ANGLO AMERICAN POISED FOR RUSSIAN DEAL

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) – When we last left our Great White Hunters, the Anglo American chief executive and two of his companions, they had arrived in Moscow for two days of meetings, Monday and today. Like the legendary Allan Quatermain himself, they were intent on covering their tracks, while manoeuvering into position for their prey. But back at base camp, no-one claimed to know what exactly the hunting party of Tony Trahar, Barry Davison, and Philip Baum were after in Russia.

A spokesman for Trahar in Johannesburg said the trip to Moscow was “a general courtesy visit to discuss paper and pulp.” But the ranking Russian official whom the group met on Monday, Minister of Natural Resources, Yury Trutnev, is primarily concerned with sub-soil mining projects. On Friday, a statement from his office reported that Anglo American wanted to discuss possible exploration in the country, and cooperation with domestic companies. Coal appeared to be the target, according to press reports of the ministry release. Following the Monday meeting, however, Trutnev was quoted in a ministry announcement as focusing on other minerals Proposed or pending amendments to Russia’s mining legislation, Trutnev reportedly said, “will make the sphere of natural resources’ use more attractive tc foreign investors”. He noted that the competition is intense, especially in the oil and gas sector. As for timber processing, Trutnev claimed the new timber: code “will raise the investment appeal of timber-processing enteprises for foreign companies.”

So far, there has been no public mention of Anglo American’s largest investment in Russia, the Mondi division’s investment of over $300 million in the Syktyvkar Forest Enterprise (SLPK), a paper and cardboard producer which was taken over in stages over several years. Based in the northwestern region of Komi, SLPK’s output of paper and cardboard accounts for 40 percent of Russia’s total production of office paper; 9 percent of paper for the country’s newspaper industry; and about 40 percent of cardboard production. In Russia SLPK’s Snegourochka (“Snow Maiden”) brand is acknowledged to be one of the best office-paper trademarks.

Mondi Europe’s strategy for investment into Eastern Europe started with a single paper mill in Austria producing 215,000 tons of paper products in 1995. Mondi then expanded into Hungary, Slovakia, Isreael, and Russia. The Syktyvkar plant has been an extremely lucrative one for Anglo American, as well as for Trahar, who came into the chief executive’s suite from the paper and pulp sector.

The success has attracted Russian raiders. Anglo American has acknowledged that Oleg Deripaska, the aluminium oligarch who has made aggressive takeover bids for other Russian paper, packaging and pulp mills, has been a threat to Syktyvkar. However, Deripaska is no longer a threat, Anglo American now believes. According to the company spokesperson in London, Kate Aindow, Trahar’s visit to Moscow was “in connexion with our paper and pulp interests.” She acknowledged that no-one from that division of the company was accompanying Trahar, and that Davison and Baum have different supervisory roles on the Anglo executive board. Asked if the group was meeting Deripaska, or other Russian paper and pulp producers, Aindow said she “genuinely does not know who they are meeting.” Rick Witt, Anglo’s newly-appointed Moscow representative, an American from the oil equipment sector, declined to respond to a request for the group’s meetings in Moscow.

Deripaska’s Basic Element holding was categorical that it has not met with the Anglo American group. A source at Him Pulp, which manages Kotlass Pulp & Paper, said the same thing. A year ago, llim’s controlling shareholder had been unable to fight or buy off a Deripaska raid, and offered to sell instead to Anglo American, in the hope that it might ride to the rescue. Victor Khristenko, the minister of industry and energy whose ministry supervises the downstream industry, also confirmed that he had not met with Trahar.

A source close to Anglo American believes it is unlikely that Anglo’s strategy in Russia will increase the concentration the group currently has in the paper and pulp sector. Diversification into minerals, including precious metals, is more likely, the source said. AngloGold Ashanti has already bought a $30 million shareholding stake in the UK-listed junior, Trans-Siberian Gold, and has plans to develop mines in the Krasnoyarsk and Kamchatka regiohs. AngloGold has been a regular visitor to Moscow this year, and has been doing due diligence on the mine assets and exploration prospects of at least two major Russian goldminers. No-one from AngloGold was accompanying Trahar in Moscow this week.

Sources at Anglo American acknowledge that the group wants to sell the chrome division of Samancor, which is jointly owned with BHP Billiton; Anglo’s stake is 40 percent; BHP Billiton’s is 60 percent. The sources also claim that the manganese division of Samancor, which may be worth at least $1 billion, is not for sale.

Russian oligarch, Victor Vekselberg, has reportedly been talking to Anglo during the year, both directly on two visits he has made to South Africa; and through his new dealmaker, Brian Gilbertson. Vekselberg was in Johannesburg early in November, but none of his spokesmen nor Gilbertson will confirm with whom he met. Gilbertson heads SUAL, which is primarily a domestic bauxite, alumina and aluminium producer, seeking to diversify (offshore if foreign investors can be found to finance the move. Vekselberg’s holding company Renova is ostensibly a separate company, or group of companies; and although it has no mining experience, and operates no mining projects directly, it has engaged Mark Bouzuk, a former aluminium trader, to negotiate for mining investments in South Africa (SA).

Bouzuk makes plain in an interview that he cannot speak for either Renova or SUAL, Gilbertson or Vekselberg. His company has been contracted by Renova, he says, to develop a South African base, but he himself is not a Renova executive. Clarifying some Russian media reports, which he described as having misquoted him or misunderstood remarks he made last week to the Russian news agency Interfax, Bouzuk said: “we are not interested in Samancor chrome. It is too early to talk about Samancor manganese. Is it for sale?”

For the time being, according to Bouzuk, he has negotiated memoranda of understanding and contracts with several black-owned or empowered companies in SA, with the objective of their partnering Renova in joint mining ventures in SA. The target of these discussions, Bouzuk confirmed, is manganese in the Northern Cape province. He said that lie knows nothing about any presentations of a manganese project to President Thabo Mbeki, or to senior SA government officials. Indeed, he added, his local partner companies have yet to apply for mining licences, or to receive them. He added that he cannot disclose the identities of the SA partner companies at this stage. “We have contracts, but we are not ready to disclose the names,’ he said. When asked if he or Renova were meeting with Trahar in Moscow, Bouzuk replied; “As far as I know, no.” At SUAL headquarters, Gilbertson referred the question to Renova.

Renova’s office in Moscow is headed by Alexander Zarubin. His spokesman said: “As for today, I can confirm that there were no meetings of Renova officials or Viktor Vekselberg personally with anyone from Anglo American.”

ANGLO AMERICAN IN SALE TALKS WITH RENOVA?

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) -The headline in the Moscow newspaper came straight out of Rider Haggard’s century-old adventures. “Renova masters Africa”, it said, going on to describe how Victor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch behind the Renova company, recently visited South Africa to arrange local approval of a plan for the largest manganese mine in the world, and of another plan which he is still keeping secret.

Whether the plan is for Vekselberg to dig a new mine, or to buy one from South Africa’s Samancor will be clearer by the end of today, after Anglo American executives Tony Trahar, Barry Davison, and Philip Baum complete a round of meetings in Moscow. Baum’s office in Johannesburg confirmed that he, CEO of Anglo’s Ferrous Metals and Industries division, is in Moscow with Trahar and Davison. One meeting on their agenda, confirmed by the Russians, is with Yury Trutnev, Minister of Natural Resources.

In an announcement to the Russian media, Trutnev’s ministry has intimated that today’s session would focus on coal. Baum’s presence suggests the focus is on Samancor’s manganese and chrome. Davison’s involvement indicates that another billion-dollar deal with a Russian oligarch may be in the works. The first, done in perfect secrecy and in less than two weeks in March, saw Anglo American sell a 20% stake in Gold Fields to Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, the controlling shareholders of Norilsk Nickel, for $1.16 billion.

If Anglo American is about to make a deal with Vekselberg for cash and shares, they are also about to court South African and Russian government investigations into the deal that may reverse it on national interest grounds, much as Kremlin pressure has forced the Norilsk Nickel shareholders to find an exit from their Gold Fields acquisition.

“How can a world be good,” wondered Haggard, creator of gentleman adventurer in Africa, Sir Allan Quatermain, “in which Money is the moving power, and self-interest the guiding star? The wonder is not that it is so bad, but that there should be any good left in it”.

In his quest to find a domicile outside Russia for his mining and mineral assets, Vekselberg has visited South Africa at least twice this year, according to those he met. The first time was in February and the second time, a few days ago, when he left an adventure safari arranged with Mikhail Fridman, the oligarch who heads the Alfa Bank group. In addition, those who have met him say that Brian Gilbertson, now Vekselberg’s appointee as chief executive of the SUAL group, has been calling or meeting with every major South African mineral company, looking for takeover or merger targets. SUAL mines bauxite in northern Russia, and produces alumina and aluminium, and it trades its metal according to Russian tax optimization schemes that have come under increasing scrutiny from the tax authorities in Moscow in recent weeks. Gilbertson and Vekselberg are in a hurry.

Until this month, according to SUAL’s London spokesman Bill Spears, “it is not our policy to disclose the identity of those participating in business meetings with us.” But the group has become more talkative during the visit to Pretoria by Minister Trutnev, in mid-November. Trutnev headed a delegation of Russians for the annual session of the Russia-South Africa commission on inter-government trade and economic cooperation (ITEC). Renova’s Moscow office tried to keep radio silence, refusing to identify in advance that it had joined Trutnev’s delegation. Renova, which was recently divided by Vekselberg into several sections, is nominally headed in Moscow by Alexander Zatulin. For the Pretoria meetings on November 17-18, he was in South Africa, along with Mark Bouzuk, a former Swiss-based aluminium trader who now heads Vekselberg’s drive into Africa. Bouzuk’s deputy in Moscow is Alexei Belokrys.

Ahead of his trip, Trutnev was asked by Mineweb to say if he “supports or opposes efforts by Russian mineral resource licensees) like Victor Vekselberg and Vladimir Potanin to buy stakes in South African companies, and to reverse-list their Russian assets in SA or international listings?” He declined to answer. But in Pretoria, he told a Russian reporter traveling with him that, in parallel with SA company interests in Russia, “there are also: counterpart [Russian] interests; for example, GMK Norilsk Nickel starts work with the Republic of South Africa, and the company Renova has shown interest in ciooperation.”

Exactly what work Trutnev was thinking of when he mentioned Norilsk Nickel is not clear. A team of people, led by a former Russian ambassador to Baghdad and a man identifying himself as a former KGB intelligence liaison with the anti-apartheid movement, have been introducing themselves in Johannesburg as Norilsk Nickel representatives to South Africa. So far, the only work the company has done has been to participate in the hostile takeover bid Gold Fields, which began in planning with HSBC Bank a few weeks after the March 29 purchase. That transaction is the largest single Russian investment abroad, and concomitantly the largest Russian investment ever in Africa. Following Kremlin and Central Bank review, that transaction is being reversed.

Meantime, Trutnev’s intimation of approval for the process has encouraged Renova executive Bouzuk to unveil in Moscow what he claims to be two ambitious plans Renova has for mining in South Africa. In remarks reported by Kommersant, a Moscow business newspaper, Bouzuk claimed one of the plans is still secret. The other, he said, calls for the investment of more than $300 million in a mine and ore-processing mill in the northwest of South Africa. Target, said Bouzuk, is manganese, an important metal used as a purifying and strengthening alloy for steel.

The newspaper report claims that Bouzuk described a plan in which Renova, working with a black-owned South African partner, will explore the area, which already hosts several manganese mines operated by South African interests, including the Sacco family and Samancor, a chrome land manganese mining company jointly owned by BHP Billiton (60%) and Anglo American (40%). An open-pit and underground shaft mine will produce 1.5 million tons of manganese ore, Bouzuk reportedly said, and the mill and concentrator will turn out between 400,000 and 500,000 tons of manganese.

About 80% of the world’s commercially mineable manganese ores are located in SA’s Northern Cape province, where Samancor mines at sites around Hotazel. Together, they lift up to 3.4 million tons of ore per annum. At a nearby plant, this is processed into ferro and silicomanganese According to Samancor it produces between 300,000 and 420,000 tons annually. The Renova mine target is thus substantially larger; indeed, it could be the largest manganese mine in the world so far. At current market prices, Sarmancor sells just short of $400 million worth of manganese per year, most of it to export buyers. The estimated cost of Renova’s project will be more than $300 million, according to Bouzuk.

He told the Moscow press that Renova will raise all of the funds, but will hold just 40% to 45% of the joint venture company. The balance of the shareholding will be held, he reportedly said, by “South African companies belonging to black businessmen”. They were not identified. Again according to Bouzuk, a briefing on the manganese project was made to President Thabo Mbeki and the SA government in what is described as a “closed presentation” sometime during the Russian summer. “This project has already met with the approval of the government of the republic of South Africa,” it was reported in Moscow.

Renova has been unwilling so far to provide any details of this approval process; Bouzuk has refused to answer questions. SA mining sources say they do not believe the approval reports, and they are skeptical of the project claims. In September, during a visit to Moscow of Lulu Xingwana, deputy minister of mining and minerals, she told Mineweb that she had been briefed by Renova officials, and she subsequently made a public speech endorsing Renova’s activity in South Africa. Xingwana also declined to provide any details of her endorsement. She subsequently met Trutnev during the ITEC session in Pretoria, when both appeared to endorse the Renova manganese project.

It is necessary to create “conditions for South African companies to feel comfortable in Russia, and Russian companies in the republic of South Africa, “Trutnev told the Russian news agency Tass, after his recent meeting in Pretoria with Xingwana. But according to SA executives, during his meetings in SA Trutnev concentrated almost entirely on what Russian companies want in SA There appear to have been no reciprocal demands, nor discussion, of SA corporate operations in Russia. According to the official minutes of ITEC prepared by the two governments, Russian interest in SA mining was explicitly identified as manganese and platinum.

SA sources told Mineweb that it is possible that Vekselberg is interested in bidding for existing mine assets, not in developing a new mine. An uncorroborated source has told Mineweb that Vekselberg and Gilbertson have been in discussion with Anglo American for a billion-dollar deal. A senior Anglo American told Mineweb that Samancor is for sale, and that among the potential bidders there may be a Russian. However, the source was categorical that it is Samancor’s chrome division that is for sale, and that the manganese business is not on the block. Market sources told Mineweb they have heard that an unidentified Russian group is seeking substantial financing for a SA mining project, although the rumour did not distinguish between a greenfields project and a takeover. The sources also expressed skepticism that the Renova group, which through SUAL International, has been unable to raise any finance in almost two years of trying, and has been limited in its fund-raising capability for its Russian bauxite projects, could manage the much greater capital requirements that Bouzuk has identified.

On the other hand, Russian government opposition to the expatriation of assets by the oligarchs should make it difficult for Vekselberg to add his Russian assets to a takeover or merger bid in South Africa. Growing scrutiny in Moscow of the asset consolidation and cashflow management schemes of oligarch companies, including Vekselberg’s, may be accelerating his desire to strike an offshore deal as quickly as possible. At the same time, Kremlin policy may make the move impossible – a point which, oddly, Trutnev failed to mention while he was in Pretoria.

WHAT’S IN A NAME, IF IT’S A RUSSIAN OLIGARCH

By John Helmer in Moscow

Laundering a man’s reputation is a little like laundering money. The more you churn the facts, the harder it is to remember them; the less damage they can do; and the whiter the outcome.

It is for this reason that Russia’s oligarchs have spent so much effort bringing defamation cases against their critics and investigators in the courts of foreign countries. The countries chosen are those where the oligarchs have set up their homes and families; and also where their bankers issue their loans, or where an oligarch can leverage his local business interests against advertising-dependent newspapers. As defamation law varies from country to country, favouring the press in the United States, and the oligarch in the United Kingdom, the preferred choice for a reputation laundering operation is London. There, it is not only the courts, but also the English newspapers, not to mention the English prime ministry, which specialize in reputation laundering.

The greatest disadvantage that a certified Russian oligarch has in the libel courts of the United States is that he is a public person, not a private figure. According to US defamation law, the free-speech provisions of the constitution, and the way in which the US courts have interpreted both, if a good man is deemed to be so well-known in his activities, through government, market or media, a great deal that is bad about him may be reported but not qualify as libel, according to the US standard. For oligarchs who have spent small fortunes at American public relations companies to promote themselves in the US as internationally respected public figures, it is difficult for them to turn around and confide to a US judge that they are nothing but humble individuals unseeking of fame, and undeserving of notoriety. One oligarch, who will argue this before a judge in a US federal court very soon, has amassed the voluminous record of 11,500 pages of English-language press reportage, not to count the Internet, in the last four years. If the judge rules that a man with that record is a public person, then the truthfulness of the bad that has been published about him need not be proven by those who have reported it. Rather, the bad but good oligarch must prove malice in the reporting about him, or reckless disregard for the truth. For oligarchs accustomed to paying for good reports, and assuming that bad reports must be paid for by a rival or enemy, this is a legal standard that is next to impossible to meet. Accordingly, no oligarch is likely to be libeled, according to a US court. But on the other hand, no US judge is likely to get around to adjudicate the truthfully bad from the truthfully good in an oligarch’s reputation.

While England and the US are the countries which the Russian oligarchs depend on the most, there are a handful of other places where they like to live, make and spend their money. In Germany and France, for example, Russian oligarchs have applied for courts to adjudicate libel in their favour against newspapers, generally business newspapers influential in the bank suites. The mere threat of litigation is often enough to persuade even the most respectable of media managements to avoid informing their readers about the risks – real, perceived, suspected, rumoured — of doing business with Russian oligarchs.

This public form of due diligence is serious and problematic enough for at least one oligarch to have gone to the trouble, two years ago, of hiring an internationally reputed detective agency to prepare a report on his reputation. While the contract documents show that the oligarch agreed to pay a large sum of money for the job, the cost of his bankers’ suspicion that he might be a bad man to lend money to was substantially greater, as the detective agency pointed out in the correspondence. And so, the detective agency was hired; a code name was coined for the project; and a large advance payment was invoiced.

To be sure, the detective agency had a reputation of its own to guard. And so, there was a certain awkwardness, on the detective agency’s part, in taking pay from the oligarch for what was mutually agreed to be an “independent” evaluation of all the bad the man was reputed to have done; and for the oligarch to then distribute the detectives’ report to those he suspected of believing he was a bad man. Enquiries were therefore promised of officially independent law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, to which the detective agency claimed access. Unfortunately, for the reputation of the detective agency and its report, the latter must have resisted the enquiries that were sought. They told the detectives nothing the latter managed to include in their report.

The internationally reputable detective agency could hardly be drawn into a US court, because the effect of its report would be to substantiate the very point an oligarch must try to deny – that he is a public person with international notoriety. As a private foreign enterprise purporting to investigate official Russian agencies of government, the report would be inadmissible as evidence in a Russian court.

And so, when the report was dispatched recently to a French court, its existence begged the question of what the French government and its intelligence agencies knew about the subject matter. Even if French jurisprudence is inclined to be generous to oligarchs on the distinction between public persons and private individuals, and strict in the requirements for veracity by reporters in print, many centuries have passed since a French court accepted as evidence the opinion of a private foreign enterprise gathering and selling information for money.

For any man to put his reputation on trial in a court of law, there is always the risk of adding to his notoriety, and thus, win or lose on the legal issues, to reinforce the impression that he is the very bad man he has been made out, so wrongly, to be. After all, it is not the exoneration, or esteem, of the man in the street, or the reader of newspapers, that an oligarch is seeking when he goes to court. His target is a bankers’ head of risk, the chairman of the credit committee, the insurer of officers and directors’ liability, the independent auditor, and the legal drafter of his next prospectus for an unsecured Eurobond or American Depositary Share. That’s a small, sophisticated audience, who know the unprintable truth. They are not greatly influenced by guilty or innocent verdicts in libel cases.

Note to readers : on November 22, at the 17th Court of Paris, Mikhail Fridman will present his case for defamation against Les Echos, France’s business newspaper. On December 21, Judge John Banks of the federal US district court of Washington, DC, will hear oral argument on a defendants’ motion for summary judgement in the case of OAO Alfa Bank, ZAO Alfa Eco, Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven v. Center for Public Integrity, Knut Royce and Nathaniel Heller.

WHAT’S IN A NAME, IF IT’S A RUSSIAN OLIGARCH

Laundering a man’s reputation is a little like laundering money. The more you churn the facts, the harder it is to remember them; the less damage they can do; and the whiter the outcome.

It is for this reason that Russia’s oligarchs have spent so much effort bringing defamation cases against their critics and investigators in the courts of foreign countries. The countries chosen are those where the oligarchs have set up their homes and families; and also where their bankers issue their loans, or where an oligarch can leverage his local business interests against advertising-dependent newspapers. As defamation law varies from country to country, favouring the press in the United States, and the oligarch in the United Kingdom, the preferred choice for a reputation laundering operation is London. There, it is not only the courts, but also the English newspapers, not to mention the English prime ministry, which specialize in reputation laundering.

The greatest disadvantage that a certified Russian oligarch has in the libel courts of the United States is that he is a public person, not a private figure. According to US defamation law, the free-speech provisions of the constitution, and the way in which the US courts have man is deemed to be so well-known interpreted both, if a good man is deemed to be so well-known in his activities, through government, market or media, a great deal that is bad about him may be reported but not qualify as libel, according to the US standard. For oligarchs who have spent small fortunes at American public relations companies to promote themselves in the US as internationally respected public figures, it is difficult for them to turn around and confide to a US judge that they are nothing but humble individuals unseeking of fame, and undeserving of notoriety. One oligarch, who will argue this before a judge in a US federal court very soon, has amassed the voluminous record of 11,500 pages of English-language press reportage, not to count the Internet, in the last four years. If the judge rules that a man with that record is a public person, then the! truthfulness of the bad that has been published about him need not be proven by those who have reported it. Rather, the bad but good oligarch must prove malice in the reporting about him, or reckless disregard for the truth. For oligarchs accustomed to paying for good reports, and assuming that bad reports must be paid for by a rival or enemy, this is a legal standard that is next to impossible to meet. Accordingly, no oligarch is likely to be libeled, according to a US court. But on the other hand, no US judge is; likely to get around to adjudicate the truthfully bad from the truthfully good in an oligarch’s reputation.

While England and the US are the countries which the Russian oligarchs depend on the most, there are a handful of other places where they like to live, make and spend their money. In Germany and France, for example, Russian oligarchs have applied for courts ‘to adjudicate libel in their favour against newspapers, generally business newspapers influential in the bank suites. The mere threat of litigation is often enough to persuade even the most respectable of media managements to avoid informing their readers about the risks – real, perceived, suspected, rumoured — of doing business with Russian oligarchs.

This public form of due diligence is serious and problematic enough for at least one oligarch to have gone to the: trouble, two years ago, of hiring an internationally reputed detective agency to prepare a report on his reputation. While the contract documents show that the oligarch agreed to pay a large: sum of money for the job, the cost of his bankers’ suspicion that he might be a bad man to lend money to was substantially greater, as the detective agency pointed out in the correspondence. And so, the detective agency was hired; a code name was coined for the project; and a large advance payment was invoiced.

To be sure, the detective agency had a reputation of its own to guard. And so, there was a certain awkwardness, on the detective agency’s part, in taking pay from the oligarch for what was mutually agreed to be an “independent” evaluation of all the bad the man was reputed to have done; and for the oligarch to then distribute the detectives’ report to those he suspected of believing he was a bad man. Enquiries were therefore promised of officially independent law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world, to which the detective agency claimed access. Unfortunately, for the reputation of the detective agency and its report, the latter must have resisted the enquiries that were sought. They told the detectives nothing the latter managed to include in their report.

The internationally reputable detective agency could hardly be drawn into a US court, because the effect of its report would be to substantiate the very point an oligarch must try to deny – that he is a public person with international notoriety. As a private foreign enterprise purporting to investigate official Russian agencies of government, the report would be inadmissible as evidence in a Russian court.

And so, when the report was dispatched recently to a French court, its existence begged the question of what me French government and its intelligence agencies knew about the subject matter. Even if French jurisprudence is inclined to be generous to oligarchs on the distinction between public persons and private individuals, and strict in the requirements for veracity by reporters in print, many centuries have passed since a French court accepted as evidence the opinion of a private foreign enterprise (lathering and selling information for money.

For any man to put his reputation on trial in a court of law, there is always the risk of adding to his notoriety, and thus, win or lose on the legal issues, to reinforce the impression that he is the very bad man he has been made out, so wrongly, to be, After all, it is not the exoneration, or esteem, of the man in the street, or the reader of newspapers, that an oligarch is seeking when he goes to court. His target is a bankers’ head of risk, the chairman of the credit committee, the insurer of officers and directors’ liability, the independent auditor, and the legal drafter of his next prospectus for an unsecured Eurobond or American Depositary Share. That’s a small, sophisticated audience, who know th« unprintable truth. They are not greatly influenced by guilty or innocent verdicts in libel cases.

Note to readers: on November 22, at the 17th Court of Paris, Mikhail Fridman will present his case for defamation against Les Echos, France’s business newspaper. On December 21, Judge John Banks of the federal US district court of Washington, DC, will hear oral argument on a defendants’ motion for summary judgement in the case of OAO Alfa Bank, ZAO Alfa Eco, Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven v. Center for Public Integrity, Knut Royce and Nathaniel Heller.

BRIAN GILBERTSON’S UNEXPECTED HEADACHE

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) – Brian Gilbertson, the South African appointed a few months ago to head SUAL, a Russian mining and metals company, has run into a problem from a direction he couldn’t have anticipated — from the past. And unless he can quickly resolve the problem, the company he was hired to sell to foreign investors at a premium will have a gaping hole where one of its prize assets should be.

The challenge to SUAL, endorsed by a Russian court ruling two weeks ago, is also an embarrassment for Renova, the US-registered company controlled by SUAL’s chairman, Victor Vekselberg. Renova has been promoting itself in South Africa this year with promises of big investments to come in SA resource projects and black empowerment. Renova has also lobbied SA government officials to smooth the way ahead.

The reality of Renova’s position, however, is that, in Russia, it has allegations of shareholding and metals trading fraud to answer in the courts, while the tax authorities have begun pressing claims that Vekselberg, his company, and his partners should pay.

Once a major shareholder in the Volgograd Aluminium Plant, Shota Mikhelashvili told Mineweb that a recent Volgograd court ruling, invalidating a share emission for the plant that had favoured its takeover by Siberian Ural Aluminum (SUAL), is just the beginning of his campaign to recover a stake he values at a minimum of $20 million.

Mikhelashvili is chairman of the board of the Ralco company, which has held a 17-percent shareholding in the Volgograd smelter since 1993. He and lawyer Timofei Kryuchkov won a ruling this month from the Volgograd region arbitration court over opposition from SUAL, which has been planning to consolidate full control and ownership of Volgograd. The court move has blocked that.

SUAL is controlled by Vekselberg, and Len Blavatnik; Vekselberg’s personal holding company is Renova, while Blavatnik directs Access Industries, both US companies. Bill Spears, their spokesman, told Mineweb he anticipates a successful appeal. “Once the court has studied the faces, we believe it will support the legality of our partners’ position,” he said. Asked what SUAL says in response to Ralco’s claims in the court suit, Speaks said: “concerning Volgograd Aluminium, we are sure our partners are in the right. Beyond this, we do not wish to add anything further.”

The court ruling against SUAL comes at an awkward time for Vekselberg and Blavatnik, two of the three former controlling shareholders of Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), who in 2003 sold their stake in the top-5 oil producer to British Petroleum for cash and BP shares worth a total of $6.75 billion. The third shareholder to sell was Mikhail Fridman of the Alfa group.

Last week, the Russian tax authorities filed a back-tax claim against TNK’s successor, TNK-BP, for the year 2001 totaling $89 million. BP is holding an indemnity, agreed to by Vekselberg, Blavatnik, and Fridman, that makes them liable for any tax claims against TNK, prior to BP’s takeover.

Peter Charow, BP’s Moscow representative, told Mineweb that the indemnity from Vekselberg, Blavatnik and Fridman is in place, but it is “too early to tell” if BP will be obliged to enforce it. “Until we know more about the potential tax claim at issue, it will not be possible to say whether the indemnity will apply to all or part of the potential liability,” Charow said.

The Ralco challenge could prove to be equally costly. According to Mikhelashvili, “we want to fight for a share of SUAL), comparable to our legitimate stake in Volgograd. Our first target is to keep it, not to sell it.”

Two years ago, SUAL announced that it would acquire the assets of Volkhovsky Aluminium Plant, Volgograd Aluminium Plant and Pikalevo Alumina Plant from the Sevzapprom holding company; Sevzapprom is a Russian acronym meaning “Northwestern Industry”. In August of this year, SUAL’s shareholders approved the terms of consolidation with Sevzapprom’s Volgograd Aluminium Plant. At the time of the SUAL takeover, the controlling shareholder in Volgograd was Alexander Bronstein. Since 2003 he has been one of the 7 members of the SUAL board. Gilbertson is a fellow board member.

According to Mikhelashvili, Bronstein was responsible for the manipulation of the Volgograd smelter’s shareholding, before he and Vekselberg made their merger deal. After that, Mikhelashvili claims Vekselberg knew, or had a duty to know, what had become of the Volgograd’s minority shareholders. The statement from Spears confirms that Vekselberg is endorsing Bronstein.

Just before Gilbertson’s takeover, in a document circulated to SUAL shareholders in mid-2004, the SUAL management estimated the value of the Volgograd plant at between $105 million and $135 million, with a midpoint estimate of $120 million. That figure, Mikhelashvili told Mineweb in Moscow this week, “is a value below which it is not polite to go.” He added that if the plant is valued at the market cost of its current annual output, the valuation should be at least twice the SUAL estimate. Mikhelashvili’s 17-percent stake would then jump in value to around $41 million. If a higher valuation for SUAL’s assets is drawn from Gilbertson’s presentations to international investors, Ralco’s claim would grow accordingly.

In a website release, dated September 14, SUAL announced that at shareholder meetings, held on August 31, “an absolute majority of the participants, 99.99 per cent of the total of OAO SUAL shareholders and 93.02 per cent of OAO Volgograd Aluminium shareholders voted in favour of the incorporation of Volgograd Aluminium into OAO SUAL. The next step required to complete the merger will be a joint general meeting of the shareholders of both companies. Volgograd Aluminium and the OAO Metallurg subsidiaries, Volkhov Aluminium and Pikalevo Alumina, were incorporated into the SUAL Group production chain in 2002, after the SUAL Group and the SevZapProm Management Company had made arrangements to merge their aluminium assets.”

The 6.98 percent of shareholders who voted against Volgograd’s incorporation into SUAL comprise the Ralco stake. Mikhelashvili told Mineweb that his original stake of 17 percent was diluted to this by a share emission in 2000. “This emission was not legal,” Mikhelashvili said. This is the claim which the regional arbitration court upheld on November 5, and which SUAL is now appealing.

The Volgograd smelter began operating in 1959, and it has been producing at 150,000 metric tons per annum, said Mikhelashvili, who was a board director at the plant in 1996 and 1997. This is above initial design capacity of 141,000 tons per annum. The output figure is confirmed by a SUAL press release of September 2004. SUAL’s release of quarterly production results does not identify individual smelters, but Volgograd appears to account for about 17 percent of the SUAL aggregate of about 890,000 tons.

Mikhelashvili told Mineweb that Volgograd exports its aluminium through tolling contracts that deprive the plant of between $150 and $200 per ton. “There is an underestimate of annual revenue of $25 to $30 million,” Miikhelashvili alleges.

Alfa-Bank metals analyst Maxim Matveyev reports that Ralco’s court action “could delay the incorporation process, which would be negative for SUAL

RUSSIA’S MR MINING IS A MYSTERY

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) – There is an old Russian tradition of never speaking ill of the powerful. But in March, when President Vladimir Putin plucked Yury Trutnev from provincial obscurity to become his minister of natural resources, it was far from clear whether Trutnev had been chosen because he was already a powerful figure, or because he could be trusted not to become one. Eight months later, Trutnev, who is in South Africa this week heading the Russian delegation at the annual SA-Russia ministerial conference, has still not demonstrated why he was promoted, and what he intends to do for Russia’s vital mining sector. Those who speak for Trutnev are understandably reluctant to answer questions on his behalf; a couple of weeks ago, Trutnev fired one spokesman, and appointed a fresh one. But Trutnev is no-less tight-lipped himself. For the months since his appointment as the co-chairman of the SA-Russia inter-government committee on trade and economic cooperation (ITEC), he has refused to say anythng at all a out his SA assignment, or about the issues that concern SA mining companies in Russia. He has been too busy, a spokesman said, to indicate whether he favours compensating the SA-Australian partnership that held the mining licence for Sukhoi Log, Russia’s largest gold deposit, before it was illegally revoked by corrupt officials in 1997. On the other hand, Trutnev was not too busy to announce in July in Irkutsk, where Sukhoi Log is located, that he favours accelerating the process of awarding the licence anew, a move that has been lobbied by Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest goldminer. Many weeks have passed since then. However, there is no sign of the legislative amendments Trutnev promised to implement his intention. Instead, Norilsk Nickel has run into serious trouble with the Kremlin, and with the President’s advisor on mining policy, Vladimir Litvinenko, one of the leading academic geologists in Russia. Trutnev and Litvinenko do not see eye to eye.

Trutnev is also coy, when it comes to saying how he regards the mineral monopoly over diamond-mining jealously guarded by Alrosa, and that of nickel held by Norilsk Nickel. Asked if he favours legislating a 65 percent cap on the mineral reserves a single company can hold under licence in a single region -a measure favoured not only by Litvinenko, but also by the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service – Trutnev refuses again to answer.

He is not even sure whether foreign mining companies should be permitted to bid for Sukhoi Log, or for the large copper deposit known as Udokan. Litvinenko thinks not, but Trutnev has tried to say both yes and no. “We do not see the necessity to create a distinct ban on foreigners,” he announced in July. “Although there are situations when the state should protect the national interest in the sphere of natural resources usage, such situations should not be resolved by administrative methods, and should be required to be registered in the law.” Regarding the future of Udokan, he said “competition is necessary for us…we say an open and transparent auction for the licence.” The front-runner for Udokan is Ural Mining and Metallurgy, a Moscow group controlled by Iskander Makhmudov, a oligarch-sized figure.

The De Beers dispute with a local businessman over the mining licence to the Verkhotina deposit, in the Arkhangelsk region – a diamond deposit estimated to be worth more than $3 billion – has been running now for six years. But when Trutnev was asked to say what he proposed doing about it, his spokesman told Mineweb there had been a scheduled check of activity at the exploration site. Several technical violations had been found, but the spokesman claimed they were removed, and that “nobody was seriously speaking about taking their license.” That was a mistake. At the Kremlin’s direction, out of reach of Trutnev and his ministry, an order had been issued to stop work at the site, and to press for an end to the licence violations that have been caused by the dispute over the De Beers role. Litvinenko is believed to have been the moving force.

When De Beers managing director Gary Ralfe was in Moscow recently, he met with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. The only foreign miner whom Trutnev has met in his new office is BHP Billiton’s chief executive Chip Goodyear. But Trutnev himself did not admit it, and his spokesman at the time attempted to conceal that the October meeting had actually taken place.

Russians who have been dealing with Trutnev say he is much more commercially minded than his predecessors, and more energetic. Most leading Russian miners say they do not know him directly, nor who was behind his appointment. One believes he may have been the candidate of German Gref, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, whose ministry has often clashed with the Natural Resources Ministry in the past.

According to the official biography Trutnev posted on a personal website, he was born into a family of oil-industry workers living in Perm. He graduated from university as a mining engineer, and after a brief spell working on oilfields, he returned to Perm to work as an administrator of the local sports organization. He was well-known in sports circles as a contestant and instructor in various forms of wrestling. As the Soviet Union crumbled, he and his sportsmen went into business together, creating a company called EKS to import Swiss foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and other goods on order from the region. Russian press estimates suggest that by the mid-1990s, this had made him a comfortable fortune, and he moved into politics, first as a municipal councilman in Perm city, then mayor, and finally, in the year 2000, governor, replacing the incumbent who fallen out of favour with the Kremlin. It was a narrow victory. EKS, Trutnev’s company, remained a supplier to the region, while LUKoil, the major oil driller n Perm, and Uralkali, the major miner (of fertilizers), were supporters.

To gauge his reputation in Perm today, local elected officials, newspaper reporters, and editors were asked to name three positive things they remember Trutnev as having done when he was mayor or governor, and one negative thing. No-one managed to recall a single negative. But they were almost stumped for positives.

According to the editor in chief of Perm News, Yury Puzniansky: “there were no incidents nor any scandals during the time Trutnev was mayor or governor. He was very silent.” Arkadiy Kamenev, Trutnev’s successor as mayor, said: “I do remember his lobbying of a former army building to pass to a church school, and several things like that. I do not remember any very big faults, or anything like that.” A source in the governor’s office said: “We remember Trutnev as a nice man, very powerful and ambitious. From the positive things I can mention the unification of the Perm region and Komi-Permyak autonomous region. He supported small business in Perm when he was a mayor, and all other ways of personal activity. He was supporting the social sphere of the city, and after that, of the region.”

The unification of two separate units of the Russian federation, Perm oblast and the much smaller, poorer Komi-Permyak okrug, was completed last December. It is one of the type of administrative reforrms which the Kremlin has supported around the country as a way of streamlining central authority and cutting budget costs. According to a publication that appeared a few days after Trutnev’s appointment to Moscow was announced, he and Putin became acquainted during a presidential visit to Perm. The president, claims the report, found that he shared a passion for the oriental martial arts with Trutnev; valued his contribution to the regional unification effort, and was “fascinated” by him on other, not so obvious grounds. The most important of these, according to the report that appeared on the website kompromat.ru, on March 19, was that Putin and his political advisors believe Trutnev would make a suitable candidate to succeed Putin as president of Russia in 2008. “The mysterious successor of President Putin is already chosen,” the publication attributed to Victor Anisimov claims. In Russian, the term kompromat refers to material that is compromising for its target, revealing alleged crimes, vices, and other negatives that, were they to be widely circulated, and believed, would do serious, possibly fatal damage to the reputation and standing of the target. Kompromat may be true, but since there is so much in circulation, the authorities so weak, and the public so cynical, it may have absolutely no effect on the intended victim. Or kompromat may be false. Paying for publication of kompromat is a common business tactic for dealing with all manner of rivals and business competition.

In Trutnev’s case, so little was known about him to begin with that the publication of this particular komproma, predicting that Trutnev will be the heir apparent, seemed anything but compromising. Some think that it is a message from those in the Kremlin, who, having overheard Trutnev dreaming aloud, want to warn him against getting too big for his boots.

No-one in a position to know Putin’s thinking on the subject of his succession believes the President, who keeps these things to himself, would overlook much better tested candidates in favour of Trutnev. But of one point, there is no doubt in Moscow. Putin is planning to arrange his succession, so that, although the Russian constitution limits him to two consecutive terms in office, he can arrange the succession in such a way as to return for a third term, so long as there is a decent interval in between. That may require a new president, who resigns after a year. It may involve a game of musical chairs, so that Putin would move to become Prime Minister (or Governor of St Petersburg), while his stand-in takes the presidency, and they make a further swap after a four-year term. Whatever Putin decides to do, Trutnev has every reason to keep his mouth shut, his fingers clean, and his feet ready to march in the direction the wind is blowing.

Making an enigma out of a riddle is something Winston Churchill once claimed that Russians were good at. The Trutnev mystery is no exception.

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.

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