RUSPETRO – THE LITTLE OIL WELL THAT WATERS A BILLION-DOLLAR DREAM

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you believe what RusPetro Plc says, this loss-making venture on a small oil patch in Khantiy-Mansiysk — a patch no major Russian oil company has wanted to bother with — is already worth a billion dollars, and is bound to be worth multiples of that. The reason, also according to RusPetro, is the brilliant technical performance of a group of American oilfield engineers. They can be trusted to manage the RusPetro miracle, they claim,because it’s a miracle they have pulled off at least once before – for Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos. The president of RusPetro doesn’t know much about oil wells, but he too comes from the miracle workers of Khodorkovsky’s Menatep Bank. And the spokesman for this company of miracle-makers is also part of the old Yukos team.

If not the ghost of Khodorkovsky, what makes the miracle believable? Sberbank has continued to lend more than $330 million to finance the dream — with collateral that sold for just $305 million, and despite breaches of loan covenants, violations of oilfield licence and concession terms, and the expiration of one of the licence terms within months.
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TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN — ANOTHER CHELYABINSK PUT-OFF FOR VICTOR RASHNIKOV’S MMK

By John Helmer, Moscow

Judge Natalia Bulavintseva ruled yesterday in Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh court that the hearing she had previously fixed for argument by lawyers on the substance of the case against Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine’s (MMK) purchase of Flinders Mines will be delayed for another month. Instead of April 25, this hearing has now been set for May 24.

On April 12, when ruling to dismiss a motion by MMK to lift her injunction against proceeding with the deal, Bulavintseva had written: “The validity of [the plaintiff’s] arguments (abuse of discretion) can be verified in court when considering the merits of the case… the court considers [these] issues that should be ascertained when considering the merits of the case.”
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NEW CRISIS FOR RUSAL IN GUINEA — OLEG DERIPASKA FACES TOTAL LOSS, TELLS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY TO INTERVENE AGAINST GUINEAN PROTESTERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has insulted another President of the Republic of Guinea as Rusal’s entire country position, including its bauxite mine concessions and the Friguia alumina refinery, is now under review by a presidential commission. More than 20% of Rusal’s worldwide mineral resources and the raw material base supplying its Russian smelters, is now under threat of revocation and nationalization by the government in Conakry.

Just how sharp the recent deterioration between Deripaska and Alpha Conde, Guinea’s president, has become, and how dangerous for Rusal’s ability to continue operating in the country, was signaled by the Russian Foreign Ministry on April 10. In an unprecedented attack on a domestic Guinean movement for higher wages and safer working conditions at Friguia, site of Rusal’s alumina refinery, the Russian ministry headed by Sergei Lavrov, warned against “illegal actions of a local trade union” and “extremist syndicalists.” According to the ministry, “a threat to the safety of Russian employees has been created; looting has begun of the equipment of the enterprise; and production is halted.”
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MEXICAN STANDOFF AT NORTHERN SHIPYARD — WHEN WILL RUSSIA HAVE A GOVERNMENT?

By John Helmer, Moscow

From the Bo Xilai case it can be inferred that at the senior level of the Chinese government, the only things done really fast there are taking bribes and poisoning squealers.

By contrast in Moscow, not having a Russian government for several months and not having capital punishment should be the kind of investor-friendly attributes of Russia which have been underrated and under-priced in emerging market trades.

But consider the costs of inertia and delay in the affair of Sergei Pugachev’s heist from the Central Bank of Russia, and one of the assets he left behind, Northern Shipyard of St. Petersburg. This yard is an asset of strategic importance because it supplies the Russian Navy (plus the Chinese and Indian navies) with its surface combatants. Because it absorbs such a large amount of state budget money, control of the cashflow has been fought over since it was first privatized by President Boris Yeltsin in favour of Boris Kuzyk, one of his defence industry advisors, backed by Vladimir Potanin.
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HEDGE FUND HOTEL BECOMES HEARTBREAK HOTEL — VICTOR RASHNIKOV CALLS IN LOBBYIST TO REVERSE KREMLIN ORDER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Flinders Mines (FMS) is what one investor calls a hedge fund hotel, a hangout for bettors on a sure thing.

The source means that after Victor Rashnikov (front seat, left), owner of Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), decided to buy FMS last November, roughly half the value of the company was bought by hedge funds aiming to collect on the difference between what they advanced and the takeover price they were certain the big Russian would end up paying at deal closure. Because of the action by the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court on March 30, and in the days that have followed, that bet now threatens to lose the hedge funds A$255 million.
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RUSSIAN BANANA DANCE — KEKHMAN PAYS THE TICKET

By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Kekhman, owner of the Joint Fruit Company (JFC), the near-monopoly supplier of bananas to the Russian market, has wound up his dispute with Star Reefers, the banana boat supplier whose charter contracts JFC cut short and terminated in 2010. The Star boats were operated by JFC to ship bananas from JFC-owned plantations in Ecuador to St. Petersburg, dropping smaller banana cargoes for sale at ports along the way.

The dispute over those contracts resulted in more than a year of litigation in the UK High Court, and an award to Star of $16.3 million in damages and costs, plus interest. When JFC failed to pay that by the November 2011 deadline, Star got the High Court to issue asset disclosure and freeze orders against Kekhman and his associates all over the world. This imperilled not only Russia’s banana traffic, but also Kekhman’s other line of business, the Mikhailovsky theatre and ballet company; the latter has been scheduled to perform in London and New York in a few weeks’ time. Both bananas and ballerinas now appear to be safe from seizure.
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CHELYABINSK COURT RULING RELEASED — RASHNIKOV GETS HIS COMEUPPANCE FROM RUSSIAN JUDGE

By John Helmer, Moscow

The unprecedented display of judicial power against the steel oligarch, Victor Rashnikov, on his home turf continued yesterday and today.

Yesterday, at a hearing in the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court Judge Natalia Bulavintseva took a few minutes without the attendance of lawyers, plaintiff Elena Egorova, or executives of Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), to dismiss an urgent motion from Rashnikov to lift an injunction preventing his completing his A$554 million (US$571 million) takeover of Flinders Mines, an iron-ore prospector in Western Australia.
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TO PASS OVER OR NOT TO PASS OVER, THAT’S THE EGYPTIAN QUESTION FOR RUSSIAN POTATO REGULATORS, PEPSI TOO

By John Helmer, Moscow

This is not the time of year when there’s much sympathy for the plagues in Egypt.

If you are Jewish, there’s the lot the Pharaoh richly deserved — the gnats, flies, frogs, locusts, boils, etc.

If you are Russian, there’s pseudomonas solanacearum Smith, the potato brown rot. This Egyptian plague is a nasty one, not because it’s Egyptian, but because once established in potato cropping areas, the bacterium is resistant to chemical treatments. It can ruin the farmer whose fields are afflicted, and everyone else the poxy spuds come into contact with. Growers who want to export to regulated areas like the European Union and Russia must invest in new areas of cultivation, and take special quarantine measures to keep the plague away. And if the Egyptian growers succeed at that, and manage to lift import barriers and also earn higher prices, there’s the risk that local potato growers will combine to protect their own prices from the import competition.
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MORE BARK THAN BITE? MORE QUESTIONS DOG VICTOR RASHNIKOV’S COURT CASE IN CHELYABINSK

By John Helmer, Moscow

If, and it remains a big if, Victor Rashnikov’s Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) is not clandestinely behind the attempt last week by an unknown shareholder to block the completion of MMK’s proposed takeover of Australian iron-ore prospector, Flinders Mines, then a ruling yesterday by Judge N.A.Bulavintseva is the first sign.

According to the website of the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court, yesterday the judge issued a ruling agreeing to MMK’s request for accelerated consideration of the injunction, which she issued on March 30. Instead of a scheduled date of April 25 for hearing the case of plaintiff Elena Egorova, and MMK’s defence and counter-claim, the judge has now advanced the hearing date to April 12. Here is the latest court record.
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THE KREMLIN’S LONG ARM – LONDON ARBITRATION COURT TO INVESTIGATE DERIPASKA’S HIDDEN DEAL WITH GLENCORE, BUT THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

To those who listen, it has been made clear that President-elect Vladimir Putin and his closest policy advisor, Igor Sechin, believe that what they need to know about the oligarchs’ misconduct and mismanagement of Russia’s resource concessions, they don’t need to ask the Federal Security Service (FSB) or the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to find out.

The London courts have been doing this job for them; possibly more slowly than Putin and Sechin prefer, but probably more reliably and precisely than the Russian intelligence services can deliver.
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IT’S HOT CROSS BUN TIME (FOR VICTOR RASHNIKOV)

By John Helmer, Moscow

The bun has been in the oven for Victor Rashnikov for six months now. But did he go to President-elect Vladimir Putin and ask permission to put it there? It seems not. Has he been told to pull it out without burning everybody (except for the Australians)? Maybe.

For the previous two thousand years there’s been an argument among pagans and Christians over the hot cross bun – whether the cross stands for the quarters of the spring moon, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, both, neither, etc., etc. The Jews aren’t interested in this one, because they are obliged to stick with matzoh balls at this time of year. The closest Russians have come is the kulich, which is bun-like; it also is decorated with white icing, but instead of the cross, it carries the letters XB for Христос воскресе (“Christ is risen”).
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JINK OR JINX – WHO IS ELENA EGOROVA TO VICTOR RASHNIKOV?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Among Russians Egorova and Egorov are pretty common names, second only in circulation to Ivanova and Ivanov. That puts it up in the ranks of the Smiths and the Browns.

If there really is a litigant named Elena Nikolaevna Egorova; if she owns a minuscule bloc of shares in Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), and if she really did think up herself and is funding her case against MMK in the Chelyabinsk regional arbitrazh court, she should be talking to the worldwide business press right now. After all, the injunction she won in court on March 30 — revealed yesterday by an announcement from MMK—has stopped MMK from proceeding with its $569 million takeover of junior Australian iron-ore prospector Flinders Mines. But the Egorova blockbuster is bigger than that. The share price of Flinders Mines has collapsed by 20% on the Sydney Stock Exchange, losing A$100m ($98m) in a day. MMK’s share price has lost less proportionally, but its market capitalization is down almost $400m over the past week. That makes a total of around $1.7 billion in value lost on account of the Chelyabinsk court case.

So who is Plaintiff Egorova of Siverskoye, Chelyabinsk?
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HIJINKS IN RUSSIAN STEEL BY EVRAZ AND MAGNITOGORSK – JINK NUMBER 1

By John Helmer, Moscow

Why would Roman Abramovich and his pals decide to buy a small steelmaker in South Africa at a price that would add to their debt by the very same amount they offloaded last year on to share buyers, so as to keep their debt-to-earnings ratio down, and their bankers sweet?

That’s the question on which Evraz’s press and investment relations spokesmen have been thunderingly mute for the past two days. Most of the enthusiasm for the transaction (and its premium price) is being leaked by Anglo American Corporation, while industry analysts say Anglo’s asking price is unrealistic. No wonder the Evraz tongue looks tied.
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TWO HONEST LADS AT THE SOVCOMFLOT HELM, SERGEI FRANK AND IGOR SHUVALOV, STEERING THE SAME COURSE

By John Helmer, Moscow

On October 12, 2004, Sergei Frank, a former federal Minister of Transport, was appointed chief executive of Sovcomflot, Russia’s largest oil tanker company and one of the top five in the world. Frank confirmed, said the company on its website, “that the Company’s management will take all necessary steps to enhance the Company’s business by ensuring accurate fulfillment of its earlier made obligations and plans. At its best effort the Company will continue to provide the customer-focused quality service.”

A month later, on November 17, 2004, Igor Shuvalov, then an assistant to President Vladimir Putin, was appointed chairman of the Sovcomflot board of directors. He said at the time, according to the company announcement, that “Sovcomflot should get involved more actively in developing “energy dialogue” co-operation between Russia and EU, Russia and the USA covering as well as other countries aimed at meeting the demands of the Russian growing foreign trade. It is also important to achieve increase of capitalization of the company and further improvement of its managing structure.”
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NEWS OUTDOOR RUSSIA AND THE FBI – THE MOSCOW PROSECUTOR SPELLS OUT WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE MURDOCH CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Rupert Murdoch has produced this week an item for the clinical casebook on the brain-challenged.

The criminal investigations now under way against him, his son James, his senior executives at News Corporation, company lawyers, and hired hands in the UK, the US and Australia are, he tweeted, nothing more than “every competitor and enemy piling on with lies and libels. So bad, easy to hit back hard, which preparing.”
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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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