By John Helmer in Moscow

These days investors in gold-mining stocks are behaving like diners in fashionable restaurants, subject to the same fitful appetites. On Tuesday, for example, they sold Highland Gold (HGM:LN) down 21%. But on Wednesday, they bought it up by 20%. Highland is now trading at its all-time low since listing in 2002. No doubt, like watercress soup, a sour taste goes out of fashion from time to time.

Saki once reported the trick of conveying information intended to impress in up-market restaurants. “By insisting on having your bottle pointing to the north when the cork is being drawn, and calling the waiter Max,” he wrote, “you may induce an impression on your guests which hours of laboured boasting might be powerless to achieve. For this purpose, however, the guests must be chosen as carefully as the wine.”

When Highland Gold was chaired by an English peer of the horse, betting and Tory set, a cultivar of Roman Abramovich, who brought Highland Gold into the London market, it was a simpler matter for the company to invite investors than it is today. However, Lord Daresbury stepped down in December 2004, to be replaced by James Cross, a deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, when certain monies required for Highland’s treasury were dispatched by Harmony Gold at the say-so of its then chairman, Adam Fleming, and his protégé, Bernard Swanepoel. They did much to charm over concerns about the transfers, and into subsequent troubles Highland ran into with Russian assets it didn’t quite own, and an asset Abramovich sold to Highland at a premium for himself. Those stories can be found in old Mineweb menus:

Mineweb Menus – Link


By John Helmer in Moscow

Coal mining in Russia is a dirty business, and mine company finances are a black box.

If the coal mines lose money, as they claim in recent financial reports, that could be because the coal is being priced for purchase by the steel company which consumes it, and also controls the capital of the mine, at a price which transfers profit downstream. The publicly available records make it impossible to know. What is now very well known, however, is that the imperative to produce more coal, at the lowest possible cost, has pressured mine managements and the miners themselves into creating unlawfully unsafe conditions in the mines. Diminishing wages, inadequate investment, and corrupt regulation combine to suppress the effectiveness of the mine safety systems that are in place, and would be protective — if they hadn’t been turned off.

This makes fatal accidents, especially methane gas explosions, inevitable. But what the proprietors of the Russian mines — the steel companies — do next is unusual.


By John Helmer in Moscow

One of the greatest of the English humourists, writing under the pen-name of Saki, once opened a tale of a disastrous horse-ride with the observation that one of the characters “was looking about as pale as a beetroot that has suddenly heard bad news”.

To aficionadoes of Saki, the wit is hilarious; but to the literal-minded, doubts arise – beetroots are purple, not pale; vegetables can’t hear bad news.

On the immediate occasion of last week’s ceremonial visit to Moscow of De Beers’ chief executive, Gareth Penny, not a word has been issued on the occasion by De Beers. Releases from the federal Ministry of Natural Resources, the Sakha regional administration, and Alrosa all confirm Penny’s passage. He met Mining Minister Yury Trutnev (not for the first time); Sakha President Vyacheslav Shtirov (not for the first time); and Alrosa’s new chief executive, Sergei Vybornov (debut). He also talked to with the Russian diamond sector’s supervisor, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, according to his ministry.

Why De Beers has been silent isn’t known, although there might be some apprehensive reddening on Charterhouse Street, if Penny could hear what the Russian diamond sector has been thinking in his wake. Like Saki’s beetroot, however, Penny can’t hear the bad news. (more…)


By John Helmer in Moscow

Base metals – Twelve lines that may make Rusal’s Deripaska a poor man LONDON RULINGTwelve lines that may make Rusal’s Deripaska a poor man John HelmerDisclosure of the Chernoy-Deripaska agreement confirms US charge, and could put London share listing in doubt.MOSCOW

In twelve brief lines of less than impeccable Russian, dated March 10, 2001, Oleg Deripaska, contender to be the world’s dominant producer of aluminium, and the man who put him in business, Mikhail Chernoy, appear to have agreed on a formula that obliges Deripaska to share 20% of the value of Deripaska’s shares in Russian Aluminium (Rusal), when or if those shares are sold.

If Chernoy is able to enforce their payment agreement, Deripaska would owe him $6 billion – assuming Rusal meets its target capitalization of $30 billion. Rusal has recently upped the number of shares it proposes to sell – from 15% to 25% — but even on the high side, and again assuming the market values Rusal at the price Deripaska wants, he will draw just $5 billion from the share sale. In short, Deripaska will be short — $1 billion short of being able to pay Chernoy what he says he is owed for the trust their agreement created.


By John Helmer in Moscow

Morgan Stanley has taken the plunge for its first-ever public investor offer of loan notes on behalf of a Russian maritime business — the Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. The bank is also touting for business as financial advisor to a possible initial public offering of shares for Russia’s two state owned shipping fleets, Sovcomflot and Novoship.

In the highly secretive world of Russian maritime business, public prospectuses, drafted to meet the disclosure standards of European or North American market regulators, have rarely been issued, and even less often disclosed. Volgotanker, the largest Russian tanker group until it was attacked by the Samara regional government in 2004 and ultimately destroyed, issued the first credit-linked notes for $120 million in financing, managed by Raffeisen Bank of Vienna. Security for that issue in July 2004 comprised Russian-flag vessels and shore assets — a first in a sector in which foreign banks have always insisted on foreign flagging for loan security. The Volgotanker prospectus was not made public, however.


By John Helmer

An out of court settlement has been reached between Oleg Deripaska and his Russian Aluminium (Rusal) group, and Avaz Nazarov and a group of firms associated with the Tajikistan Aluminium Plant (TadAZ).

The confidential deal was announced on Friday in London by law firm Clyde & Co, which has represented Nazarov and his group. The lawyers’ statement said: “Rusal and Ansol have reached a comprehensive settlement of all of their outstanding claims against one another without any admission of liability by either side. Both parties are content with the terms of the settlement and pleased that their disputes have now been resolved.”

Chernoy Agreement P1Chernoy Agreement P2
Nazarov and his associates at Ansol are unavailable, and their law firm says there will be no comment. There has been no statement from Rusal. Rusal spokesman, Vera Kurochkina, refuses to answer questions.


By John Helmer in Moscow

Oleg Deripaska is under unexpected personal pressure, at home and abroad, just when his plan to take control of one of the largest bauxite and aluminium producers in the world is close to final government approval. And that is exactly why the trouble for Deripaska is growing now.

Russian government authorization this month of the creation of a monopoly aluminium concern, integrating domestic and foreign bauxite, alumina, and aluminium production assets, has followed a no-objection ruling from the European Commission (EC) in Brussels. The unconditional ruling was issued by the EC on February 1.

The published text indicates that EC anti-trust regulators found no evidence that the new United Company Rusal will control a significant volume of the alumina and aluminium traded in the European Economic Area. The Commission concluded, says the release, ” that the operation would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.”


By John Helmer in Moscow

The decision of the Estonian government to remove the city’s Soviet war
memorial and the graves of Red Army soldiers who fell in the last war
against Germany has been an on/off thing for months.

Now that it’s on, clashes between protesters and supporters, have already
cost one life (Russian); inflicted grievous bodily injury; damaged property;
affronted the amour-propre of Estonian diplomats in Moscow; and generated
reams of anti-Russian media copy across Europe and the United States.

Even President George Bush has weighed in — on the side of the Estonian
victims of an alleged Kremlin oil cutoff. Only there’s no evidence of this.
An unusually warm burst of spring and early summer weather across Europe is
the real culprit, cutting demand for both gas and heavy oil for heating.

Gazprom, Russia’s dominant gas exporter, has also been feeling the pinch
from the weather, reporting this week that its exports to Europe fell in the
January-March period by 24%, compared to the same time in 2006. But if
Mother Nature — that Madame Butterfly ever faithful to the seasons — can
be pressed into campaigning against the Kremlin on behalf of the Bush
Administration, why blame Reuters for failing to check the temperature, and
for putting the blame on President Vladimir Putin instead? (more…)


By John Helmer in Moscow

Never complain, never explain — that was the advice of the worst loser in
modern American politics, Richard Nixon.

Norilsk Nickel, the lead mining company of Russia and biggest nickel
producer in the world, appears not to understand how to lose, now that its
bid for LionOre has been topped by Xstrata, and the LionOre board has agreed
on terms that appear to lock in acceptance of the Swiss bid.

A statement issued by the newly named chief executive at NorNick, Denis
Morozov, commits both of the Nixon faults — first complaining at Xstrata’s
tactics, and then explaining why NorNick’s losing bid might be better — if
the world were different, and shareholdings didn’t cost money that
shareholders want.



By John Helmer in Moscow

It’s a pity Vladimir Lenin was tone deaf, and dismissed music (along with chess) as an entertainment for the ruling class. Had he an ear and taste for classical music (like Karl Marx, who was keen on Beethoven, and Leon Trotsky, who loved Verdi), he might have devised a revolutionary doctrine for the performing arts. This could have protected Russia from the likes of Mstislav Rostropovich the cellist, Nikita Mikhalkov the filmmaker, Valery Gergiev the conductor, and X the theatre director.

I regret I am obliged to avoid using X’s, or his Moscow theatre’s real name, because he and his colleagues are so thin-skinned, so despotic, and so vengeful, they brook no criticism, and would react by attacking the livelihood of a member of my family.

And this is the point: the erstwhile freedom which the presidency of Boris Yeltsin introduced, after toppling Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, was not a freedom for artistic expression in Russia at all. It was the start of a new dictatorship, much worse for Russian culture, its producers and consumers, than anything that had gone before.

The eulogies over the death of Rostropovich — which followed Yeltsin’s in Moscow by five days in April — miss the point of the human rights which Rostropovich made a reputation pursuing, aggressively, during the Yeltsin period – Rostropovich’s interest was limited to advancing his own right to make as much money out of Russia as possible. Even an oligarch as wealthy as Oleg Deripaska, owner of Russian Aluminium, expressed his shock at the size of the performance fee Rostropovich once demanded for a charity concert in the Samara region, sponsored by Deripaska’s company.

Just as Yeltsin privatized Russia’s natural resources for the benefit of a handful of his supporters, who banked the cash value abroad; so Yeltsin’s privatization of Russia’s cultural resources made a handful of performing artists very rich. The cultural privatization also started a reign of new terror, in which this handful of men took control of the performing arts in Moscow – the concert halls, theatre stages, film studios, airwaves – and systematically destroyed all rivals for a dwindling state culture budget, corruptly garnering the public resources which had supported Soviet arts education, copyrights, and broadcasting, for their private gain. Unreformed, they still rule today. The destruction they wreaked was far greater, countrywide, and longer lasting than the policies of the cultural commissars of Stalin’s time. (more…)


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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