BETWEEN HAMMER & ANVIL – RUSSIAN STEELMAKER IN IRON-ORE TRAP

Although Russian steelmaking is booming, so too is iron-ore mining. As the only one of Russia’s steel mills without a significant supply of iron-ore of its own, Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine, Russia’s largest steelmill, is unhappy to have discovered this week that a domestic rival may take control of most of its iron-ore supply.

In the short history of commercial steelmaking in Russia, grabbing control over raw material supplies –iron-ore or coking coal — has been the shortest route for a raider to take control of the steelmill itself. In December, after the management of Magnitogorsk beat off one hostile takeover bid by the Mechel steel and coal group, and won a rigged privatization of the last state shareholding in the plant,Magnitogorsk had seemed impregnable

This week, Alisher Usmanov, a controversial Moscow entrepreneur, who recently abandoned a raid on Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus, announced that he is looking to buy the Sokolovsko-Sarbaysky ore-processing combine (GOK), known as Sokolovka for short. The mine, which is located in Kazakhstan, supplies about 70% of the iron-ore which Magnitogorsk needs annually. In all, Magnitogorsk needs 16 million tons of iron-ore to turn out 10 million tons of steel products per year.

Although Usmanov, who is short of cash, may be bluffing, Magnitogorsk, which has been negotiating itself with Sokolovka before, is not concealing fresh concern. A Moscow press report on Wednesday, claiming that Usmanov’s Gazmetall group is negotiating with Magnitogorsk over the future ownership of Sokolovka has been rebuffed by Magnitogorsk sources as a hostile signal. Still, acknowledging the extent of its dependency in an announcement last week, Magnitogorsk’s CEO, Victor Rashnikov said he will step down from his post in April, and will concentrate on developing new sources of iron-ore and coking coal for the mill.

Six months ago, Rashnikov and his colleagues announced that they were exploring for iron-ore from the Kiryabinskoye deposit in the Bashkirian republic of central Siberia. But rated at just 20 million tons in reserves, this is too small to satisfy the steelmaker’s long-term requirements. According to Rob Edwards, metal analyst for Renaissance Capital in Moscow, “the critical mass needed for Magnitogorsk to develop a greenfield iron-ore mine is 30-40 million tonnes of reserves.” The mill also has a licence for the development of the Techenskoe deposit in the Chelyabinsk region of central Russia, with estimated reserves of 50 million tons. In another two years, Magnitogorsk says it is hoping to produce 2 million tons of iron-ore from this source in order to boost steel a output to 12 million tons in the same period.

This week, a Magnitogorsk source said: “we have heard that Gazmetall has had negotiations with Sokolovka. Knowing the ambitions of Mr. Usmanov I think the meaning of the term negotiations is acquisition.” The source did not say that Usmanov has been negotiating this deal with Magnitogorsk.

Usmanov and his associates now control the Lebedinsky and Mikhailovsky GOKs with a total yearly output of almost 40 million tons, making them the dominant iron-ore producer in Russia; a quarter of that volume is exported. The other major domestic iron-ore mines are each controlled by top-10 Russian steelmakers –Severstal (Karelsky Okatysh, OlenegorskyiGOK); Novolipetsk (Stoilensky GOK); Evraz (Kachkanarsky GOK); and Mechel (Korshunovsky GOK). In all, Russia produces about 100 million tons of iron-ore per year.

Until recently, the steelmakers used their control of the mines to hold prices down, and depress the profitability of the GOKs. But the global shortage of iron-ore has set Russian iron-ore prices free to rise, and as they have done so, they have threatened unprotected mills like Magnitogorsk with serious cost pressure. Usmanov’s group also controls two top-10 steelmills, Oskol and Nosta.

Usmanov and partner Vasily Anisimov, a former aluminium smelter owner, are currently in the process of buying Mikhailovsky GOK from the Metalloinvest group of Boris Ivanishvili. A 29.9-percent stake Ivanishvili owns in the pig-iron producer Tulachermet is also included in the deal. Usmanov and Anisimov have said they will contribute $1 billion in cash, and borrow another $1 billion from a state-controlled Russian bank. Usmanov has disclosed that he has raised about $614 million in recent sales Of his shares in Corns; he is estimated to have bought them for about $295 million.

To fund another major purchase like Sokolovka, Usmanov and Anisimov may view Magnitogorsk as a necessary partner. However, the Magnitogorsk source says the plant is not in favour of joining this bid.

The source implied that, should Usmanov take over Sokolovka, iron-ore prices inside Russia would rise above the level currently offered by Australian and Brazilian exporters to Russia. In that event, the source said, Magnitogorsk is likely to upgrade port facilities it already controls at Vladivostok, in the Russian Fareast, so as to facilitate importation of iron-ore from Australia or elsewhere. “The problem with iron-ore delivery is Russian ports,” the source said. “They are not designed tor the unloading of such cargo. But that problem could be solved if need be. And I think that time will come soon, because if Usmanov will accumulate all iron-ore mine shares, and lift the prices, we will have nothing to do besides searching for alternatives.”

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have been assessing the Russian market for sales for some time, while local steelmakers acknowledge that the cost of rail transportation across Siberia has been a deterrent for as long as local iron-ore prices remaned constrained.

Usmanov confirms through his spokesman that there have been negotiations relating to the iron-ore mine, and that Usmanov is interested in acquisition.” He did not say that Usmanov has discussed the deal with Magnitogorsk.

Alfa-Bank metal analyst Maxim Matveyey said he believes Rashnikov may try to outbid Usmanov for Sokolovka. “While almost all major ferrous metal companies in Russia have ensured their raw materials supplies, Magnitogorsk controls only 10% of its iron ore and entirely lacks its own coM. We estimate that Magnitogorsk currently buys 15% and 10% of its iron ore from Mikhailovsky and Lebedinsky GOKs. Any news about a possible solution to Magnitogorsk’s raw materials problems would be a strong catalyst for the company, but we do not expect such news anv time soon.”

IT’S ROUNDUP TIME FOR ALROSA’S RUSTLERS

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) –Two things are known for certain about the conversation President Vladimir Putin had with Sakha region president Vyacheslav Shtirov in the Kremlin, at the end of December.

One is that Shtirov invited Putin to come to the region for fishing. The other is that Putin replied that now is not the time.

Maybe this was nothing but small talk; maybe Putin was thinking meteorologically of the region where the average daily temperature these days is minus-40 Celsius. . But whether there was a symbolic warning for Shtirov in Putin’s remark, no-one knows for sure. But time is certainly beginning to tell, and the clock is not ticking in Shtirov’s favour.

Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond-miner after De Beers, is now undergoing a revolutionary transformation at every level of its operations. This is being directed by the Kremlin, which has ordered federal ministries in Moscow to introduce new methods of supervision and control of the company. Shtirov has been told to stop delaying or obstructing this process with his fish tales. If he does not, he has been warned that Putin may oust him from power altogether.

Yury lonov, a KGB officer, was put in charge many months ago of the company’s legal affairs and cashflow security. Then a federal government appointee, Alexander Nichiporuk, was introduced to management, first as deputy CEO; in November, he was officially promoted to be the chief executive.

Through these two officials, as well as with external auditors and inspectors, the federal authorities have also begun a crackdown on Alrosa’s trading practices and marketing channels. Among the targets, they have aimed at the system of exports through the Sakha regional Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones; Alrosa’s mining affiliates; and near-bankrupt diamond cutting establishments in Sakha and elsewhere, which Alrosa has kept supplied with diamonds. Preferential allocations of rough diamonds to favoured diamond-buyers, discounts, unrepaid credits, unusual service fees, and offshore banking schemes have all been exposed to federal inspection. If not for the first time, these schemes have been identified as multi-million dollar lossmakers, or worse.

In parallel, the federal authorities have been contemplating their own options to reorganize the unusual shareholding structure at Alrosa. This was created by a secret decree of President Boris Yeltsin in 1993, when he was desperate to secure the favour of regional governors, like Sakha president and Alrosa godfather, Mikhail Nikolaev. This decree, and others Yeltsin issued to award state property in the Sakha region to his satraps, have never been submitted to parliament for enactment, and in their existing form they may be unlawful. Abrogating the Alrosa charter, however, may undermine most of the state property transfers in the Sakha republic, including goldmines, coalmines, and oil prospects.

In its orginal form, Alrosa is a closed shareholding company, whose shares cannot be bought and sold, except between existing shareholders. These were the federal government, with an initial 32-percent bloc; the Sakha government with a similarly sized stake; the districts of the Sakha republic with 8 percent; a military veterans fund with 5 percent; and the balance held by individual company managers and workers.

Although the closed shareholding rule appears to be clear, there has been more than one loophole in the corporate charter, and these have encouraged both speculators and takeover schemers, hoping to capitalize on what they see as Alrosa’s eventual privatization by the state. The first of these schemes to be nipped in the bud was an attempt by a private entrepreneur to buy the 5-percent stake in Alrosa assigned to a military veterans organization. Instead, this shareholding was returned to the federal government, moving its stake up to 37-percent. With that, Shtirov’s place as chairman of Alrosa’s board of directors — technically called the Supervisory Board, since the company lacks a conventional open shareholding structure – was replaced by a federal government official, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.

Kudrin, however, has been easy for Shtirov to lull into a false sense of security; and to redirect away from the challenges to federal authority which Kudrin had been instructed by the Kremlin to counteract. While Kudrin looked askance, a trade began in Alrosa shares that has substantially cut the stake belonging to workers and managers.

To evade the closed shareholding rule, companies have been created with shares that have been gifted, rather than sold. Once established as shareholders, these companies can then legally buy other Alrosa shares. Through devices like this, for example, Renaissance Capital, a Moscow investment bank, has acquired an estimated 3-percent stake in Alrosa, paying between Rb4,000 to Rb5,000 per share (US$143-$179). Whether the institution was buying for its own account, or on behalf of other investors, is not known.

The Alrosa management is reluctant to discuss what has been happening to its shareholding. One very good reason is that the federal government has decided to accelerate its takeover of the majority stake in the company, and while it has yet to decide how to manage this, one option is to dilute the minorities. Instead of holding a stake estimated to be worth $150 million –assuming Alrosa’s capitalization is calculated at $5 billion — the 3 percent held by Renaissance Capital could thus be worth little more than was paid for it. The remaining workers and managers may find themselves comparably dispossessed, or with a much smaller premium than they had been anticipating. For them, it would thus be preferable that, if anyone is to lose money in the reorganization, it should be Shtirov’s administration and the Sakha regional government.

It was on account of the stakes involved in this process that documents were leaked a few days ago in the Russian press. These indicate some of the options which the federal authorities are currently considering for the reorganization of Alrosa’s shares. Most importantly, they indicate whom the leakers prefer to suffer the value loss, rather than themselves, when the Alrosa shares are surrendered to Moscow. For example, there was r\o reference in the press leak to dilution of the management and workers, or to the free floating shareholders.

Instead, documents were cited that indicate the possibility of converting Sakha regional property to federal government property, and adding to Alrosa’s capital the value of the royalty and rental payments this property can generate. Depending on what estimate is used for Alrosa’s capitalization – they range from $2 billion to $6 billion – this option could generate up to another billion dollars in capital value for the federal government’s share in the company.

A fight over this billion between Sakha and Moscow, between Shtirov and Putin, can be delayed. But there can be no doubt about the outcome. Putin’s recent message to Shtirov was that he has delayed for long enough.

It is also in the interests of the international diamond-mining community that Alrosa’s rustlers are rounded up, and the assets corralled as quickly as possible under federal authority. Once that is done, it will be much simpler for the Kremlin to decide how and when to privatize Alrosa’s shares. That is the payoff that investors like Renaissance Capital, or that miners like De Beers and BHP Billiton have been waiting for.

THE GREATEST DYNASTIC STRUGGLE EVER

The greatest dynastic struggle between two queens that is recorded in European history was the rivalry over the throne of the 16th century British empire between Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots, The contest was decided by bribery, knives, explosives, multiple murder, forgery, extortion, espionage, entrapment, torture, a rigged court, and finally the executioner’s axe. Even that was misaimed, and required three blows to kill.

Mary lost; and it was Elizabeth’s historians who got to tell the story. Mary deserved to lose, they said.But truth to tell, it was the Scottish lords who first murdered Mary’s husband Darnley, the King of Scotland;dethroned and imprisoned her; and forged the evidence that helped lead to her execution. Her son James betrayed her in a deal with Elizabeth to stake his own claim to the throne, and her spymaster Walsingham fabricated a plot to trap Mary into committing treason

Just imagine how the history of the Russian succession of President Vladimir Putin will come to be written, and by whom.

This month, for the first time since he came to power five years ago, Putin’s standing in the polls has dropped so fast and so low – maybe as many as 30 percentage points below the published numbers -that the president can no longer be confident of assuring his own succession. If he cannot do that, he and his allies realize they may soon be at the mercy of their opponents. In the fractious and unconfident staff that surrounds the president, this has triggered the worst fears they have known – for their own futures. Their loyalty, never certain in Putin’s mind, is in grave doubt; their ability to manage the state, never assured before, has become even more unlikely now. The regional lords, elected or appointed governors, have discovered they can defy the Kremlin with a few hundred elderly protesters on the streets.

And the business lords, the dozen or so oligarchs, each worth a multiple of a billion dollars, have revived the confidence to replace Putin with their own candidate. This combination of forces has provoked the most serious crisis of political power in Russia since Boris Yeltsin began his challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. By English standards, the methods used then were relatively bloodless, although that’s no guarantee for Russia’s time ahead.

But wait a minute. This is not a history to be dictated by the winners of the 1990 contest that is obliged to repeat itself. Putin may be desperately short of voters, soldiers, and prosecutors. But he has restored the one state power that can save him this time round. It’s the power to tax.

Yeltsin abrogated that power, allowing his supporters and ^financiers to pay none, and ensuring that the voters would have no alternative but to accept a 100-percent income tax rate – the non¬payment of salaries. Putin’s “monetization” reform was premised on the quaint notion that the government’s services should be paid for at cost, and that incoming tax revenues on wealth would be more than adequate to pay for public expenditures aimed at poverty. Although he has yet to admit that the theoreticians whose plans he accepted were the same men who implemented Yeltsin’s perverse income tax, Putin has realized the colossal mistake he made in withdrawing the in-kind social benefits Yeltsin left alone, and replacing them with less cash than they cost.

The fiscal gap, Putin has been told by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin – he learned his tax craft during the Yeltsin years as apprentice to Anatoly Chubais, the most hated man in Russia then – will cost Rb200 billion ($7.1 billion) to cover. That Putin has no choice now but to spend that money to end the state robbery of the poor, and to assuage the voters, is admitted by all, including the president. The choice that is still his to make is where and how to find this money. When the history of the Putin succession comes to be written, it will be said that Putin’s choice for how to raise that money will have decided the leadership of the country beyond the parliamentary elections of 2007, and the presidential election of 2008. Those government officials, who are already staking their own futures with someone other than Putin, the cash cannot, and should not be raised by a large increase in taxes this year.

But for Putin, a tax aimed directly at his sworn enemies, the most unpopular men in the country, ought to be the natural remedy for this crisis. And he does not need fresh manpower, nor new laws, to do so. All Putin must do is to order Kudrin’s finance ministry and the federal tax authorities to enforce the existing tax provisions on transfer pricing and tolling. A report by the Tax Ministry to the Prime Ministry last September spelled out how these schemes have been used for years to cut corporate taxes to a fraction of the legal obligation. Other tax avoidance schemes, using, for instance, the letter of regional tax laws in Chukotka – Abramovich’s territory -but violating the reinvestment provisions of those laws, have been exposed by the Accounting Chamber, especially for such beneficiaries as Abramovich’s Sibneft. However, the tax bills have not been delivered.

If he decides to do so, Putin can afford to be generous. According to a recent report by Fridman’s Alfa-Bank, “though there seems to be a general understanding in the market that more ‘prophylactic’ back tax claims for other oil producers may emerge, the general consensus is that they will not be anything comparable with the scale of Yukos’s penalties.” In other words, if Putin decides to enforce the tax laws against the oligarchs’ enterprises, he can afford to waive penalties and interest. He will have his $7 billion for the benefit of Russia’s urban poor. And before he attempts to introduce monetization of municipal housing benefits, he will be able to demonstrate to the voters that the rich will have already paid what the law obliges them to.

Call this the monetization of oligarch theft. It is so obviously Putin’s choice now that every man and woman in the street knows what is at stake if he fails to make the choice. For Alfa-Bank, “the continuing uncertainty over this issue is quite irritating, and will surely continue to weigh on overall sentiment.” Putin now must choose whether it will be he or his detractors who will decide the sentiment that will prevail in Russia.

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



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

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

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

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

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)
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