OPEN AND SHUT CASE – THE RUSSIAN DIAMOND MINE THAT HAS BEEN STOLEN AT LEAST FOUR TIMES IN TWENTY YEARS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Stealing diamonds is a common crime. Stealing diamond mines is not unheard of, particularly  in Africa. But the Grib diamond mine in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia is the only diamond mine to have been stolen four times in just twenty years. This is a record in the history of the diamond world, and one which four well-known Russian men and one lady can be proud of, quietly.

Alisher Usmanov (lead image, in frame), Vagit Alekperov (under fedora hat), and Vadim Belyaev (kepi) were the culprits until August of this year,  when Elvira Nabiullina, Governor of the Central Bank of Russia,  and Andrei Kostin, chief executive of the VTB state bank , joined in the getaway. The value of the loot is now $1.45 billion. (more…)

AFTER PRIVATIZATION, ALROSA INTRODUCES PIRATIZATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, the largest diamond miner in the world, and a public shareholding company listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange, has replaced its chief executive, Andrei Zharkov (lead image, left) , twelve months before his contract was due to expire.  On Monday the company refused to announce the change, or explain the reason. It refused even to disclose that Zharkov’s contract, which commenced on April 23, 2015, is for a three-year term ending in 2018. Nor has the company confirmed that Zharkov’s replacement is Sergei Ivanov Junior (right side, 1st) the 37-year old son of former Kremlin chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov (right side, 3rd).  

The official announcement of the switch was made by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, when he called Ivanov Junior into his office on Monday afternoon. Medvedev told Ivanov “the Alrosa company is the world’s largest [in diamond mining] and has backbone value for our country, in particular for development of the Far East. Therefore, I would ask you to concentrate on this.  It is necessary to work actively according to all production and economic programs with the [federal] Government, with the Ministry of Finance, to build up a fully fledged relationship with the regional authorities because the company has unconditional value for the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia. You should put all these factors into the set of your priorities as the company’s chief executive.”

Even after the ceremony at the prime ministry and the signing of the government’s appointment paper for Ivanov, Alrosa management was in denial. By the next day the company website had not removed Zharkov from the chief executive’s page; there was no mention of Ivanov. According to Alrosa spokesman Andrei Ryabinnikov, speaking on Monday afternoon: “we do not comment on the details of the employment agreement with Mr. Zharkov. We report all new appointments in the company in special press releases.”

Sources close to Alrosa in Moscow and in diamond trade centres abroad believe Zharkov’s abrupt ouster was the outcome of a power play between former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, an economic advisor to the Kremlin, and Yury Trutnev, the deputy prime minister in charge of the Russian Far East.  For many years the dominant state official on the Alrosa board, Kudrin was defeated.  Trutnev, victorious, leaked first word of Zharkov’s replacement by Ivanov on February 27.

The sources also reveal that Zharkov, a long-time protégé of Kudrin and subordinate of the current finance minister Anton Siluanov (lead image, right centre) was removed for pushing too hard the share sell-off and cash collection schemes of the Finance Ministry, also touted by Kudrin.  The Sakha republic, where most of Alrosa’s mines are based, and which holds 25% of the company’s shares, opposed Zharkov, and got Trutnev to agree. Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin then decided that the man they could trust to satisfy the locals, but remain under their thumb, was Ivanov Junior.

 “This is piratization by the state,” explains a London source. “It makes nonsense of the privatization of Alrosa shares, of the 34% free float, of the governance rules of the company. It is simply state companies reverting to form – that’s Soviet form but with less control than in the Soviet days.  It’s now a gang of men wearing state uniforms feathering their nests.”   State piratization is so sensitive that noone inside Alrosa, and almost noone in the Russian diamond industry, will admit what is happening. (more…)

NEWS FROM THE DEAD DROP — THE CROOK WHO FOUND HIS FACE, THE SPY WHO LOST HIS SECRETS

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By John Helmer. Moscow

Confidential subscribers to Dances with Bears have been provided with directions and codes required to find, then open, the dead drops for leaving and collecting the sensitive information on which this website’s investigations depend. This month the dead drop is a rat.  Inside the rat there is a moisture-proof container for miniaturized rolls of film, tape-recordings, official documents, and secret messages.

This week the rat has disgorged two film negatives. The first reveals the face of Benedict Worsley, the man behind Russia’s biggest bank robbery who, until now, has kept his face out of the public media and off the internet. The second is Robert Owen-Jones, an Australian government espionage agent.   Next week he will take over as the Russia-hating chairman of the global diamond trade regulator known as the Kimberley Process. (more…)

OLD MASTERS — YURY TRUTNEV OFFERS RUSSIAN ART COLLECTORS SAFE HARBOUR IN VLADIVOSTOK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Yury Trutnev, the Kremlin’s special representative for the Russian Fareast, has come up with a scheme, starting this month, for storing the world’s most valuable art works in Vladivostok, one of the world’s smallest art markets, with the personal backing of President Vladimir Putin; and on the advice of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the art-collecting oligarch exiled to Switzerland and Monaco, who is charging Yves Bouvier, the French operator of comparable art storage schemes in Europe, with multimillion dollar art fraud.

This tale was published in Mediapart, a French internet publication, on October 11. It was translated into Russian and published two days later. Not a shred of evidence has since been found to substantiate it. Desperation measures then, but for whose benefit?
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BELGIUM GOES TO WAR AGAINST RUSSIA – WHAT WILL ALROSA DO TO THE ANTWERP DIAMOND TRADE?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 wiped out Amsterdam as the centre of the global diamond trade at the time. When the war ended, Antwerp, across the border in Belgium, was preferred by the diamantaires, and so it has remained. Until last week, perhaps.

That’s when the Belgian courts accepted an application from a group of Yukos shareholders to seek out and arrest bank accounts and other assets of identifiable Russian state entities. Alrosa, the state-owned diamond mining company, is considering whether it should continue to do business in Antwerp. Alrosa accounts for 28% of the world’s diamond supply, and 56% of Russian diamonds are exported to Belgium. As the Kremlin orders Russian trade in strategic commodities like oil and gas to move eastward and southward, away from Europe, will Alrosa redirect its diamonds?
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US JUDGE PROTECTS PUTIN DIAMOND MINE — LUKOIL ESCAPES US COURT TEST OF 17-YEAR MINE FRAUD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A federal US judge has dismissed a 17-year long attempt by Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC) to recover damages for the alleged theft of its stake in a multibillion-dollar Russian diamond mine by two Russian oligarchs, Alisher Usmanov and Vagit Alekperov (lead image, left), and Alekperov’s company, LUKoil. The legal action protects LUKoil, which has been under US Government sanctions since September 12, from liabilities — if the ADC lawsuit were to succeed — of almost $5 billion.
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WHO IS PULLING THE STRINGS AT ALROSA?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

When a man falls on his sword, his demise isn’t usually blamed on medical reasons.

A statement from the state diamond miner Alrosa on Monday reported that chief executive Fyodor Andreyev (image, lower right) “decided to resign from the post of ALROSA president for medical reasons. He announced about this decision at the weekly management meeting held on 22 September. Stepping down from the operative management of the company, Fyodor Andreyev will continue to take part in ALROSA governance as a member of the Supervisory Board.” Now the smallest child in Russia knows that to absent himself from school, he must deliver a signed medical certificate. For a publicly listed shareholding company, as Alrosa has been since October 2013, to omit such a detail, and for Andreyev to judge it unnecessary, signals how little has changed in the governance of the company, and how unaccountable and non-transparent Andreyev was both in his coming to Alrosa, and in his going from it.
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WHO IS EMPLOYING THE DECOY TO BLAST FYODOR ANDREYEV? LEV LEVIEV SAYS IT ISN’T HIM. WHAT DID THE ALROSA CHIEF EXECUTIVE DO TO DESERVE YURY TRUTNEV’S SHOT?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Diamonds are a bit like champagne: even in the worst of times, demand can grow among consumers, and for producers, sales revenues and profits too.

Good news isn’t usually the honey which attracts this particular bear; and Alrosa has been producing plenty of it. Released early this month, the company’s financial report for 2013 and operational report for the first quarter of 2014 show that production of rough stones is up, with higher grades for each tonne of ore and higher volumes of ore out of the company’s newest mines. Rough diamond prices are rising, so sales revenues grew at 11% last year, and are forecast to accelerate to 16% this year. Compared to its major global rivals, Alrosa has been able to maintain its output at the minehead, while the others – De Beers, Rio Tinto — have retreated, and BHP Billiton has left the business altogether.
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LUKOIL WILL SELL THE GRIB DIAMOND PIPE, BUT ALROSA CAN’T AFFORD THE PRICE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time Alrosa, the state-owned diamond miner, has come out in public and said it wants to buy Grib, the only commercially developed Russian diamond mine owned by LUKoil and its chief executive, Vagit Alekperov. Why it should say so now, when earlier announcements by Alrosa have veiled the target and concealed sale and purchase talks with LUKoil a year ago, isn’t clear.

“If the asset proves to be interesting,” said Igor Kulichik, Alrosa’s chief financial officer, “and if we agree on the price then we are prepared to discuss with Lukoil the purchase of this asset.” Kulichik was briefing sector analysts on Alrosa’s third-quarter financial results on December 5. He was explicitly asked about the Grib sale by a VTB analyst. “We know this asset quite well and we follow it. Yes, Lukoil is targeting to commence production and beneficiation early next year and in the next year they are targeting to already sell from there. We discussed with Lukoil a potential sale of that pipe about a year ago. But our geologists find it difficult to assess exactly what raw material is there in that pipe. So we decided not to rush, basically to let Lukoil start production there, see what comes out of that pipe, see how it develops and then to consider the potential purchase of the asset.” Kulichik made his comment on December 5; Alrosa published the transcript five days later.
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BLOOD MEDIA — LET’S HEAR IT FOR INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS AGAINST GOOGLE, YAHOO, FACEBOOK, MICROSOFT, APPLE, CISCO, AND OTHER US GOVERNMENT-BACKED VIOLATORS OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If the US Government and Congress believe they have the right to impose sanctions on Russian individuals and companies for conduct that is legal in Russian and international law, what would happen if the boot were on the other foot – if the Russian Government imposed sanctions on US individuals and corporations for violating Russian law?

The question arises often, very often. Two weeks ago, for instance, a group of US Senators told the US Treasury that VTB, Vnesheconombank and Gazprombank should be penalized for violating “international sanctions by enabling Syria to pay for imports and receive funds for exports. This assistance eases much of the financial burden on the Assad regime, allowing it to continue military purchases and pay the soldiers that sustain the war in Syria.” For background on Russia’s legal position toward the Syrian conflict, read this.
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ALROSA REPORTS PROFIT GROWTH AS DIAMOND PRICES GAIN — PRODUCTION PAY RISES BUT MANAGEMENT IS CUT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Diamond prices have been growing in the global market since January, but depending on your choice of accounting period, the growth rate is either not much; or not at all; or negative since July. Alrosa, the state-owned diamond miner directed by Fyodor Andreyev (image left), reported its latest financial results this week, noting “positive dynamics in the diamond markets in H1 2013, which resulted in a 7% growth of rough diamond prices since the beginning of 2013.”

The company is hoping to make a start selling 14% of its shares on the Moscow Stock Exchange next month, so it’s putting its best foot forward. A bloc of 7% will come from the 51% shareholding of the federal government; another 7% bloc will come from the Sakha republic’s 32% holding. The regional authorities want the privatization to go no further; so they won’t be too unhappy if share sale demand fails to reach Andreyev’s top of the range valuation at $15 billion. Vladimir Potanin, who was interested in taking over the company in the late 1990s, announced this week he isn’t interested in buying shares, and for good measure accused the federal government of artificially stoking demand.
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SPEEDY GONZALES AND RUSSIA’S RUSH TO ENDORSE THE ZIMBABWE ELECTION RESULT – HOW THE LAVROV DOCTRINE WORKS IN AFRICA

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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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LUKOIL AND AGD START 4-MILLION CARAT DIAMOND MINE AT GRIB

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (AGD), the LUKoil diamond-mining subsidiary, has made its first detailed presentation of the new mine it is building in Arkhangelsk, with confirmation of the new mine’s diamond grades, volume of production, and financial value. The Grib mine, named after the Russian geologist who first found the deposit, is the first major diamond source to start production in Russia in several years, and the first to be developed independently of the state miner, Alrosa. As chief executive Maxim Mescheryakov, AGD’s chief executive, told a Toronto, Canada, audience, the presentation is designed “to show that we exist; that we are big; and that we commence production this year, fourth quarter. We are talking about 4 million carats delivered to the market annually.”
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LIFEBUOY MEASURES AT ALROSA – DID FYODOR ANDREYEV BEG NICKY OPPENHEIMER TO INFLATE HIS SHARE PRICE?

By John Helmer, Moscow

If necessity is generally judged to be the mother of invention, crude invention – the fake that is exposed swiftly – is generally the product of desperate mothers. The idea that the Oppenheimer family is keen to buy Alrosa shares, reported by one Moscow business newspaper yesterday and reinforced by another, was regarded as ludicrous by miners and diamantaires who know the circumstances in which Nicky Oppenheimer (image centre) and De Beers were ousted from their last Russian venture in 2008. But a little checking by the Moscow reporters should have turned up the evidence that such a deal, even the faintest interest in it, is also impossible until at least August 15, 2014. So who in Moscow is so desperate as to promote an impossible sale of Alrosa shares? And what does a display of desperation do to the future share price?

The Oppenheimers were pushed out of Russia in 2008 in circumstances which have never been publicly admitted. LUKoil’s controlling shareholder, Vagit Alekperov, the De Beers joint-venture partner initially approved by then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, had a hand in it. So did Alrosa, then ruled by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin. Between the three of them, the formal approval by the government’s Control Commission to authorize the mining of the Grib pipe in Arkhangelsk, was privately reversed, first by delay, then on a technicality, and finally by the writing on the wall. Since the same cast of characters is still running the same business in the same way – expect Kudrin’s return shortly – the Oppenheimers can be certain there is noone in Russia whose word could reliably safeguard their investment.
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OUT OF AFRICA, BACK TO AFRICA — ALROSA RESUMES OFFSHORE MONEYSPINNERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa is reopening its African business but there is no song and dance yet. The chief executive, Fyodor Andreyev, is in Angola this week, the company has confirmed, and is discussing with state diamond company Endiama the formation of joint ventures to explore for diamonds on the Angolan-Congolese border. Similar exploration ventures are being planned with Botswana Diamonds Plc and an unidentified company in Zimbabwe. Andreyev’s negotiations are the result of a still secret shift in Alrosa’s policy towards capital expenditure outside the republic of Sakha.

According to the company announcement on April 2, “in the near future, ALROSA’s geologists will conduct preliminary work to assess the areas most promising in terms of potential discovery of a primary diamond deposit.”
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MOTHER NATURE DELIVERS RUSSIAN BOUNTY THE NATURAL WAY, BY SURPRISE, BUT THE GESSEN CLAQUE IS ENVIOUS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week Mother Nature delivered a once-in-a-billion-geological-year event — one of the largest natural diamonds ever found in Russia, at Alrosa’s Yubileynaya (Jubilee) mine in fareastern Sakha (Yakutia) (image right). The American diamonds found to date have been peanuts by comparison.

Then ПРИРОДА МАТЬ despatched a meteorite at 54,000 kilometres per hour to burn, bang, break up, and drop over Chelyabinsk city in the central Urals (image left). Not since the Tunguska event of 1908 has such a thing happened in Russia. The US reports three times more meteorite falls than Russia; but at an estimated 10 tonnes by the time it was over Chelyabinsk, the latest meteorite was bigger than most of its American counterparts. It killed noone, but flying glass and blast effects injured about 1,100. Early the same week, a combination of Mother Nature’s blizzards and tornadoes in the US killed at least 9, and inflicted far more valuable damage.
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LUKOIL PLANS LAUNCH OF GRIB MINE IN ARKHANGELSK IN SEPTEMBER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian oil company LUKoil plans to launch commercial production of diamonds at its Grib diamond mine in September, the company confirms. It is the first diamond mine to be opened in Russia since Alrosa, the state diamond miner, commissioned the Nyurba mine in Sakha in 2003. Alrosa’s Lomonosov diamond mine, less than 50 kilometres from the Grib site, has been in development since 2005, and the first stripping for the Botyubinskaya mine in Yakutia commenced last month.

On LUKoil’s and Alrosa’s current estimates, the Grib mine with 98 million carats holds roughly twice the volume of mineable diamonds compared to Lomonosov next door. Grib ranks fourth in size of reserves on the table of Russia’s diamond mines, after Udachny, Jubilee, and Mir, all being worked by Alrosa in Sakha.
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ALROSA CONFIRMS TIFFANY DIAMOND CONTRACT, PREFERENTIAL ASSORTMENT SUSPECTED BY RUSSIAN DIAMOND CUTTERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, the Russian diamond miner, signed an agreement on Wednesday [November 28] to supply selected rough diamonds to Tiffany of New York. Signing with Alrosa chief executive Fyodor Andreyev was Andrew Hart, president of Laurelton Diamonds, a Belgian subsidiary of Tiffany, as well as executive vice president of Tiffany Corporation in New York. The Alrosa press release reports that there had been single-lot supply deals on spot market terms between the two in the past, but this is the first long-term agreement between them. According to Andreyev, it “will make our partnership permanent and serve to increase the supply of diamonds to Tiffany.”

This is the second time in a month when Alrosa has publicized diamond supply contracts. On November 13 Alrosa announced it had signed a two-year contract with Conroy Cheng, executive director of Chow Tai Fook, the Chinese diamond-cutter and jewellery manufacturer of China.
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THE BIG BOART BANG – RUSSIA TO SUPPLY DIAMONDS FOR CHINESE TEETH, SAVE GLOBAL DIAMOND MARKET

By John Helmer, Moscow

After more than forty years, the last great Soviet state secret is out. And in its wake, a sensitive Chinese state secret, too.

Russian geologists reported over the weekend that the Popigai crater on the border between the Krasnoyarsk and Sakha regions of north eastern Siberia, formed by the 100-kilometre wide impact of a meteorite about 35 million years ago, could contain trillions of carats of small diamonds. The secret has been locked up in the Soviet archives since the discovery of the crater at least forty years ago.
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THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF TRUTH DECIDES THAT ANOTHER THREE WELL-KNOWN RUSSIANS ARE LIARS – LEV LEVIEV, ARKADY GAYDAMAK, AND CHIEF RABBI BERL LAZAR

By John Helmer, Moscow

When a powerful Kremlin official recently confided that he values the usefulness of UK High Court proceedings involving some of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen, he probably wasn’t thinking of the case which concluded on Friday with a judgement issued by Justice Sir Geoffrey Vos. The Russian official was intimating that the British court is providing an internationally credible platform for forensic analysis of crimes which have been the foundations of many recent Russian fortunes. He probably wasn’t thinking of the diamond and real estate fortune of Lev Leviev (image left); the Soviet debt, gun and diamond fortune of Arkady Gaydamak (centre); or the celestial credits of Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar (right). All three were condemned by this ruling.
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HOW TO POKE A PIG IN A POKE — ALROSA PLANS 18% INCREASE IN DIAMOND OUTPUT, 61% INCREASE IN RESERVES – OFFERS VAGIT ALEKPEROV A TAKEOVER OF HIS DIAMOND ASSET AT NO MONEY

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa has announced new strategic targets until the end of 2021, following this week’s meeting of the Supervisory Board, as Alrosa’s board of directors is known. How much of the projected growth will depend on Alrosa getting the Kremlin to persuade Vagit Alekperov of LUKoil to do what he doesn’t want to do is the big question for them all — especially for Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who has been demonstrating sharp interest recently in the price he can arrange for an Alrosa asset sale.

An Alrosa statement says its current diamond production level of about 34 million carats per annum will be lifted to between 38 and 40 million carats, a cumulative growth rate of 6%, by increasing production at the new underground mines in Yakutia, and expanding open-pit production at mines in the Arkhangelsk region of northwest Russia. At the same time, the company’s diamond reserves are to be lifted to 1.19 billion carats, a 61% increase over their present level.
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FOOTNOTE — SHUVALOV STUBS TOE ON ALROSA SCHEME, POSTPONES KICKOFF

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Kremlin has not decided yet how it should privatize Alrosa, according to official disclosures at yesterday’s cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The kickback, I mean kickoff of the diamond privatization worth at least $14 billion remains out of reach for the time being.
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KERIMOV AND SHUVALOV COOK UP NEW SCHEME FOR ALROSA AS RUSSIAN AS APPLE PIE – MAKE THAT ЧЕРНИКА

By John Helmer, Moscow

If President Vladimir Putin is intending to demonstrate he has already lost control of the newly appointed government and their oligarch business partners, then in the proposal of Suleiman Kerimov to expand Alrosa’s asset base by buying BHP’s diamond mines in Canada, and privatize 51% of the company in a public share offering, he has his chance. And who better to address this problem (opportunity) than the First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov?

Kerimov made his proposal on May 14 in Vedomosti, and followed with an unprecedented acknowledgement by his spokesman in Bloomberg. In the Vedomosti report, Alrosa sources were reported to have said that last year Kerimov had asked Alexei Kudrin, then finance minister and chairman of Alrosa’s supervisory board, to endorse a deal in which a 51% state shareholding in Alrosa would be put up for sale. Kerimov reportedly told Kudrin also that the international marketability and value of the Alrosa shares should be supplemented by adding diamond mines in Canada which BHP is offering for sale at an initially reported price of about $750 million. Naturally, Kerimov added, his friends at VTB, one of Russia’s state banks, would be happy to lend whatever BHP wanted for the deal.
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ALROSA ISSUES SHARE WARNING, LUKOIL REPEATS MINE SALE OFFER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa has announced that the privatization plan for sale of its shares on the open market should be restricted in order to preserve government control of the company. The announcement was released Friday after a meeting of the Supervisory Board, Alrosa’s board of directors.

Now why exactly would this group of government officials representing the principal and controlling shares in the Russian diamond mining monopoly go to all the trouble of declaring the obvious? Who doesn’t already know and accept this policy?
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LUKOIL ADVERTISES ARCHANGEL DIAMOND MINE FOR SALE

By John Helmer, Moscow

LUKoil, the second largest of Russia’s oil producers and exporters, is thinking of disposing of its northwestern Russian diamond mine known as Grib, selling the subsidiary Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (AGD) which has held the controversial mining licence through fifteen years of litigation and arbitration with Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC), a De Beers-owned company until its bankruptcy in 2010.

This isn’t the first time LUKoil has advertised such a sale. Because of the unresolved litigation and the mountain of evidence it has produced, the asset may be unsellable, at least to a foreign buyer. But if timing and tattle are telling against the sale, then is LUKoil doing no more than asking the state, through Alrosa, to take the diamond-mine off its hands at a conveniently high price?
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DOWN FEDINKA! SIT! – ALROSA SHARE SALE OFF UNTIL 2017

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa’s state-owned shares will not be privatized until 2017, if then, a Kremlin document reveals this week.

The document is a 35-page briefing paper compiled by the Ministry of Economic Development, and presented by the Minister, Elvira Nabiullina, to President Dmitry Medvedev on January 24. In a tabulation of the government’s latest privatization schedule, at page 11 of the brief, a 50.9% stake in Alrosa is identified as subject to sale by 2017. The ministry declined to respond to a request for clarification.
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ARCHANGEL DIAMOND TAKES LUKOIL TO THE MAT AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC) has this month renewed its battle against LUKoil for the latter’s alleged theft of multi-billion diamond mining rights at the Verkhotina deposit in the Arkhangelsk region of northwestern Russia. The new claims were lodged in the US District Court in the District of Colorado on January 6. Lead lawyers for ADC are the US-Russian law firm, Marks & Sokolov.

The case has been in the US and Swedish courts for more than a decade; in 2010 ADC’s failure to recover its 40% stake in the project and enforce its joint-venture agreement to mine the diamonds resulted in the company’s bankruptcy. What remains of ADC is a liquidation trust, based in Colorado, where ADC once had its headquarters for the Russian mining project. LUKoil operations in Colorado have also been documented in the court submissions in order for ADC’s applications to the courts in that state to be allowed to go to trial.
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PUTIN SAYS SOMETHING TO ANDREYEV — ALROSA SHARE SALE PROMOTION DEFLATES

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa has been attempting to boost its share price, following the start to regular share trading on the Moscow MICEX exchange at the beginning of this month. On December 13, the company released a forecast for next year of rising mine volumes and higher revenues and profits.

But four days earlier, on December 9, Alrosa’s chief executive Fyodor Andreyev (image left) met Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for his first-ever solo session with the head of government (image right). While Putin meets from time to time with heads of the Sakha republic, where Alrosa’s mines are concentrated – the last of those was on January 18 of this year — Putin has not met one on one with a chief executive of the company since 2004. That was when he discussed moving the then chief executive, Vyacheslav Shtirov, from the company to the presidency of the Sakha republic.
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SEX CHANGE IN THE DIAMOND BUSINESS — ALROSA NOW WEARS THE PANTS, AFTER THE OPPENHEIMERS SELL THEIR BALLS, I MEAN THE CROWN JEWELS

By John Helmer, Moscow

There’s not much of a market in used testicles.

When Jonathan Oppenheimer (right image) was obliged to sell his last week, ending the Oppenheimer family’s century-old diamond business, those closest to the affair in Johannesburg sniffed that Jonathan Oppenheimer’s wife Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer had so gravely damaged the value of the De Beers brand, her father-in-law, Nicholas Oppenheimer, was obliged to accept a discount buyout from Anglo American Corporation.
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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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