We used to fly the Zimbabwe roses (and some Zambian) to the Dutch auctions; about 100 tonnes a week on Boeing 747s. Ours were cut, trimmed and boxed, and we delivered them to Amsterdam very early in the morning so that they could make the auction at the flower market in Aalsmeer that morning.
The Dutch control the flower producers in Africa as well. We spoke with some friends in Russia who wanted to import the roses directly into Russia, avoiding the Dutch middlemen. They were incensed that the price the Zimbabwean growers earned from the roses was less than a quarter of the delivered price to Russia – an important flower consumer; especially on Women’s Day. (more…)
The Dutch auction, as it’s called in the wholesale flower trade of Europe, is a clever scheme which simulates competitive bidding while it hides premiums in the prices Dutch growers and traders rig for their flowers. To cut the cost of flowers you have to deadhead the Dutch. And that’s exactly what Russia is threatening to do this week.
The Dutch are crying foul. That’s what monopolists usually do when the game is up. In Dutch history going back to the time when the Amsterdam merchants held a monopoly on the world supply of nutmeg – a prophylactic against bubonic plague , it was believed at the time — they organized slavery, torture, and other atrocities to protect their nutmeg trading scheme. Before you jump to condemn the Russian phytosanitary authority for issuing a warning against Dutch flower exports, remember the Amboyna Massacre of March 9, 1623.* (more…)
It’s midsummer. Time for the oligarchs, even the insolvent ones, to go aboard their yachts, and set sail for the resorts of the Mediterranean. Oleg Deripaska’s Queen K is this week cruising in the eastern Aegean between the Greek islands and the Turkish coast. Andrei Melnichenko’s A is in the Gulf of St. Tropez, while Victor Pinchuk’s Oneness has made its way from Monaco to Sardinia. Suleiman Kerimov’s financial indisposition cost him his Ice, which is in Gibraltar flying someone else’s flag; his relief boat Air is currently at anchor at Cala di Volpe, on the east coast of Sardinia.
Last week Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy was sailing off the Tuscan coast. But Lebedev (lead image, left) himself is washed up – onshore, that is. (more…)
With three tweets Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, right), the leading Russia-hater of Poland, and his wife, Anne Applebaum (left), a member of a Russia-hating think-tank in London called Legatum, acknowledged on Monday that they have been ousted from the very frontiers they claim to be threatened with Russian invasion; dismissed by the very people they claim to have been representing; and discredited by the very souls they have been saving from devils they have been conjuring up for years. If you are in the propaganda and disinformation business, this is a bitter dose of something Poles no longer trust Sikorski or Applebaum to speak – the truth. (more…)
Russia’s misfortunes aren’t exactly sweet for the country’s leading sugar producers, but they can’t complain. On the back of sharply rising sugar prices in January, first-quarter earnings and profits have jumped at the listed sugar producers, and the trend is expected to continue through the second quarter. Prodimex, the leading sugar producer in Russia, isn’t saying so because it’s a private corporation controlled by Igor Khudokormov (lead image, left). He isn’t complaining. In fact, while his sugar business and holdings of farmland grow larger and richer, Russia’s sugar daddy is almost invisible. (more…)
Canada – bless its maple-leaf heart – has given Ukraine C$400 million in cash since last September to help the Kiev government finance its civil war and debts. This week in Ottawa, with the signing of a free trade agreement between the two governments, the Canadians aim to claw back the cash by obliging Kiev to allow a surge of imports of Canadian cereals, meat, timber and other products. Until now Ukrainian producers of these goods have resisted, blocking the Canadian imports for fear they will damage the Ukrainian market and domestic earnings.
Canadian officials acknowledge that for Ukrainian steel, which is currently barred from entering the Canadian market at dumping prices, there will be no change, and the new agreement will make no difference.
“Harper is saving the Ukraine by damaging its farmers,” a Toronto source says, “and keeping Canada’s steelmills protected from one of the few exports the eastern Ukraine can still turn out. If that’s not cynical politics for gullible voters, I don’t know what is.” According to another Canadian analyst of the Ukrainian conflict, “this is money-making for a small circle of Ukrainian-Canadian business figures, their friends in Ottawa, and the ultra-nationalists in Ukraine.” (more…)
Last Friday a US federal court judge named Andrew L.Carter Junior issued a warrant for the US Government to seize $300 million in bank cash and investment accounts in Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg. The proceeding conceals the name of the owner of the targeted bank accounts, and of the mastermind in what court documents call “an international conspiracy to launder corrupt payments made to GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL A, a relative of the President of Uzbekistan and a government official at all times relevant to the facts alleged.”
The court claim by the US Department of Justice names Russian telecommunications companies MTS and Vimpelcom for having “made more than $500 million in corrupt payments”. But the US Government court papers are selective. The Russian companies weren’t the only ones in the alleged conspiracy between 2004 and 2011, Justice acknowledged in court. The other telecommunication company names concealed in the court papers included TeliaSonera, owned by the Swedish and Finnish governments, and the International Communications Group (ICG), which is given the protective code “U.S.Company-1”, and whose method of buying its entry into Uzbekistan was unrecorded. (more…)
Mikhail Fridman (lead image, centre) and Alexei Reznikovich (left) have a telephone problem, and it’s got a name, Gregory Shenkman (right).
It’s not that Vimpelcom, the global mobile telephone company they control through LetterOne (L1), Fridman’s offshore holding, isn’t a lucrative business. In market capitalization Vimpelcom is currently worth $8.7 billion; it dropped from $18 billion in 2010 to $3 billion at the start of this year, and is now up almost threefold. Volatility like this indicates the market sentiment that conventional telephone companies have hit the limit of their value. To grow richer, the telephone companies must do new things. And for the technology to do that, Fridman and Reznikovich admit they must find assets which Russia isn’t producing at present.
For Russian nationals, that’s easier said than done right now. For Vimpelcom to grow, LetterOne is thinking of buying the wherewithal in Silicon Valley, California. That may be the heartland of the technology Fridman and Reznikovich want. It’s also the belly of the beast, so far as the Kremlin and Russian security forces believe, because of the Ukraine sanctions campaign; NATO’s military reinforcements along Russia’s frontiers, and the US Government’s effort to force regime change in Moscow. Trading with the American enemy is an increasing concern at Vimpelcom, because the Kremlin insists; and because the US Government is preparing to strike at Vimpelcom for alleged bribery in pursuit of its international business. So what have Fridman and Reznikovich engaged Shenkman for? (more…)
Long before David Cornwell (aka John Le Carré) retreaded an insignificant career gathering facts at MI5 and MI6 into lucrative fiction about espionage, Eric Ambler created the genre from an insignificant career telling lies at an advertising agency. In the Le Carré business model, characters of several nationalities close to ourselves lie, double-cross, and moralize their heads off, but noone gets to keep the big money, except for Le Carré.
In his most artful work, The Intercom Conspiracy, Ambler told the story of two NATO-country officers devising the business of publishing secrets for the purpose of making a fortune from getting paid to stop. Ambler’s breakthrough was to realize the warfighting agencies of Washington, Brussels, London, and Moscow will pay bigger money for silence than for lies.
When it comes to today’s info-war against Russia — Greece too — Ambler’s business model ought to be more profitable than Le Carré’s. So why is all the American, NATO, university and foundation money being spent on see-through fabrications and B-grade liars? Answer – in war, truth has no operational value unless it’s secret; and no asset valuation until the war’s over and the truth-tellers have won. If you lose the war, as Greeks are now discovering, the truth has no market value. You are too poor to pay for it. (more…)
Vladimir Potanin (right), control shareholder of Norilsk Nickel, loves Oleg Deripaska (left), control shareholder of Russian Aluminium (Rusal).
Potanin made his inamorata official on Monday. He even quoted Vladimir Lenin’s version of withdrawing before ejaculation, announcing that with Deripaska it has been necessary to “disconnect before combining…Time has shown that it was necessary to plunge into some negative, and only then move on to the positive. However, all this is in the past. The situation in comparison with 2012 has changed dramatically. There is not just a good, but a very high level of trust…” They call each other by their first names, and by the intimate you (“по имени и на ты”).
Let noone imagine, therefore, that Potanin’s former wife, Natalia Potanina, who is suing in courts all over the world for half of Potanin’s wealth, including his 30% of Norilsk Nickel shareholding, is Deripaska’s agent in a hostile takeover scheme. (more…)
A putsch in Athens to save allied Greece from enemy Russia is in preparation by the US and Germany, with backing from the non-taxpayers of Greece – the Greek oligarchs, Anglo-Greek shipowners, and the Greek Church. At the highest and lowest level of Greek government, and from Thessaloniki to Milvorni, all Greeks understand what is happening. Yesterday they voted overwhelmingly to resist. According to a high political figure in Athens, a 40-year veteran, “what is actually happening is a slow process of regime change.”
Until Sunday afternoon it was a close-run thing. The Yes and No votes were equally balanced, and the margin between them razor thin. At the start of the morning, Rupert Murdoch’s London Times claimed “Greek security forces have drawn up a secret plan to deploy the army alongside special riot police to contain possible civil unrest after today’s referendum on the country’s future in Europe. Codenamed Nemesis, it makes provision for troops to patrol large cities if there is widespread and prolonged public disorder. Details of the plan emerged as polls showed the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps neck and neck.” Greek officers don’t speak to the Murdoch press; British and US government agents do.
“It was neck to neck until 3 pm,” reports the political veteran in Athens, “then the young started voting. “ (more…)
Leonid Lebedev (lead image) has been ousted from the Federation Council, the Russian senate, after serving twelve years as a senator representing the Volga region of Chuvashia. This follows a Council investigation exposing earnings from offshore entities which Lebedev had failed to disclose in his official income and asset reports to the Council. Lebedev claims he has resigned his senate post voluntarily.
By exposing Lebedev’s money trail in Switzerland and Cyprus, the Russian investigation now threatens to unravel Lebedev’s year-long lawsuit in an American court for payments he claims he didn’t receive from Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg, and which he claims are still owed by them. Blavatnik and Vekselberg have asked the New York State Supreme Court to reject Lebedev’s claim because he is asking to be paid a second time for a 15% shareholding in the TNK oil company Lebedev sold to them in 2003, when they incorporated the stake in the TNK-BP combination with British Petroleum. Lebedev is asking the New York court to award him a share of the proceeds of Blavatnik’s and Vekselberg’s sale of their share in TNK-BP to Rosneft in 2013, ten years after Lebedev had sold out. Lebedev’s court papers make several calculations of shareholding value from $200 million to $2 billion.
Blavatnik and Vekselberg accuse Lebedev of hiding the decade-old deal and concealing the $600 million they paid him through a chain of offshore entities registered in Ireland and Switzerland, and ending up in Cyprus. According to Lebedev’s lawyers in the public court file, at a court hearing on April 9 Judge Saliann Scarpulla agreed to decide shortly on dismissing Lebedev’s claim. (more…)
The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.
In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration: “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”
By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”
To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.
A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”
The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.
Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.” Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the 6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.
Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected, Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.
The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.
Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.
By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world. Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.
The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.
Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.” Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.
The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.
Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”
The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire, the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.
In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010. The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”
Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders, knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.
Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.
Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.
In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”
This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention. In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.
Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials, to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.
By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.
“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”. He means the Ukraine border is the red line.
Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.
US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11 highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.
In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.
Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.
The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other. Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilificationof society.
In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them. It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.
When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.
While his wife and the Navy officer who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion, or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.
The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.
What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States, is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken; and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase. But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.
Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”
In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.
With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”, is just the ticket from now to then.