MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) — In football parlance, a ghost goal is usually understood to be the one that scores without the goalkeeper seeing where it came from, or who booted it.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who now lives in England, might be considered an expert on the matter since he owns the Chelsea Football Club, and spends a good deal of money on buying players to score goals. But no one has ever imagined that Abramovich himself might be the kicker of a goal on what used to be his playing field, Russia. Notwithstanding, on the front page, with a prominence that often costs dearly, a Moscow newspaper has reported that Abramovich is currently negotiating to pay about $2 billion to buy a minority ! shareholding in the steel, vanadium and coal-mining group, called Evraz. Russia’s largest steelmaker, Evraz is controlled by a man with a similar surname, Alexander Abramov. According to the newspaper report, Abramov is proposing to sell Abramovich 25% plus one share. But after collecting his cash, he is intending to retain his current level of control over the Evraz group.

If the newspaper report is to be believed, Abramovich has kicked a ghost goal, spending money for the first time in years to buy a Russian asset in a sector he is never invested in before, for a reason he has yet to admit to, and without gaining a notable advantage over the seller, except to make him even richer than he already is, and relieve him of his liabilities. Since Abramovich and his UK-domiciled Millhouse group have been selling their Russian assets, and have spent no money in Russia for at least three years, no one can say that they saw Abramovich booting the goal that Abramov leaked to the newspaper. Also, it is unheard of for Abramovich to buy a passive minority stake in a Russian company, let alone accept another Russian’s hidden liabilities. Abramov is thus in the improbable position of being the goalkeeper who says the ball has scored, although there is no other witness to the shot.

Abramov has always exaggerated his goal-keeping credentials; that is to say, the extent to which he controlled the majority of shares in the Evraz group.

In the prospectus for investors which Evraz issued for its initial public offering in London last June, it is claimed that “Evraz was founded in 1992 as the limited liability company Evrazmetal. Evrazmetal was established by a group of Russian scientists and engineers led by Alexander Abramov.” The “original group” was good at mathematics, and the sums they did led them to supply raw materials like iron-ore, coking coal, and electricity to steelmills, and take steel products for sale in return. “As a result”, comments Morgan Stanley and Geary Gottleib, financial and legal advisors to Evraz, “these traders became the largest creditors of the mills.” They then put the owners of the bankrupt plants out of their misery, swapping debts for equity. Not long after helping to compose this account, there was a falling-out between Morgan Stanley and Abramov – but more of that in a moment.

At IPO listing, twelve years after Abramov, 45, had started, he claimed to own 65.26% of Crosland Global Limited, which in turn owned 100% of Mastercroft of Cyprus. Mastercroft in turn owned varying percentages of the assets in the group, until it was reorganized, and absorbed by Evraz of Luxembourg. Subsequent share sales by Abramov have left him with between 51% and 59% of the controlling shares.

In fact, Abramov was an administrator, put in charge of the steel, iron-ore and coal assets after Iskander Makhmudov, a much more potent figure, had grabbed them Another of the real shareholders was Oleg Boiko, who graduated from running a defunct Russian institution called the National Credit Bank to a betting empire called Ritzio, How Boiko acquired his “beneficial interest” in the Evraz assets is less important now than the fact that, as late as 2001, he held one-third of the stakes, and although he wanted to sell out, his partners would not agree to his price.

In the 1990s, Makhmudov had been one of the original founders of all the Russian base metal groups, including aluminium, steel, copper, and their raw materials — iron-ore and coking coal. He has admitted agreeing to leave the aluminium business to Oleg Deripaska, and to specializing for himself in copper and coal. In copper, he controls the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, which is the second producer of copper in Russia, after Norilsk Nickel. More recently, Makhmudov had a falling-out with a young protege named Igor Altushkin, who now controls the third copper producing group, Russian Copper Company.

Makhmudov has admitted that through 2001 he was still Evraz’s “partner”, albeit an almost silent one. In 2001 and 2002 he was intent on expanding his steel business by acquiring control of the biggest of the steel mills, Magnitogorsk. He failed at that, and claims he sold his stake to Abramov’s group. At least, Makhmudov says he sold his steel-making interest. In its IPO prospectus, Evraz’s account of its coal assets leaves very unclear how the most important of mines are owned, and by whom. When asked to clarify their ownership, and the nature of their equity and trading relationships with Evraz, the coalmine managements refuse to say.

Difficult as it is to penetrate this murk, it is clear from court claims in the US and Europe that Abramov exercised much of the control he claimed for himself from trustee arrangements with the real shareowners. A claim filed in the UK High Court last December accused Abramov of violating one of these arrangements, and seizing control of a stake of at least 10% in the Evraz group. The claimant in that case was the widow of Aidyn Kurbanov, who died in November 2003, a little more than a year after signing a trust deed under UK law with Abramov. That “settled [the shares] on the Defendant [Abramov] on trust for himself as beneficiary by written trust deed.” According to the Moscow lawyer for this claim, the shares were in a Panama-registered entity called Venturi, which was a “mirror company”, holding effective ownership over the Evraz group. Venturi’s existence had been concealed from investors in the IPO, and from Morgan Stanley, which had drafted the IPO prospectus. The Kurbanov estate lawyer claimed that, in fact, Kurbanov held an even larger shareholding in the Evraz group, but that the 10%-stake was the only one subject to English court jurisdiction.

The Kurbanov claim was the first to intimate publicly that Abramov may not have been the controlling shareholder he claimed. Since the December filing, the lawyers involved in the Kurbanov case have been negotiating with him for weeks, but they no longer return calls to discuss the case.

Before they fell silent, one of them told Mineweb that she believed Abramov’s purported control shareholding in Evraz included other trusts. One which had come under Russian media scrutiny was the estate of a senior executive of the group, Andrei Sevenyuk, who was killed in an aircraft crash in September 2004. Before his death, Sevenyuk had hinted to Mineweb that he was in control of a sizeable stake in the company. Subsequently, uncorroborated reports suggest that his survivors accepted Abramov’s payment of $124 million for a shareholding of 4.17%, leaving what Morgan Stanley estimated as a residual 0.8% bloc of shares still in the Sevenyuk estate’s control. Moscow newspaper reports have speculated, however, that when he was alive, Sevenyuk controlled at least 15%. If true, then together, Sevenyuk and Kurbanov may have been controlled approximately half the shares Abramov claimed for his own.

Until and unless he settled with them, or with their heirs, Abramov ran the risk of trying to sell what was not his.

Other court claims dispute the ownership which Evraz claims in its prime assets. A claim filed in federal and local courts last November in the US state of Delaware four companies representing an Israeli and US investors had once controlled about 72% of the shares of the Kachkanarsky ore-processing combine (GOK), an iron-ore and vanadium mine that is today Evraz’s most important source of the raw material. The claimants say that between 1999 and 2001, they were forcibly deprived of their asset. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint in Delaware’s Chancery Court, Evraz, one of the eleven listed defendants, is described as having been “owned, directly or indirectly, by [Mikhail] Chernoi, [Oleg] Deripaska, [Iskander] Makhmudov, and [Mikhail] Nekrich, and operated and managed by them, or under their direction and control.”

The Delaware court has been told that “in late 2000 the Conspirators arranged for Plaintiffs’ shares in [Kachkanarsky] GOK to be transferred to the Delaware corporate defendants, utilizing, inter alia, fraud or corrupted court proceedings in which Plaintiffs were not even named as parties; the Delaware companies ultimately transferred these shares to UGMC [Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, owned by Makhmudov] and then to Evraz, which is controlled by Chernoi, Deripaska, Makhmudov, and Nekrich.”

In the Evraz prospectus, these claims are referred to in four paragraphs set 84 pages apart. The legal defence will concentrate first, Cleary Gottleib says, on challenging US jurisdiction for the claims, and arguing that a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds in a related New York case precludes a fresh court adjudication in Delaware.
To the substantive claims raised by the former owners of Kachkanarsky, Evraz says, twice: “Evraz acquired its shares in KGOK through transactions mediated by an experienced market intermediary, and received from the sellers the limited representations and warranties that are customary in the Russian market in respect of the shares it acquired.” If the words drafted by experienced lawyers have meaning, these ones appear to be consistent with the factual basis of the Delaware court claim. They do not deny what has been alleged, inter alia, by the one-time CEO of Kachkanarsky and financial advisor to Makhmudov, who is the principal witness for the claimants. But Evraz goes on to persuade potential investors that “the risks that the ultimate resolution of the suit case will have a significant impact on the financial position of the Group is remote.”

When the former owners of Kachkanarsky filed suit in Luxembourg, following Evraz’s IPO, the Evraz lawyers told the judge that the Luxembourg registered company, Evraz SA, didn’t own the mine. It was owned, instead, they said, by two Russian companies. Although the admission repudiated the IPO prospectus, contradicted the undertakings which Evraz SA had made to investors, and made a liar out of Morgan Stanley, the judge ruled that Luxembourg had no jurisdiction. “Evraz is either lying to the market or to the Luxembourg court”, Bruce Marks, US attorney for the Kachkanarsky claimants, declared, and further litigation is pending.

The legal claims against Abramov and against Evraz have so far had little impact on investor confidence or the Evraz share price. After listing at $14.50, the share price is now almost $23.50, a gain of 62%. More experienced Russian investors have been more wary. A bid by Alexei Mordashov’s Severstal group to merge with or acquire Evraz is known by Moscow bankers to have been discussed, and halted. Other sources have told Mineweb they expected Vladimir Lisin’s Novolipetsk Steel group to try a takeover. Russians of their caliber know how to find, and also to hide beneficial ownership. They also know how not to buy a pig in a poke.

It is for this reason that few serious Russian bankers believe the report that Abramovich is negotiating to pay Abramov $2 billion for a minority stake of Evraz. One of the results of the falling-out between Abramov and Morgan Stanley during last year’s IPO is that not many bankers outside Moscow know Evraz particularly well. Morgan Stanley thought it did, but Abramov reproved them for lack of enthusiasm in the marketing of his securities at the listing. It is still unclear why Morgan Stanley behaved as it did.

If there is a negotiation between Abramov and Abramovich, then Russian banking sources think that Abramovich must be acting for others; possibly state interests who have shared in the proceeds of Abramovich’s sale of his Sibneft oil company to Gazprom. And if Abramovich is doing that, then Abramov’s room for bargaining over what stake to sell, and at what price, may be limited to the newspapers. In practice, if he is now the target of a takeover, he will not be able to dictate either. . Certainly not if the state marshals what it knows about how Abramov came by his shareholding in the first place.

Evraz’s head of investor relations, Irina Kibina, initially responded to questions about the ghost goal by pretending Evraz was not watching. The company is “closed” for a 60-day period until April 27, she said, at which time the company’s 2005 financial results will be announced. Under pressure of the press leaks, she was obliged to issue this statement, acknowledging that as a publicly listed company, Evraz knows what is doing when it stays silent. “Evraz Group S.A.is aware of certain rumours circulating in the market relating to potential transactions in its shares,” the company release said on Tuesday, “and does not propose to comment on this market speculation or rumour. Evraz Group confirms it is aware of its disclosure obligations as a listed company.”

This is hardly a convincing display of transparency by the management of a publicly listed shareholding company. What it concedes is that Abramov runs Evraz out of his back pocket. That is the pocket where he does not keep his wallet.


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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