FATHER FROST MAKES A CALL ON ALROSA

According to the Russian Christmas Day tradition, Dyed Moroz (“Father Frost”, aka St. Nicholas, Santa Claus) makes his annual visit to children to question them, before he distributes the presents. He is assisted by Snegourochka (“Snow Girl”).

It can happen that she is late. Then Dyed Moroz is obliged to ask the children to call out aloud to summon her. Those who can shout the loudest are motivated by the idea of catching the old man’s attention, and if they are lucky, first pick at his rewards. Once Snegourochka arrives, Dyed Moroz reviews who has been on his best behaviour for the past year. Asked who has been naughty, the children naturally scream their noes, and again, those who cry loudest hope to be rewarded first and best.

In Russia, it’s always been tough to deserve a reward. That’s possibly why Vyacheslav Shtirov, President of the Sakha republic and godfather of Alrosa, Russia’s dominant diamond miner — the second largest producer of diamonds in the world — is not looking forward to his interview with President Vladimir Putin. Shtirov has been summoned to the Kremlin meeting on January 28.

The last time Shtirov was summoned, Shtirov took Putin a large bouquet of red roses. The discussion was a sanguine one. Shtirov was told that he was to vacate the presidency of Alrosa, and become the president of the regional republic, replacing the two-term incumbent, Mikhail Nikolaev who was threatening to defy the electoral law, as well as the Kremlin, and offer himself for a third term. Nikolaev had been the boss of the republic since the Soviet Union had been demolished, and he had run it as a personal fiefdom by arrangement with President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow. The quid pro quo for Nikolaev was that he rigged the local vote for Yeltsin whenever that was required, and provided diamonds on demand too.

Putin offered Nikolaev immunity from prosecution with a senatorial seat on the Federation Council. Shtirov was told the fiefdom would be his on condition he shared the running with the federal authorities, led by the Finance Ministry, which is the federal agency responsible for the diamond industry; it sits on the board of directors of Alrosa, supervising the state’s 37-percent shareholding; and it runs the Gokhran, the agency in charge of the state’s stockpiles of diamonds and precious metals. However, the federal authorities have been unable to capture control of the system of exports which together, Nikolaev and Shtirov had elaborated through the regional Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones; Alrosa mining affiliates; and near-bankrupt diamond cutting establishments in Sakha and elsewhere, which Alrosa kept on a short leash.

Knowing the Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, to be an obliging man, Shtirov was confident that he could control both the republic, and its principal cashcow Alrosa, much as he had done during his term as the company’s chief executive. And indeed, Kudrin has proved to be almost as obliging to his Sakha diamond constituents as he learned to be, when he was the factotum of Anatoly Chubais, Yeltsin’s Finance Minister, chief of staff, and dispenser of favours.

Putin and his Kremlin aides have proved to be tougher. They, rather than Kudrin, have been giving the orders to the mineral extraction business, starting with oil and gas, moving on to nickel, platinum, aluminium, and gold. Slowly but surely, they have been taking charge of Alrosa for the federal government. Colonel Yury Ionov was put in charge of the company’s legal affairs and cashflow security. Alexander Nichiporuk was placed as deputy CEO, and last month, he was officially promoted to be the chief executive.

Now that Putin has the new legal authority to appoint the regional governors, the interview with Shtirov is bound to focus on Putin’s intention for the future of Sakha; and for the way in which roughly $2 billion of Russia’s annual diamond production is traded and exported. There is local speculation that the Kremlin may replace Shtirov with a man whose loyalty to Moscow is judged to be greater than to the so-called Yakut clan. There is speculation in the international diamond market that the marketing of Russian diamonds will be reorganized to eliminate the price-rigging monopoly that Russian diamond-cutters have long charged against Alrosa in the domestic market, as well as the diversion of cash that has been alleged for its exports abroad. There is speculation in the mining community that Putin’s advisor on mineral resource reform, Professor Vladimir Litvinenko of St. Petersburg, intends to push through new legislation limiting single companies to mining rights of no more than 65-percent of the mineral reerves in a single region. At the moment, Alrosa holds a 100-percent monopoly in Sakha, the principal diamond province of the east, and 75-percent in Arkhangelsk, the new diamond province in the northwest.

Talk is cheap, but noone can afford to underestimate what Putin will tell Shtirov. Least of all, Lev Leviev, the Israeli diamantaire whose political access through Putin’s first chief of staff, Alexander Voioshin, and through Rabbi Berl Lazar, has given him a privileged position in the diamond supply chain. Leviev has accused Alrosa of shorting Ruis, his diamond cutting works in Moscow, of the supplies of rough his factory has the capacity to cut and polish. On the other hand, Leviev is accused of submarining rough through the Alrosa subsidiary Diamonds of Anabar on preferential terms arranged by Matvei Yevseyev, the subsidiary’s chairman. Leviev’s critics hope to persuade Putin that Leviev’s tactics are in embarrassing contradiction to the transparency which Russia’s diamond policymakers want to adopt, as they take over the chairmanship of the Kimberley Process on January 1; this is the international network of diamond producers committed to cleaning up the export trade.

If and when Alrosa is reorganized as an open shareholding company and the state proceeds with privatization, Leviev is a contender to buy a control stake. And because Alrosa is the largest unprivatized diamond mining company in the world, every major international diamond enterprise is a contender too, including De Beers – the world’s largest diamond miner – BHP Billiton, several Indian diamantaires, and Beny Steinmetz, Leviev’s Israeli rival.

Much needs to be done before that contest can get under way in earnest. The first step has been the removal of the state secrecy provisions covering Alrosa’s physical diamond production, sales, exports, and diamond reserves. After postponing the declassification for most of this year, the Kremlin allowed the Finance Ministry to release the first instalment of data last week. In 2003, the official release indicates, Russia produced 33.02 million carats of rough diamonds, which were sold for $1.7 billion, for an average of $51 per carat. In the first half of 2004, the corresponding data were 17.8 million carats produced, worth $948 million, for an average of $53 per carat. For the time being, key data on mine reserves have not been released.

The export data for 2003 issued by the Finance Ministry show that physical volume was 37.8 million carats, at a total recorded value of $883.4 million. In the first nine months of this year, exports totaled 23.6 million carats for $826.4 million in value. The average carat value of these exports was $23 in 2003, and $35 for this year.

Some Russian diamond industry leaders say they have been surprised at how high the production caratage has turned out to be, and correspondingly, how low the average carat value has fallen below expectation, Until now, Alrosa’s average carat value has been estimated in the international diamond market to be at least 30 percent higher.

Even more of a surprise is the discrepancy between the carat value of the diamonds at the minehead, and their value in export sales. The declassified data now indicate that exported diamonds fetched 53 percent less per carat on average in 2003, while this year the exports have been running 34 percent below the production value. This discrepancy is going to be hotly argued, both by those in the federal government who are urging Putin to clean up Alrosa’s export schemes; and also by the domestic diamond cutters who have long accused Alrosa of charging higher domestic prices than De Beers has been paying for the Russian goods. Alrosa has acknowledged that it charges a premium over export prices to domestic diamond manufacturers. But in selling to its own diamond-cutting subsidiary, Brillianty Alrosa, and the Sakha-based diamond-cutting group Tuimaada, the company has apparently offered discounts and preferential credit arrangements.

When Shtirov sits down with Putin in a few days’ time, he could deliver a speech about how arbitrariness in Russian government policy has been hurting the international investment climate, and threatens to damage Alrosa’s return to the Eurobond market for refinancing of its sizeable debts. But Putin isn’t Father Frost. The louder Shtirov shouts, the less convinced Putin is likely to be that he deserves a fresh New Year reward, and the more certain Putin’s advisors are that Shtirov must be brought under strict control.

NORILSK’S CATALOGUE OF CUTOUTS AND DECEPTION

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) – Last Friday, some days ahead of deadline, Norilsk Nickel issued a terse announcement. “MMC Norilsk Nickel,” it read, “a 20% owner of Gold Fields, announced today that, in accordance with previously stated intentions, it voted against the proposed transaction with IAM-Gold.”

On the surface, this appeared to be nothing more than the public reiteration of the company’s well-known, published agreement with Harmony Gold in mid-October, supporting its bid to take over Gold Fields, blocking its lAMGold merger, and opposing any offer Gold Fields, or its allies, might have made to outbid the Harmony offer.

However, by referring to “previously stated intentions,” Norilsk Nickel raises far more questions than those responsible for the statement itself, or the Company’s senior executives, are willing to answer indeed, if the intentions of Norilsk Nickel are carefully scrutinized since March 29, when it first bought the Gold Fields stake from Anglo American, paying $1.16 billion, the trail of evidence shows one dissimulation after another, false undertaking piled on false undertaking, and intent to mislead from beginning to end.

So consistent is this record, that when all the evidence is gathered up, the intention of the company appears to be nothing less than a massive attempt to expatriate Russian assets in violation of Russian law; and when called to account for this, to deceive the shareholders of Harmony and Gold Fields, as well as the regulatory authorities of South Africa and the United States, who also have the obligation to assess the process, according to their legal codes.

This evidence is so compelling, it should have triggered by now that hoary Anglo-American legal doctrine known as “clean hands”. That states that if a party to a contract makes an undertaking or commitment that is unlawful, knowing that he is breaking the law, and attempting to conceal this, he lacks the clean hands required to make the contract lawfully binding. In short, the evidence that has accumulated for over seven months is that Norilsk Nickel’s purchase of the Gold Fields stake was unlawful, arid everything Norilsk Nickel has done since then, including the attempt to push Gold Fields out of South Africa, the “Project Golf plan drawn up with HSBC Bank, and the so-called “irrevocable undertaking” with Harmony, are unlawful, too.

The trail begins, not with Norilsk Nickel, but with Leonid Rozhetskin. Just how different these two, the company and the man, are is the key to unravelling much of the disinformation the company has been issuing. Rozhetskin is officially titled Advisor to the CEO and vice-president of the management board of Norilsk Nickel; his function is to direct the company’s financial strategy, including mergers and acquisitions, asset disposals, and borrowings. Rozhetskin was the initiator of the Russian dealings with Anglo American; he was behind the Gold Fields purchase, and everything that has happened since.

However, he is not a salaried employee, and in a pinch, the company can act or speak as if Rozhetskin represents himself, not the company. This is a loophole which Harmony executives have exploited when telling SA and US regulatory panels and courts that it has not acted on its takeover bid for Gold Fields in concert with Norilsk Nickel. The unstated premise of that claim is that Norilsk Nickel and Rozhetskin are quite different.

In fact, Rozhetskin acts for the controlling shareholders of Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin, who directs a Moscow holding called Interros, and Mikhail Prokhorov, Norilsk Nickel’s CEO. Between the two of them, they control more than 70% of the company’s shares. At present, through a company offer, they are buying out the independently owned minorities. Rozhetskin is a contractor to them, or to companies they control in registrations outside Russia; he is not their employee. A US passport holder, Rozhetskin is legally obliged to pay US taxes on his worldwide income. He is also subject to US laws governing the way the rewards of dealmaking may be sought, received, and distributed, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Officially, Norilsk Nickel will not answer questions about Rozhetskin beyond giving his title. Rozhetskin refuses to answer questions directly.

Officially, Rozhetskin has a deputy, Dmitri Razumov, whose signature appears on legal documents Rozhetskin has negotiated. The reason for this may be that Razumov is legally an employee of Norilsk Nickel, rather than a contractor like Rozhetskin, or Rozhetskin’s employee. Razumov’s official title is Deputy to the CEO of Norilsk Nickel. It is his signature that appears on the October 16 agreement with Harmony to oppose Gold Fields’s lAMGold proposal. Razumov avoids all contact with the press.

Potanin employs several spokesmen at Interros. But they have refused to respond to questions regarding the Gold Fields deal pn the ground that the transaction was done by Norilsk Nickel. This is despite subsequent evidence from Gold Fields CEO Ian Cockerill that, on his first trip to Moscow after the March 29 transaction, he met with Potanin, and understood clearly that Potanin was as much in charge of the deal as Prokhorov. On this point, Kremlin officials have not been misdirected, or misled. When they wanted to discuss the deal, they went to Potanin.

The company’s spokesman for investment relations, Dmitri Usanov, has spent only a few weeks in the job, replacing Sergei Polikarpov. Both of them take their orders from Rozhetskin, but answer no questions about him. Usanov is so reluctant to answer questions, he has even refused to answer placebos, such as confirming the exact stake Norilsk Nickel claims to hold in Gold Fields.

Immediately after the announcement of the Gold Fields purchase, it was Polikarpov who declared that “the deal does not require Central Bank approval.” Rozhetskin had already made that claim in his negotiations with Anglo American, and with Citibank, which provided an $800 million loan to enable Norilsk Nickel to make the purchase. Polikarpov also claimed: “this deal does not require any approval from the Russian government and the Kremlin. Therefore, we have not applied and obtained such approval.”

A few days after he said this, the text of the purchase agreement and the Citibank loan agreement were released. According to the first, Norilsk Nickel declared that “all consents, concessions, approvals, filings, registrations, authorisations and orders, governmental, regulatory, corporate or other, necessary for the execution, delivery and performance by the Purchaser of this Agreement and the consummation of the transactions herein contemplated and for the purchase from the Selling Shareholder of the Sale Shares in the manner set out herein, have been obtained and are in full force and effect.”

In the loan agreement, Norilsk Nickel claimed that “All Authorisations required: (a) to enable it lawfully to enter into, exercise its rights and comply with its obligations in the Finance Documents; and (b) to make the Finance Documents admissible in evidence in its jurisdiction of incorporation have been obtained or effected and are in full force and effect.” It also averred that “any factual information provided by or on behalf of any member of the Borrower Group was true, complete and accurate in all material respects as at the date it was provided or as at the date (if any) at which it is stated.” According to the borrowing agreement, Norilsk Nickel claimed that there 51 were “no administrative proceedings of or before any court, arbitral body or agency which is reasonably likely to be adversely determined and, if so adversely determined, would reasonably be expected to have a Material Adverse Effect” on the Citibank loan or the Gold Fields transaction.

These claims were false. By August, Rozhetskin admitted as much in secret, e-mailing Cockerill at Gold Fields. The text of that message surfaced during document discovery by lawyers for Gold Fields and Harmony, ahead of their federal court hearing in New York last month. Cockerill has said publicly: “About two weeks prior to the [September 2] email, Norilsk had requested that Gold Fields downplay any public discourse on Norilsk’s views on the [lAMGold] transaction or possible future intentions, as Norilsk was, at the time, under scrutiny from the Russian authorities.”

In short, Rozhetskin was secretly admitting what he and his spokesman had earlier denied. But he was not admitting to Cockerill the extent of the Russian government “scrutiny”. That did not become clear for several more weeks, until Russian sources, including the Central Bank, acknowledged that the Gold Fields transaction in March had been unlawful, and that Potanin and Prokhorov had agreed to reverse it.

For weeks before then, however, as testimony in the litigation between Gold Fields and Harmony now reveals, Rozhetskin had tried to pressure Gold Fields into redomiciling at least some, if not all of its gold assets outside South Africa, as part of his plan to increase Norilsk Nickel’s stake in the new offshore company, and vesting ownership of its Russian goldmines in that entity. Rozhetskin was not shy in revealing this scheme to investment bankers, inviting them to propose their deals to him. In April, according to RIA-Novosti, the Russian state news agency, Rozhetskin told a session of the Russian Economic Forum in London that Norilsk Nickel intended to increase its shareholding of Gold Fields. Asked to clarify that, the company spokesmen refused, referring instead to Rozhetskin’s office. Rozhetskin’s secretary said he was unavailable to answer questions. “If he will find it reasonable to respond, he will do so,” she added.

By some time in July, Rozhetskin understood that he could not make his second-stage deal with Gold Fields, that is, his takeover. But it is unclear whether Potanin and Prokhorov, who knew what direction the Kremlin wanted, realized what Rozhetskin was doing. In Moscow he may have said he was fashioning a highly lucrative exit from the 20% stake he had bought, adding two to three hundred million dollars in profit on the $1.16 billion purchase price. But offshore, Rozhetskin was telling Damien Coates, an HSBC banker, and others that he wanted to expand Norilsk Nickel’s offshore stake, not liquidate it.

Disclosure of the secret HSBC plan, code-named Project Golf, reveals what Rozhetskin had been saying outside Russia. He had been discussing “reversal candidates” – foreign-listed companies into which Potanin and Prokhorov could vest some or all of their Norilsk Nickel assets – and these included Canadian goldminers, Kinross and lAMGold. He was unhappy with Gold Fields, he told HSBC, because “G[oldfields]’s shareholders will oppose all schemes, including vesting of Norilsk’s] assets, that result in N[orilsk] gaining ‘creeping control’ without paying full control premium.”

At the same time that Rozhetskin was admitting to Gold Fields that he was worried about Russian government “scrutiny”, he was telling HSBC that “a follow-up deal is highly desirable to demonstrate that the original stake purchase had real commercial synergy.” At least, that is what HSBC thought it could divulge to Harmony, once Rozhetskin and Coates had agreed that Cockerill would insist on dealings “at arms length without favour.” Exactly what “favour” the secret HSBC plan was hinting at, and for whom, remains to be uncovered. But the HSBC document leaves little doubt that Bernard Swanepoel, Harmony’s CEO, appeared to Rozhetskin and to HSBC as indicating “much more flexibility.”

Swanepoel has testified that the HSBC document was nothing more than a proposal, initiated by HSBC, which Harmony decided not to accept. What is not in doubt is that Rozhetskin was prompting HSBC at a time when he knew that both Gold Fields and the Kremlin were opposed to his scheming. Evidence about what Swanepoel knew, or should have known, about the Rozhetskin schemes, and the legality of the Norilsk Nickel transaction, has yet to be examined.

When HSBC took the Project Golf scheme to Swanepoel, indicating that Rozhetskin would back Harmony in a hostile takeover of Gold Fields, it is possible that Rozhetskin withheld the crucial information from Moscow that Norilsk Nickel was obliged to liquidate the unlawful March 29 deal. So long as the Central Bank and the Kremlin covered their investigation with secrecy, Rozhetskin could have been bluffing Swanepoel. About eight weeks elapsed between HSBC’s submission to Swanepoel and the latter’s signing of the “irrevocable undertaking” with Rozhetskin’s man, Razumov. So far, the regulatory panels and court judges who have reviewed this record have ruled only on a portion of the evidence, without determining whether the initial Norilsk Nickel transaction was a lawful one, and whether Swanepoel knew that Rozhetskin was under orders from his superiors to find a way to liquidate it.

Just how uncomfortable Rozhetskin was beginning to feel in Moscow appeared on August 3, two weeks after he warned Cockerill about the government pressure, but days after a Gold Fields executive had openly acknowledged that Norilsk Nickel might try to take over Gold Fields.

According to a company release, “MMC Norilsk Nickel would like to officially state that recent references made in the Russian and foreign press to an announcement made by a leading figure in Gold Fields Ltd concerning MMC Norilsk Nickel’s alleged offer to transfer to that company its gold mining assets in return for an increased shareholding have no basis in fact. MMC Norilsk Nickel is not planning to transfer any shares in its Russian gold mining operations nor any rights to existing or future plant or deposits on the territory of the Russian Federation to the aforementioned South African Company, and accordingly, has made no such offer to Gold Fields Limited.”

That was a lie. The truth was that Rozhetskin had demanded, and Gold Fields had refused. In its place, Rozhetskin then got HSBC to make the very same proposal to Swanepoel. Thus, Norilsk Nickel’s public statement is directly contradicted by the activities of its principal shareholders and their contractor Rozhetskin. Theirs has been a shell-game in which the truth cannot be found.

A similar shell-game is being played by Potanin and Prokhorov’s representatives in South Africa. According to South African corporate executives, Andrei Dubina introduces himself as the Norilsk Nickel representative in SA. He has also referred to himself as a former ambassador to Iraq, according to one SA source. The Russian Foreign Ministry responds that there has never been a Soviet or Russian ambassador of this name, neither to Iraq, nor to any country. At Potanin’s Interros office, the spokesman claims: “we have never heard of Andrei Dubina.” At Norilsk Nickel headquarters, the spokesman says of Dubina and an Armenian associate, also in SA: “nobody knows them. We have no information about these people.”

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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