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Moscow Times
February 7, 2005
Celebrating the Best in Russian Security
By Kevin O'Flynn
Staff Writer

Everyone needs to feel like a star now and again, and in an industry reliant on danger and close run-ins with death, security guards are not much different.

More than 500 people packed the security industry's version of the Academy Awards ceremony on Saturday to cheer the winners in categories such as best bodyguard and best fire protection equipment.

The entire industry seemed to have been given the night off for the show, held at the School of Dramatic Art on Ulitsa Sretenka, where there was no one at the door and nary any shaven-headed men talking into their thumb.

Now in their second year, the security awards are known as the ZUBR (for za ukrepleniye bezopasnosti Rossii, or for the strengthening of the security of Russia) and are billed rather grandly as one of the new "civil society initiatives used to cooperate with the government in the fight against new threats." The word zubr means bison, so all the award winners went home with a large metal bison.

"I think the industry is worthy of having such events," Vadim Ignatov, a winner in the information defense awards, said after the ceremony, still clutching his framed diploma. "It's like those best film awards, the Oscars."

If the names of awards such as best product in the sphere of information security and best product in the sphere of personal defense and rescue did not quite trip off the tongue as easily as best actor or best film, the organizers still tried to make it as grand an occasion as possible. Representatives of accounting firm KPMG came up on stage to affirm that the voting had been done correctly. Security people are an untrusting bunch.

The ceremony was one of large pauses interspersed with large dashes of pomp. It began with a short-skirted troupe of female drummers marching around the stage as the Russian flag fluttered in the background on two large video screens. An all-girl pop group, Ultimatum, then mimed its way through a song extolling Russia.

Best bodyguard went to Sergei Shchetinin for winning a national shooting contest. To receive the award for him, he sent Dmitry Fonarev, the president of the National Bodyguard Association, who was part of Mikhail Gorbachev's security team when he was the Soviet leader.

Even without the awards, those in the security business have a right to be pleased. The industry was worth $2 billion last year, and the market is growing by more than 40 percent a year, according to Sergei Trapani, who handles international marketing for Grotec publishers, which puts out magazines on security themes and was one of the organizers of the award ceremony.

The security business is not just bodyguards and reinforced jeeps.

"It is all around us," Trapani said, pointing to fire safety systems in schools and apartments, and plans by the Moscow government to require most apartments to have video equipment installed on doors.

Russia is one of the leaders in the bodyguard business, Fonarev said, and foreign experts come here to see how Russians provide protection against assassination and kidnapping. There are 17,000 bodyguards in Russia, with an average monthly salary of 750 euros ($965), he said.

The main stars of the ceremony, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan and Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin, did not show up to receive their awards. Stepashin could be seen Saturday attending a similar Hollywood-inspired show, broadcast on television and with many more all-girl groups than at the security awards, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Audit Chamber.