THE SHIP COMES IN FOR NORILSK NICKEL

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By John Helmer in Moscow

Moscow has been having much the same week for the past four months – everyone down at the pier tossing streamers, and waving goodbye, as the flagship investment funds toot their horns and pull away, to sail swiftly over the horizon.

It’s cold comfort to the flag-wavers of the Moscow mining and metals sector that the flow of funds into and out of comparable emerging markets – China, India, Brazil, Africa, other Latin America — has now begun to sail in the same direction as the Russian trend. Back in October, the weekly fund flow charts showed the withdrawal of capital from Russian energy and hard-rock resource companies was less dramatic than the flow of funds out of other emerging markets. But then from mid-December to mid-February, China, India and Brazil became a positive destination for investment again. With the exception of just a couple of weeks in February, when a pickup in the Russian RTS stock market attracted a modest inflow of cash, the Russian trend has been continuing loss of capital – and a concomitant drop in the RTS aggregate index of almost 20% over the past three months.

In percentage terms, the Russian equity market has said goodbye to more money than the markets of China, India or Brazil. The $330 million of accumulated net outflow from Russian funds since the first week of November compares with $210 million from Indian funds. Brazil has accumulated a net inflow over the period of $306 million; China has received a net inflow of $30 million.

The course of the bigger Russian golds looks like an exception. Polymetal (PMTL:LI, PMTL:RU), the St.Petersburg-based silver specialist that is no longer owned by frontman Suleiman Kerimov, is up 168% in the three-month period. Polyus Gold (PLZL:RU), still being carved up in the fight between shareholders Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov, is up 118%. Internationally listed juniors, with producing Russian gold assets, have turned on a mixed show. Peter Hambro Mining (POG:LN) is up 150%; Highland Gold (HGM:LN) is down 14%; Zoloto Resources (ZR:CN), down 25%; High River Gold (HRG:CN), almost flat. Virtually all the explorers who lack production, like Silver Bear Resources (SBR:CN), are down, or at best flat. The gold internationals with Russian mine production or capital exposure have also been mixed. Kinross (KGC:US), with a significant share of its global growth supplied from the Kupol mine in Chukotka, is gaining equity value. Barrick’s (ABX:US) minority stake in Highland Gold is too small to make a market difference.
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RUSSIAN COALMINER TESTS OLD KING COAL’S HUMOUR — BUTTERS UP UNCLE SAM, BUYING BLUESTONE COAL OF WEST VIRGINIA , AND BEGS KREMLIN FOR $3 BILLION BAILOUT, PLUS IMPORT PROTECTION

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By John Helmer in Moscow

Mechel (MTL:US), owned by Igor Zyuzin, fell sharply in Moscow stock market trading Wednesday on news the company is to acquire unlisted, West Virginia-based Bluestone Coal.

Without an official company statement so far, Mechel has revealed to brokers and Moscow industry sources that it has agreed to a valuation of Bluestone, owned by James Justice, of about $870 million, and will acquire 100% of Bluestone’s shares for $425 million in cash, and an issue of 80 million Mechel preference shares, currently worth about $310 million. The cash was paid at the end of last year, it has now been revealed, and the share issue will amount to a 19% dilution for current shareholders. Mechel’s acquisition will also mean taking on $135 million in Bluestone debt.

Mechel spokesman Ilya Zhitomirsky told Minesite the company is making no comment at this stage. He did not deny the Bluestone takeover. But he said he could not explain why there has been no reference to the purchase in Mechel’s filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on January 22, when operational results for the past year were reported, despite the fact, now known, that the takeover had already been signed with Bluestone, and the down payment made.

Mechel is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but owns no steelmaking assets in the US, and can claim no coal supply synergies in that country. Last year, Mechel produced 26 million tonnes of coal, 15 million of coking coal, and 11 million tonnes of steam coal; along with smaller volumes of iron-ore, nickel, ferroalloys, and steel. Until now, its only operations outside Russia have been steelmaking in Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania; and chromium mining in Kazakhstan.

The larger Russian steelmaker Severstal (CHMF:RU) owns considerable steelmaking capacity in the US, and has bought US coalmines to supply it through its wholly owned mining division, Severstal Resources, which is currently expanding into iron-ore in west Africa and gold in Russia.
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KREMLIN BEGGED TO AVERT WORLD’S BIGGEST ALUMINIUM BANKRUPTCY, AS DERIPASKA SEEKS SLUMDOG SOLUTION

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By John Helmer in Moscow

And the winner of the Slumdog Millionaire award goes to….Oleg Deripaska, Moscow oligarch, London mansion owner, and controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, for announcing in Moscow over the weekend that he does not need any financial support from the state. Rusal, in which Deripaska holds a control stake of 56.8%, and which he currently runs as chief executive, is Russia’s monopoly producer of primary aluminium, bauxite, and alumina; in the global market for primary aluminium production, Rusal comes second after Rio Tinto.

The collapse of the aluminium price – the current London Metals Exchange cash price of $1,264 was last seen in 2002 – the full payout of Rusal’s cash dividends, and the liquidation of $200 million in cash, reported by the company in mid-2007, leaves Rusal in dire financial condition. As an unlisted private company, it issues no financial reports, and its spokesman Vera Kurochkina has repeatedly refused to answer questions.

Total debt requiring repayment was recently estimated by Victor Vekselberg, an 18.9% shareholder in Rusal, at $16.3 billion, of which $7 billion is reportedly owed to foreign banks, and $6.5 billion to Russian banks.

On the list of more than 70 foreign banks currently owed money by Rusal, the two largest are reported to be ABN Amro with exposure of $2.3 billion; and Natixis, owed $2.2 billion. ABN Amro’s obligations are now closely supervised by the UK and Netherlands governments; Natixis is indirectly controlled by the French government through its stakes in Natixis’s principal shareholders, Caisse d’Epargne and Banque Populaire.

While it is speculated – without independent corroboration or comment from the banks – that Rusal has been in technical default of loan agreements and loan covenants, the political and commercial implications of a formal default are international in scope. They are particularly problematic for Deripaska, who owns residences in England and France, but who is reportedly lacking the visas to enter these countries to negotiate on Rusal’s behalf.
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PUTTING THE ICE IN THE COOLER — ALROSA DIAMOND MINING STRATEGY HAS MORE OPTIONS THAN DE BEERS

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By John Helmer in Moscow

Among the hard-pressed global diamond miners, only one, Russia’s Alrosa, has the capacity to sustain last year’s mining volumes without adding to the inventory overhang, or flooding the market, both of which will crush the price. This is because the Russian state stockpile agency Gokhran is ready to spend state funds in order to buy, and to hold the stones off the commercial market until demand begins to recover, and diamond prices revive.

De Beers acknowledged last week, according to remarks by spokesman Stephen Lussier, that it is “going to significantly reduce production levels to align them with levels of demand. There’s no point in digging a diamond out of the ground when you don’t have a client ready to buy it.” The company, which has been producing roughly 51 million carats annually, about 30% of the world’s rough diamond supply, is not estimating the size of its mining cutback beyond the statement from London spokesman Lynette Gould that “the reduction in production will be significant”.

BHP-Billiton (BHPB), which claims it produces about 3% of global diamond supply from the Ekati mine in Canada, has said its mine plan is unaffected, and there are no shutdowns. However, in its report of February 9 on production in the six months to December 31, 2008, BHPB disclosed that it had mined just 1.4 million carats; that was drop of 27% on the same period of 2007. This is not a market cutback by another name. BHPB spokesman Iltud Harri told Minesite: “BHP Billiton hasn’t announced any cutback in terms of our diamond production. However, actual production for the first half was 27 per cent lower than the corresponding period last year due to lower grades following changed ore sources. In terms of the future, as Ekati – BHP Billiton’s only producing asset – transitions from open pit mining to underground mining, the mix of ore processed will change from time to time.”

BHPB’s sales policy in the present market, Harri added, is that “we sell at the market price and always sell what we can.” He said data on the company’s diamond inventory are “commercially confidential.”
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THE EAST IS RED, AS WELL AS BLACK — CHINA ESTABLISHES PRIORITY IN RUSSIAN OIL DIRECTION

east-is-red

By John Helmer in Moscow

The Russian oil industry. and the state treasury too, have breathed a sigh of relief as the Chinese and Russian governments announced this week their agreement on a revolutionary shift in future Russian crude oil flows.

According to the announcement from Beijing on Tuesday, where Deputy Prime Ministers Wang Qishan and Igor Sechin were meeting, China and Russia have finally agreed on terms for a China Development Bank loan of $25 billion to Russian state oil exporter Rosneft, and pipeline company Transneft, to finance future crude oil shipments over a 20-year period of not less than 241,000 barrels per day (15 million tonnes per annum). The fine print of the financing and oil supply deals have not been released yet. However, the availability of $15 billion in 10-year finance for Rosneft, and $10 billion to Transneft, at a sub-market interest rate of around 6%, will guarantee China’s priority for East Siberian crude oil deliveries for the foreseeable future.

The loan and oil supply agreements implement the inter-government Memorandum of Understanding signed more than three months ago, on October 29, 2008. They are the second major initiative between Beijing and Moscow, following the Chinese financing in 2004 for Rosneft’s acquisition of Yuganskneftegaz, in exchange for delivery of 48.4 million tonnes (194,000 barrels per day) between 2005 and 2010.

For China in the medium to long term, according to one Russian bank, the new deal will “provide an impetus to massive development of Eastern Siberia” from which China is best placed to benefit. “We believe that two options are possible: greater [Chinese] access to the East Siberian fields (currently two upstream projects via a JV with Rosneft) and the potential transformation of East Siberian Pacific Ocean pipeline network into a joint stock company, with China getting 49% or 50% control in it.” If the latter materializes, that would give Beijing a control stake in the new oil port to be built at Kozmino Bay, near Nakhodka, on the Sea of Japan.
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DIAMOND MARRIAGE WITH INCONVENIENCE — LAZARE KAPLAN AND ALROSA IN SECRET CONTRACT TALKS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Alrosa is negotiating with Lazare Kaplan International (LKI) to decide whether to renew their expiring rough supply and polishing contract, or wind up their relationship. The talks and the details of the longstanding relationship between the two companies remain shrouded in unusual secrecy.

Alrosa sources say it is not certain whether the expiring contract, signed for a 10-year term in March 1999, will be renewed.

A Russian source told PolishedPrices that “everything regarding the Alrosa-LKI contract is hidden and non-transparent. The reason for this is that LKI has very advantageous conditions under this contract, according to which they have the right to pick the stones before buying.” In 2005, Alexander Nichiporuk, then Alrosa’s chief executive, sought to terminate the contract, because he believed Alrosa was penalizing itself in supplying rough on LKI’s terms. He did not prevail, and in February 2007, Nichiporuk was replaced by Sergei Vybornov. He is supervising the current negotiations, along with Sergei Uhlin, who runs Alrosa’s international marketing strategy. Neither agreed to comment on the issues in negotiation at the moment.

LKI, which reported in January that it is currently losing money on rough and polished sales, does not publish the value of the diamonds it buys from Alrosa, and cuts in Moscow, before exporting them. A company statement last month referred to the March 1999 agreement, and added: ” Under the terms of this agreement, the Company sells polished diamonds that are cut in facilities jointly managed and supervised by the Company and ALROSA personnel. The proceeds from the sale of these polished diamonds, after deduction of rough diamond cost, generally are shared equally with ALROSA.”

In the six months ending November 30, 2008, LKI is reporting that revenues from its sales of polished were down 21% to $61.1 million. Sales of rough in the same period fell 50% to $58.5 million.
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IN BAD ODOUR — RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLAYS FERTILIZER GAMES, WHILE CHINA SUFFERS FARMLAND DROUGHT

damocles

By John Helmer in Moscow

Uralkali (ticker URKA:RU), once Russia’s fastest-rising potash miner, continues to wait nervously under the Damocles Sword of a government ruling, which may put the company, or its controlling shareholder, Dmitry Rybolovlev, out of business. Still, Moscow investor sentiment firmed last week, lifting the miner’s London and Moscow-listed share price by 24% to $1.28, after seven months of steep decline. Current market capitalization of the company is $2.7 billion. At last June’s peak, it was $31 billion.

The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources, Semyon Levi, held a meeting last Thursday, February 12, in Moscow to review estimates of the bill for costs compensation and liabilities facing Uralkali from the subsidence and loss of Mine-1 at Berezniki, in the Perm region. The collapse and loss of the mine occurred in October 2006. revival of government claims against Uralkali began, apparently on the initiative of Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, in October 2008.

Hints from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Sechin and others suggests they have in mind to dispose of Rybolovlev, and reorganize Uralkali under the control of Vyacheslav Kantor, who currently controls the nitrogen fertilizer producer and exporter, Acron. For reasons of either their personal security or comfort, both Rybolovlev and Kantor prefer to live in Geneva, and run their Russian operations from there.

This Russian scheming is taking place against a background of serious drought in northern China, affecting the wheat crop. Chinese press reports this month, and a report on February 13 by Merrill Lynch, suggest that the drought may cut China’s wheat production at harvest this year by 13%, compared to last year — or about 15 million tonnes. Henan, Hebei, and Shandong are the provinces hardest hit so far by the lack of rainfall. The winter crop (planted in August, harvested in May) is more important than the crop planted in the spring, and it is the one currently suffering from drought. If the spring rains fail next month, then the drought is likely to hurt both crops.
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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – NORILSK NICKEL LOSES VALUE AS TAKEOVER PRESSURE MOUNTS

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By John Helmer in Moscow

The Agatha Christie story of 1939 started with a title and a children’s rhyme that are no longer printable for their racist connotations. The story has ended up being called “And There Were None”. Everyone turns up dead — 9 murdered, 1 suicide. It is the biggest-selling of all Christie’s plots – about 100 million copies sold so far.

A year ago, there were 19 Russians with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $9 billion or more. That qualified them in the Forbes top-100 worldwide. At the top was Oleg Deripaska; at the bottom, Alisher Usmanov. In the middle were Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Prokhorov, and Victor Vekselberg. These men are all stakeholders in Norilsk Nickel (MNOD:LI, GMKN:RU), Russia’s largest hard-rock mining company, and a world leader in production of nickel, copper, platinum group metals, and cobalt. They are also fighting fiercely among themselves for control of the company, whose market capitalization this week is just under $8 billion. At peak last year it was $60 billion.

Two of the Russian stakeholders are already facing the law courts of the US and the UK. The outcome of the litigation directly affects the Russians’ credit and risk reputations with their banks; covenants that have been signed, also with the banks; their fitness under UK company law to sit on London listed companies; and their freedom of movement under US, UK and European Union visa regulations.

Deripaska is currently before the UK Court of Appeal, attempting to overturn the High Court judgement of last July, requiring him to stand trial for the multi-billion dollar contract violation claim of former partner, Mikhail Chernoy. Deripaska denies the claim.
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PUTIN PROTECTIONISM — NOT SMOOT HAWLEY, BUT HAUGHTY SNOOT

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By John Helmer in Moscow

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been reading his economic history.

He knows that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act (named after its sponsors, Congressman Willis Hawley and Senator Reed Smoot) was the American statute enacted on June 17, 1930, which raised US tariff barriers against more than 20,000 imported goods to record levels — over the objections of the then President Herbert Hoover, and most of the US economics profession of the time. After the enactment of Smoot-Hawley, other countries retaliated with their own increased tariffs on US goods, and American exports and imports plunged by more than half. The combined impact on international trade is generally thought to have turned the stock market collapse of 1929 into the Great Depression.

Speaking at Davos, a few days ago, Putin warned against Smoot-Hawley. “We must not revert to isolationism and unrestrained economic egotism. The leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed during the November 2008 G20 summit not to create barriers hindering global trade and capital flows. Russia shares these principles. Although additional protectionism will prove inevitable during the crisis-and we see it today, much to our regret-all of us must display a sense of proportion.”

In the question-and-answer session which followed, the Russian prime minister conceded: “True, we are increasing import duties of certain ready-made equipment to promote Russian manufacturers-but I don’t think we are extremists in this respect. We are also reducing and even abolishing import duties for technical equipment, especially of the kind Russia is not manufacturing, thus promoting Russian industrial advancement.”
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OLD DOG, OLD TRICKS, NEW GAME FOR RUSSIAN POTASH MINER

By John Helmer in Moscow

It’s just as normal, geologically speaking, for potash mines to subside and flood, as for high-profit businesses to be taken over, if the price is a bargain, commercially speaking. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin deserves some credit for combining the two — reviving a two-year old geological anomaly, in order make the takeover of Russia’s most expensive potash miner affordable.

On October 29 last, Uralkali (URKA:LI) had a market capitalization of $6.373 billion. In the three months since July, it had lost 64% of its value, because of the global collapse in equity values. In comparative terms, this was marginally better than the Russian RTS stock market index as a whole, which had dropped 67% in the same period.

This week, Uralkali’s share price fell 20% in Monday trading, and now stands at $2.145 billion. It has lost $4.228 billion in value in the three-month interval since October 29, roughly double the decline of the RTS index. The potash miner has been losing asset value at a rate of $45 million per day, including Saturdays and Sundays.

But the spot price for potash has remained virtually flat, unchanging since last July. A big deficit in supply of potash in the first half of 2008, and rapid action by Russian and North American producers to cut output in the second half of the year have combined to hold the bellwether price for potash delivered to Brazil at the $1,000 per tonne mark. It is also being held up by demand drivers — a sharp contraction in grain inventories, and a forecast improvement in grain prices.

Uralkali’s North American peers also lost share value and market capitalization from July. But they bottomed in December, and have been gaining value since then. Potash Corporation (POT:US) is up 44% since its December low, and its current market cap is $22 billion. Mosaic (MOS:US) is up 60% since December, and its market cap at the moment is $16 billion. Comparing the ratios of share price to earnings (P/E), Uralkali dropped to 2.7 for 2008, compared to 11.7 in 2007; and compared to 5.3 and 5.5 for Potash Corp and Mosaic, respectively, in 2008.
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FESCO HAS THAT SINKING FEELING

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By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia’s leading maritime fleet executives, who were keen to announce newbuild orders and fleet renewal plans a year ago, have become very coy in the face of falling cargo volumes and freight rates, and the expiry of long-term charters. The principal lenders to the Russian shipping companies are even more uncommunicative.

State-owned Sovcomflot is the fleet leader with 132 vessels totaling 9.4 million dwt, and 31 vessels currently on order for another 2.7 million dwt. Ranking itself in the top-5 global tanker companies, Sovcomflot’s last annual report for 2007 refers to long-term debt of $2.1 billion, up 11% on 2006; the “current portion” of the long-term debt is $153 million. The interest expense line shows interest repayment in 2007 at $90 million, up 29% from 2006, when it was $70 million. There are no auditor’s notes or elaborations of debt or fleet valuations in the text of the report. The only reference to bank lenders for fleet says: “Sovcomflot has long established relationships with major Russian and international banks allowing it to secure long-term debt financing on attractive terms.”

Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship), also state owned, reports that its current fleet of 52 vessels comes to 4 million dwt, and its order-book includes 14 vessels for another 1.4 million dwt. The company provides no further detail on fleet financing or debt.

A Russian fleet insider says that Sovcomflot, which has taken shareholding control of Novoship, has persuaded lenders to value ships with a formula based on the purchase price extended for 25 years. Before the adoption of this formula, the Sovcomflot fleet was valued every year at market value, with revaluation differences reflected in the annual financial statement on the profit/loss line. It is unclear what valuation policy Sovcomflot’s lending banks are now insisting on, or what balance-sheet and replayment impacts this is having at present.
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



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

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

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

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

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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