Gazprom, the Russian gas producer and exporter, is thinking of reviving an old idea to refine natural gas on the Baltic shore and ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) westward to European markets in competition against Qatar and Nigeria. At least that’s what Ziyavudin Magomedov (image right), chairman of the Summa Group, wants everyone to think. Maybe Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s chief executive, too. Since neither Gazprom nor Magomedov’s spokesman at Summa Group, is willing to put a confirmation where the press leak was, noone is keen to believe either of them.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s chief executive, was speaking last week at a conference in the Siberian city of Tomsk where in an aside, he said the company might soon announce a new LNG project. “The key concept of Gazprom’s strategy is diversification,” Miller said in his prepared remarks. “Firstly, it is the diversification of our target markets. The Company’s operating principles are very simple: firstly, gas should be sold, then produced, conveyed and sold to consumers. Secondly, it is the diversification of our production regions, transport and finished products to be sold.” (more…)
The share price of United Company Rusal, the state-controlled Russian aluminium monopoly, lost 3% in value in Hong Kong Stock Exchange trading on Monday on news that Barry Cheung, a prominent Hong Kong businessman, had resigned from the Rusal board as his own business collapsed, and that he was the target of a Hong Kong police investigation for fraud.
When Rusal wanted to promote Cheung’s importance in Hong Kong, it trumpeted the news among the press releases on the company website. Thus, in March of 2012, Rusal announced that the company “congratulates its Chairman Mr Barry Cheung for a successful campaign which helped Mr Leung Chun-ying (“CY Leung”) win the office of Hong Kong’s fourth Chief Executive in yesterday’s election. Mr Leung’s five-year term will begin on July 1, 2012. Mr Leung’s winning was the culmination of a long and active campaign supported by a highly professional campaign office headed by Mr Cheung.” A few weeks later, following voting at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of shareholders, another Rusal press release announced that Cheung had been re-elected to a second term, and that he had convened a meeting of the new board. (more…)
According to Russian-language records and a Tashkent party film published by Stockholm television last week, Alisher Usmanov held the hand of Gulnara Karimova and whispered intimately to her just days after the latter had been making plans to collect millions of dollars in payments from Swedish telephone company, TeliaSonera. Karimova is one of two daughters of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov; she is a leading candidate to replace him if he falls ill, or to succeed him at the presidential election due in March 2015. Karimova is also one of several targets of official investigations underway in Sweden and Switzerland, alleged to have been behind a corrupt payment system through which TeliaSonera obtained and operated its mobile telephone concession in Uzbekistan, and through which the Russian rival, Mobile Telesystems (MTS), owned by Vladimir Yevtushenkov, lost its concession and was forced out of Uzbekistan last year. The tale of that billion-dollar expropriation can be read here.
Usmanov, who is Uzbek by origin, is TeliaSonera’s shareholding partner in Megafon, the London-listed mobile telephone operator and rival of Yevtushenkov in the Russian telecommunication market. Usmanov is also on the top of Rich Lists in Russia and the UK, based on estimates of his asset value in Russian telephony, iron-ore mines, steelmills, print and internet media, not counting his debts and obligations. He has been one of the more nervous of the oligarchs, ready to put up his hand to volunteer, and quick to implement the Kremlin’s marching orders. (more…)
Tethered high above Victor Pinchuk’s newest steel smelter at the Interpipe plant, visible for miles around the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, is a large balloon. It’s meant to symbolize what the Interpipe website is calling the smelter’s state-of-the-art technology — “the construction plant has no harmful effect on the atmosphere or social surroundings”; also its historical uniqueness in the steel industry west of the Russian border – “a vital step in the development of the domestic Ukrainian pipe industry.” For the curious and for asthmatics, Interpipe is offering guided tours of the plant to demonstrate how it “marks the beginning of a green era in the metallurgical industry.” The plant’s press office says the balloon construction is called Sun Interpipe. “It’s an art object, and we are not going to remove it.”
Less intentionally, the balloon symbolizes the sky-high cost of building the smelter and supplying it with electricity; Pinchuk’s growing billion-dollar debts; and the collapse of demand for the steel products Pinchuk is offering for sale in Ukraine and Russia, Interpipe’s make-or-break markets.
Although Interpipe remains privately held by Pinchuk, documents the company has prepared with his bankers to cover his debts, together with bank sources, reveal how strapped for cash Pinchuk is. The balloon is also going up for Pinchuk, as he tries to raise at least $143 million, perhaps ten times as much, from a claim filed in the UK High Court against two rival Ukrainian metals magnates, based on recollections of meetings Pinchuk and the others held in the Ukraine, Israel, Sardinia, and Switzerland, starting nine years ago. (more…)
There has been no movement in Evraz’s proposed sale of its South African unit, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, to Nemascore, a special purpose vehicle created in February by a black empowerment enterprise linked to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma (right). The deal for $320 million was announced by Evraz in March. At the time, the transaction was reportedly to be financed by Russian state bank VTB at a price which was more than double the market value of Evraz’s 85% stake in the company.
Subsequently, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the SA Government’s business stakeholder, said it was not involved in providing VTB with repayment guarantees to facilitate financing for Nemascore’s purchase. Neamscore’s directors have refused to discuss the deal, say where the money is coming from, or explain it in light of Highveld’s lossmaking and other troubles last year. (more…)
Roman Abramovich (left) landed in Hong Kong on Tuesday afternoon. Abramovich is an influential shareholder in Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining and metals company, on whose dividends the loss-making United Company Rusal now depends to stay out of the red. Rusal is the Russian aluminium monopoly, but Hong Kong is home to Rusal’s share listing, and its dwindling share price. According to the latest Rusal financial report, the company ran a $47 million loss in the quarter to March 31. Adding $99 million of its share of Norilsk Nickel’s profit put Rusal’s red line into the black by $52 million. But for the annual general meeting (AGM) of Rusal shareholders to consider such matters, Abramovich is 24 days early. The Rusal AGM is scheduled at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Hong Kong, at 10 in the morning of June 14.
At this meeting, a director on the Rusal board, Elsie Leung Oi-Sie (right), is facing a vote of no-confidence. A parallel motion proposes her replacement by a Russian candidate, Dmitry Vasiliev. The moves have been initiated by the 15.8% shareholder bloc of Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik for reasons reported here. They may be supported by Mikhail Prokhorov with his 17.02% of the Rusal shares; his spokesman said today it’s too early to announce how he will vote. If counted together, the vote against Leung may start with almost 33% of the shareholder votes. Another 10.03% of Rusal’s shares are classified as a public float, according to the company website. The largest part of that, 3.15%, was acquired at the initial public offering (IPO) by the state bailout bank, Vnesheconombank (VEB). (more…)
If you are looking for Gennady Timchenko (second from right), the dominant Russian in the partnership which created the oil trader Gunvor, you won’t find him in the market prospectus Gunvor has just released to the market. That’s because the document, dated May 10, 2013, spells his name Guennadi Timtchenko.
The prospectus for $500 million in bonds is the first to be issued to the market by the hitherto secretive Timchenko and his partner, Torbjorn Tornqvist. Prepared by Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, ING and Societe Generale, the document says Timchenko and Tornqvist own the group 50/50. But the prospectus isn’t a prospectus in Switzerland because in that country, Gunvor can “not claim to comply with the disclosure standards of the Swiss Federal Code of Obligations and the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange Ltd. and corresponding prospectus schemes annexed to the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange Ltd.” The prospectus can be read in full here. (more…)
So far Elsie Leung Oi-Se has been paid $632,000 by United Company Rusal to listen attentively, read carefully, and speak her mind at meetings of the main board of directors, and also the audit committee of the board. Rusal titles her an independent non-executive director. She is one of five of those on the 18-member board; one of the 5-member audit committee. According to her company biography, she is a lawyer by training and career. She has also been a politician in the Hong Kong government, the equivalent of minister of justice.
First appointed to the Rusal board on November 30, 2009, when the company’s application to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange was running into difficulty, she was paid $16,000 for one month’s work. In 2010 she was paid $199,000; in 2011 $209,000; and in 2012, $208,000. She is the lowest paid of her peers, the other “independent non-executive” Rusal directors. (more…)
Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (AGD), the LUKoil diamond-mining subsidiary, has made its first detailed presentation of the new mine it is building in Arkhangelsk, with confirmation of the new mine’s diamond grades, volume of production, and financial value. The Grib mine, named after the Russian geologist who first found the deposit, is the first major diamond source to start production in Russia in several years, and the first to be developed independently of the state miner, Alrosa. As chief executive Maxim Mescheryakov, AGD’s chief executive, told a Toronto, Canada, audience, the presentation is designed “to show that we exist; that we are big; and that we commence production this year, fourth quarter. We are talking about 4 million carats delivered to the market annually.” (more…)
It’s not a good time to be a steelmaker — not if you are in Russia, not if you are in China, and certainly not if you are in the US or the European Union. But if mining manganese, the vital steel-hardening alloy, is what you do for a living, the coming three years look likely to transform worldwide control, as Russians reach self-sufficiency in manganese supply for the first time; and as a prominent Ukrainian prepares to share a large corner of the global market with the Chinese.
The reason that manganese can prosper while steel is in the doldrums is because almost all of its application is to steelmaking; and because “manganese has no satisfactory substitute in its major applications”, as periodic US Geological Service reports point out.
The new Russian manganese supply is coming from the little-known Siberian Mining and Metallurgical Company (SGMK), controlled by Alexander Rybkin, a former executive of the Evraz steel group. Rybkin’s influence is provincial, limited to his partners – the Evraz group, which has first call on SGMK’s new manganese supplies for its Kemerovo steelmills at Novokuznetsk; and the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev. Until now they have made SGMK’s manganese a captive of Evraz’s demands. (more…)
“I have always been fond of the West African proverb, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick; and you will go far.’” That was Theodore Roosevelt in January 1900, when he was thinking of the Caribbean Sea, and when he was US Vice President. No one has ever found the evidence for its proverbial source; Roosevelt probably invented its origin in West Africa. (more…)
The last time Russian beer drinkers did something unusual was in the unseasonably cool summer of 2011, when sales of the big brand beers dropped sharply. Read all about it. It is happening again, on this occasion during winter, only now the drop in consumption is even more dramatic. This time it looks like a combination of government actions and dwindling numbers of susceptible adolescents are driving the big-money big-brand, foreign brewing companies out of the market to the advantage of Russia’s smaller, regional brewers.
The first-quarter report just out from Inbev (Belgium), the Annheuser-Busch conglomerate which makes Budweiser, Stella Artois, Sibirskaya Korona, and Klinskoye acknowledges that “in Russia, beer volumes fell 17.0% driven mostly by a challenging industry impacted by the new sales restrictions, the carryover of the media ban implemented last July, and price increases following the most recent excise tax adjustment. Our estimated market share remains under pressure, and balancing profitability versus share is a major focus.” Just one Inbev beer brand, Bud, “continues to perform well and grew by over 25% in 1Q13.” This downturn follows a 12% decline in volume for last year, as well as a contraction of Russian market share, explained in the annual Inbev report as “driven by the implementation of tax-related and other selective price increases ahead of competitors, and promotional pressure in key account channels.” With higher priced beer, the loss of sales volume was offset for Inbev by a 19% jump in Russian earnings. Inbev currently claims a market share of almost 16%. (more…)
The Russian government has forced the chief executive of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) to resign. Andrei Dyachkov, who was appointed to run the shipyard holding in June of last year, signed a letter of resignation on April 30, and then took sick leave. He is reportedly in hospital for Soviet reasons – he needs to be isolated not from germs, but from his rivals.
The affair has been leaking into the press slowly for weeks, and was accelerated last month when Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of the military industrial complex, gave Dyachkov a public dressing-down. But the real power behind the shove into Dyachkov’s back, according to sources close to the shipyards, is Igor Sechin, currently chief executive of Rosneft and formerly chairman of the USC board. Dyachkov is not the first to be ousted by Sechin. Roman Trotsenko was ousted in June 2012. Before him, Sechin got rid of Alexander Buzakov in November 2009, and others before that. Their tale was told here. Indeed, the only continuity in supervision of Russian shipbuilding since 2008, according to an official close to Sechin, has been Sechin himself. (more…)
Righteous indignation is to investigative journalism what Joseph Goebbels was to truth. So what was really going on in the last days of April when the London media celebrated the Russians who this year topped the UK Rich List, but discovered something going badly, maybe criminally wrong at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), a London-listed mining company controlled by three Kazakhs and the Kazakh government? If the London newspapers spell the name of one of ENRC’s owners, Alexander Mashkevich, in three different ways — Mahkevitch, according to the Telegraph; Machkevitch to the Guardian; and Mashkevich at the Financial Times and The Times — what to make of the reliability of the anonymous leaks, unseen documents and innuendo from the dismissed or the disgruntled, on which the media campaign against ENRC depends?
This isn’t a question to be answered right now. Instead, it’s what is already happening to take advantage of ENRC’s falling share price and market value that is in focus. For by the time the UK regulators get around to completing their investigations, and deciding what to do about them, the Kremlin will have intervened to coordinate and finance a multi-billion dollar takeover of control at ENRC. By then too, ENRC will no longer be a regulated entity on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). (more…)
The Nigerian judge Okechukwu Okeke has retired from his Lagos court rather than appear for the trial, scheduled in Lagos on April 30, of the Russian crew of the security tender, Myre Seadiver. Sources in Lagos told Fairplay the trial has been postponed for a second time on account of the judge’s absence. Okeke presided at the February 18 hearing at which the 15-man crew was formally charged, four months after they had been arrested and imprisoned. He released the crew from prison and remanded them to the Russian Embassy, setting April 10 for trial on the charges of arms smuggling and illegal entry to the country. When the judge did not appear on April 10, lawyers at court said they were unable to contact Okeke for an explanation. Yesterday the lawyers were told the judge had retired from the case. (more…)
The Belgians like to speak of themselves as the victims when the great powers of Europe go to war. They were when the Germans invaded in 1914 and 1940.
But since 2014 when the Belgian government has been repeating it is gung-ho for the war with Russia, there has been no Russian attack, no occupation. Instead, there has been the amicable Russia-Belgium diamond trade worth more than $30 billion in annual exports and imports, supplied by the Russian state diamond company Alrosa.
If Belgian officials cut that trade off by agreeing to the European Union (EU) sanctions banning Russian diamond imports, as proposed by other EU states, that would liquidate ten thousand diamond polishing and related jobs concentrated in Antwerp, and destroy the country’s fifth largest export business forever. Alrosa would move its diamonds to Dubai, killing Antwerp as a diamond trading and cutting centre, just as Amsterdam as a diamond centre was killed by the German occupation of 1940. Antwerp took advantage of Amsterdam’s misfortune in 1946. Dubai will now do the same.
This is what Belgian government and diamond industry officials mean when they say they favour the toughest possible sanctions on Russian gas exports to Europe – but no sanctions on Russian diamonds. This is what Prime Minister Alexander De Croo meant when he told an Antwerp conference of diamantaires on September 14: “Sanctions should focus more on the aggressor than ourselves.”
Earlier, reacting to an attack on the diamond trade with Russia by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in a speech to the Belgian parliament, the spokesman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) said: “Not only are thousands of jobs in Antwerp at stake in the short term, but this decision will inevitably lead to a worldwide shift in the diamond trade in the long term. As long as international policy-makers worldwide do not adopt a unanimous position to sanction Russian diamonds in their entirety, Antwerp will be the only place that will bear the consequences of an EU sanction.”
By “worldwide shift” he meant Dubai.
De Croo has camouflaged Belgium’s resistance by repeating he will not veto a Russian diamond ban if there is “overwhelming support” for it in the EU. So a majority of the EU states have continued pressing; they are led by Poland. In March of this year, De Croo announced: “I would like to officially state that our country has never hindered any measures regarding diamonds. Our country did not interfere in this issue.” In private, however, De Croo has been casting Belgium’s veto.
The Poles have been attacking De Croo, pressing the case for an EU ban on Russian diamond imports as payback for De Croo’s insistence on imposing EU budget sanctions against the Warsaw government last year. De Croo is also refusing to accept Ukraine’s demand for accelerated membership of the EU and of NATO, and for fresh EU funding to pay Kiev’s war-fighting bills.
Instead, he has just announced €8 million in non-lethal aid to Kiev. “Ukraine can keep on counting on Belgium,” De Croo declared. “More than words, there are actions. Once again, Belgium is responding to concrete needs and will be providing essential equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks.” The equipment is first-aid kits and pharmaceuticals produced by Belgian companies.
This week the secret Belgian veto campaign appears to have succeeded. The new draft of the eighth round of EU sanctions includes dental floss and deodorants; it leaves out diamonds. This omission is expected to be confirmed publicly on Friday of this week at the EU summit meeting in Prague.
“At the moment, diamonds are not included on the agenda for the next round of sanctions,” announced Tom Neys, the AWDC spokesman. “But things change quickly. [On] Friday [October 7] they will finalize discussions, and the EU [leaders decide] on October 6 and 7. The fact that sanctions also create other ethical problems, and that these sanctions will have no effect in Russia, are probably important elements in these debates. Now is the time to focus on international solutions.”
By “international solutions” the Belgians mean keeping Dubai from taking over Antwerp’s diamond business.
Timing is everything when you are telling jokes on stage; summing up for the jury in a murder trial; or when you are a general preparing to send your army over the top. Knock the comedian, lawyer, or general off his timing, and the laugh, the verdict, and the casualties will go against him.
John Mortimer, a London barrister and author of the Rumpole of the Bailey television show, once told the story of a friend who was coming to the end of his final jury address when he saw the judge writing a note and handing it to the usher. When it was passed to the lawyer as he was speaking, he glanced down to read: “Dear Jim, I thought you’d like to know that your flies are open and I can see your cock.”
Cocks which show or crow – like boys crying wolf – don’t comprehend the risks they create for themselves, and others. This is how it is in Berlin for Olaf Scholz and in Washington for Joseph Biden right now. They can afford to be impervious to the derision they are drawing in Warsaw; not so to the reaction to their antics in Moscow.
In this broadcast by Chris Cook, Gorilla Radio blows the final whistle before we all go over the top (Germans first, then the Poles). Even former Secretary of State John Kerry, career liar that he’s been, is revealed to be blowing on the same whistle this time round.
The official Russian reaction to the Nord Stream attack is to identify it as a US military operation, and to wait for an investigation to produce the evidence. That means wait, delay. No retaliation.
“How will we respond?” Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday in the most detailed briefing so far from Moscow. “We will respond with an investigation. This is a must, and our law-enforcement bodies have already launched it. This [the gas pipelines] is our property, resources, and infrastructure.”
“I would like to believe that the international investigation of what happened on the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea will be objective… We will seek to conduct an honest and objective investigation… I hope that someone in the United States, or maybe someone in Europe — although, unfortunately, Europe in this case can no longer be counted on — someone from the independent investigators will have the desire to clarify the involvement of the United States, the special services and all other bodies in what happened on 25-27 September of this year in the Baltic Sea.”
This means that the Russian Government is waiting, delaying. There will be no retaliation for the time being.
The reason is that Russian officials suspect the Biden Administration of preparing an October Surprise just ahead of Election Day, November 8: an attack on domestic US infrastructure – the electricity grids, for example – which will be reported as the Russian retaliation that won’t be.
The Nord Stream attacks were a military operation of the US, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, with additional NATO air surveillance support from bases in Italy. Politically, they were an attack on Germany, but the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to say publicly what he knew in advance, what he knows now.
Who then knows what will come next except that there is now war in Europe, outside the Ukraine. Will the October Surprise begin war inside the United States?
The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.
It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.
Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.
Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points, want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.
“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification, his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”
The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island, was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.
It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.
Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”. The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.
But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.
Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits, LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”
Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”. “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added, diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February. Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace Morawiecki next year.
The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45; and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption, and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .
“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June, “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”
“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”
The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.
The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.
Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha by the Black Sea in Abkhazia. Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.
Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo. But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel. As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him. “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”
In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.
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.