Lakshmi Mittal buys loss-making Russian coalmines in the middle of nowhere.
Meerkats are among the most charming creatures in the animal kingdom, and they are expert at coping with the extremes of the Kalahari. The meerkat bands mark their foraging territories; but they are also opportunists — if rival bands don’t post guards, the territory will be raided for food. Unguarded, hapless meerkats may be kidnapped and eaten by their rivals, if the latter are hungry enough.
Lakshmi Mittal claims the charm, but Russians suspect him of less pleasant appetites. Accordingly, the recent record of his forays into Russia has been a consistent series of repulses from the domestic steelmaking and coal mining industries, backed by the federal government and the Kremlin:
This week Mittal announced he is trying to cross the Russian border again, this time with a sale and purchase agreement for two mid-Siberian coalmines, and one exploration deposit. The seller is the steelmaker, Alexei Mordashov, whom Mittal humbled and defeated with a surfeit of cash, and acumen, in mid-2006, when Europe’s largest steelmaker Arcelor was up for grabs, and Mordashov’s merger offer was beaten by Mittal’s. (more…)
Claims for the 5th largest gold reserve in the world.
Sturm und drang was the title of a German play, ostensibly about the American revolution, which captivated German audiences in 1776. The play and its author have been forgotten; but the title has lived on as the name for a European movement expressing extremes of emotion in literature. In the typical sturm und drang novel or poem, then and now, the protagonist is driven to action, not by pursuit of noble means or genuine motives, but by greed or revenge.
According to a Nevada-incorporated junior miner called Golden Share, it holds the rights to mine a gold deposit in the Russian fareast, called Shturmovskoye. The Russian name derives from the German word; it also means storm, assault, attack. There’s nothing fictional about the deposit, located in the Magadan region. It’s not newly discovered either, nor virgin territory. It was first identified almost seventy years ago, and in the years that followed prospecting between 1935 and 1942, diggings at the site produced 194 kilograms of gold (6,237 oz).
Nikolai Goryachev, a Magadan consulting geologist, who has photographs of the site from 2006, isn’t waxing poetical about Shturmovskoye either. That’s because he thinks the drang outweighs the sturm – the deposit is too small and too low-grade to be of interest to anyone. He doesn’t read pinksheets, or investorhub.com. (more…)
Russia’s Evraz group cannot sell its Highveld assets but appears that it might be buying more Russian vanadium.
The Evraz group, Russia’s largest steelmaker, has twice tried to corner the global market in ferroalloys, once in manganese, and once in vanadium.
It has failed at both, obliged by stronger forces than it anticipated to withdraw entirely from the manganese game; and to withdraw for a pause in its vanadium attack.
Since July of 2006, Evraz’s South African acquisition, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, has been a test case of the European Commission’s (EC) will to regulate a Russian metals group in its global market reach. In the hope of changing vanadium’s losing streak, Evraz has been requesting extensions of time from the EC in Brussels, in the hope that the vanadium price will stop sliding, and lift the selling price of the Highveld assets, which the EC ordered sold off a year ago, and which Evraz has so far declined to do.
In addition to stopping the clock to buy more time against the metal price curve, Evraz appears now to have pulled a curtain over a fresh Russian vanadium acquisition, challenging the EC’s will to blow its whistle in the dark. (more…)
Part-2 investigation of the Russian gold assets backing OTC traded gold shares – ABV Gold, Aurus, and Golden Share
Alexei Ivanovich, the hero of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Gambler, played roulette – desperately, but more fortunately than Dostoevsky himself. In Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera, Queen of Spades, the heroine played the card game faro – fatally. In the time when Boris Yeltsin was Russia’s president, a 19th century form of gambling returned to become a popular obsession across the countryside. The organizers were called napyorstochniki — literally, “thimblers”. For in Russia, the classic shell game has been played, not with walnut shells, but with three thimbles.
The pea is the same. Now you see it to bet on; now you don’t – and you have lost your money. Watch carefully, for in this tale, under the nimble fingers of the napyorstochniki will go a stock of 40 to 80 tonnes of gold, mineable from a tailings pile, and worth from $1.1 billion to $2.3 billion, only to disappear, as if they never were. Then the gold reappears, this time in a remote hard-rock location of northeastern Siberia, now worth almost $4 billion – only to prove unfindable, as soon as the thimbles are upturned. (more…)
Through the Nabucco pipeline project, Bulgaria decides to reap the benefit of Europe’s energy demand.
The fat lady has finally sung — the operatically named Nabucco gas pipeline project, intended to carry Central Asian gas to European markets, avoiding Russia, appears to have been knocked out by an agreement between Bulgaria, Russia, and Italy’s ENI.
Negotiated on Thursday and Friday in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital, by President Vladimir Putin and Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, the deal means that “Bulgaria has become a key link in the European energy chain,” Putin announced. Parvanov said: “Bulgaria has always suffered from its strategic location, and the time has comer to reap the South Stream, a new 900-km gas pipeline to be supplied by Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas producer, is to be built under Black Sea, and make land on the Bulgarian coast. From there, the pipeline will fork, delivering gas estimated at 30 billion cubic metres per annum southwards to Italy and Greece, and northwestwards to Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria.
Austria and Turkey have previously proposed an alternative pipeline, route and feedstock, backed by Washington and Burssels. It is unclear why a gas export pipeline, intended to run from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, across the seabed, and then through several Caucasus and Balkan states, to Vienna, should be named after Nabucco, the Verdi opera of 1842. (more…)
ABV Gold cannot substantiate its market claims to a multi-billion dollar gold and silver property in Russia.
In the folk history of the Russian trades, it was always said that a tailor lacks trousers, and the shoemaker lacks shoes. A Canadian from Montreal, promoting a penny gold mining stock registered on the U.S. Over-the-Counter market (ABVG:US) is writing a new chapter. This is the one about the gold miner without a goldmine.
According to a posting on the ABV Gold website, on September 24, the company “closes acquisition of a 70% interest in a producing gold mine in Russia.” The link from this announcement leads to www.pinksheets.com, where there is no record of the transaction, the value, the price, or the “producing gold mine.”
A few days later, on October 14, Dan Ryan, the President and Chief Executive of ABV Gold, posted an “open letter to shareholders”, responding, he conceded, “to repeated queries about the status of our company, in particular, requests for more data concerning our gold mine holdings in Russia.” (more…)
State-owned maritime fleet leader Sovcomflot is making a last-ditch bid to reap value for its bonus-holders before the Russian presidential election on March 2. But the lack of time isn’t the only catch.
Sovcomflot ‘s bid to buy out minority shareholders of Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship) has been rejected by Moscow investment bankers and brokers as too low. The Sovcomflot offer was issued on January 10, with a $3.34 price tag per voting share. This was initially estimated as a 12% premium on a previous floating average, and was reportedly advised by Sovcomflot advisor, Morgan Stanley. But the premium has already shrunk to 5% on current market valuations.
“We do not recommend that Novoship’s minority shareholders accept Sovcomflot’s offer because the offer price is lower than our fair value,” reports Moscow-based Finam Investment Company. Its advisory to investors said they should retain their shares in the expectation of a much higher market value and share price, if and when a proposed IPO is launched by Sovcomflot. Finam says it values Novoship shares at $3.61 — 8% more than the current offer. (more…)
Russian regulator Oleg Mitvol wins battle for tougher federal mine licensing.
Little children trying to sleep in the bungalows of the British colonial territories in India were once entranced by the tale of Little Black Sambo, whose story was first published by Helen Bannerman in 1899. Pursued by four tigers, Sambo must save himself, which he does by giving up his green parasol, his brand-new red jacket, blue short-pants, and purple curly-toed shoes. Still ravenous, the tigers chase around the tree in which Sambo is perched, until they turn into ghee butter. Sambo then climbs down, and goes home, where he slaps the ghee on to 169 pancakes he devours for his supper.
In the federal regulation of the Russian mining sector, Oleg Mitvol has just proved that he can turn his predatory superior, Sergei Sai, into something edible for supper.
Last week, Sai announced he had resigned his post as chief of Rosprirodnadzor, the licence inspectorate and environment regulator. According to Sai, in remarks reported by a Russian news agency, “We lost control. For example, the head of the [regulator] does not appoint his own deputies. Instead of being able to issue an ordinary reprimand to the head of a regional department, I have to write a letter to the minister to initiate an administrative investigation.” (more…)
Achilles heel uncovered by US court in Russian aluminium champion
In seventy-four closely argued pages, US attorneys have this week applied to the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (New York) to reverse a series of lower court judgements, and order trial of charges that Victor Vekselberg and his associates stole crude oil and Russian oilfield licences worth several hundred million dollars from Norex Petroleum Limited, owned by a Canadian named Alex Rotzang.
If the appeals bench of judges agrees, the outcome directly threatens defendant Vekselberg, the second shareholder of United Company Rusal, one of the world’s largest aluminium producers, with US visa and tax sanctions. A ruling for Rotzang by the US court would also trigger UK prohibitions on Vekselberg continuing to serve as a member and chairman of Rusal’s board of directors.
But even before the US court rules, the relatively unnoticed 6-year litigation exposing Vekselberg’s business past, already casts a shadow over the attempts both Vekselberg and his shareholding partner in Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, are making to list their company internationally, either through a London Stock Exchange initial public offering (IPO); or through a takeover and reverse listing with Norilsk Nickel. (more…)
Norway and UK probe Hydro’s aluminium operations with BVI cutout companies.
The High Court in London is considering a trial this year of claims to one of the largest missing aluminium smelter fortunes in the world. The missing money, estimated to be as high as $500 million per year, is disappearing from the Tajikistan Aluminium Plant (TadAZ Talco), whose principal trading partner is Hydro Aluminium, the state-controlled Norwegian aluminium producer.
The details of the UK court litigation, initiated by the smelter and its owner, the Tajik government, are accumulating in confidential records of preliminary and procedural hearings, which continue this month. The trial later in the year will expose the evidence publicly, and it is likely that Hydro will be summonsed to testify, not least of all because of admissions Hydro has publicly made to Mineweb that it has reassigned contracts signed a year ago with the smelter to a Caribbean cutout company with the same name as the smelter, Talco Management Limited (TML). “The arrangements” with the latter, Hydro spokesman Halvor Molland told Mineweb this week, “are an integral part of our settlement agreement with the Talco smelter.” (more…)
Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.
There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.
There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.
Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers. In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.
Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.
How little the Germans have changed.
But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.” By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”
So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.
Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.
China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.
The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.
In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022, is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.
There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself. Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”
This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.
The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.
Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age, after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.
After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster history to be her own joke.
Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself. This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.
In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English: the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.
The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British. Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating. The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin BlueLine (d. 1996).
The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok) are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences. The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.
Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money. “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.
By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.
The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.
Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.
China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years. The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.
So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.
The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).
A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester, he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018, claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.
Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”
Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.
After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.
The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.”
Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.
New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.
Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes, it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.
The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.
The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory. The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.
“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”
“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”
The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image). McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.
Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.
Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.
In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.
Those lighting Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral pyre are torching the truth of the matter – that Gorbachev was a liar of monumental vanity who betrayed his country out of greed and incompetence, outpointed by his adversaries in Moscow, Washington, and London because they knew him better than he knew himself.