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. (more…)
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.” (more…)
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.” (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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. (more…)
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”). (more…)
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? (more…)
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. (more…)
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.” (more…)
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.” (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.