Yesterday’s report on the Guinean President’s ultimatum to Rusal to use or lose the giant Dian-Dian bauxite deposit has drawn fresh sources with additional information, confirming the deterioration in Rusal’s hold on its concession agreement.
According to Vladislav Soloviev, Oleg Deripaska’s first deputy at Rusal headquarters in Moscow, his company is currently in talks with the Government of Guinea on terms for developing Dian-Dian. “We are ready to start to develop the deposit, but we need to solve the problems with infrastructure and agree on railroad use with the government,” Soloviev is reported as saying. (more…)
Now it’s official – the French, British, Americans, Chinese and Indians are all behind Guinean President Alpa Conde’s decision to revoke the Russian concession for the world’s largest unmined bauxite mining deposit, Dian-Dian, and hit the current concession holder, United Company Rusal, with back-tax and fraud claims, plus interest and penalties, for about $1 billion. (more…)
I have long wanted to comment on the investment climate, which was discussed at the meeting of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with the international railway elite, representatives of financial institutions and investment banks in the framework of the Forum 1520. (more…)
Two US banks named in May by Phosagro as mandated arrangers of its initial public offering (IPO) walked away from the share sale attempt after finding little interest among international investors to buy the shares from Phosagro’s owner, Andrei Guriev. The Americans also had problems with verifying how Guriev came into possession of the property he is selling — what one American bank source today calls “the shadow of Yukos”. (more…)
If Phosagro, one of Russia’s leading phosphate miners and exporters, were a Mom and Pop store, the release this morning of the 441-page prospectus reveals that Mom Gurieva and Pop Guriev are selling a good part of the family jewels for cash. The only other seller of shares for the initial public offering (IPO) now under way in London is Maxim Volkov, 39, the chief executive since 2009; he is selling his entire 1% stake. (more…)
When the gravy train to China starts running, it can be educational for investors in the greater Sino-Russian iron-ore market to slow down, and patiently study how Australians, rivals of the Russians and other iron-ore suppliers, behave when the brakes are off – and the regulators appear to be going in another direction.
Australia’s newest iron-ore miner to start shipping to China, BC Iron (ticker BCI:AU),ought to be seeing the benefit of larger announced reserves, more rail and port capacity to ship cargoes, and a freshly minted report from KPMG confirming that a fair valuation of the company’s prospects is a share price between A$3.80 to $4.13. That should be good news too for Ukrainian metals mogul, Gennady Bogolyubov, who is the largest single stakeholder in BCI, with 21%. (more…)
In The Long Good-Bye, private detective Philip Marlowe says of the snob column in the newspapers, “I don’t read them often, only when I run out of things I dislike.” Some people feel that way about the weekly report from Emerging Portfolio Fund Research(EPFR). That is the Boston outfit which tracks the flow of investor funds into and out of emerging market destinations in the aggregate (GEM, EMEA), and in particular countries.
The bad news, out today in EPFR’s bulletin and Uralsib Bank’s weekly analysis, is that outflow of investor cash in Russian stocks and funds hit a record this week of $298 million. This was a big turnaround from the previous week’s positive inflow; though it makes just a small dent in the total flow inward to Russia since January 1 of $3.5 billion. (more…)
For those with a taste for the burlesque, politicians speaking for the cash interests of the perishable food trade are hard to match. The smaller the politician’s country of origin, the louder the petomane, and the bigger the pratfall.
Russia’s chief food inspector Gennady Onishchenko (left image) yesterday ordered the ban on imports of European Union-produced vegetables lifted with special conditions, following negotiations with EU public health officials in Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday. Reacting to the outbreak of fatal e.coli infections from tainted food in Germany, and misleading information from the German and European Commission (EC) authorities in Brussels, the Kremlin first ordered a partial ban on imports of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on June 1. This was followed a day later by a ban on all European vegetable imports, backed by a warning from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on European “cucumber poison.” (more…)
A decade ago, when Oleg Deripaska trusted Gulzhan Moldazhova, his principal money-changer, to negotiate with China, the authorities in Beijing were reluctant to agree to permitting what was then called Russian Aluminium (Rusal) to open a representative office in Beijing. Until then Rusal had exported aluminium to China through international traders and warehousers in Hong Kong. The Chinese method for saying no to Rusal at the time was to say nothing – and delay. (more…)
Transneft, the state-owned Russian oil pipeline company, is now refusing to pay state-owned oil producer Rosneft $26 million in money Transneft claims that the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) should pay for pipeline deliveries of crude oil, but won’t or hasn’t.
The conflict has also revealed discounting tactics affecting all shipborne cargoes of crude oil between the world’s largest energy exporter and the world’s largest energy consumer. (more…)
Who would buy a share in a diamond-mining company whose board of directors lacks anyone with the career experience of mining anything; or of managing a public shareholding company; or of selling commodities in a global market? That’s not a question, the answer to which the Russian Finance Ministry cares if anyone asks; or cares to answer. The Finance Ministry supervises the Russian diamond sector, and the world’s largest diamond miner, Alrosa. And regarding its property, the ministry considers that to be as private as the Oppenheimer family regard De Beers, world’s second largest diamond miner. (more…)
When money is at risk, open stock markets generally insist on openness, although there are murky exceptions, especially in Canada.
It also turns out that business secrets are much harder to keep in the Russian market than elsewhere. That’s one reason the Russian risk discount is so high: the ability of Russian stakeholders to conceal material facts of asset value and title, related party transactions, and tax, transfer price and other administrative sanctions is far weaker than you will find in the developed stock exchanges or even in other emerging markets. (more…)
In Mother Goose’s original nursery rhyme, the trio at sea got there by jumping out of a rotten potato. Mother G. also didn’t rate highly their options for surviving at sea. But that’s kids’ stuff.
Buying shares in Russian transportation companies – rail, shipping, ports, containers – is a grown-up bet on the growth of the Russian economy. If gross domestic product (GDP), crude oil prices, real and disposable income are all rising, then it’s likely that moving container-loads of goods inward to feed consumer demand will also grow. Terminals to unload and load the boxes should prosper. That, at least, is what Russian port promoters would have you believe. On current prospects, with first-quarter GDP growth at 4.1%, crude oil up by 24% (Urals, year to date), and imports surging 41% over last year, investors don’t have to be gulled. (more…)
In European folklore, will-o’-the-wisps are lambent flames seen flickering over bogs and fens, and known by many different names and stories. Usually explicable as methane igniting, in some Baltic mythologies the will-o’-the-wisp is believed to signal buried treasure. In others, the ignition is believed to be the trick of a mendacious imp intent on leading unwary travellers to misfortune. (more…)
It’s impossible to celebrate independence of oneself. It is possible to take leave of your senses.
День России, Russia Day, for which Russians take off today, is one of those cynical inventions for which Boris Yeltsin was responsible. It was on June 12, 1990, when, manipulating his control of the Russian republic parliament, Yeltsin declared Russia’s sovereignty from the Soviet Union, i.e, the start of his destruction of Mikhail Gorbachev, and almost everything else. A triumph of meretriciousness over sanctimony. In time, the insecurity from which the one seemed to be offering liberation from the other will deserve a different quality of relief – and apter memorial. (more…)
In just a few hours this week, Rusal’s share price collapsed as a Bloomberg report confirmed what the stock markets have been suspecting for some time now – one of Rusal’s anchor shareholders might need cash so badly, he wants to sell his shares. According to Bloomberg, the requirement for quick cash comes to between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. That represents a sell-off of between 7% and 10% of Rusal’s 1.5 billion shares. On this news, published on Monday and Tuesday, the share price lost more than 10% of its value, dropping below last year’s IPO price of HK$10.80 to the lowest level this year. (more…)
Russia’s price watchdog, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), has announced that on its own initiative, it has opened a case against Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK) and its subsidiary, VIZ-Stal, charging that electric steel produced by the two mills has been priced in violation of Article 10 of the Competition Law of 2006. This article covers “prohibition of abuse of dominant position by an economic entity”. The provision charged in this case is Art 10, sect 1: “the establishment and maintaining of monopolistically high or monopolistically low price for a commodity.” (more…)
When one of the cleverest of international business intelligence agents retires from the secret world to write thrillers for a well-known London publisher, there are bound to be many in Moscow who are curious to know what he chooses to reveal about Russia’s oligarchs, their business practices and personal habits. If you leave out the long-legged Russian beauties yearning to unbutton themselves, and the fresh bloodspatter from the corpses of reporters, traders and lawyers eliminated for knowing too much, what conclusions does he draw from this phase of Russia’s history? (more…)
In an apparently unscripted exchange with reporters in Kursk last Thursday, Mikhail Prokhorov corrected the earlier impression he had given a fortnight before that, if elected by Russian voters in December at the head of the Right Cause party, he may not take his seat in parliament.
However, the garble reported by Interfax adds to the unbelievability of Prokhorov’s first national election campaign even before the party’s convention has selected him; or the first public opinion poll has been taken with Russian voters. (more…)
A fleet of between 200 and 1,000 vessels will be required to carry newly released Russian wheat and other grains to markets in the Mediterranean and East Asia, grain traders and port sources have told Fairplay, in the wake of the May 28 order from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Putin stole the thunder of other officials, announcing that the grain export embargo, due for extension or termination next month, will be lifted, and exports resume from July 1. (more…)
Gennady Onishchenko, the Russian government’s chief food inspector and head of the federal inspection agency Rospotrebnadzor, has ordered a ban on imports of vegetables, announcing: “we urge the population not to buy fresh vegetables from Germany and Spain. Buy Russian production.”
But this time the notorious protectionist of Russian farm, food and wine producers hasn’t gone too far. Instead, a spate of international reports claiming that in addition to cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, Onishchenko has also stopped imported fruits turns out to be mistaken. (more…)
Alexei Mordashov, owner of the Severstal steelmaking and mining group (lapel button), has instructed the executives in his goldmining arm Nord Gold to prepare for another shot at selling their shares at an initial public offering (IPO) in London before Christmas.
He’s also told them that the sooner they can buy out the Canadian minority shareholders of High River Gold (HRG:CN), the sooner the IPO can go to market – and the sooner they can earn their bonuses. (more…)
Question: Candidates for the post of the IMF managing director are now being discussed. Whom would you support? And what is your attitude towards the scandal surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Was he framed for political reasons? (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.