RUSSIA CAN, THE UNITED STATES CAN’T CUT THE ICE

By Alexei Anpilogov, Moscow*
  @bears_with

A unique icebreaker will create a new geopolitical reality for Russia.
Russia has large-scale plans in the Arctic – and the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreakers will ensure Russia’s presence in this crucial region. Three icebreakers of the LK-120YA Leader project will be built according to the strategy for the development of the Arctic zone until 2035 approved by the President of the Russian Federation. What is unique about this ship and what tasks will it solve?

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SERGEI FRANK LOSES HIS FOOTING AT STATE TANKER COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Sergei Frank (lead image, right) is being removed from control of Sovcomflot, the Russian state tanker company and one of the largest oil and gas transporters in the world.  Frank is the only senior Russian state official to have been judged by the British courts to be dishonest and vindictive in litigation; to have perjured himself in courtroom testimony; and to have obstructed justice by a scheme of evidence fabrication against former Sovcomflot executives and partners.

Frank’s removal has yet to be confirmed officially; Sovcomflot is making no comments. The chief executive who has dominated the company for almost fifteen years appeared to be fully in charge at the July 24 board meeting. (more…)

SANCTION FOR SERGEI FRANK – UK APPEALS COURT APPROVES $75 MILLION PENALTY FOR FAILURE OF 12-YEAR VENDETTA LAWSUIT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Frank, a former federal transport minister and chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot since 2004, is unique among Russian state officials. He is the only one to have been adjudicated by a series of UK judges to have lied, been dishonest in evidence-gathering, and vindictive in his use of the courts against business rivals. 

This week in London, in a unanimous ruling by three judges of the Court of Appeal, Frank has been judged to have foolishly postponed the day of reckoning by unjustified criticism of his judges, and ordered to pay $75 million to a UK-based Russian shipowner. This puts an end to the 12-year vendetta which Frank has waged over allegations which this week’s ruling says were properly “dismissed because the transactions were not dishonest or in breach of trust”.

Frank is also unique among Russian state officials. Despite all the judgements against him, and the millions of dollars of penalties for his misjudgements which Sovcomflot has had to pay, he hasn’t been sacked. Not yet. (more…)

SERGEI FRANK ARRANGES PHANTOM PRIVATIZATION FOR STATE SHIPPING COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot, the wholly state owned shipping company, is to be privatized by the sale of 25% less one share on the Moscow stock exchange, the Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said at the Sochi investment forum this week. The announcement, decided last month in the government’s privatization plan for 2017,  was made in an aside to reporters,  and Oreshkin allowed no questions.

After fifteen years of attempts to sell and list Sovcomflot shares on international stock exchanges, the reversion to Moscow is an immediate blow to the government’s plans, and to the management role of Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image, lower left). In the longer term, Russian shipping insiders believe, it is a potential opportunity for a personal takeover by Kremlin favourite and the dominant oil transportation oligarch, Gennady Timchenko (lower right). According to Moscow newspaper reports,  Oreshkin’s ministry has decided to sell another 50% stake in Sovcomflot by the year 2019, retaining for the state just 25% plus one share. Frank himself has been attempting a state-financed management buyout, and the state controlled oil company Surgutneftegas is also a contender. Read more

The company, whose Soviet-era name means “Modern Commercial Fleet”, has failed to secure western underwriters and approval from stock market regulators in London, New York, and elsewhere, for an open-market listing. Instead, the Russian state treasury is to collect the privatization cash target of Rb24 billion (currently $414 million) from a scheme financed by the Central Bank and state banks, Sberbank and VTB. “This is fake news,” commented a Moscow shipping insider.” Just like last year’s Rosneft share sale.”  (more…)

BLACK SEA BUZZ – THE US NAVY WAITS FOUR DAYS, THEN SENDS SOS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

By John Helmer, Moscow

The US nuclear-armed missile destroyer, USS Porter, was steaming full-speed across the Black Sea in the direction of the Russian coastline, its Tomahawk firing radars activated, when a Russian airborne signals reconnaissance aircraft and three SU-24 fighter-bombers arrived in three waves. The US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart announced that the incidents had occurred on Tuesday, February 14, calling the Russian flights “unsafe and unprofessional”, putting the vessel and the militaries of the US and Russia at risk of “accident or miscalculation.”  The Pentagon repeated the exact words after daylight broke on the same day in Washington. But that was four days after the incidents had  actually taken place on Friday, February 10. The Russian Defense Ministry replied in the Moscow evening of February 14 that there “were no incidents”.

The release this week of news, or no news, or fake news has occurred on the eve of Thursday’s  meeting between the US and Russian chiefs of the General Staffs, General Joseph Dunford and General Valery Gerasimov.  Dunford, a Marine Corps officer, was appointed to the Pentagon post, the most senior ranking uniform officer under  Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump, by former President Barack Obama on October 1, 2015. Dunford’s 2-year term runs out in eight months’ time.  A statement from Dunford’s office, issued yesterday,  claims the meeting, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, “will discuss a variety of issues, including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises.”

Moscow sources in a position to know believe the US military was either exaggerating, or faking, last week’s incidents around the USS Porter – Destroyer Designated Guided, DDG-78 is its fleet number — in order to put pressure on President Trump’s readiness to relax the US policy of all-fronts confrontation with the Kremlin. (more…)

FINALE OF THE SOVCOMPLOT – UK JUDGE DISMISSES APPEAL AGAINST $72 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS; REJECTS RUSSIAN BANK SURETY; ORDERS IMMEDIATE CASH DOWN-PAYMENT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

 It’s the job of the Dorchester doorman to know his hotel guests’ sins; cater to them discreetly; but  keep them under his top-hat, forever secret.

During more than a decade of Sergei Frank’s trips to London to direct High Court litigations against the men he succeeded at Sovcomflot, the Russian state shipping company, he could count on the discretion of the hotel doorman.  After the final ruling came down on Thursday, Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot (lead image, right), can’t be sure that his humiliation by more than a dozen British judges will not now make him a laughingstock.

In a new 4-page judgement , Frank’s appeal against $72 million in compensation and costs to be paid to Sovcomflot’s ex-shipping partner, Yury Nikitin, has been dismissed, and he has been ordered to start paying immediately, with a down-payment of £1 million.

“There is no doubt,” ruled Sir Stephen Males, the presiding judge, “that, overall, the defendants [Nikitin’s companies] were the successful party. They obtained a judgment for US $59.8 million on the inquiry.” More than that, according to Males, the award of the costs of litigating should be paid to Nikitin, plus interest on further delays the shipping company takes. Not to do so, according to the judgement, “would fail to recognise the overall success which the defendants achieved.” (more…)

US LIFTS KREMLIN CAPITAL BLOCKADE — SOVCOMFLOT FLOATS $750 MILLION BOND, US BANKS SUBMERGE TIMCHENKO TAKEOVER RISK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian state bond for $750 million is such an obvious target, European bankers are asking why didn’t US government warfighters against Russia shoot down last month’s Sovcomflot issue. This followed by just four weeks the campaign by the US Treasury to stop US investment banks and the international security clearance companies, Euroclear and Clearstream, from trading the bond issued in May by Russian state bank, VTB.

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state-owned shipping company and one of the world largest oil tanker groups, successfully placed $750 million in 7-year bonds at 5.375% on June 23 . VTB and Sberbank were the Russian underwriters, J P Morgan and Citigroup were the American bank underwriters. Sovcomflot’s prospectus confirms its bond has been cleared to trade with all three global clearance agencies — Depository Trust Company (DTC) of New York, Euroclear of Brussels, and Clearstream of Luxemburg. Says a London bond trader: “The DTC is dominated by Citi, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan. Euroclear is owned by J P Morgan. These Americans can hardly be sanctions busters unless the US Treasury has all of sudden decided to go soft on the Russian oil and gas business, and on Russians who have been on the sanctions lists for two years. Is the war petering out, like the Obama Administration?”
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RUSSIA FIRES MOON SHOT OVER THE BOSPHORUS – TURKS THREATEN WAR

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It isn’t exactly certain what the Turkish military saw on a foredeck deck of the Russian Navy’s landing ship, Caesar Kunikov, as it passed through the Bosphorus Strait last Sunday. What is certain is that the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared the Russians had launched “a pure provocation” at Turkey, and that the Turks would react with matching force. “The necessary answer will be given in situations deemed to be a threat,” announced Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has been foreign minister for 12 days.

Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, identified the source of its photograph as the Twitter account of “photographer Emre Dağdeviren”. The photograph has disappeared from that source, if it ever was there.

The London media also went on the attack. The Guardian published a photograph, but the caption, “Photograph: None”, failed to identify the source or the authenticity. The Financial Times reported its Istanbul correspondent as saying it was “a particularly chilling incident.” With more caution, Reuters claimed that the Turkish television channel NTV “broadcast photographs that it said showed a serviceman brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck”. Reuters wasn’t sure what had happened, or whether the photographs had been fabricated; but the Reuters headline declared “Turkey [was] angered by by rocket-brandishing on Russian naval ship passing Istanbul.”
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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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CYPRUS IS MORE IMPORTANT TO RUSSIA THAN GREECE, BUT NOT THIS IMPORTANT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades agreed last week with President Vladimir Putin on what is reported in London and Washington to be a military basing agreement with Russia for Russia’s naval and air forces in the Mediterranean. In the aftermath, Putin did all the talking to the press, making it clear, if not explicit, that in current Russian strategy, Cyprus is far more important than Greece.

Returning home to Cyprus on the weekend, Anastasiades has disclosed no papers with his signature, assuring his party supporters – among them, the anti-Russian voter bloc on the island – that so far as military terms are concerned, he has signed nothing new. The Cyprus Mail, an anti-Russian newspaper, called Anastasiades’s trip to the Kremlin a “fizzle”. A source close to the Cyprus presidency comments that the idea of a Russian base agreement in Cyprus “is agitprop. It’s all a lot of bull.”
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PUTIN SUBMARINES SURROUND AUSTRALIA WITHIN RANGE OF US BASES – RAY ATOMIZES AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It is eleven weeks since President Vladimir Putin visited Brisbane, Australia, for a summit meeting of the G20 states. Putin was escorted in the Coral Sea, east of Brisbane, by a Russian Navy flotilla making the longest deployment of the Russian surface fleet ever displayed. Including Russian submarines shadowing the flotilla, this was also the most powerful Russian force ever to practice aiming at targets on the Australian continent operated by the Australian Defence Forces, the US military, or the two at bases they operate together.

Because these bases run in secret, most Australians had no idea what was happening, and what was changing. The Australian media – controlled by three proprietors — Rupert Murdoch; the government; and until February 6 a mining oligarch called Gina Rinehart — didn’t alert them. For the story the Australian and Russian press didn’t report, click.

The Russian Navy off the Australian east coast in November was armed with ballistic and cruise missiles, with nuclear warheads capable of striking every US warfighting base on the Australian continent, plus the Australian cities. Like Putin, the flotilla withdrew northwards to base on November 16. They left behind a death ray which is destroying the local politicians most hostile to receiving Putin at the summit.
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES ANOTHER UK COURT APPEAL, LOSES COSTS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Court of Appeal has issued a ruling to deny the Sovcomflot group and its Novoship subsidiary the right to appeal a corruption judgement to the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts. The judgement puts an end to nine years of attempts by Sovcomflot group chief executive Sergei Frank and Russian government officials to have the British courts convict Yury Nikitin, their former chartering partner, of bribery and corrupt profiteering in the business of shipping oil.
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UK COURT OF APPEAL SPRINGS SURPRISE ON SERGEI FRANK IN THE SOVCOMFLOT SAGA — YURY NIKITIN KEEPS $169.4 MILLION IN PROFITS, PURSUES $180 MILLION COUNTER CLAIM

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a unanimous three-judge ruling issued on Friday, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected a claim from Novoship, the state shipping company which is part of the Sovcomflot group, for recovery of more than $243 million in profits and interest. Novoship had claimed the money was earned corruptly by vessel charterer, Yury Nikitin. The court upheld Nikitin’s appeal, overruling a High Court judgement of December 2012, and decided that Nikitin’s profits had been earned honestly.

In a judgement written for the appellate court by Lord Justice Sir Andrew Longmore, the court upheld an order for Nikitin to pay $410,304.39. That amount, Nikitin’s lawyers say, had been offered at the start of the court case, but refused. According to Mike Lax, Nikitin’s solicitor, “as soon as Novoship alleged that the money was tainted, Mr Nikitin offered to repay it, even though he did know the background. We made a Part 36 offer to this effect at the commencement of the litigation which was not accepted by Novoship. Since Novoship have done no better than the offer we made from the outset, it is likely that Novoship will also have to pay most of our costs and their own costs of the litigation.”
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US NAVY’S BLACK SEA ALLY-REASSURANCE OPERATION RUNS OUT OF STEAM ONCE A WEEK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Navy’s current Russia containment tactic in the Black Sea has been unable to negotiate refuelling from naval or civilian fuel tankers while under way at sea, and requires port calls for fuel every seven days. The Navy has announced that its missile cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, put into the Bulgarian port of Varna on May 30. The vessel entered the Black Sea, 180 nautical miles to the south, on May 23. The illustration from the bridge of the Vella Gulf as it approached Varna is a US Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Edward Guttierrez III For the delay of the Vella Gulf in reaching the Black Sea, click.

According to the US Navy press release, Vella Gulf’s presence in Bulgaria reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners, while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region. While in Bulgaria, the Navy says the Vella Gulf crew will participate “in community relations events at the Bulgarian Naval Academy and a local orphanage, visit the Bulgarian Naval Museum and tour the historic city of Varna.”
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FOOTNOTE: USS VELLA GULF IS OVERDUE AT THE BLACK SEA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The USS Vella Gulf is the latest US Navy warship to be deployed in what Washington is calling its “mission to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region… It demonstrates our commitment to our … allies to enhance security, readiness and capabilities.”
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US NAVY IN BLACK SEA ENGAGEMENTS FOR AS LONG AS FUEL HOLDS OUT — MAYBE RUSSIAN FUEL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The latest but one in the US Navy deployments to the Black Sea ended on Monday when the frigate, USS Taylor, sailed south through the Bosphorus Straits. Three days before on May 9 the cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, had been reported as due to steam north through the straits and into the Black Sea. According to the US Navy spokesman in Washington on May 13, it is now under way in the eastern Mediterranean, destination undisclosed.

For its return voyage to the Mediterranean the Taylor had stopped at the Georgian port of Batumi, and was refuelled there. According to the bunker supplier, Marine Supply & Service, “generally, physical bunker supply by tankers is not available in Georgian ports since beginning of 2013. Vessels arriving to Georgian ports are supplied with MGO (Marine Gasoil) by tank trucks, while IFO (Fuel oil) delivery still does not exist.”
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US SENDS USS TAYLOR ON REASSURANCE CRUISE AGAINST RUSSIA — DOWN-GUNNED, NEW PROPELLER, INTERIM CAPTAIN

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Navy has announced that it has called back its frigate, USS Taylor, from the Souda Bay repair dock in Crete, and ordered her into the Black Sea from April 22. The Navy announcement says the mission is a routine one “consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law. Taylor’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.”
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GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY, ROUND-2 — USS DONALD COOK GIVES ODESSA A MISS, SAILS SOUTHEAST

gunboat_duck

By John Helmer, Moscow

On Thursday President Vladimir Putin described NATO missile batteries aimed at Russia’s Black Sea coastline as threatening the nuclear defences of southwestern Russia. It was the first time the president or Russian defence officials have put Crimea into Russian strategic survival doctrine. US Navy deployment in the Black Sea of ships armed with Aegis missiles is one of the concrete threats Putin was referring to. This has made the current Black Sea cruise of the USS Donald Cook, an Aegis-armed destroyer, of special importance. It is the reason a Russian military aircraft buzzed the Cook as it steamed towards Constanta port, in Romania.

It is also the reason why, as Putin was speaking in Moscow, the Cook pulled away from the Constanta dock, setting a course to the southeast from Constanta towards Georgia and Turkey, and not a northward course towards Odessa. In that Ukrainian port, public demonstrations against a port call by the Cook have been under way for several days.
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FIVE STEPS TO UNCOVER CORRUPTION AT UNITED SHIPBUILDING WHEN ROMAN TROTSENKO WAS IN CHARGE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

From the affairs of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), once chaired by Igor Sechin and run by his protégé Roman Trotsenko, much of significance flows, if not a great many new ships. And if it weren’t for the significance of those two names, not much would follow from the case of Ilya Novoselsky, until recently chief lawyer for USC, and now under arrest in St. Petersburg on charges of abuse of authority and fraud.

For the time being and for that reason, he is incommunicado. So too is Trotsenko (image below). Rosneft, which Sechin has headed since 2011, confirms that “at the moment Trotsenko leads Rosneft Overseas SA.” This entity is registered in Switzerland and maintains an office in Geneva. Trotsenko and a Swiss lawyer named Daniel Richard are the signatories; Richard’s daytime job is at the Geneva law firm of Python & Peter.
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GHOST ATTACK ON CRIMEA — THE FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTS THREAT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION, BUT FAILS TO DETECT US NAVAL OPERATION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian declaration of war and the despatch of troops to secure the Crimea would be very serious things, if they materialized.

The Financial Times reporter, Kathrin Hille (image), is the only person in the entire world who claims to have been told by “a senior government official”: “If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.” Hille not only keeps the name, rank and authority of this official secret, but she refuses to provide evidence to substantiate that the official exists and said the quoted words with the meaning Hille’s newspaper claimed in its story headline: “Russia rattles sabre over fate of Crimea”. Hille’s claim that a Russian government threat was issued last week to move forces into Crimea appears to be a fabrication.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV TO IGOR SECHIN, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? ROTTERDAM OIL TERMINAL TO ROSNEFT FOR THE ASKING

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If Ziyavudin Magomedov hadn’t persuaded a Moscow business newspaper to report yesterday that he is in negotiations with Rosneft, world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, the news that Vitol, world’s largest oil trader, has abandoned a 3-year old venture to build a new Rotterdam oil terminal with Magomedov would have been bad news indeed. Magomedov has a knack for exaggerated deal releases, though, and the Rotterdam press coverage of the latest episode makes this one look worse for Magomedov than if he had said nothing at all. Who in their right mind broadcasts that he has asked Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, for money until after Sechin has said yes.

In Magomedov’s case, an appeal to Sechin also means that not even the financier of Magomedov’s last resort, David Bonderman of US-based TPG Group, is willing to put up his dime.
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VICTOR PINCHUK’S INTERPIPE DEFAULTS AGAIN — IT’S A WRAP!

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpipe, the heavily indebted Ukrainian pipemaker owned by Victor Pinchuk (left foreground), has defaulted on its pledge to list its Eurobonds on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange by December 27, a notice from Deutsche Bank, the bond trustee, has revealed. This is Pinchuk’s second default in two months. On November 1, Interpipe announced it was unable to pay its international banks $106 million due on at least half a billion dollars in loans.

According to the latest disclosure, Deutsche Bank now has the authority to call for repayment of the face value of the Interpipe bonds plus interest. Interpipe’s last financial report indicates that as of December 31, 2012, the sum owing would be more than $198 million. A repayment call would also trigger repayment demands from Interpipe’s international banks and the Italian export agency SACE. The banks, led by ING of the Netherlands, Commerzbank of Germany, and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), are owed more than $543 million; SACE, $156 million.
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WHO SAYS GREENPEACE IS A SACRED COW? THE GLOBAL MEDIA, PRINT AND INTERNET, THAT’S WHO

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By John Helmer, Moscow

According to Colin Russell, an Australian who was the radioman on board the Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, he’s “a good man”. Arrested by Russian coast guards after barricading himself in the radio room on September 19, he was imprisoned in Murmansk and St. Petersburg, until he was granted bail and released last Thursday, November 28. Russell claimed on his release: “I don’t understand the reasons why I’m being detained. It’s two months’ hard time for nothing. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The initial charges considered against Russell by Russian prosecutors were resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and piracy. The legal case for the piracy charge has been spelled out, not in the Russian courts, but in the federal US District Court and US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which covers the northern Pacific coast states and Alaska. If you want to understand why piracy may be charged against unarmed attackers of a vessel at sea, read this US ruling carefully.
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THE SNOWBALL EFFECT — GREENPEACE DEFEATED AT HAMBURG TRIBUNAL, DISSENTING JUDGEMENTS AND US COURT ORDERS SUPPRESSED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

By releasing on bail all but one of thirty Greenpeace protesters charged for an attack on the offshore Russian oil platform Prirazlomnaya in September, Russian prosecutors and a St. Petersburg court have pre-empted and defeated Greenpeace and the Dutch Government.

Greenpeace and the Dutch had applied for “provisional measures” from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg. Their demand was for the release from arrest and prison, and for permission to leave Russia altogether, for the 30 protesters, including three of them who are Russian citizens. The demand also included the release of the Arctic Sunrise, the converted icebreaker which Greenpeace has been operating this year in the Barents Sea and Pechora Sea, above the Arctic Circle. The Russian government has preempted the vessel release by issuing guarantees of the state icebreaker fleet company which owns the berth at which the Arctic Sunrise is moored; and of the Coast Guard division of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is guarding it.
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SOVCOMFLOT STILL IN THE RED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s state-owned tanker company Sovcomflot has reported third-quarter and nine-month financial results showing that it continues to lose fleet operating revenues and run at a loss. In the nine months to September 30, the company says its time-charter equivalent (TCE) revenues were $657.2 million, down 1.6% on the same period of last year. Fleet operating costs were up by 7% to $284 million, primarily because of a jump in charter hire payments. On the bottom line, Sovcomflot says it ran a 9-month loss of $8.6 million; a year ago it was in the black at $42.5 million.
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RUSSIA’S PIRACY POLICY — CATCH, MAROON, SAIL AWAY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

While the Greenpeace organization has been drawing worldwide attention to pending charges of a pirate attack against the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea, Russian prosecutors and the Russian Navy reveal they have abandoned the prosecution of piracy threatening Russian vessels in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa.

Article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code defines piracy as an “assault on a seagoing ship or a river boat with the aim of capturing other people’s property, committed with the use of violence or with the threat of its use”. The penalty for a conviction on one count is prison for between five and ten years. Repeated acts of the same type “with the use of arms or objects used as arms”, according to section 2, draws a penalty of 8 to 12 years. If pirate acts are organized by groups the sentence grows from 10 to 15 years.
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LEAKED LETTER REVEALS SOVCOMFLOT DROPPED ITS CASE AGAINST CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA IN MOSCOW IN 2011, BUT KEPT ATTACKING HIM IN THE LONDON COURTS FOR THREE MORE YEARS — AND KEEPS ATTACKING IN MOSCOW

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By John Helmer, Moscow

New evidence has surfaced from the Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot showing that the current chief executive Sergei Frank ordered the company’s lawyers to continue their attempts to prosecute his predecessor Dmitry Skarga in the London and Moscow courts, while telling the General Prosecutor in Moscow they were dropping their case against him.

Last week Frank’s eight-year campaign against Skarga came to an end when the Supreme Court, the highest of the English courts, dismissed Sovcomflot’s application to appeal against two High Court judgements and one Court of Appeal judgement, all exonerating Skarga of Sovcomflot’s allegations, and requiring Sovcomflot to pay more than £8 million ($13 million) in compensation of his costs. The latest episode of that story was reported here.
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES FINAL APPEAL IN LONDON CASE AGAINST FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court of appeal, has dismissed an application from Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian shipping group, to appeal against earlier judgements in favour of former chief executive, Dmitry Skarga (right). A three-judge panel issued its ruling on October 29, saying Sovcomflot’s application “does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance…bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.”
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NOT SO JOLLY GIANT — RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR PONDERS GREENLAND GREENPEACE PROSECUTION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Greenland government is about to open court proceedings against Greenpeace for attempts to occupy an offshore oil rig two years ago, the chief police prosecutor in Nuuk, Morten Nielsen, has disclosed. Russian sources say that Gazpromneft or parent Gazprom may be considering a similar move. These legal actions are targeted at Greenpeace as an organization. Until now, only individual members of Greenpeace have been prosecuted – in 2010 and 2011 cases in Greenland, when altogether 24 individuals were arrested, jailed, convicted and fined; and in proceedings now under way in Murmansk for 30 Greenpeace members; they are currently in prison awaiting trial on Russian charges for an attempt to board the Gazpromneft oil platform Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea, on September 18.

Their vessel, the 38-year old motor yacht Arctic Sunrise, registered in The Netherlands, is under arrest in Murmansk port. For details of its position, see here.
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RUSSIA DOESN’T FORGIVE THEM THEIR TRESPASSES, AND NEITHER DID DENMARK AND GREENLAND WHEN GREENPEACE TRIED THE SAME OIL RIG OCCUPATION TACTIC THREE YEARS AGO — RUSSIA FOLLOWS GREENLAND LEAD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

“Greenpeace has broken the safety zone. Greenpeace activists have forced their entry into the drilling rig. This constitutes an obvious illegal act that disregards the democratic rules. It furthermore constitutes a severe violation of the safety regulations put in place to protect human lives and the environment. The Greenpeace action [is] a very grave and illegal attack on constitutional rights. It is highly disturbing that Greenpeace in its chase for media attention with all measures breaks the safety regulations put in place to protect people and the environment.”

If that sounds like a statement issued by the Murmansk prosecutor, the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor, Gazpromneft, or the Kremlin, you’d be mistaken. In fact it’s a statement by Kuupik Kleist, premier of Greenland, after his police had arrested a Greenpeace group which had attempted to occupy an oil drilling rig off the coast of Greenland. The date was more than three years ago, on August 31, 2010. The Greenland prosecutor also arrested a helicopter Greenpeace had hired to drop its members on to the rig, which was operated by Cairn Energy.
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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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