VLADIMIR PUTIN MAKES FRESH START IN SOUTH AFRICA

By John Helmer, Moscow

When it comes to support for President Vladimir Putin’s international positions, the South African (SA) Government has been among the most consistent and enthusiastic of any in the world. However, Russian policy in South Africa has been damaged by the behaviour of Russian oligarchs and state businesses implicated in the corrupt schemes of former SA president Jacob Zuma; he is now facing multiple indictments for seeking and taking bribes for himself and his family.  Putin’s landing in Johannesburg on Thursday ought to have been the signal for a fresh start. (more…)

RUSSIAN STATE OPERATION SUBMARINES CASH FOR SOUTH AFRICA TO CONTEST ANGLO-AMERICAN BID FOR THE SUCCESSION TO PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Desperate measures by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma this week sharpened the focus on what the Russian state company Rosgeologia (Rosgeo) and state banks, VTB and Gazprombank, are doing to arrange a $400 million contract for a new gasfield off the South African coast – and pipe promises of billion-dollar royalty payments to a group of the president’s associates, as they prepare for December’s balloting on the presidential succession to Zuma. Keeping themselves in cash from the Kremlin is an interpretation of yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle —  the second this year — which has followed in the South African press from Zuma critics inside the ruling African National Congress (ANC), as well as from opposition parties.

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SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA SPUDS NEW DRILL INTO THE RUSSIAN STATE TREASURY, ANOTHER DRY HOLE PREDICTED

By John Helmer, Moscow

Rosgeologia is a small Russian state company which once held the record for drilling the deepest hole in the Earth’s crust. Its biggest discoveries of oil, gas and hard-rock minerals lie in its Soviet past. Even with current contracts from the state oil and gas companies Rosneft and Gazprom, it holds only a small share of the Russian market for seismic and geophysical services; its margin for profit, according to the state auditor, is just above break-even.

Last month, Rosgeologia (“Russian Geology”, Rosgeo for short) announced what should be a new record for Russian state investment in South Africa, drilling six super-deep wells into the seabed off the South African coast at a cost of almost $400 million, earning the right to sell billions of dollars’ worth of gas. Hours later when they met, President Vladimir Putin and President Jacob Zuma ignored the deal entirely.   Russian experts in Moscow say they haven’t heard of it. The three top officials of Rosgeologia refuse to explain what they have contracted to do.  When one of them, Roman Panov, Rosgeo’s chief executive, advertised his company’s future prospects in a lengthy interview with a Moscow newspaper, the South African offshore oil and gas project wasn’t mentioned at all.

The reason, Moscow sources say, is that they are sceptical Rosgeo has the resources to implement the deal, or that the Russian state banks will accept the risk of South African default.  The reason for that, Russian sources add, is that they believe the Zuma administration is too weak politically, too unstable, and with too little time left in Zuma’s mandate to implement the project. A Russian source is worried that President Zuma aims to  take as much cash from Rosgeo as he can, and run.

South African allegations of involvement in the Rosgeo deal of a Zuma family member, as well as political allies of the president who were at Rosgeo in Moscow recently, threaten to expose the terms of the still secret contract with PetroSA, South Africa’s state oil company, to a High Court challenge for violations of the South African Constitution. That and associated statutes on the management of public money require the Rosgeo-PetroSA deal to be “in accordance with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.”   Skepticism about this has already been hinted in a ruling by a South African judge in the High Court in Cape Town on September 22.

The blanket refusal of Rosgeo, the Russian state banks, and PetroSA to answer questions about what they have agreed is a sign of their fear the deal will not survive the transparency test. (more…)

IMF DELAYS FUND DECISION ON BOTSWANA BECAUSE OF $277 MILLION RUSSIAN CONTRACT DEFAULT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is delaying a decision on Botswana by the Fund’s executive board and shareholders as IMF staff are discreetly encouraging the Botswana Government to reject a breach of contract claim by Norilsk Nickel.

The leading Russian mining company, and the world’s largest nickel producer, is suing in London, Botswana and South Africa after the Botswana government put its state mine holding BCL into bankruptcy last October,  halting payment of $277.2 million which Botswana, BCL Investments (BCLI) and the BCL Ltd. holding company  agreed to pay since their first contract of sale and purchase was signed with the Russians in 2014. The Norilsk Nickel default claim is one of the largest liabilities facing the Botswana state budget. The default is also casting a shadow over future foreign investment in the country, and the government’s credit rating for foreign loans.

An IMF team was in Gaborone, the Botswana capital, in May for a fact-finding mission and consultation with government officials, the first the IMF has held in the country since December 2015.  The IMF requested and received briefings on the Norilsk Nickel case from government officials and also from the provisional liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren of the KPMG accounting firm. He was appointed last October by the Gaborone High Court to supervise liquidation, sale of assets, and debt recovery from the bankrupt BCL group of companies. 

On June 15, the court ordered a six-month extension of time for negotiations — BCL went into final windup, while BCLI and Tati Nickel were kept in provisional liquidation for the dealmakers.  According to a courtroom source, the extra time is for the government “to determine whether we can deal with those companies at the shareholding and creditor compromise level”. In short, for Dixon-Warren to strike a price for the nickel and copper reserves and mining assets which BCL owns in order to satisfy BCL’s creditors and cover BCL’s liabilities.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, who supervises Botswana at IMF headquarters in Washington,   said after the IMF staff returned from Gaborone on May 16, that she was planning to finalize the Botswana report and submit it to the board for decisions planned for June. Gulde-Wolf was asked what the IMF was doing in the dispute between Botswana and Russia. “I have asked the mission chief for Botswana, Mr. Enrique Gelbard to look into the matter,” she replied. “He will be in touch should there be anything we can share. “

Asked to clarify why no report was submitted to the IMF board during last month and no decisions voted on IMF policy towards Botswana, Gulde-Wolf, Gelbard, and the IMF spokesman for Africa,  Lucie Mboto Fouda, now refuse to say.

In Moscow, a source close to Norilsk Nickel said the company “has welcomed a statement by the Botswana government that it plans to resolve the issue with Norilsk Nickel. We look forward to the arrangements the government intends to make.” To date, the IMF had made no contact with the company either in Gaborone in May, or since then. (more…)

VLADIMIR YEVTUSHENKOV PLAYS MONOPOLY – MAKES FRIENDS WITH PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA OF SOUTH AFRICA FOR A $50 BILLION CHANCE, AND GETS OUT OF JAIL

By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s asset-holding company Sistema has not inspired investor confidence since September of 2014. That was when Yevtushenkov was arrested in Moscow and charged with fraud and money-laundering in connexion with Sistema’s takeover of Bashneft, a Volga region oil producer.  That year, Sistema’s market capitalization on the London Stock Exchange dropped from $15.5 billion to $1.2 billion, setting a new record for haircuts among Russia’s oligarchs. Yevtushenkov’s incarceration lasted eight weeks in home confinement, during which he gave up Bashneft and accepted a number of other terms from Russian prosecutors and their superiors.

One of these get-out-of-jail cards has just come to light in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through leaked emails, a big-money deal has surfaced between Yevtushenkov and the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. How much money was promised and for what purpose is not known yet.  But the deal in negotiation has been alleged by South African sources and reporters to be a case of skulduggery on Zuma’s part; that of his son, Duduzane Zuma, and of a financial advisor and collaborator of the Zuma family, Rajesh (aka Tony) Gupta. 

In Moscow today, Yevtushenkov’s head of corporate relations, head of press and head of investor relations would not confirm or deny the meetings with Zuma Senior, Zuma Junior and Gupta. They also refused to give details of the business Yevtushenkov has been conducting with President Zuma. (more…)

HANGING ON — OLEG DERIPASKA’S RUSAL FACES BILLION-DOLLAR DROP IN NIGERIA

Young man hanging on to edge of cliff, close-up (focus on fingers)

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska, control shareholder of Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, is the leading investor of Russian funds in offshore businesses which have failed. He is also Russia’s largest corporate debtor.  Noone else in the circle of President Vladimir Putin has performed so improvidently and unpatriotically.

When the costs are counted of last month’s Nigerian High Court ruling against Rusal’s ownership of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon), and the ruling expected from the same court in Abuja next week, Rusal is facing a liability and compensation judgement amounting to $2.8 billion. That’s one-third of Rusal’s annual sales revenues; it’s also one-third of Rusal’s gross debt, and almost half its current market capitalization on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.   Not a single metals analyst or investment banker in Moscow dares to acknowledge the case, or analyse the risk now facing Rusal from the Nigerian courts and its government.  (more…)

RED SCARE, BLACK HOLE – SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ATTACK ROSATOM FOR “HOLDING GUN TO SOUTH AFRICA’S HEAD”

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By John Helmer, Moscow

South African government officials have attacked Russia’s bid to supply South Africa’s new nuclear reactor programme, accusing Rosatom, the state nuclear power agency, of imposing financially and legally disadvantageous terms which the South Africans, speaking anonymously, term “scary”.

The attack was launched Friday in the Mail & Guardian, a local newspaper associated with the Guardian of London. Just one SA Government official, Enver Daniels, the chief state law advisor in Pretoria, was identified as behind the allegations. Speaking anonymously to the newspaper also was a group identified as “numerous”, and representing the SA ministries of energy, international relations, trade and industry, and the treasury.

The SA officials launched their attack on Rosatom after the full text of the Rosatom agreement on nuclear cooperation with South Africa was discovered openly published on a Russian Foreign Ministry website. The SA Government continues to keep the text of the Rosatom agreement classified. The accusing officials are also familiar with the terms of rival nuclear cooperation agreements signed with the French state company Areva, and with the Chinese government, in collaboration with the US. The SA officials are keeping silent on the terms of these pacts, and on a lobbying campaign by the US and France to drive the Russians out of the running for the $50 billion contract, the largest state procurement in SA history.
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WHOSE POCKETS FULL — SERGEI CHEMEZOV’S FRIENDS VITALY MASHITSKY AND ROBERT MUGABE ARE GOING TO SPEND AT LEAST $600 MILLION TO START, THEN $4.8 BILLION OF RUSSIAN STATE MONEY ON A PLATINUM MINE IN ZIMBABWE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The world’s most mysterious, and expensive, hole in the ground has been ceremonially opened by the Russian Foreign and Trade Ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Denis Manturov. At least that’s what they say they did a month ago in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe (lead image, centre), also presided.

The hole to be dug is to cost the Russian state budget and banking system at least $600 million, rising to $3 billion in three years; and then $4.8 billion by 2024 when mine, ore-processing plant and refinery are fully operational. That’s according to the Zimbabwe press announcements. They have also disclosed the list of Russian and Zimbabwean partners in the deal. Calling themselves Afromet, the Russians are Vitaly Mashitsky (lead image, left), Sergei Chemezov (right), and Vnesheconombank (VEB) represented by Alexander Ivanov, son of the presidential chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov. The Zimbabweans are calling themselves Pen East Investments. Together, they have picked the name Great Dyke Investments.

There’s a catch: no Russian involved in what is billed as the Darwendale platinum project wants to admit what he is doing; what protection from loss has been installed by the Kremlin for the money; and why a new platinum mine in east Africa can be a profitable way of spending Russian state money when the country’s platinum miners, Norilsk Nickel and Russian Platinum, say they wouldn’t touch the project with a barge-pole.
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GEORGE SOROS TAKES AIM AT RUSAL — GERALD GROUP PROPOSES OUSTER OF RUSAL FROM GUINEA BAUXITE, ALUMINA CONCESSION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A combination of American and British commodity traders, aided by George Soros (lead image, left), is planning to oust United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, from its Friguia bauxite and alumina concession in the west African Republic of Guinea. The plan, according to sources in London and Conakry, the Guinean capital, calls for the Guinean President Alpha Conde to revoke Rusal’s production agreement, according to the recommendations of an inter-ministerial group of officials known as the Comité Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers (Technical Committee of Review of Mining Titles and Concessions). Conde is being urged by Soros to replace the Russians led by Rusal chief executive, Oleg Deripaska (lead image, right).

The Gerald Group, according to a London source, has a double-barreled target, aiming also at Rusal’s control of the Nikolaev Alumina Refinery (NGZ) in eastern Ukraine. Defending Rusal from the attack, says a source close to Rusal, is Glencore, the Switzerland-based global commodity trader, which is a minority stakeholder in Rusal and the financier of much of its aluminium and alumina trade.
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RUSAL NEGOTIATIONS FAIL IN GUINEA — ONCE AGAIN CONAKRY’S BILL IS MORE THAN $1 BILLION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly controlled by Oleg Deripaska (right), has failed in a bid to ward off billion-dollar sanctions from Alpha Conde (centre), the President of Guinea, with an offer to start a cheap, new bauxite mine three years from now.

Sources in Conakry, the capital of the West African republic, have confirmed that an inter-ministerial committee, which has been reviewing the contract records for more than a decade of mineral resource concessions and mining agreements signed by earlier Guinean governments, has found Rusal to have under-paid and under-performed at its Friguia bauxite mine and alumina refinery. Word that the Technical Committee for Review of Mining Titles and Agreements (Comite Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers, CTRTCM) was about to rule Rusal in violation and propose major financial penalties led Deripaska to despatch Victor Boyarkin to Conakry for talks to head off the committee’s recommendations.
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TWIXT CUP AND LIP — SOUTH AFRICAN REGULATOR CHANGES ROSATOM’S CHANCES TO WIN REACTOR BID

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Two months after South Africa’s (SA) President Jacob Zuma appeared to drop Russia in favour of a Chinese-American combination for the country’s $50 billion nuclear reactor programme, the head of the SA National Nuclear Regulator, Bismark Tyobeka, appeared in Moscow last week to be favouring the Russian bid over the competition.

Tyobeka, who was attending a nuclear industry convention, AtomExpo-2014, was reported in the Russian press as saying that now that South Africa’s May 7 parliamentary elections are out of the way, Zuma intends to announce his choice for the first two reactors from among the competing bids of China, Russia, South Korea, and France. Tyobeka reportedly was negative towards the Chinese bid, which is coordinated with Westinghouse of the US. “All these countries also have a chance to become the contractor, but the main thing is whether they have sufficient experience of building nuclear power plants abroad. In that sense Russia has the best experience, and its chances [for the procurement award] are very high.”
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VICTOR BOYARKIN RETURNS TO RUSAL FOR A NEW TOP-SECRET ALPHA MISSION

alpha_mission

By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Boyarkin, the former lieutenant-colonel of Russian military intelligence and special operations chief for United Company Rusal, returned to the company on Monday after an absence of fifteen months. In Conakry, the capital of Guinea, his arrival is anticipated shortly for a fresh attempt by Oleg Deripaska, Rusal’s chief executive, to relieve new pressure on Rusal to reopen the Friguia (Fria) alumina refinery and bauxite mine, and spend several hundred million dollars committed earlier to investment in Guinea.

The Guinean President, Alpha Conde (image, right foreground), has started to prepare his presidential election campaign for the poll, which is due in less than a year’s time. In Friguia, where Rusal is the principal source of employment, the alumina refinery has been closed since 2012, and according to local sources, the city is “dead. People are starving, and only a heavy military presence can keep things quiet. Conde has nothing to show for his presidency, and unless he can persuade Rusal to reopen the refinery, he must persuade the Russians to make a large compensation to help the city.”
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THE PLATINUM OPEC — IS A GOOD SOUTH AFRICAN IDEA DEAD, OR A DEAD RUSSIAN IDEA GOOD?

platinum_opec

By John Helmer, Moscow

There has long been a fear on the Russian side that South Africa will sell as much platinum and palladium as it can mine, threatening the market price of both metals, and leaving Russia holding very large, very secret stocks of dwindling value. From the Russian point of view, that’s not a unilateral sacrifice Russia should accept; nor a unilateral advantage South Africa should be allowed to take.

Together, Russia and South Africa (SA) produce almost 90% of the world’s platinum supply (5.7 million ounces); 80% of the palladium supply (6.4 million oz). So there has been a natural inclination for the principal producers – Norilsk Nickel in Russia; Anglo Platinum, Impala, Lonmin and Northam in South Africa – to test the scope for price-supportive cooperation in the market, instead of price-damaging competition. The Russian and South African governments have naturally inclined in the same direction.
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MAGIC TRICKS TO CUT RUSAL DEBT — OLEG DERIPASKA ASKS MIKHAIL PROKHOROV TO SELL NIGERIAN SMELTER AWARDED BY THE COURTS TO SOMEONE ELSE

magic_alscon

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly run by Oleg Deripaska, is selling the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon). Only the Rusal announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) doesn’t put a name to the asset. Rusal is also not accepting that the Nigerian courts have already decided the Alscon asset isn’t Rusal’s property to dispose of.

The decision to sell Alscon was reported to the exchange on April 8. The notice explains that the Jersey subsidiary of Rusal, RTI Limited, has hired Renaissance Securities to provide “financial advisory services in respect of a potential sale of shares of a subsidiary(ies) of the Company.” The services are to cost “up to USD10 million (including a fixed success fee of USD3 million and an incentive fee of up to USD7 million) for the entire term of the Mandate Letter, including any extended period of the term.”
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THE CRIMEA EFFECT — WHOEVER CONTROLS CRIMEA CONTROLS HUGE RESERVES OF OFFSHORE GAS, BUT MAYBE THAT WON’T BE EXXONMOBIL OR NATHANIEL ROTHSCHILD

crimea_effect

By John Helmer, Moscow

Georhii Rudko, the chairman of the Ukrainian State Commission for Natural Resources, had nothing to do with the choice of the old British War Office as the venue; nor the timing of his speech, one day before the President of Ukraine and the constitutional order of the country were toppled. But Rudko’s presentation on the future for the oil and gas resources of Ukraine was anything but a sideshow.

Rudko was scheduled to speak at a meeting entitled “Black Sea & Caspian 2014 Conference – Unlocking Full Potential”. The date was February 20. The address was 89 Pall Mall, where the War Office was located between 1858 and 1906, just missing the Crimean War (1853-56), but managing the second Opium War against China; the three Basotho wars in southern Africa; several rebellions in India; and the Boer War in South Africa. As war offices go, the score was a grand slam for the British.
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MODERN ARTFULNESS — SOUTH AFRICA AGREES TO BUY CHINESE NUCLEAR REACTOR TECHNOLOGY WHICH EITHER BELONGS TO OTHERS OR HASN’T BEEN BUILT & TESTED — WITH FUNDS THE SOUTH AFRICAN FINANCE MINISTRY WON’T ALLOCATE TO THE STATE BUDGET, AND THE GOVERNMENT’S ELECTRICITY PLAN RECOMMENDS AGAINST SPENDING ANY TIME SOON

china_reselling

By John Helmer, Moscow

On March 4 the Chinese and South African governments announced they are preparing an agreement on nuclear cooperation to allow the Chinese to sell $50 billion worth of their nuclear reactor technology for South Africa’s power generation programme.

There are four catches. One is that a South African report from the ministry responsible for energy planning recommends against investing in nuclear reactors for at least two, and possibly ten more years. The second catch is that the South African Ministry of Finance has refused to allow any funds to be put into current or future budgets for nuclear reactors. The third catch is that the Chinese have depended to date on reactor technology they have bought from France, the US, and Russia which cannot be resold in the international market. Nuclear reactor bids from each of these three countries have already been tabled for the South African nuclear programme, and until last month the most likely contender for selection, according to South African President Jacob Zuma and Ben Martins, the Minister of Energy, was Rosatom of Russia.
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NO ROSATOM REACTOR SALE TO SOUTH AFRICA, NO EVRAZ SALE OF HIGHVELD STEEL, NO COINCIDENCE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

After almost a year of inconclusive negotiations with a secretive South African group called Nemascore, Evraz, the Russian steelmaker and miner, has announced to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that negotiations have opened to sell its control stake in Highveld Steel & Vanadium to new buyers. The notice to the exchange last week said Evraz informed the Highveld board that “it is, in addition to Nemascore (Proprietary) Limited, currently engaging with other potential bidders with a view to disposing of its 85.11% stake in the Company. The independent board of the Company has agreed to allow these potential bidders to conduct a due diligence investigation into the affairs of the Company.” The Evraz notice added that the talks are “incomplete, confidential and non-binding, hence there is no certainty that a transaction will take place.”
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RUSAL ORDERED TO TRIAL WITH NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT OVER SALE OF NIGERIAN ALUMINIUM SMELTER, BUT $2.8 BILLION DAMAGES CLAIM DELAYED

rusal_batman

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly headed by Oleg Deripaska (image right), has won a fresh round in its battle to keep control of its Nigerian aluminium smelter, and ward off claims from a Nigerian-American group whom it defeated in the privatization of the asset almost a decade ago. For the time being, the Nigerian government, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan (left), will neither support Rusal, nor act against it. The indecisive Jonathan lost majority control of the Nigerian House of Representatives in December, and he faces an uncertain presidential election in a year’s time.

In a ruling of Nigerian High Court Justice Jude Okeke, issued in Abuja on January 27, the Nigerian Government’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice were ordered to face trial with Rusal in the corruption and damages claim by BFI Group Divino Corporation (BFIG). Rusal had asked the court to join the government to the case. BFIG opposed, arguing that in a separate proceeding the Nigerian courts had already ruled against the government, and in favour of BFIG. According to BFIG’s lawyer in court, Rusal’s move threatened to “open a floodgate for everyone who seeks to interrupt proceedings.”
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SOUTH AFRICAN PROMISE OF ROSATOM REACTOR DEAL DISAPPEARS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The South African Government has pulled back from the agreement it reached last November with Rosatom, the state nuclear industry corporation, to build nuclear reactors to supply South Africa’s future power needs. Officials at the South African Department of Energy refuse to say to what the Minister of Energy, Ben Martins, has decided. Off the record, sources in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Moscow claim the reason for dropping the $50 billion deal is that the government has revised its assessment of its future energy needs, and decided it doesn’t need the new reactors, at least not soon.

But that’s a nose-stretcher. The assessment leading to the change of mind in Pretoria was issued by the Department of Energy on November 21. For weeks beforehand its conclusions were well-known to the ministry, Minister Martins, and to the office of President Jacob Zuma (image above), when he approved the initialling of the Rosatom deal. The deal ceremony took place on November 26, five days after the Energy Ministry had issued its thumbs-down.
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EVRAZ STILL UNABLE TO SELL HIGHVELD STEEL; DEAL TIMING APPEARS TIED TO SOUTH AFRICAN REACTOR PURCHASE FROM ROSATOM

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Evraz, the steelmaking group owned by Roman Abramovich (third figure from left) and Alexander Abramov (fourth from left), has just issued a notice to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that it has been unable to complete the proposed sale of its South African unit, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, by a December 31 deadline. First announced on March 27, the heavily indebted Evraz said the terms of sale for its 85% shareholding in Highveld called for the acquiror, a South African company called Nemascore, to pay a purchase price of $320 million. Prior to the deal announcement, the Evraz stake had been valued in the market between $106 million and $135 million. Since March the market value of the stake has failed to reach 50% of the transaction price; it is currently just $138.4 million.

The new announcement acknowledges that closure of the sale has been postponed three times already, and that six cautionary notices have been issued to the Johannesburg market. Neither Evraz nor Nemascore has explained the reasons for the delay, claiming this is prevented by a non-disclosure agreement covering their deal. In its December 19 announcement, Evraz claims that a “due diligence process is still progressing”, and that the “Transaction is expected to be concluded towards the end of Q1 2014.” The story of Nemascore and its ties to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, can be read here.
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SERGEI KIRIENKO PULLS STRING — ROSATOM PLAN FOR BEATING THE AMERICANS AND FRENCH OUT OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN NUCLEAR REACTOR CONTRACT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the world of mules there are no rules (so Ogden Nash wrote last century). In selling $50 billion worth of nuclear reactors, there are a few.

Sergei Kirienko, the prime minister in charge of the Russian government’s default on its treasury bonds and other financial destruction in 1998, is no donkey. But this week, as the head of the state nuclear power monopoly Rosatom, it’s far from clear what rules Kirienko, and his South African counterparts, had in mind when they initialled their agreement on cooperation this week in Johannesburg.

Russian and South African press reports, as well as officials of both countries, have described the document as an agreement between the two governments for “strategic partnership and cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and industry”, as Vedomosti called it.
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RUSAL PLAYS FOR TIME — NEW TACTICS TO STOP NIGERIAN SMELTER JUDGEMENT BEFORE BANKS INTERVENE, BEFORE CHINA STOPS THE CLOCK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week, on October 7, United Company Rusal – the state aluminium monoply managed by Oleg Deripaska (right) — was due in the Nigerian High Court at Abuja to start trial on the claim by a Nigerian-American group, BFIG, for the handover of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon). BFIG has been in the Nigerian courts since a ruling by a US federal judge eight years ago that the jurisdiction for its claims is in Nigeria, not in the US. In July of last year Nigeria’s highest court ruled that the government’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had unlawfully privatized the smelter in Rusal’s favour, rigging the share sale and the price corruptly for Rusal’s benefit.

The American government had already agreed. A US Embassy cable from Abuja, dated August 2004 and published by Wikileaks in 2011, told the State Department the Nigerian government’s action towards Rusal had reflected “a lack of transparency in the bidding process, and perhaps some corruption as well.” BFIG’s lawsuit claims $2.8 billion from Rusal in lost or unrealized profits, damages, and costs.
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NIGERIAN COURT DROPS ALL CHARGES, RELEASES MYRE SEADIVER CREW AND VESSEL TO RETURN TO RUSSIA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A court in Lagos, Nigeria, today dismissed all charges of arms smuggling and illegal entry for the crew of the Russian security tender, Myre Seadiver. Seven crewmen, who have remained on bail at the Russian Embassy in Lagos since the last hearing in July, will be free to leave Nigeria and return home, after the court order is issued tomorrow. The Myre Seadiver and its original 15-man crew were arrested almost a year ago, on October 20, in the Lagos port roads, as the vessel prepared to leave after a month’s refuelling and repairs, and a change of crew. That story can be read here.
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OLEG DERIPASKA’S EARS ARE BURNING — CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS BY SAMUEL MEBIAME IN MIAMI TAPES

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By John Helmer, Moscow

This week it’s hot and humid in Conakry, capital of the west African Republic of Guinea. It will hit 30 degrees in the day; the humidity will be 100%. Until Saturday, when the much-postponed, much-rigged parliamentary elections will be held, there will be occasional thunderstorms, sunny spells, and an inch of rain per day.

But there’s not enough water to douse the allegations that the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, took payoffs through go-betweens to rig the presidential elections of June and November 2010; put up Guinea’s mining concessions for a fresh round of corrupt awards; and let Rusal off the hook of a billion-dollar compensation order by the Guinean Government and local courts.
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EVRAZ SAYS NEMASCORE DELAYING HIGHVELD STEEL DEAL; RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPEATS DEMANDS FOR ZUMA TO MAKE UP HIS MIND

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Evraz, the steelmaking group owned by Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, has revealed that it cannot complete the sale of its South African steel subsidiary, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, on time, and that the South Africans are the reason for the fresh delay.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his South African counterpart, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in Moscow on Monday that the Kremlin wants to see less delay, more commitment from President Jacob Zuma on buying nuclear power reactors from Rosatom. Zuma, who has now arrived in St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit meeting, has met President Vladimir Putin twice already this year – in Durban in March, and in Sochi in May – and on each occasion the official communiques have pledged the same thing. Lavrov repeated this on Monday when at a press conference with Nkoana-Mashabane, he said Russia’s priority in its bilateral relationship with South Africa is the billion-dollar sale and purchase of reactors. “Russia is ready to assist in the creation in the Republic of South Africa of nuclear power,” Lavrov said. This, Lavrov emphasized, is the priority in “the complex of bilateral ties…further steps for implementation of these major arrangements…[and] the activization of investment cooperation.”
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SPEEDY GONZALES AND RUSSIA’S RUSH TO ENDORSE THE ZIMBABWE ELECTION RESULT – HOW THE LAVROV DOCTRINE WORKS IN AFRICA

gonzales_lavrov

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia for the past nine years, is almost as well-known for rushing to the rescue of Russian companies in trouble in Africa, as the payback for the favour is unknown. Still, the Lavrov Doctrine is the first major change to have been introduced in the Kremlin’s foreign policy in Africa since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the old days the Soviet strategy was one of non-intervention in the internal affairs of the African states. The strategic meaning was that Moscow opposed arms deliveries, bush wars, assassinations, putsches, economic threats and bribery operations by the competing colonial powers and superpowers – the British, French, Americans, Portuguese, Belgians. The Russian Foreign Ministry reiterates this non-intervention doctrine from time to time. In Nigeria, for example, it has had the effect of allowing the local navy to take Russians hostage with impunity, and for the courts to rule punitively against local Russian investments.
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LAGOS JUDGE POSTPONES MYRE SEADIVER CREW TRIAL UNTIL OCTOBER — RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI LAVROV WEAKENS PIRATE POLICY

lagos_judge

By John Helmer, Moscow

When you are between the hammer of the Nigerian Navy and the anvil of the Nigerian Government, what is a Nigerian judge to do, if not make a very public show of doing nothing?

In a new hearing in a Lagos court yesterday, Nigerian judge James Tsoho (centre) repeated the pattern of his predecessor, Judge Okechukwu Okeke, and again postponed the trial of the crewmen of Russian security tender, Myre Seadiver, this time for another three months. The judge is caught between Nigerian government officials embarrassed but too weak to drop their charges of illegal port entry and arms smuggling, and Nigerian Navy officers strong enough to arrange the arrests of the crewmen and vessel on trumped-up charges, and protective of the Navy’s sideline business of selling vessel security service in Nigerian waters. Pirates in uniform are what this story has been about from the beginning, as one click will illustrate.
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RUSAL ANNOUNCES LOYALTY PROGRAMME – DERIPASKA TAKES CASH, DONATES RUSAL SHARES TO SUBORDINATES

rusal_bonus

By John Helmer, Moscow

What is a bonus worth if it’s a promissory note for a value that is sinking towards zero in the short term, and cannot be converted to cash or dividends for years? How much loyalty would a zero-value note be expected to attract?

On July 4, Rusal disclosed to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that it has devised a plan to give shares to company employees for the purpose, the company release claims, “of increasing the employees’ commitment to achievement of the Group’s strategic goals in implementing of the production system.” The plan is for Rusal to buy 0.05% of the 15.2 billion Rusal shares outstanding; that’s 76 million. As Rusal’s share price slips below the HK$3 level, and its market capitalization falls below US$6 billion, it would cost the company US$29 million in cash to fill the employee stock fund to its maximum authorized number. But Rusal says Oleg Deripaska, the chief executive, is going to start the fund off himself at something less than the maximum “The Company currently intends to finance the Plan by applying the internal funding which is available after the CEO voluntarily declined his bonus for the year 2012.” According to Rusal’s financial report for 2012 (page 42), Deripaska’s salary, allowances, benefits in kind, and “discretionary bonuses” came to US$5.536 million. The financial report doesn’t indicate precisely how much of this was in the form of cash, how much in airplane flights to non-business destinations, and how much in bonus cash. The report does claim that Deripaska received 417,266 bonus shares worth at vesting (November 21, 2012) just $274,000.
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EVRAZ DEAL TO SELL HIGHVELD STEEL MISSES DEADLINE, AS SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT BLOWS VTB FINANCING AWAY

wind_that_blows

By John Helmer, Moscow

The attempt by the Evraz steel group, owned by Roman Abramovich and others, to sell its South African steelmaking asset, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, for double its market value appears to have failed. The deadline Evraz had earlier announced for closing the deal with a South African front company called Nemascore expired on June 30. On July 2, Tatiana Drachuk, the Evraz spokesman, added: “The market will be informed if any decision is taken.”

In March Evraz said it had accepted an offer of $320 million for its 85.12% stake in Highveld. At the time the market value of this bloc of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was the equivalent of $112 million. The offer triggered a sharp rise in Highveld’s share price, but it has since fallen by several degrees. The current market capitalization of the company is $180.3 million; the Evraz stake, $153.4 million.
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MYRE SEADIVER CREW GETS PARTIAL DISMISSAL, NIGERIAN COURT SCHEDULES LAST HEARING

open your door

By John Helmer, Moscow

In a hearing in a Lagos court yesterday, Nigerian judge James Tsoho dismissed all charges against eight of the 15 Russian crewmen on the Myre Seadiver, a security support vessel arrested by the Nigerian Navy last October. At the time, the vessel, which had arrived with Nigerian Navy and Lagos port approvals on September 19, had rotated 11 mariners back to Moscow, and taken on board their replacements; they arrived by plane with visas issued by the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow.
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ANDREI MELNICHENKO’S MYSTERY LAWSUIT – SOUTH AFRICANS DENY RUSSIAN MINE CLAIM

mine_claim

By John Helmer, Moscow

Eurochem, a Russian fertilizer miner and manufacturer owned by Andrei Melnichenko, is suing the South African mine technology company Shaft Sinkers for $800 million on account of a mining technology which Eurochem says has failed in Volgograd (image right). Shaft Sinkers says the technology works perfectly well, in Yorkshire (left) for example. $800 million is the sum of Eurochem’s claims. Much less than that is at stake — according to Shaft Sinkers $15 million in unpaid invoices – but also much more, in Kazakhstan, where Eurochem’s plan for a large new phosphate mine is in trouble of another sort. About that Eurochem doesn’t want to talk at all.

In 2008 Eurochem made several announcements about its new potash mine, Gremyachinskoye mine in Volgograd. In the context of Melnichenko’s proposal to reduce his personal exposure in the company, and sell assets to Gazprom or shares to international investors, Eurochem reported growing reserves, speed in mining new output, and jumping sales revenues. Gremyachinskoye was to be commissioned in two stages, start shipping 2.3 million tonnes of potash per annum in 2012, and by 2015 double that volume.
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.

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