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Robert Eksuzyan

Robert - a law unto himself, with an inimitable short-fuse phone style, the kindest possible heart, and a wonderfully dirty laugh.

He’d lived the Reuters life forever, had a growled opinion about everything and everyone, understood the nuances of every piece of officialese, and always knew who to phone to find the real story. You really lived the changes in Russia with Robert in the slot. In the transition from Communism to whatever we're now calling what came next, it was his shopping trips, and views on what the presence or absence of sausage/vodka etc might mean for the national psyche, that swayed even the most Stockmann-centric staff in the bureau.

I remember often being scared or worried with him, but often charmed too that, on reflection, he’d sometimes let himself be talked down from the more alarmist stories that often did the rounds during my time in Moscow. How to forget his panic at the news, one night in autumn 1991, that the average Russian male’s calorie intake was down to just 3,000 a day because sugarlumps and vodka were so hard to come by - “golod i kholod! Missis Vanorrra, you must write that starvation threatens Russia!” - and his subsequent reluctant laughter when I said we couldn’t run a story warning of imminent starvation based on that one fact if we wanted it to be taken seriously by, say, Californians, whose daily calorie intake would never, ever exceed 1,800 sugar- and vodka-free calories a day.

Especially for a person of such strong opinions, I actually found him extraordinarily even-handed - nothing worse than dark laughter at my report from Azerbaijan that a foreign ministry flak there had gone into a deep gloom at discovering our fixer’s name, complaining that, if Reuters had a fixer called something as Armenian as Eksuzyan, there was no way we’d give Azerbaijan a fair hearing in our reporting; as always, Robert had done absolutely impeccable fixing so the Azeris, like everyone else, did in fact get as good a hearing as was humanly possible.

How very sad that he’s gone. I will miss him. ■