MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) – For at least a few hours on Monday, Harmony Gold’s Bernard Swanepoel knew more about Norilsk Nickel’s plan to spin off its gold assets in an offshore placement than Norilsk Nickel itself.

“Harmony wishes to advise”, a company announcement declared in Johannesburg, “that it has consented to the transfer by Norilsk Nickel of all its snares in the issued share capital of Gold Fields to an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Norilsk (“Subco”) and to cede all its rights and delegate all its obligations in terms of Norilsk’s irrevocable undertaking to Subco.”

In Moscow, the spokesman for Norilsk Nickel told Mineweb she didn’t know anything about Subco. Neither did the spokesman for Polyus,Norilsk Nickel’s principal gold-mining unit, although he admitted he had just seen Harmony’s announcement.

According to Harmony’s version of the correspondence it has just received from Norilsk Nickel, “the transfer by Norilsk of its Gold Fields shares to Subco is in accordance with its strategy to consolidate all of its gold assets into one vehicle and does not have any impact on the obligators under the irrevocable undertaking.”

Exactly who has authority to speak for Norilsk Nickel n such binding terms, and to plan what to do next, has been unclear since January, when Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, the co-owners of Norilsk Nickel, decided to fire Leonid Rozhetskin, their principal strategist for the C oldfields deal. Since then Rozhetskin has been unable or unwilling to return to Moscow, where awkward questions from state investigators probing other dea s await him. An associate told Mineweb that he believes Rozhetskin is comfolable abroad with a well-known Italian partner, and that currently, he is talking with Merrill Lynch about the future of what is now called Subco. According to documents that surfaced in a New York court late last year, the spin-off gold company was first codenamed I for “new international goldco” by RozHetskin and his advisors at HSBC. According to HSBC’s presentation of “Project Golf, if Harmony Gold and Norilsk Nickel succeeded in their takeover of Gold Fields, “I” was to be created out of the international gold assets of all thiiee companies, and “listed as a new ‘major’ in North America attracting premium valuation.”

Potanin and Prokhorov have refused all opportunities to speak, or requests to answer questions in public, about the Gold Fields acquisition, or their “1” plan. Notwithstanding, Potanin has told Gold Fields CEiO Ian Cockerill that Rozhetskin continues to have his authority to negotiate on the fate of the 20-percent shareholding, and the last stages of Swanepuel’s ill-fated bid. Gold Fields’s management, and other major stakeholders in Harmony, expect the bid to expire on May 20. In the meantime, is the disclosure of Subco by Swanepoel a last-ditch move to expose Potanin and Prokhorov ttji the commitment they once made to the takeover?

For one Moscow investment banker, who has been at different times close to all sides and a consistent backer of the “I” strategy, Subco was a surprise name for no surprise at all. “As far as I know,” he told Mineweb, Norilsk Nickel “can do what they like with their holding of gold asset.” If he were advising Norilsk Nickel at the moment, and he says he is no:, he would advise the company not to sell the Gold Fields stake, “There is ncl pressure to sell now. I know of no [government] pressure to sell.”

Late on Monday afternoon, Norilsk Nickel issued u press release citing Prokhorov for the announcement that it intends to create a new gold asset company, and then sell its shares abroad. “At its meeting on April 15th, 2005,” the fresh announcement reads, “the Board of Directors: of MMC Norilsk Nickel (“Company”) resolved to initiate steps which should leatjl to the demerger of the Company’s Russian gold assets consolidated under |ZAO “POLUS” and its subsidiaries (“Polyus”) and the Company’s 20% interest in Gold Fields Limited (the “Transaction”).

The contemplated Transaction, if implemented, shoLId create a new large independent gold major (Newco) with the potential for substantial organic growth and a window into one of the world’s most prospective gold regions: Russia. The Transaction, if implemented, would, in the (opinion of the directors, provide investors with direct exposure to this unique Investment, and should allow Newco to realize its inherent growth options, enhance gold business’s direct access to the financing opportunities and unlock substantial value for all Company’s shareholders.”

“The initial step in the Transaction will be to consolidate! all the Company’s gold assets (including its 20% interest in Gold Fields Limited) under Polyus.lt is the intention of the Board of MMC Norilsk Nickel that tsewco would seek both domestic and international listings as soon as practicable, following the Transaction.”

Prokhorov is cited in the announcement as saying “we.; see the demerger as a means to unlock substantial value for all Norilsk shareholders and to create a platform to build a new global gold major centred around existing gold assets.” Deutsche Bank is listed as financial advisor for the new scheme, and its legality assigned to Debevoise & Plimpton.

For investment bankers and lawyers, there can never be a political obstacle so high that it cannot be climbed to sustain their clients’ willingness to pay lucrative placement and arranging fees in the hope of seeing their cash safely out of Russia.

And so, when Brian Gilbertson, CEO of SUAL International, the Moscow-based resource company, announced last week that the Kremlin will not allow the large-scale sale of SUAL shares abroad, a Moscow resource banker claimed Gilbertson was talking his book, not telling the truth. SUAL is not ready for a placement, the banker told Mineweb. Gilbertson was passing the buck to the political leadership, he claimed.

The banker also claimed that his institution has three mandates from Russian resource companies on the go at present, and that none of them has been blocked by Kremlin fiat. Accordingly, he was emphatic that Norilsk Nickel’s owners are free to plan to move their gold assets offshore to “I” or Subco or Newco. Naturally, the banker didn’t concede that his firm’s access to know the Kremlin’s mind has been limited recently; especially since a share-buying scheme of a closed company the Kremlin is trying to eform was discovered to have been one of his bank’s inventions, and to have led to an investigation of its legality.

But is there a contradiction between what Gilbertson iiaid is impermissible, and what Potanin, Prokhorov, deutsche Bank and Debevoise & Plimpton would like to get away with?

In remarks to the Russian Economic Forum in London April 11, Gilbertson is reported to have said that Kremlin policy currently prohibits large-scale share listings or initial public offerings for Russian resource companies. He also acknowledged with apparent approval legislative and regulatory provisions in Chile, Brazil, and South Africa to assure state control of resource companies like his own, SUAL, Gilbertson assured, “accordingly will develop its strategic opportunities with its feet firmly rooted in the soils of Russia and the CIS.”

Yevgeny Ivanov, CEO of Polyus and the principal strategist of Norilsk Nickel’s gold strategy, followed Gilbertson at the same conference. But his remarks suggested that there are wings to his feet.

In response to questions about offshore listing plans, Ivanov said that he and his colleagues are considering listing in either Toronto or New York, or buying a company already listed there. Norilsk Nickel already owns the London-listed Norimet, and the New York-listed Stillwater Mining. But for the gold spinoff, Ivanov evidently has in mind something new. He was not asked directly about “I”, but acknowledged that a reverse takeover into Gold Fields was another “theoretical” possibility. At the time, noone had ever heard of Subco or Newco.

A few days earlier, Ivanov had told a Russian audience that these options could not be implemented for another two years. His spokesman told Mineweb that “all decisions could be made not earlier than in 2007.” What exactly must happen in the next two years is unclear. When asked if he favours Kremlin approval or disapprovasl of such an offshore listing plan, Vladimir Litvinenko, President Vladimir Putin’s advisor on resource policy, signaled that he is negative. Local bankers believe that the Newco will require at least a year of technical work to prepare. Two years may be required to overcome the Kremlin objections that are visible now.

Gilbertson’s acknowledgement of a Kremlin bar to IPO’s for major Russian resource companies is the first of its kind. Other Russian executives are sensitive to the requirement for Kremlin approval of their schemes, but they never discuss them openly. Once before, when Norilsk Nickel first announced, a year ago, that it had acquired the Gold Fields stake from Anglo American, it claimed publicly that no Russian government approval was required, and none had been sought. Central Bank action, and Kremlin advice, began to change that position several weeks later. However, it is still not clear what Kremlin officials have demanded, and what Potanin has promised in return.

I, Newco, or Subco are names that have a temporary ring to them. Why Norilsk Nickel’s board did not announce its plan immediately after deciding it last Friday, and waited until after Harmony Gold had disclosed it today, suggests that neither the board, nor the company owners have the confidence that their plan will be anything but temporary also.


By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



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

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



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

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.



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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