HOW A POT OF GOLD WAS MINED AT THE END OF THE ARCTIC RAINBOW

It takes times of despotism, when the best and brightest of a country’s elite are obliged to fawn, flatter, and commit crimes to make their fortunes, that a sensitive man discovers that virtues are usually only vices in disguise.

At any rate, that’s what La Rochefoucauld – ducal courtier, failed plotter, brilliant aphorist in the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King – had to say at the head of the little book of maxims, which summarized everything he had learned in 17th century France.

In modern Russia, there has so far been no one of comparable quality, neither on the throne, nor plotting behind it. But could it be that an entrepreneurial schemer like Roman Abramovich, whose fawning has enabled him to accumulate great wealth, has turned Rochefoucauld’s maxim on its head? Are Abramovich’s vices – his avarice, ostentation, fanfaronade, rodomontade – actually new Russian virtues in disguise?

From the point of view of some in the Russian capital, Abramovich’s readiness to spend his fortune on foreign follies -football games, celebrity in the London tabloids, gold-plated taps in a gold-plated yacht – demonstrates the virtue of leaving Russia’s natural resource assets where he found them, and of not challenging President Vladimir Putin for either the legal right to sell them to foreign shareholders, or the political influence to decide their future. According to one version of the current Kremlin attitude towards Abramovich, he will be allowed to make a get-away with his ill-gotten gains, but only once. His return is barred – unless he were to bring the gains back, and reinvest them into Russia, without the inside trading favors that made the fortune in the first place. According to the same view, Abramovich and his advisors are dreaming, if they think they can vote their substantial stake in the Yukos-Sibneft conglomerate – following the federal prosecutor’s freeze of the Menatep Group’s 44%, this is now the largest unencumbered voting stake – to a private benefit not endorsed by the Kremlin. Frivolity, opportunism, vanity – if these are Abramovich’s personal vices, they have the contemporary virtue of being irrelevant to the future of the country, so long as he accepts that.

If he does not, then there are some questions Abramovich might be obliged to answer regarding his Russian business dealings. One relatively small one, worth no more than $35 million, may be the proverbial drop in the bucket. But then, as La Rochefoucauld also warned, “fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their misdeeds with success, they think it is because they are right.” It is just when a Russian oligarch thinks he is right that the federal prosecutor, on instructions from the Kremlin, may pounce on him with an indictment.

When Oleg Savchenko, erstwhile proprietor of the European Bearing Corporation of Moscow, and Deerfield Universal Incorporated of no certain address, recently sold his stake in a remote Chukotka gold-mining tract called Maiskoye, Abramovich apparently was convinced he had done the right thing. For what, or for whom exactly is the question Savchenko has been running from ever since, possibly until a prosecutor catches up with him.

Elected governor of Chukotka on December 24, 2000, Abramovich has been trying to attract investment into the region’s potential assets. Maiskoye was one of them. Located near the 70th parallel, south of the Arctic icepack port of Pevek, Soviet geologists had drilled almost as many holes in Maiskoye as there were people in the region. Digging underground tunnels at Maiskoye was the primary occupation of the area between 1972 and 1986. By that time, Maiskoye was judged to contain between 3 and 4 million ounces of potentially mineable gold. If brought to the surface, refined, and taken to market, that would have a current value today of up to $1.6 billion. But the Soviet state decided the costs of doing that, compared with other gold sources in Russia, was too high. After Soviet economics were replaced by Russian and western ones, many mining companies took a close look at Maiskoye – and came to a similar conclusion. Polyus, the goldminer owned by Norilsk Nickel, told Abramovich (in his gubernatorial capacity) hat it would be next to impossible to earn a profit margin of 20% at Maiskoye, unless the region offset the project’s costs with a number of long-lasting tax concessions. For a margin of less than 20%, foreign miners in the region were even more cautious.

And yet, according to an announcement of September 4, 2003, Abramovich (in his gubernatorial capacity) managed to persuade Ivan Kulakov, chief executive of Highland Gold, a London-listed junior mining company, to pay $34.9 million for the right to mine Maiskoye. The terms of the deal were simple, at least according to the company announcement. Highland Gold – buying through a Cyprus subsidiary called Stanmix Holding Limited – would pay the Maiskoye licence owner, Deerfield Universal (that’s Savchenko) $11.9 million now, and installments of $11.5 million annually over the next two years. On November 4, when Highland Gold announced it had finalized the deal and made the down payment, no other terms or conditions had been disclosed.

For a fellow in the business of ball-bearings, Savchenko appears to have been richly rewarded for his little Arctic trouble. Kuiakov, on the other hand, appears to have paid a great deal for something no one else had thought was worth buying at the price. If this wasn’t a case of snow blindness, then what flash of inspiration had the Governor of Chukotka managed to transmit to the buyer and seller, to bring off their transaction? Manage he certainly did, according to a spokesman for Millhouse Capital (UK) Limited, the holding of Abramovich’s private assets which operates from offices near London. According to Millhouse, two of its executives participated in the sale negotiations. So did Andrei Gorodilov, a deputy governor of Chukotka. Millhouse acknowledges that they all were, or had recently been, employees and business associates of Abramovich. Gorodilov had been a first vice-president of Siberian -Oil Company (Sibneft), Abramovich’s most valuable asset. Although Kuiakov was wearing a Highland Gold hat at the table, and spending Highland Gold’s money, he too had been employed by Abramovich, and had served for a time as a board director at Sibneft.

Savchenko was reported in a Moscow newspaper as saying he had provided his stake in Maiskoye to Millhouse, using a Russian term that can be interpreted in different ways – in trust, for management, as a lien, or for collateral to meet an obligation. According to Millhouse, Deerfield Universal, the company through which Savchenko held title to Maiskoye, and thus the legal seller of the hopeful El Dorado, “is not connected in any way whatsoever with Abramovich”. To the question of how to interpret Savchenko’s characterization of the role Millhouse played in the selling of Maiskoye, the Millhouse spokesman said he was “not exactly sure”.

How willing Highland Gold, and its principal shareholder, the South African goldminer Harmony Gold, were to be the buyer is also not exactly certain. Early in September, Highland Gold was in secret negotiations, described by a witness as frantic, to forestall the loss of its single source of cash, the Mnogovershinnoye goldmine in the Khabarovsk region, several thousand kilometers to the south of Maiskoye. Also, there was insufficient cash in the Highland Gold till to meet a combination of its Moscow bank debts, due for repayment in October and November, and the price it would have to pay at auction for mine equipment at Mnogovershinnoye, which the regional government had scheduled for public auction on September 16. Attempts at fresh bank borrowings at the time were not going well, according to the banks. Did Kulakov have $11.9 million for the first installment on Maiskoye when he was at the table with the sellers? And if he was uncertain he could afford to meet the price of the Khabarovsk auction, why was he ready to compound his financial risk two weeks earlier? What was his hurry? Why would Highland risk paying so much for a non-producing asset, when it was at risk of forfeiting its only source of income?

The Russian oligarchs attract gossip, which exaggerates their influence. The answers to the many questions surrounding the Maiskoye transaction were thus boiled down by investment bankers and mining analysts in Moscow to just one. Abramovich, so the envious wanted to believe, was behind the seller, just as he was behind the buyer. To ensure that the price suited his pocket, he also sat at the table through the Chukotka regional representative, and as the deal mediator, Millhouse.

How wrong the Millhouse spokesman has insisted – how unfair to Abramovich. As La Rochefoucauld observed, the world is full of pots jeering at kettles. Who better, then, to dispel the aspersions than Savchenko the seller? And where better to inquire than at the Moscow office of his European Bearing Corporation? Starting then on September 8, and continuing for nine weeks, Savchenko has been contacted, and questions relayed to him through his secretaries, assistants, and spokesmen. When had he acquired Deerfield Universal, and from what source? Why had he bought a gold prospect if he was in the bearings business? Had he ever done business with Abramovich or his group? What type of transfer of his Deerfield Universal shares had he made to Millhouse, and for what reason? Was he the final beneficiary of the $34.9 million sale of Maiskoye, or someone else?

Savchenko’s business trips out of Moscow have coincided with every attempt at making contact for the answers to these questions. And so, to determine just good the ball-bearings business has been over the past few months, a separate contact was made with his company, requesting a price list for bearings for export to a European destination. That is when Savchenko’s secretary responded: “unfortunately, we are a consulting company, and don’t do direct sales.”

If the title of his company is a misnomer, could it be that Oleg Savchenko are names for someone who doesn’t exist? Those who claimed to be his secretaries, assistants, and spokesmen were asked two fresh questions: How tall is Oleg Vladimirovich? Is running one of his sports? This time the response was: “All questions about the company can be answered by our press service manager, who is currently occupied at a meeting. Usually, we do not disclose personal information about our employees or administration.” Follow-up questioning failed to produce the name of the press spokesman.

Whether his name is as fleeting, or as fictive as Savchenko’s has proved to be unimportant, beside a set of admissions volunteered by Highland Gold’s investment relations executive, Christine Coignard. Speaking from her office in Germany on November 20, Coignard was asked what she knew about the seller of Maiskoye. “The official seller was Deerfield Universal,” she responded. “The person behind it was Abramovich. Abramovich was the beneficial owner and seller.” Asked what form the sale negotiations took, Coignard said they had taken place over “several months”. They were finalized, she said, in direct talks involving Abramovich, Highland Gold’s chairman Lord Peter Daresbury, and Ivan Kulakov, Highland Gold’s CEO. All three “were directly involved,” Coignard confirmed.

She added that, during the negotiations, Abramovich “had two roles, one as a seller, and one as the governor [of Chukotka]. He gave an undertaking regarding the [mining] license. He said he would help renegotiate the terms of the license to make it mineable.” According to Coignard, these were changes that required approval by the Chukotka administration. She said one of the changes Abramovich offered to make proposed to “remove production targets”. While these changes must be effected in written documentation, Coignard added there was another undertaking from Abramovich she was not sure had been put down in writing. This, she said, was that the Chukotka administration would build at state expense a road between the district town of Pevek and the Maiskoye site for all but the last 10 kilometres of the 180-kilometre distance. “So far as I know, this is not a written agreement,” Coignard said, “but it is an undertaking.”

It seems the gossips told the truth. In one of the most wretched of regions, in one of the weakest states of Europe, one would have to be unreasonably jealous to dispute the value that Abramovich’s actions in the matter of the Maiskoye goldmine have conferred on the region he was elected to govern. What but envy could dispute the reward of $34.9 million he persuaded Highland Gold to pay him for doing his public duty? As to the difference between jealousy and envy, why leave it to unlettered prosecutors to probe, when La Rochefoucauld has already explained the difference. Jealousy, the old duke said, “is in some measure just and reasonable, since it merely aims at keeping something that belongs to us, or we think belongs to us. Whereas envy is a frenzy that cannot bear anything that belongs to others.”

RUNNING FOR PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA

MOSCOW – When a man runs for the office of Russian prime minister, he must first learn to crawl.

Former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov mistakenly imagined he was on a high horse, when in early October he received a delegation from United States oil company ExxonMobil and allowed his guests to announce publicly that the Russian government could find no obstacle to their acquisition of a strategic stake in YukosSibneft, Russia’s principal oil producer.

That put him on the wrong side of President Vladimir Putin at the very moment when Putin decided to make the fight of his career, arresting and jailing Mikhail Khodorkovsky, forcing chief of staff Alexander Voloshin into the cold, and deciding there will be no sales or share swaps of Russia’s strategic natural resources to foreign corporations.

If Kasyanov had any hope of retaining the prime minister’s portfolio after the parliamentary elections on December 7, or the presidential poll next March, he appeared to have lost it when, his eyes askance, he was obliged by Putin to listen to a blunt warning to the entire cabinet to stay out of the Yukos affair. Kasyanov’s exit became a certainty when on Halloween he publicly attacked the court-ordered freeze of the 44-percent bloc of Yukos shares that Khodorkovsky and his allies control.

By contrast, the three economic policy ministers in the cabinet, which Putin inherited from ex-President Boris Yeltsin in 1999, quickly understood that the ExxonMobil deal was impossible, and Khodorkovsky insupportable. German Gref, minister of economic development and trade, appeared by Putin’s side when the president met with a group of investment bankers.

Since the Yukos affair began, Gref and Victor Khristenko, the deputy prime minister in charge of the oil sector, have become timid advocates of a new tax, licensing and anti-trust regime for natural resources that should eliminate the oligarchs as the dominant force in the Russian economy. Timidity is the sound a man lacking confidence makes when he is on all-fours.

It has been Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister and deputy prime minister in charge of macro-economic policy, however, who has made the loudest virtue of that deportment. In defending the president from that posture, he has appealed for selection as Kasyanov’s successor, Russia’s new prime minister. A one-time protege of Anatoly Chubais, Kudrin learned early how to run and crawl at the same time. Responding to the exit of Voloshin from the Kremlin, he declared that “this marks the end of the Byzantine empire!” as if Kudrin’s humble service in Byzantium all these years has been nothing if not dutiful, selfless, and unflinching in his resistance to bad policy.

“Of course, we will close that tax avoidance loophole, pay wages, and reduce taxes,” proclaimed Kudrin, once he had been convinced by Putin himself that there was no reversing course in the clash with Khodorkovsky. “But it never ceases to amaze me why a far-from-impoverished oil company should crave those loopholes so vehemently.” Irony is usually not a quality favored in Russian prime ministers, as it doesn’t comport well with unswerving loyalty, and the ability to accommodate contradictions – two higher qualities for the job.

How will Kudrin’s new support for the restructuring of the Yukos shareholding, and for an end to tax privileges for oil companies, lead him to treat the tolling privilege in aluminum, which Kudrin conceded in favor of Oleg Deripaska and Victor Vexelberg; or the privatization of Alrosa, which Kudrin has been tempted to give away to the President of the Sakha republic; or the declassification of metals secrets which he awarded to lobbyists from Vladimir Potanin, enabling him to prepare to place his shares in Norilsk Nickel on the international market?

These are only a few of the policy contradictions over which Kudrin has presided at the Finance Ministry until now. But they are potentially serious vulnerabilities in his campaign to win Putin’s favor for the next prime minister, if they prove that Kudrin’s loyalty has been too easily swayed by either foreign economic interests in Russia, or the oligarchs. Sergei Stepashin, the current head of the Accounting Chamber and briefly one of Yeltsin’s prime ministers, is a contender who can lay claim to greater independence.

Stepashin even attempted to direct his auditors into the Finance Ministry itself, which Kudrin has preserved from any of the accountability or public sector reform he has urged everywhere else in the government bureaucracy. That ex-President Yeltsin should go to great lengths to publicly belittle Stepashin, and simultaneously promote Chubais – published in an interview with the newspaper that Khodorkovsky recently acquired – is a strong signal of what Yeltsin (and Chubais) fears may happen in the prime ministry soon.

“It is not that he had some shortcomings,” Yeltsin recently said of Stepashin. “He is a talented and well-educated person. It was just that he did not have all it takes to be prime minister and then become president.” What that meant in 1999 was clear – Stepashin was too great a risk to Yeltsin and the interests of his cronies. Now, and in the second Putin term, that may be just what Putin needs in order to run a government fully free of the Yeltsin group’s influence.

Another contender, Vladimir Litvinenko, is possibly the most influential of the Kremlin’s advisors on natural resource policy, and the most modest. As rector of the St Petersburg Mining Institute, and one of Russia’s leading academics on resource policy, he has been biding his time and nurturing the president’s understanding of how to manage Russia’s resource wealth.

If Litvinenko is chosen as prime minister, or as a super-minister for natural resources, this would be a signal that the cash flow methods and investment priorities of the oligarchs who will remain after Khodorkovsky’s case is over will not endure either.

Neither Stepashin nor Litvinenko is the sort of character who will crawl for public office. Whether they are running is up to Putin to decide. His decision may already have been taken.

PUTIN COULD TAKE A LESSON FROM NAPOLEON

MOSCOW – Napoleon Bonaparte was the greatest tactician in European history.

Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to understand how similar Russia’s situation, and his own, are to the circumstances facing France, and to Napoleon, when the country was encircled by hostile powers, led by the British; its treasury emptied by corruption and civil war; its army demoralized and unpaid; and its fractious rulers intent on plotting one another.

There will be time over the 18 months that remain before the Duma and presidential elections to see whether Putin can think enough like Napoleon to turn tactical initiative into durable power. But we must begin in November 1793, when Napoleon was a 24-year-old artillery captain, and the battle of Toulon was fought against the British to liberate French territory. That victory launched Napoleon’s meteoric career. It was also a demonstration of Napoleon’s ability to defy conventional thinking, and win. (more…)

RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.

(more…)
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