voted against accepting Ukraine into the EU.
The halting Minsk process, meant to peaceably reunite Ukraine with its restive eastern regions, got a big boost in recent weeks with the assignment of two top Putin officials to key positions in the Russian team.
Moscow has shifted its foreign policy gaze to the defense of Syria's regime amid a lull in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Some worry that the US could downplay Ukraine's plight in order to cooperate with Russia in Syria.