If Sergei Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian shipping company, had not been judged recently in the UK High Court to be dishonest, vindictive, and unbelievable, a warning from a global ratings agency of potentially bad news to come about his company may not be as serious as the red flag raised this week in London.
On September 28, Fitch Ratings issued a release announcing that it “has placed Russia-based OAO Sovcomflot’s Long-term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of ‘BBB-‘ on Rating Watch Negative (RWN). SCF Capital Limited’s senior unsecured notes, which are guaranteed by SCF, rated ‘BBB-‘ have also been placed on RWN. The RWN is pending completion of a review by Fitch of additional details including but not limited to the issuer’s increased capital expenditure programme over the next few years compared to Fitch’s previous expectations. Fitch expects to resolve the RWN within the next week.” (more…)
Alexei Mordashov’s plan to revive the initial public offering (IPO) of his goldmining group Nord Gold has been reported to be aiming at a relaunch date before Christmas; his first attempt at selling shares on the London market was called off in February when market conditions were much more favourable to him than they are now. The current volatility in gold and other metals prices – Nord Gold documents are forecasting a 10% decline in gold prices between 2010 and 2012 — and in mining share prices, may compel another postponement for Nord Gold. (more…)
In retrospect, Alexei Kudrin, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, has turned out to be less stupid than Mikhail Prokhorov, when offered President Dmitry Medvedev’s poisoned chalice. On the other hand, by declaring yesterday the race for prime minister is now wide open to all-comers, Kudrin invites a chancy political replay, in which the only certain votes Kudrin can count on are in the Anglo-American financial media, and in Washington, where Kudrin has just issued his bid for Vladimir Putin’s endorsement. In Russian politics, that makes a chalice even more poisoned than the one Kudrin refused and Prokhorov swallowed in June. (more…)
Joint Fruit Company (JFC), once the owner of Russia’s largest fleet of banana boats and the largest importer of bananas in the Russian market, is slipping on something much bigger than one of its own fruit skins. But the company and its owner, St. Petersburg entrepreneur Vladimir Kekhman, insist everything is ship-shape. More, they say — it’s British justice and five High Court judges who are at fault for JFC’s troubles. Kekhman owns 80% of JFC through Cyprus and British Virgin Island-registered entities, Huntley and JFC Group Holdings. Bank of St. Petersburg owns a 20% stake. (more…)
Until now the principal reason Russian businessmen ran for election to parliament was to secure legislator’s immunity from criminal prosecution. Lobbying their business interests into legislation, or drawing money out of the federal budget into their company projects and pockets, didn’t require getting elected or taking a parliamentary seat. (more…)
The warrior qualities of Russia’s patron saint could come in handy in politics – aim, endurance, fearlessness – but Mikhail Prokhorov has managed in his three-month political career to demonstrate their opposites, and to prove – stunningly if you calculate his personal wealth — that he’s innumerate: his capacity to count – votes, not money – is pathologically unformed. (more…)
The state-owned Russian tanker company Sovcomflot revealed this week that its profits are sinking, and that despite months of effort Morgan Stanley, Sovcomflot’s banker and broker, has been unable to attract market demand for its shares. As the much delayed privatization and initial public offering (IPO) of Sovcomflot shares fail once more, the company board chairman, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, remains at his post. This is despite the decree signed on April 2 by President Dmitry Medvedev requiring senior state officials to vacate their seats on state company boards. (more…)
There is no negotiation under way and no agreement between Alrosa and India’s state-owned Minerals and Metals Trading Company, MMTC, for a private placement of Alrosa shares in Indian hands, Russian sources, including a high Alrosa official, told PolishedPrices.com today.
They were responding to a string of recent press reports from Mumbai claiming MMTC has been discussing a share buy with Alrosa worth an estimated $2 billion. The last valuation of the state-owned Russian diamond miner, whch was made public by its chief executive Fyodor Andreyev in March, indicated a target range of between $6 billion and $12 billion. (more…)
The big difference between the penny dreadful and the novels of the great crime writers is not the characters who wind up dead, nor who did it to them, nor how; but rather what truth the tale reveals about the society in which the crime takes place and the humankind responsible for the dirty deeds.
Originally, in the mid-19th century, the penny dreadful was a type of mass-market syndication of stories that would cost their readers only a penny to read in weekly serializations. That was at the time in England when Charles Dickens’s value-added serializations cost one shilling, twelve times the price. The lower the cover, the simpler the tale, the cheaper the paper, and the more lurid the details. In other words, maximum sex and violence, minimum sociology, politics, and moral philosophy. (more…)
Intelligence quotient tests are not required for visas to enter Russia temporarily, especially not if you are running another country.
The last certified fool to be received by the Kremlin at the head of government level was Ronald Reagan. In retrospect, it is now clear that he was in an early stage of clinical brain damage. But in the case of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the symptoms appear to have been evidence when he was just 19 years of age. (more…)
In case you’ve been missing the action this summer: the Russian wheat harvest is proving to be so abundant, Moscow experts and grain traders are forecasting that exports will reach up to 23.5 million tonnes in the trading season which runs until June 30, next year.
Alexander Korbut, spokesman for the Russian Grain Union, representing the exporters, said the target of 23.5 million tonnes is “realistic, because Russia has plenty of grain, and it is absolutely necessary to export this volume to empty the storages. The market environment is also favourable.” (more…)
The last time Russia’s leadership assembled to listen to a piece of classical music was seventy-five years ago. It was on January 26, 1936, that Josef Stalin and the entire Politburo were at the Bolshoi Theatre to hear Dmitry Shostakovich’s opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Stalin was seen not to like the atonal harmonies or the loudness of the percussion and brass lines; he also laughed at one of the erotic scenes.
Look carefully at the lower box on the left-side of the Bolshoi stage and on the right-side of the ground-floor buffet (before reconstruction), and you will have been able to spot the special doors through which Soviet leaders could come and go to the music with least distraction for the audience. It was through that passage that they exited when they didn’t like what they heard. How courteous of them, you might think in retrospect (more…)
Victor Rashnikov, owner of the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), appears to have done it to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin one more time.
The latest financial report, issued last week by the company, reveals a whopping 93% plunge in net income – second quarter compared to first quarter — despite a 9% gain in sales revenues. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the company forecast for the third and fourth quarters suggests that Rashnikov is aiming to limit production and cut costs in Russia, and transfer his profit-taking to Turkey. (more…)
“Conversations with senior representatives of ALCOA indicate that SUAL was not Deripaska’s first or only choice for this merger (which is one possible reason why it has taken more than five years for the two parties to come together). Deripaska approached ALCOA in the first half of this year, but the talks broke down when the asset valuation gap could not be closed to Deripaska’s satisfaction.”
This time it seems to be clear that Transneft, Russia state-owned oil pipeline company, has had quite enough of both the Bulgarians and the Turks, and has told them it won’t build its planned pipelines across the territory of either of them. This puts an end, a temporary end probably, to the three-cornered political games the governments have been playing for more than a year now. (more…)
If you are just back from the beach with your sachel of books dog-eared, riddled with beach sand, even read to the finish, you may have missed the latest in this year’s crop of thrillers with Russians for villains. Mark Mills’s House of the Hanged was released in July. The Independent newspaper of London, owned since March by ex-KGB man Alexander Lebedev, claims this is the author’s “best work in an already accomplished career.”
A few weeks earlier, Chris Morgan Jones’s Agent of Deceit had a paid-up state-owned Russian oligarch in the seat of villainy, with the fear of Imperial Russia Revived the touchstone of a plot that tied British journalists, London due diligence investigators, and MI6 on the same side (Good). (more…)
Nostradamus, the 16th century French sage, doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his recipe for the Black Plague. He recommended swift removal of infected corpses; fresh air; clean water; and drinking copious amounts of Vitamin C in rose-hip tea. He was also against the then customary practice of bleeding patients.
The beak in his outfit was filled with aromatic herbs for staunching the putrid air. But the mortality rate among plague doctors was high; most survived by running away from their patients. To keep them on the job, municipalities used to offer them four times the going rate for conventional doctors. (more…)
Dmitry Rybolovlev’s interest in acquiring US assets is well-known in part because he paid the highest price in American history for a house. Take the tour.
Compared to the asking price of $125 million and the transaction price of $95 million, Rybolovlev got a 24% discount. But the asset value of the house has done poorly compared to Rybolovlev’s Uralkali shares. The assessed value of the Miami property dropped about 40% in the twelve months since he bought it. (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.