Interview with Maxim Shkadov by Vladimir Kulakov and John Helmer
The 36-year old Kristall Production Corporation is one of the world’s leading producers of polished diamonds, and Russia’s biggest. It remains 100% state owned under the supervision of the federal Ministry of Finance, and is headquartered at Smolensk, where it cuts and polishes diamonds, before distributing them for sale across the world. The sales network for Kristall’s stones covers the major diamond markets – Antwerp, Hong Kong, New York, and Dubai. Maxim Shkadov is the chief executive. On a visit to Smolensk after an interval of fifteen years –the first visit was in 1994, when Alexander Skhadov, Maxim’s father, was the CEO – this interview is the most detailed public assessment of how the Russian diamond industry has fared during the global collapse of demand. (more…)
Sad to say, there is no magic in capitalism. If there were, it would have been entertaining to watch how Polyus Gold, Russia’s leading goldminer, suddenly snapped a losing streak on Friday, and rocketed upward with a 4% share price gain in Moscow (MICEX rouble exchange), 7% on the London Stock Exchange, and 8% on the Frankfurt exchange. This came despite a 5% drop earlier the same week, and forecasts from well-known brokerages and investment banks that the share price might have another 5% to fall.
Say the magic word! Add a big puff of stage smoke! Bravo Maestro! The trick is a marvel! (more…)
Suleiman Kerimov is selling Polyus Gold shares in a bid to raise cash. The market signal triggered a price decline for the Moscow and London-listed share (PGML:LN) of 5% this week through Thursday. A Moscow brokerage is predicting that the selloff may cut the price by 10%.
The chain of circumstances was revealed by a source close to the transaction, who clarified why the first press leak in Moscow suggested that both Kerimov (38%), and his co-controlling shareholder Mikhail Prokhorov (40%, including friendlies), intended to sell 5% apiece, for a total disposal of 10%. Onexim, Prokhorov’s holding, refused to confirm this, and on November 19, Polyus Gold posted this website announcement: (more…)
Confucius say – why buy a treasure from a man, if you can wait for him to lose it.
The turmoil now affecting Oleg Deripaska’s United Company Rusal has become a critical test of the difference between the Russian and Chinese approach to resource concessions and national company value. Even those guardians of international financial propriety, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, have noticed that Rusal’s market valuation is dropping through the $20 billion point and reaching the mark once privately predicted by Renaissance Capital, now a Mikhail Prokhorov property and Rusal underwriter – just $10 billion. (more…)
Land-based delivery of Gazprom’s natural gas is more than holding its own in the European gas market against competing seaborne deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to a report from Gazprom in Moscow yesterday. This says that Gazprom’s exports to the European Union (EU) increased by 19.4% in the third quarter of this year, compared to the second quarter. This was also up 9.5% on the same period of 2008, and 8% above the the level for Q3 2007.
The figures are a sharp demonstration that Gazprom is managing to regain its share of Europe’s gas market with lower prices than the LNG tankers from Qatar, Algeria and Egypt can deliver through the Adriatic and Mediterranean. The Italian market is leading this new trend, with 22% growth in Gazprom purchases compared to last year. This is despite the relative ease of access for tankers to deliver LNG to Italian port terminals at Isola di Porto Levante (Adriatic), Panigaglia (Mediterranean), and Brindisi (Adriatic). (more…)
Put a little Hong Kong whitewash on your Rusal brush, and look at the difference it makes to your teeth…
By John Helmer in Moscow
A left turn and quick walk out of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) building on the waterfront in Central Hong Kong will take you to the ferry for Macau, where, in less than sixty minutes , you can be at the roulette wheel of the Sands Macau; and within a comparable interval you can gamble away a fortune. This Thursday, inside a closed meeting-room of the exchange, a handful of insiders will decide whether the HKEx intends to spin a wheel of its own, and offer a betting opportunity to a selected group of financial institutions. The HKEx wager is much bigger; the odds less chancy. (more…)
The Russian grain trade is complaining that there has been another outbreak of the weevil wars delaying large consignments of Russian export wheat from being landed and sold at ports in Syria and Egypt, ostensibly for reason of infestation.
This time, two vessels and 110,000 tonnes of grain, originally loaded at Novorossiysk, are reported to be standing at the Syrian port of Tartus. The Russian Grain Union president, Arkady Zlochevsky, revealed the shipping problem at a meeting in Moscow yesterday of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). (more…)
Yury Privalov, the former head of Sovcomflot’s London-based shipping operations, wound up his testimony in the High Court this week with half a dozen new allegations undocumented before in court, or since his release on parole from a Moscow prison on October 10, 2008.
Testifying over eight days by videolink from Moscow, Privalov, who has already served 22 months in Swiss and Russian prisons, revealed that his sole employment now is as a consultant to Sovcomflot chief executive, Sergey Frank (right figure). Details of hidden commissions he admits skimming from newbuild contracts and bank loan transactions were admitted in court, with deal percentages ranging from 1% to 4.3%. In total, Privalov’s bank account balances were identified in testimony at $14.5 million at the end of 2004, when Frank started an investigation. (more…)
The Russian government has decided to underwrite the refinancing of pipemaker TMK’s loan portfolio with state repayment guarantees. TMK is controlled by Dmitry Pumpyansky (see right figure).
A curt statement, issued Tuesday by Deputy Minister of Industry and Energy, Andrei Dementyev, said “the necessary papers are being processed by the Finance Ministry”. What the official didn’t say was how much debt the guarantee (and taxpayer obligation) will cover; and whether it will be limited to Russian state bank loans, or TMK’s entire loan portfolio. At present, TMK’s debt is more than $3.6 billion, of which $2 billion is short-term, and must be repaid within six months. (more…)
A flurry of sales and revenue claims posted on the Alrosa website have yet to be substantiated by the chief executive, Fyodor Andreyev, or his spokesman, Andrei Polyakov. Their silence four months into Andreyev’s term in office recalls the claims, issued in June and July by the former chief executive, Sergei Vybornov, that he had fixed from 6 to 15 sales contracts for a total value of $900 million. The pricing formula, according to Vybornov, was “the price-list of the Ministry of Finance plus 17 %”. Each contract, according to Vybornov, had been for not less than $200 million, and for terms of 3 to 5 years. The buyers, Vybornov claimed, included Tiffany of the US; Dali Diamonds and Diarough of Belgium; and some unidentified Israeli companies. “We have begun with [the Belgian companies],” Vybornov said publicly, “for the simple reason that the Belgian government declared the granting of guarantees to the diamond banks for a total of $1 billion A bit later, this initiative got the [additional] support of the Flemish authorities, declaring guarantees for $250 million.” (more…)
In the business of boxing, a pugilist’s hands are not only his stock in trade, but weapons as potentially lethal for him to wield as a pistol is for a stickup man. If a boxer uses his fists outside the ring, he may have difficulty proving self-defence, while his adversary will have less trouble justifying having to shoot him.
So in the business of banking, if a banker offers a mining company not money, but advice, what exactly is the service rendered, and what is the banker’s word worth? How dangerous might it be for the financial health of a business to take the advice, and who carries liability, especially if the banker doesn’t perform any other service except being on the losing side of a takeover bid? And what of the practice of bankers charging twice and three times over for the same advice, plus signing fees, monthly retainers, and personal expenses on top? (more…)
The Bank of Moscow disclosed today, without comment, that in obtaining court orders in Moscow and Novosibirsk to seize Vadim Varshavsky’s salary and Moscow apartments, it has also obtained legal sanction for “the restriction of V.E.Varshavsky’s departure from the Russian Federation.”
Vadim Varshavsky, the owner of the bankrupt Estar group of midsize, specialty steel mills, has been hit with court bankruptcy orders in Moscow and Novosibirsk to sequestrate half of his salary as a member of parliament, and at least two apartment residences he maintains in Moscow.
The orders by the courts are in relation to debts claimed by the Bank of Moscow, which is owed more than Rb364 million ($13 million) in defaulted loans to the Estar trading unit and to Novosibirsk Metal Works (NMZ), one of the mills in Varshavsky’s Estar group. NMZ was transferred on a 5-year lease to Metallservis, a metal trading company owned by Oleg Tyurpenko, in July. But creditors have continued pursuing Varshavsky, who had given his personal guarantee to secure the Bank of Moscow loans. (more…)
Ronald Knox’s “ten commandments” that summarize all stories in the detective genre were published in 1929. Here they are:
1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
2. All supernatural or praeternatural phenomena are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. (more…)
There is no evidence currently available that Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has anything like the hot-line to God which enabled Noah of biblical fame to master the surge of the Black Sea, and with the help of the birdie — the first spy satellite on record – to make it safely to land.
What is known about Noah’s Black Sea strategy has been the subject of controversy among believers for several thousand years. More interestingly, since 1997, academics have speculated that during the glacial meltdown between about 15,000 BC and 5,000 BC, the Black Sea level dropped below the level of the Aegean and Mediterranean, causing a surge northward through the Bosphorus. The surge, according to one geological report, was a big one – 200 times the volume over Niagara Falls, each day for 300 days. (more…)
High River Gold (HRG:CN) is being prepared for a sale, along with other goldmine assets of the Severstal Resources group belonging to Alexei Mordashov, to a Chinese buyer.
At least, that is what Moscow sources report as the rationale behind a proposed swap of equity for loan, announced by HRG and the Troika Dialog-Standard Bank group last week. This proposal has drawn immediate opposition from independent minority investors in HRG, who have complained to the Toronto Stock Exchange that the transaction is a sweetheart deal at an advantageously low price for the new shareholder. (more…)
Russia’s state-aid agent for struggling shipyards, the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), is to have another chief executive after the current one, Alexander Buzakov (right figure), was ordered out by the chairman of USC’s board, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (left figure).
A newspaper leak, published in Moscow on Monday, reporting that Buzakov had aroused Sechin’s ire, without identifying the cause, has mystified St. Petersburg shipyard sources. One told Fairplay that poor financial control may be one of the reasons. Another suggested that the new holding is unwieldy, and impossible to put on a sound financial footing. The shipyard union in Kaliningrad and a St. Peterrsburg shiping expert say they believe Buzakov is being scapegoated for trying to halt the diversion of state cash through the corporation. (more…)
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.”
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 @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.
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.”
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.
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 @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.
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.
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 bilificationof society.
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.