RUSSIA AND MYANMAR – BALANCING ON A KNIFE’S EDGE

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere”. It’s a well-known Chinese maxim, especially in Myanmar (Burma), China’s backdoor to the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Indian Navy’s forward defence line.    

Russia’s policy towards Myanmar since the military takeover on February 1 is a case of proving the maxim mistaken. Although experts and officials in Moscow won’t say so aloud, it’s possible for Russia to pursue one strategy with two tactics; three more like.

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THE CATHERINE PRINCIPLE FOR NEGOTIATING WITH THE TURKS – LET ARMS DO THE TALKING

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Between 11:30 Moscow time on Thursday and 14:00,  President Vladimir Putin spent two and a half hours talking with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with interpreters present but no one else, and including lunch and toilet breaks. The two presidents then spent three hours and twenty minutes in talks with delegations of their officials before appearing at 17:22 for another sixteen minutes in front of the press. The Turkish clock for the negotiations counted 5 hours 40 minutes; the Kremlin clock, six hours.

The outcome was a document entitled “Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area”. This comprises an agreement of three paragraphs amounting to ten lines, and a preamble of four paragraphs repeating what professionals call boilerplate; that’s to say, points with which everyone agrees in principle, and no one in practice.

The difference between the amount of time and effort expended and the outcome isn’t between the mountain and the molehill. It is the result of the Russian side applying the brief script dictated to Putin by the Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the General Staff led by General Valery Gersasimov,  and  confirmed the day before by the Security Council.

The script is dictated by the principle of the tsarina, Empress Catherine II, during the Turkish-Russian wars of 1768 to 1792. The principle is that nothing the Turks say they agree to or sign  can be relied upon; and that everything the Turks can’t achieve with their army will be tested again and again, until and unless they are defeated by the battle of arms and the defence of territory by more force than the Turks can overcome. The corollary of the Catherine principle is that the new agreement between Putin and Erdogan cannot last for long. Because both sides know this, their heads were in the down position, their eyes averted, for longer than has ever been recorded at their summit meetings before.  

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RICHARD SORGE HONOURED BY THE RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTER AT TOKYO GRAVE

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time since the execution of Richard Sorge in Sugamo prison, Tokyo, on November 7, 1944, the highest representative of the Red Army and of the Russian Defence Ministry has made an official visit of tribute at his grave. 

Sergei Shoigu (lead picture, right), General of the Army and Minister of Defence, visited Sorge’s grave (left) on Wednesday, May 29.  Also taking the salute were senior Russian military officers and Russia’s Ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin. Shoigu was on an official visit to Tokyo this week for meetings with the Japanese Defence Minister, Takeshi Iwaya, and for a session with the foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Taro Kono.

Not before in Japan has Sorge, one of the greatest agents of the Soviet military intelligence services, been honoured in this fashion by his country.  (more…)

RUSSIANS GO BANANAS IN PHILIPPINES, PROMISE INVESTMENT OF $600 MILLION

By John Helmer, Moscow

This is the Bangsamoro banana, and somebody is slipping on it.

On April 4 two young business partners, a Russian named Lev Dengov and a Turkmen, Merdan Gurbanov, with no known source of capital or past business record, signed an agreement to invest almost $600 million in the Bangsamoro region of the Philippines island of Mindanao. Their agreement commits them to creating one of the largest plantations on the island to grow bananas and pineapples for export;  the development of the regional  port of Polloc for storing and shipping the fruit; and the supply of Russian fertilizers to Filipino planters.

Presiding at the agreement signing was Emmanuel Piñol, the Agriculture Secretary and minister in charge in the Philippines Government. Two weeks later, Piñol publicized the extraordinary deal to the Russian press. Since then, however, he refuses to say how the deal was arranged; where the money will be coming from; and how the investment will be protected in an area which has been a battleground  between government forces and Islamic secession movements for the past fifty years.

Dengov and Gurbanov have also gone incommunicado, leaving behind them a trail of plans for corporate registrations around the world, a six-month old company on the register of UK Companies House;  and a prospectus for a $400 million investment in a self-service crypto-currency payment system in Russia and the CIS states.

Planters Products Incorporated (PPI), the Filipino fertilizer importer which signed in the deal with Piñol,  Dengov and Gurbanov, has cut off its telephone line; its executives don’t answer their emails.

Five of the leading banana importers to Russia, which source most of their fruit from Central and South America, won’t say what they know about the Bangsamoro Banana project, or even if they think a new scheme of importing bananas and pineapples from the Philippines might be commercially viable at any price. (more…)

INDIA AND PAKISTAN FIGHT — RUSSIA SITS ON THE FENCE

By John Helmer, Moscow

When India, one of Russia’s largest and longest-serving allies, was attacked by Pakistan in Kashmir since mid-February, the Kremlin sent condolences, expressed hope for a “prompt settlement”, and authorized Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to offer to mediate between the ally and its enemy.  “Russia is ready to offer a negotiating platform for India and Pakistan to settle relations”, Lavrov told the state news agency Tass. “If they want to,  of course.”  The display of Russian equanimity and neutrality between its Indian ally and Pakistan, long a US ally, has produced open anger in the Indian media; dismay among senior Indian politicians, civilian officials and military officers.

“Indians would not admit it,” comments an influential Indian in Moscow, “but there are signs that Putin is fence-sitting. Lavrov even proposed mediation. That would be like India proposing to mediate between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea. On the one hand, Lavrov says India and China will shape the new world order, but on the other,  he talks like a [US] State Department spokesman.”

For the India-Russia alliance, the question Indians ask is: if not now, then when? Russia’s other strategic allies – China, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela – ask the same thing.  (more…)

OLEG DERIPASKA PUFFS RUSAL SHARE VALUE FOR DEBT NEGOTIATION WITH SBERBANK, VTB – GERMAN GREF UNIMPRESSED, SHARE PRICE COLLAPSES

DwB_1649

By John Helmer, Moscow

Insiders at the Russian aluminium monopoly Rusal say that chief executive and control shareholder Oleg Deripaska has been miscalculating the effect of share price surges Rusal has enjoyed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in recent weeks. That’s because the share price gains have been quickly reversed – and because Rusal’s most important lender, state owned Sberbank, is unpersuaded that the value of the company is gaining.

Sources on the Hong Kong exchange acknowledge a case officer has been assigned to monitor share trading of Rusal, and that he has been aware of abnormal trade volumes on several days in February and March, along with seesawing in the price of the share. But the Exchange chief executive, Charles Li, is reluctant to confirm what the exchange has done to uncover what happened and enforce exchange trading rules. The exchange is also afraid of being accused of covering up irregular trading practice and inside information. According to Li’s spokesman, Scott Sapp, “HKEx does not comment on individual companies or its regulatory actions.” Sapp then asked not to be named.
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GENERAL GIAP, DESTROYER OF THE FORCE MULTIPLIER, VICTOR OVER TWO EMPIRES

giap

By John Helmer, Moscow

General Vo Nguyen Giap has died in Hanoi, aged 102.

There has been no general of his quality and achievement in modern times. He defeated the French and the Americans, and in two separate wars drove them as decisively out of Vietnam as Kutuzov drove Napoleon out of Russia. Giap, his army and people withstood more conventional bomb weight than was dropped on Germany, Italy and Japan, combined, during World War II. They survived the most massive chemical warfare campaign ever inflicted on earth – that’s the American one. They emerged victors from explosive force “100 times the combined impact of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.”
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RUSAL SHAREHOLDER CRISIS — BARRY CHEUNG FORCED OFF RUSAL BOARD — MIKHAIL PROKHOROV DITHERS OVER REPLACEMENT — STATE BANKS REFUSE TO REVEAL HOW MANY SHARES THEY CAN VOTE AT SHAREHOLDERS’ MEETING

celebrate

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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ROMAN ABRAMOVICH FLIES INTO HONG KONG TO DISCUSS WHAT (RUSAL) BUSINESS WITH WHOM (ELSIE LEUNG)?

hk_scratcher

By John Helmer, Moscow

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).
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REPLIES FROM ELSIE LEUNG

leung_without_monkeys

Hong Kong
May 17, 2013: 0850

Dear Mr. Helmer:

I have no wish to comment on whatever article you wished to write, but since you have put it to me and I have to disagree with you in many of the statements made, in particular:
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FIRING LINE FOR ELSIE LEUNG – INDEPENDENT NON-EXECUTIVE RUSAL DIRECTOR

leung

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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THE MANGANESE REVOLUTION TO BRING BHP DOWN TO EARTH

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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THE BOOTMAKER’S PRICK – JAPAN IS SUFFERING FROM A CASE OF ШИЛО В ЖОПЕ

By John Helmer, Moscow

In Russian, it’s called шило в жопе; literally, a bootmaker’s awl in the arse. In New York Yiddish, it’s shpilkes in tukhas, which is a bit gentler because the sharp instrument in the posterior is a needle. The meaning, in general and in the Japanese case, is a case of self-induced agitation from which acts of aggressive and misguided frustration are likely to follow.

Yesterday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued this announcement to the BBC: “Today, around 03:00 (06:00 GMT), military fighters belonging to Russian Federation breached our nation’s airspace above territorial waters off Rishiri island in Hokkaido.” There has been no comparable public announcement of an alleged Russian airspace penetration since 2008. This one comes a few days in advance of the visit to Washington of the new Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Forty-eight hours earlier, Japan’s Defence Minister, Itsunori Onodera, announced that on January 30 “something like fire-control radar was directed at a Japan Self-Defence Maritime escort ship in the East China Sea.” He claimed the reason for the delay between the radar signal and the public disclosure was the time required to determine that a Chinese fire-control radar had indeed locked on the Japanese vessel, and that Japanese officials, US advisors and others judged that publicity would be a good thing.
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RUSSIA WARNS THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE NOT TO BITE THE BEAR’S SENSITIVE PARTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the Kremlin corridors under the new management, it is generally acknowledged that one of the stupidest things former President Dmitry Medvedev ever did was to order Russia’s representative on the UN Security Council to abstain from the vote and veto of the no-fly zone resolution aimed at the Muammar Qaddafi regime in Libya. That was on March 17, 2010. The Russian intelligence services already knew that US and British submarines were in place under the surface of the Mediterranean, ready to fire missiles to start a war that was intended to end in Qaddafi’s death. It did.
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SHADOW THEATRE – THE RUSAL PUPPET SHOW GOES EAST

By John Helmer, Moscow

Barry Cheung (second left), the new board chairman of United Company Rusal and the first non-Russian chairman of a Russian monopoly, is viewed by his countrymen and business peers as a technocrat, a politician, and a businessman, in that order.

The one business he reports in the curriculum vitae released by Rusal is the Bermuda-registered, Hong Kong-listed Titan Petrochemicals Group Limited. This company says it has concentrated on selling floating and land-based oil storage services for Chinese oil buyers, as well as bunker fuel for vessels, after dropping out of the business of oil trading in 2008. Cheung says he was chief executive officer between July 2004 and January 2008, and then vice chairman of the Titan board. A search of Titan’s annual reports from 2008 to 2011 reveals that Cheung was replaced as chief executive in 2007 and moved to deputy chairman of the board; but he resigned from that post in June 2008.
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HONG KONG STOCK EXCHANGE FAILS THE TRANSCONTAINER CRASH TEXT – RUSSIAN STATE GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO LONDON INSTEAD

By John Helmer in Moscow

Transcontainer, the state-owned Russian Railways box transport company, has revealed that it will not list shares in its initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The announcement confirms that for state-owned shares, the Kremlin sees little value, and considerable risk, in associating with the Hong Kong Exchange (HKEx). The Transcontainer IPO plan, which is being managed by JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, also reveals that in the investment markets for Russian shares, Hong Kong is regarded as the market of last resort for Russian companies unable to meet the disclosure requirements, governance tests, and investor risks that prevail in London, New York, Paris, and Frankfurt.
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SAPIENCE VERSUS PORK — TOBY THE SAPIENT PIG HAS A HUNCH RUSAL’S SHARE SALE IS AN INSIDER DEAL BETWEEN THE KREMLIN, THE UNDERWRITERS, AND SOMEONE IN CHINA WHO IS HAVING TROUBLE WITH THE HONG KONG SECURITIES AND FUTURES ORDINANCE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Hong Kong Exchange executives and the Hong Kong stock market regulator appear to be cracking and splitting under the strain of a phantom share listing and sale for United Company Rusal, Russia’s aluminium monopoly and one of the world’s leading producers of bauxite, alumina and primary aluminium. Although anonymous sources insist in press leaks that Rusal’s listing application has been approved, the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong refuse to say this, or issue any of the notices, announcements, and public disclosures that are standard in such cases.
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AND THE WAGES OF SIN ARE… AUSTRALIAN COURT ORDERS $11 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS FOR KAZAKH MINING AND OIL PROJECT SKIMMING

By John Helmer in Moscow

To all junior miners, resource project developers, and investors in the risky wilds of Kazakhstan, be of good cheer — a Supreme Court judgement issued on December 11 in Sydney, Australia, has awarded the equivalent of US$11.4 million in compensation, penalties, and costs against a group of lawyers who have been found guilty of engaging in dishonest business practices.

Justice Clifford Einstein had ruled in October that the Kazakhstan-based law firm of Michael Wilson & Partners had been defrauded by three lawyers who had been employed by Wilson; and who had secretly moonlighted to earn fees and share bonuses for stock market listings and other transactions involving several major Kazakh resource projects — Sunkar Resources’s Chilisai phosphate project; Frontier Mining’s Benkala copper project; Roxi Petroleum; Max Petroleum; two other Central Asian mining projects, Urals Gold and Ablai; and four projects tied to these and other operators in the same region — Karamandybas (oil and gas), Ravninnoye (oil), Beibars Munai (oil), Lancaster, and Kangamiut (seafoods).
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ASK TOBY THE SAPIENT PIG – WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OLEG DERIPASKA? WHAT NEXT FOR RUSAL?

Relayed by John Helmer in Moscow

Question for Toby: has the Hong Kong Stock Exchange rejected the share listing application by United Company Rusal?

Toby’s answer: Affirmative grunt.

For at least two months the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and its listing division, and in parallel the state regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) have been studying the proposal for listing and sale of shares by United Company Rusal, the first Russian company to attempt to list in the China market. Although the exchange and the commission don’t explain their action in individual cases, it is now plain that they could not agree to approve the listing in several sessions of the 28-member listing committee. The reports of their meetings – on November 19, 26, December 3 and 7 – have been cryptic, with anonymous sources claiming different reasons for deferral and inaction, until now the negative outcome is obvious.
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FLASH! HONG KONG EXCHANGE POSTPONES APPROVAL OF RUSAL SHARE SALE AGAIN — KREMLIN MAKES NEW OFFER TO BUY RUSAL SHARES IF NOONE ELSE WILL

By John Helmer in Moscow

In signals issued just ahead of today’s scheduled meeting of the Hong Kong Exchange Listing Committee, the committee announced a further postponement of its ruling on the Rusal application until December 7. The exchange has issued no public explanation. Media reports claim the reason is that the 28-member committee lacked the minimum required forum of 5 members to sit on the Rusal review. Earlier reports from the exchange had indicated that 8 members had been selected from the 28-member complement for the review. Today’s reports from Hong Kong suggest that 4 of these had dropped out for today’s meeting. The hint is that the applicant and its underwriters are being discreetly invited to take the initiative of withdrawing before next Monday, relieving the exchange of the responsibility of casting a vote on Rusal’s application. This option allows what one underwriter in London suggests as justification — market demand so late in the year is not sufficiently favourable for the share sale.
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THE 30 BILLION DOLLAR BITE – HOW BANKS OWED BIG MONEY BY RUSAL ARE POLISHING UP THE HONG KONG STOCK EXCHANGE SALE OF RUSAL SHARES

Put a little Hong Kong whitewash on your Rusal brush, and look at the difference it makes to your teeth…
 

Before After

By John Helmer in Moscow

A left turn and quick walk out of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) building on the waterfront in Central Hong Kong will take you to the ferry for Macau, where, in less than sixty minutes , you can be at the roulette wheel of the Sands Macau; and within a comparable interval you can gamble away a fortune. This Thursday, inside a closed meeting-room of the exchange, a handful of insiders will decide whether the HKEx intends to spin a wheel of its own, and offer a betting opportunity to a selected group of financial institutions. The HKEx wager is much bigger; the odds less chancy.
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GENGHIS JUNIOR MEETS HIS MATCH — KAZAKH MINING AND OIL PROJECTS SKIMMED BY KANGAROO LAWYERS

By John Helmer in Moscow

One celebration drink too many in Bar Vogue, in downtown Almaty, has turned out to leave a very bad taste for lawyers advising hard-rock mining and oil project start-ups in Kazakhstan.

In a 216-page judgement issued this month, after three years of litigation across half the globe, a group of Australian lawyers was found guilty of stealing clients from their employer, the Kazakhstan-based law firm of Michael Wilson (see left image) & Partners (MWP). The judge, Clifford Einstein, presiding in the New South Wales Supreme Court, ruled on October 6 that John Emmott, Robert Nicholls, and David Slater had conspired together to exploit their positions in MWP to breach their employment contracts and fiduciary duties to MWP by secretly creating a competing firm of their own, Temujin International, registered in the British Virgin Islands.
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THE RED SICKLE MAKES A COMEBACK — RUSSIAN WHEAT FLOW TO SHIFT TO FAREASTERN PORTS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Three Japanese grain traders — Itochu, Sojitz, and Mitsui — are competing to establish the first major Russian grain export terminal at a Russian port on the Sea of Japan.

Rapid growth of demand for wheat in the Asian markets, and the price and transport advantages of Russian grain, have been stimulating Asian imports from Russia over higher-priced Canadian or Australian grains that require longer and costlier voyages. Traditionally, Russia has despatched its grain surpluses to the west, and to the southern edge of the Mediterranean. In recent years, Egypt has been the biggest buyer of Russian wheat; as well as the one of the largest importers of wheat worldwide. But for the past three months, Egyptian manipulation of incoming Russian cargoes — ostensibly to deal with weevil infestation but in reality to drive the price lower — has encouraged Russian exporters to reconsider their market strategy. Most Russian wheat bound for Asia is currently shipped from the Black Sea ports via the Suez Canal, and then through pirate-infested waters.

A source at the Russian Grain Union told Fairplay that if there were grain terminals on Russia’s eastern coast, the export capacity would run into millions of tonnes per annum. In the grain season that ended on June 30, Alexander Korbut, Vice President of the Union, said Bangladesh was the biggest Asian buyer from Russia, importing 509,000 tonnes over the year. India bought none this past year, he noted, but in the year before, 1 million tonnes. In 2007-2008, Japan bought 57,400 tonnes; this past year, just 4,800 tonnes. Malaysia is another potentially large importer of Russian wheat; this past season, it imported 10,000 tonnes. Korbut explained the dramatic fall-off in the past season’s exports to India and Japan as the result of falling wheat prices, and for Russia, rising shipment costs, making exports unprofitable. “Earlier there was a deficit of grain, now it’s rather cheap”, Korbut said.
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COURT CASTS SHADOW OVER RUSAL LISTING

By John Helmer in Moscow

MOSCOW – It is the clash of the titans of the global nickel, aluminum, copper, bauxite, cobalt and platinum markets – Vladimir Potanin’s Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, versus Oleg Deripaska’s United Company Rusal, the world’s biggest aluminum producer.

Deripaska, Russia’s richest man, is seeking to take over Norilsk, but his campaign has run into an unprecedented series of international court rulings, blowing the whistle on his business tactics. Blackening reputations, a court in Britain has ruled, is a red-card offense – whether committed in Russia, England, Switzerland, West Africa or Central Asia.

Hong Kong’s market regulators are obliged to follow carefully, because Rusal has publicly said it may try to sell its at present unlisted shares on the Hong Kong market if it fails to gain admission to the London Stock Exchange. No significant Russian company has previously listed on the Hong Kong exchange (HKEx) while, with the exception of the HSBC and Standard Chartered banks, there are no large non-Chinese companies on the bourse that are also co-listed outside Asia.
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CHINA STUMBLES IN FORGING RUSSIA GAS DEALS

By John Helmer in Moscow

China is a power behind global commodity flows as well as prices. But Beijing has been slow to understand that it is the horse that pulls the cart; the whip hand belongs to the coachman.

Chinese negotiators have already made one colossal mistake in pricing their supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG). They are making a second in trying to draw out of Russia a discount for natural gas. For China to insist on tying Gazprom down to the extraction cost of Siberian gas – at a fraction of the price Gazprom sells its gas to Western Europe – is producing an impasse in current negotiations and slowing down Russia’s readiness to invest in the pipeline systems, on which Chinese calculations depend.

President Dmitry Medvedev visited China last month. Ahead of the visit, he was reported as cautioning that Russian plans to export natural gas to China were under way, but that “technological details are still being discussed” and “negotiations were ongoing to finalize the price formula of Russian gas supplies to Chinese consumers”.
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IMF BLOWS WHISTLE ON TAJIK CORRUPTION

By John Helmer in Moscow

The wind-chill factor this winter in Tajikistan has produced record low temperatures and uncounted miseries for a population struggling with inadequate electricity supply and failing heat. Tajik newborns have been reported as having died from hypothermia while in hospital wards.

But on March 5, a single whistle-blow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sent a chill through the one well-heated residence in the country. That’s the presidential palace of Emomali Rakhmonov (aka Rahmon), the head of the land-locked Central Asian country since 1992.

For the IMF revealed publicly for the first time, and at the level of the fund’s board of directors, that the National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT) and the Finance Ministry in Dushanbe have been fiddling the country’s accounts for several years, falsifying the flow of funds and concealing the disappearance of as yet uncounted millions of dollars of international loan funds.

On March 5, the “Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) met today to review a report from the Managing Director on noncomplying disbursements to the Republic of Tajikistan and a breach of obligations under Article VIII, Section 5 of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement”.
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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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