ALEXEI MORDASHOV TRIES TO SELL HIS NORDGOLD SHARES OUTSIDE RUSSIA AGAIN, BUT HIS FAILURE ISN’T THE LESSON THE RUSSIA WARFIGHTERS WANT YOU TO BELIEVE

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Last month the Russian metals and mining oligarch, Alexei Mordashov (lead image, left), took a spectacular  pratfall in front of the international money markets. Not even hand-holding by Citigroup, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, and Bank of Montreal could save him from the public embarrassment.

On June 3, Mordashov and the banks announced his intention to sell shares in his goldmining company Nordgold (Nord  Gold PLC) on the London Stock Exchange, telling investors that future demand and the price of gold, and hence the profitability of Mordashov’s company, are bound to be  boosted because of “possible inflationary pressures in the medium term from an exceptionally low interest rate environment and the possibility of currency revaluations, including U.S. dollar depreciation”.

On June 22, Mordashov got a Nordgold executive to announce the share sale was cancelled for the foreseeable future. His reason was that “acceleration in expected interest rate rises have created significant uncertainty and volatility in the resources sector, in particular impacting gold and gold equities. Nordgold has determined that it would therefore not be sensible to pursue an IPO at this particular juncture.”

If inflation was good reason for buying shares in Mordashov’s business at the start of the month, and then in less than three weeks Mordashov’s reason for not selling the shares, then Mordashov has made a fool of the market and a liar of himself. “That has to be bullshit,” responded a leading London mining analyst, who believes Mordashov’s vanity is to blame for imagining his shares would fetch a higher value in the market than share-buyers are willing to pay; and also Citigroup, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Bank of Montreal and the other bankers and brokers involved who were “too afraid to give him good advice on pricing.”

There is one thing more laughable in this episode than that.  This is the effort which the Russia-warfighting media in London – for the first time combining Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspapers with Ian Hislop’s Private Eye —   to make the failure of the share sale attempt appear to be an act of “British policy towards Putin and Russia’s rich”, in the words of Private Eye — as symbolic as the voyage of HMS Defender across the Crimean red line on June 23,  the day after Mordashov and his bankers took their tumble.

(more…)

NODDY DOES IT AGAIN — ALEXEI MORDASHOV ASKS THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA, ALSO THE PRESIDENT OF CYPRUS, TO BELIEVE WHAT A GOOD BOY HE IS

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Among Russian oligarchs, Alexei Mordashov (lead image, centre) holds two records. One is for empty promises: he has never told the whole truth in public or when he has visited President Vladimir Putin (right) for private conversations about his business plans and the Russian state interest. Mordashov’s other record is for losing more money invested in the US than any other Russian; that was at least $3 billion in steelmills which Mordashov bought to turn himself into a global steelmaker in case his Severstal steel group was taken over at home. 

It is therefore almost certain that when Mordashov flew to Cyprus last week to tell the Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades (lead image, left) he intends to double the number of Russian tourists to Cyprus, it’s another empty promise. This is also the assessment of Russian and Cypriot tourism analysts.

(more…)

CANADIAN DRAGON VERSUS RUSSIAN RAIDER – ALEXEI MORDASHOV MEETS HIS MATCH AT COLUMBUS GOLD, OR VICE VERSA

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time Canadian mine stock investors say that Russian mining and metals oligarch Alexei Mordashov has run into resistance to his takeover schemes by a combination of share dilution, insider rewards,  and share price manipulation —  tactics which  have succeeded for Mordashov when he acquired the last three Canadian goldminers he took aim at.  

Speaking of the takeover now under way by Mordashov’s London-listed Nordgold for Toronto-listed Columbus Gold, shareholders, analysts, insiders and stock promoters have been discussing on the Canadian Stockhouse bulletin board  what they expect to happen next. A small stakeholder told others on the bullboard in December: “Can’t see any reason Nord does not move quickly on [Columbus Gold]  as it will only get more expensive.”  A few days later, Brien Lundin, a gold stockpicker in the US,  advised his clients to take advantage of the Russian interest:  “I urge you to take advantage of any market-induced weakness to buy the company in advance of the feasibility study.”  Another bullboard entry warned on February 9: “Pretty obvious they’re going to take us out, put those 5 million Z’s [gold reserves] in their portfolio, and continue on with their growth plan. We’re the proverbial low hanging fruit, it’s now just a matter of price.”

The next day another commentator warned: “As for [Columbus Gold].. NORD has never failed to follow through on eventually taking over a company in which they have picked up a notable minority stake.” He drew the response:  “NORD would definitely like to steal it but they won’t be able to because too many other buyers want it also. So NORD may decide to sell instead at a premium and take their marbles somewhere else where they can get a better deal.” 

The Canadian consensus is that Mordashov is making a raid on Columbus Gold. “What I think we have to watch for is if they low ball us like they don’t want any partners, putz around for a year or so, then sell the whole shooting match to one of the above for a $ billion or better, screwing us out of our fair share. Got to keep a close eye on those Russians…” (more…)

ANOTHER FAKE PRIVATIZATION, ANOTHER LOAN FOR SHARES — SUKHOI LOG, THE BIGGEST GOLDMINE LICENCE IN RUSSIA, GIVEN TO SERGEI CHEMEZOV AND SULEIMAN KERIMOV

 

By John Helmer, Moscow

Gold reserves are handy in wartime, especially when your enemies are the United States Government and the US dollar banking system operating worldwide.  

So, since the war to overthrow President Vladimir Putin began in 2014, the Central Bank of Russia has accelerated its purchases of gold bullion by more than double, becoming the largest gold buyer among the world’s central banks, and the holder of the sixth largest gold reserve.  Roughly half the volume of this gold has been bought by the Central Bank from Russian goldmines.

Putin has also decided to start digging out Sukhoi Log, in Irkutsk region. That’s the largest unmined gold deposit in Russia, and one of the biggest proven reserves of mineable gold in the world.

For the past quarter of a century, the Kremlin has been unwilling to decide who, if anybody, will be permitted to mine Sukhoi Log.  That decision was finally made last week, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed the award of the licence to mine Sukhoi Log to a special purpose company formed by Russian Technologies (Rostec, Ростех,  RT) and Polyus Gold. Together, they are paying Rb9.406 billion (about $162 million) for the licence.  “According to the Governmental order affirming the results of the auction, SL Gold Limited Liability Company…, a company established by JSC Polyus and LLC RT Business Development [Rostec], will be granted the right to develop Sukhoi Log for the exploration works and extraction of gold and silver…Subject to obtaining the license, the Company intends to conduct additional exploration works and a feasibility study, which is expected to last for approximately three to four years, supported by international mining and engineering consultants. Based on the results of that study, the Company will evaluate options to initiate construction activities at the Sukhoi Log.”

What this means is that Rostec and Polyus Gold are promising to take up to four years to re-read the mountain of geological, metallurgical and engineering studies, reports and plans compiled on Sukhoi Log for 25 years  by every major Russian and international mine consultancy, including the leading goldminers of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the UK. Then, when the re-reading is done, Rostec and Polyus Gold aren’t promising to produce any gold at all. On this undertaking, they have borrowed state bank cash in order to pay the state budget a licence fee. This looks like a privatization, but it is a phantom. (more…)

ALEXEI MORDASHOV PREPARES $400 MILLION DOLLAR TAKEOVER OF CANADIAN GOLDMINER – HIT AND RUN FOR KREMLIN FOREIGN INVESTMENT BAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alexei Mordashov (lead image, top left), the mining and metals oligarch, promised President Vladimir Putin (centre) that in future he would stick to investing in Russia. “We did a great deal of work abroad,” he told  the President, “but came to the conclusion that our future lies primarily in Russia, in the Russian market, and our production here is most efficient. We sold the North American division and are focusing almost entirely on our Russian assets.” That was on January 19, 2015.

Mordashov was back in front of Putin at the Kremlin this week, telling him on December 19: “I would also like to ask you not to reduce the level of your cooperation.”  What Mordashov didn’t tell Putin was how much he has invested in Canadian goldmining over the past year, and how much more, according to Russian and Canadian sources,  he is planning to invest next year. That may come to $400 million if a gold prospect in French Guiana, owned by a Canadian mining company, turns out to be El Dorado when a report Mordashov is preparing on the exploration results and gold value is due to be released next March.  (more…)

THIS IS MOSCOW CALLING! PARDON THE INTERRUPTION

1884

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you can read this, you missed an attack on this website. It started, coincidentally, when the Moscow office day commenced. The general commanding our rocket forces forbids us to reveal  the method of attack and  how it was intercepted and zapped, restoring our coverage of stories like this one on Alexei Mordashov’s takeover of the goldminer Northquest. Click

Not that he and Nordgold would have anything to do with this morning’s attack on our website. But if  he and the Nordgold raiders try to attack Toronto-listed Columbus Gold, their next target according to a leading Canadian gold market source, we are ready.  “The Canadian rules need to change,” the source recommends, “so that the resisting minority shareholders get to put forward their own third-party valuation as a comparison to the one done by the newly formed Board of the acquirer.  This would at least give a high and low valuation which could be subject to mediation.”

GOLDFINGER, LIGHT FINGER — ALEXEI MORDASHOV TAKES ANOTHER CANADIAN GOLDMINE ON THE CHEAP

1881

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the criminal fraternity it’s believed that light fingers are a juvenile condition it’s best for the practicioner to grow out of when more serious property transfers are in contemplation.

Alexei Mordashov (lead image, right), the Russian steelmaker and goldminer, is a quick learner and a grown-up. With a net worth currently estimated at over $15 billion from Severstal, Nordgold, and other Russian businesses, his record of asset buying has more often been one of paying too much, and losing money, especially in the US. Last month, however, in litigation in Ontario, Canada, he was charged by shareholders of the gold prospector Northquest Limited,   with manipulation of the company’s executives and board in order to take over the company’s gold for a steal.

The resisting shareholders who took their case to the Ontario Superior Court, are veteran geologists with three decades of experience of gold deposits in the Nunavut territory of  northeastern Canada,  which are Mordashov’s target.  The resisters claim Mordashov’s goldmine holding Nordgold  has taken over Northquest at a fraction of its real value.  “In our view,” Brian Randa, one of the dissenting shareholders, told the court in October, according to the court records, “the valuation  [of Northquest’s gold prospects] is not worth the paper it is written on. They [Nordgold]  mispresented the true potential of this project by comparing the project to those with much less potential [in gold resources],  and by  excluding from consideration a vast tract of the licence area.  They tricked the shareholders into tendering [their shares at a low price].  The timing of this series of events was deliberately made to happen before the astonishing major Howitzer anomaly was further explored in the summer of 2016.”

Low-balling is a takeover tactic Nordgold has been accused of by Canadian goldmine shareholders at High River Gold and Crew Gold for many years.  Mordashov won those battles; for details, read this and this. In those cases, resisting shareholders claimed the light fingers went into Mordashov’s pockets. The Canadian courts and the Ontario regulator didn’t agree. (more…)

VITALY MASHITSKY ON THE KALININGRAD FRONT – HIGH STAKES IN THE AMBER GAME

DwB_1671

By John Helmer, Moscow

The old saw about how to make a small fortune can be adapted in Vitaly Mashitsky’s case, but you must still start with a large fortune — he’ll take care of the rest.

In a surprise to the amber industry of Kaliningrad, where about 95% of the world’s supply of amber is located, Mashitsky was appointed chairman of the board of the Kaliningrad Amber Combine (KYaK) late last month. The appointment was made by the state holding Russian Technologies (Rostec), which took over the combine in 2013, after bankruptcy, maladministration and bad business modelling left the enterprise unable to pay its debts, invest in modern mining, manufacturing or marketing, keep its workers, or attract serious capital. Rostec is run by Sergei Chemezov, a lifelong friend of Mashitsky’s, who has been pitching himself in Kaliningrad as the powerful lobbyist the region needs in Moscow. With his backing, Mashitsky began meeting senior figures in Kaliningrad and in the amber industry in recent days.

This month Mashitsky has also launched a selfie campaign in the Moscow press, publicizing his arrival as the new tsar of amber, and promising to replace black marketeers with billions of roubles in stable investment and employment for Kaliningrad. An amber industry observer in Kaliningrad, who had never heard of Mashitsky before last month, is skeptical. “Exactly what will follow down the track is not clear yet. We are just witnesses to what is happening.”
(more…)

IRON MAN TAKES A TUMBLE – WILL AFRICA SUCCEED AUSTRALIA, BRAZIL, RUSSIA TOO, AS THE NEW LOW-COST GLOBAL SUPPLIER OF IRON-ORE?

Ironman

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Ukrainian civil war, and its aftermath, economic warfare between the US, the European Union, and Russia, are transforming the global flows of the minerals from which steel is made. Starting with iron-ore, the future for steelmaking will start at the minehead, not in Australia, nor Brazil, but in West Africa. That is if Gennady Bogolyubov, the Ukrainian miner, can help to produce high-grade iron-ore at a cash cost of $20 per tonne. At that price, Bogolyubov and China’s iron-ore traders and bankers calculate, they will be able to break free of the global price-fixing for the mineral which has been dominated, until now, by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto in the US camp, and Vale of Brazil.
(more…)

US DECLARES WAR ON RUSSIA — TITANIUM

titanium_wars

By John Helmer, Moscow

Ukrainian government and commercial interests are lobbying the US Government to support a stealth sanction against VSMPO-AVISMA, the Russian supplier of titanium to Boeing and other US aerospace companies. Instead of VSMPO, the Ukrainians are seeking US government financing for the establishment of new high-grade titanium production lines at Zaporizhye Titanium and Magnesium Combine (ZTMC), and expansion of Ukrainian titanium exports to the US.

This week, a confidential message from the US Department of Commerce revealed that, “in recent meetings with U.S. Department of Commerce officials, the GOU [Government of Ukraine] expressed that it would like to have U.S. companies involved in the development of the titanium resources in Ukraine. The Commerce Department is, of course, very interested in encouraging the involvement of all U.S. companies in all relevant sectors given such an opportunity, and we are inviting input from industry regarding this topic.”
(more…)

PROKHOROV SLIPS THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE A MICKEY FINN, ER, MAKE THAT A MAXIE FINN

maxi_finn

By John Helmer, Moscow

It was a specialty of the Chicago Irish at the turn of the 20th century. A Mickey Finn was a drug that was slipped into your cocktail without your knowing, in order to incapacitate you. When you came to, the only thing you knew was that you were missing your valuables. The eponymous Mickey Finn was a pickpocket who built his capital into a thriving business as the proprietor of the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden on the corner of Dearborn and Harrison Streets. (It’s a Starbucks nowadays. The girls Mickey used as lures now drink skinny lattes.)

Maxie Finn, aka Maxim Finsky (left front), is eponymous too. He is a childhood friend of Mikhail Prokhorov (left back), and he has been employed by him to buy assets on the cheap; consolidate them into special purpose vehicles which the two of them then try to resell. They’ve had one signal success. That was when Prokhorov jointly controlled Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, with Vladimir Potanin. Finsky was employed to spend Norilsk Nickel’s money on buying goldmining assets at premium prices before they were spun off and separately listed as Polyus Gold. Finsky spent foolishly, or worse, read this. But no matter. The rise of the price of gold drove the share price of Polyus Gold ten times and more above the amount paid for its assets. For the ups and downs in that decade-long story, read here.
(more…)

EVRAZ SAYS NEMASCORE DELAYING HIGHVELD STEEL DEAL; RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT REPEATS DEMANDS FOR ZUMA TO MAKE UP HIS MIND

putin_zuma

By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

SIBERIAN ANTHRACITE SHARE SALE COLLAPSES – REUTERS EMBARRASSED BY SHARE SALE ADVERTISEMENT

sibanth_collapses

By John Helmer, Moscow

An attempt by Siberian Anthracite, a little known Russian coal producer, to list and sell its shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) collapsed today, just hours after Reuters reported the sale was going ahead. According to the report from the Reuters Moscow Bureau, the initial public offering “has been subscribed by more than 50 percent, two market sources said on Thursday. Sibanthracite set a price range earlier in July of between $7.00 and $9.50 per global depositary receipt (GDR) for the share issue. The order book is expected to be closed later on Thursday, with final pricing announced on Friday.” No reporter byline was published with the despatch.

The Reuters claim intimated that the Russian company would start with a market capitalization on the LSE of about $850 million. Four banks were the promoters — JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Raiffeisen Bank International, and Sberbank.
(more…)

BLIND TRUST — SIBERIAN ANTHRACITE TRIES SELLING ITS SHARES FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME, WITHOUT AUDITED FINANCIAL REPORTS, CONSOLIDATION OF TRADING SCHEMES, OR DISCLOSURE OF OWNERSHIP

trust_me

By John Helmer, Moscow

It isn’t known whether Dmitry Shatokhin (right), the chief executive, board chairman, and apparent control shareholder of Siberian Anthracite, reads the news. Not the commodity price reports showing that the demand and price for the coal he is selling are falling. Rather, the news that President Vladimir Putin, along with the heads of the other G8 governments, agreed formally this week to put a stop to concealment of beneficiary ownership of public companies, and of the trust, tax and trading schemes by which hidden owners cheat public shareholders.

According to the G8 communique, “a lack of knowledge about who ultimately controls, owns and profits from companies and legal arrangements, including trusts, not only assists those who seek to evade tax, but also those who seek to launder the proceeds of crime, often across borders. We will make a concerted and collective effort to tackle this issue and improve the transparency of companies and legal arrangements. Improving transparency will also improve the investment climate.” If that’s the standard, how come Siberian Anthracite refuses to publish audited financial reports and won’t disclose the shareholding structure of the company?
(more…)

ANDREI MELNICHENKO’S MYSTERY LAWSUIT – SOUTH AFRICANS DENY RUSSIAN MINE CLAIM

mine_claim

By John Helmer, Moscow

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

In 2008 Eurochem made several announcements about its new potash mine, Gremyachinskoye mine in Volgograd. In the context of Melnichenko’s proposal to reduce his personal exposure in the company, and sell assets to Gazprom or shares to international investors, Eurochem reported growing reserves, speed in mining new output, and jumping sales revenues. Gremyachinskoye was to be commissioned in two stages, start shipping 2.3 million tonnes of potash per annum in 2012, and by 2015 double that volume.
(more…)

THE MANGANESE REVOLUTION TO BRING BHP DOWN TO EARTH

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s not a good time to be a steelmaker — not if you are in Russia, not if you are in China, and certainly not if you are in the US or the European Union. But if mining manganese, the vital steel-hardening alloy, is what you do for a living, the coming three years look likely to transform worldwide control, as Russians reach self-sufficiency in manganese supply for the first time; and as a prominent Ukrainian prepares to share a large corner of the global market with the Chinese.

The reason that manganese can prosper while steel is in the doldrums is because almost all of its application is to steelmaking; and because “manganese has no satisfactory substitute in its major applications”, as periodic US Geological Service reports point out.

The new Russian manganese supply is coming from the little-known Siberian Mining and Metallurgical Company (SGMK), controlled by Alexander Rybkin, a former executive of the Evraz steel group. Rybkin’s influence is provincial, limited to his partners – the Evraz group, which has first call on SGMK’s new manganese supplies for its Kemerovo steelmills at Novokuznetsk; and the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev. Until now they have made SGMK’s manganese a captive of Evraz’s demands.
(more…)

RUSSIAN INTERVENTION AT ENRC – WHAT ARE THE STATE BANKS AND SULEIMAN KERIMOV DOING FOR THE KAZAKH MINING COMPANY, AND FOR WHOSE BENEFIT?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Righteous indignation is to investigative journalism what Joseph Goebbels was to truth. So what was really going on in the last days of April when the London media celebrated the Russians who this year topped the UK Rich List, but discovered something going badly, maybe criminally wrong at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), a London-listed mining company controlled by three Kazakhs and the Kazakh government? If the London newspapers spell the name of one of ENRC’s owners, Alexander Mashkevich, in three different ways — Mahkevitch, according to the Telegraph; Machkevitch to the Guardian; and Mashkevich at the Financial Times and The Times — what to make of the reliability of the anonymous leaks, unseen documents and innuendo from the dismissed or the disgruntled, on which the media campaign against ENRC depends?

This isn’t a question to be answered right now. Instead, it’s what is already happening to take advantage of ENRC’s falling share price and market value that is in focus. For by the time the UK regulators get around to completing their investigations, and deciding what to do about them, the Kremlin will have intervened to coordinate and finance a multi-billion dollar takeover of control at ENRC. By then too, ENRC will no longer be a regulated entity on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
(more…)

THE MAN IN THE MOON – MIKHAIL PROKHOROV’S INTERGEO FAILS IN TORONTO FOR THE SECOND TIME

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a physicists’ teaparty, Albert Einstein once asked Niels Bohr whether the two of them should accept that “the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.” Bohr’s reply was that, hard as Einstein might try, so long as the moon was accompanied by noone, Einstein’s proof would be hard to come by.

As a businessman selling off visible assets for cash in the bank, Mikhail Prokhorov is rapidly becoming just such an unprovable moon. So Einstein to Bohr, he’s agreed with his trusted friend and manager, Dmitry Razumov, managing director of the Onexim holding in Moscow, to issue a public strategy statement and give the former’s lunacy more credibility. According to Razumov, the two of them speak once every two or three weeks, depending on Prokhorov’s phases. “He is completely away from the daily management of work items. He did not meet with the management; he isn’t included in the [Onexim] board of directors. However, he is still the main beneficiary. We are meeting relatively regularly to discuss politics and the economy.” Based on paper values, and before counting the impact of commodity price falls, Razumov says Onexim is worth between $13 billion and $15 billion. Here is the April 24 interview.
(more…)

IGOR ZYUZIN’S SUBTERFUGE – WHY MECHEL SHAREHOLDERS DON’T REALIZE THE COMPANY HAS BEEN NATIONALIZED

By John Helmer, Moscow

Igor Zyuzin (right) is almost entirely dependent on the Russian government for the solvency of his Mechel steelmaking and coalmining group. With between $9 billion and $10 billion in debt, Zyuzin, who owns 65.49% of Mechel’s shares and controls the company as chairman of its board, is now the steel and coal sector’s most heavily indebted proprietor. If not for a series of cash loans, bond purchases and guarantees from state-controlled banks – Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), and Transcreditbank – he would be bankrupt.

That is, Mechel, with a bottom-line loss last year of $1.7 billion, would be as bankrupt as the Estar group of steelmills, which Zyuzin took over in 2009, when Estar’s proprietor Vadim Varshavsky went bankrupt. Varshavsky was consigned by state officials and the state banks to go belly up for debts of about $3 billion. Zyuzin has been preserved in his place for three times that debt. He has also been permitted to buy Varshavsky’s old assets at a fraction of their value, using tolling schemes which may be considered asset stripping, a form of larceny, outside Russia — if their terms were known. In other words, Varshavsky’s insolvent steelmills appear to be paying Zyuzin to take them over for Mechel.
(more…)

INVIDIOUS CHOICE – THE INDIAN, THE CHINAMAN, OR THE WHITE MAN (IGOR ZYUZIN)

By John Helmer, Moscow

Igor Zyuzin’s desperately indebted steel and coal-mining group Mechel is negotiating the sale of a 25% shareholding stake in Mechel Mining, his coal division, for $1.25 billion. That’s a fraction – maybe half — of what it was worth two years ago.

Would such a loss of capital value, and the still uncounted costs of Mechel’s unfinished, non-operational ElgaUgol coalmine in the Sakha republic have materialized if, instead of Zyuzin (left), the Kremlin had decided in October 2007 to award the project concession to the high bidder at the time, Lakshmi Mittal (centre)? Does anyone in the Kremlin believe today that the discount for ElgaUgol which Baosteel, China’s leading steelmaker, is about to extract from Zyuzin has been worth the six-year wait? Will President Vladimir Putin, who has been in charge of the milestones of wealth accumulation and loss marking Zyuzin’s career so far, instruct the government’s Control Commission to vote in favour of this strategic resource acquisition by the Chinese? And if the Chinese are acceptable as coalmining partners now, why weren’t the Indians in 2007?
(more…)

WHITE TIGER GOLD – MINIMUM FOR MAXIM, FIN DE FINSKY

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oligarch ownership hasn’t given Russian goldmines a good name, or at least not a stable one. So if you take the 5-year view and judge that the gold price has peaked, while the cost of developing new mines is going up, the grades going down, you don’t need to be an oligarch with a short attention span like Mikhail Prokhorov, to figure out that the prudent investment direction is the exit.

When Prokhorov sold his 37.78% stake in Polyus Gold last month for $3.6 billion, his Onexim holding announced: “in light of …our view of the balance between the company’s achievements and its potential, we made the decision that the time had come for Onexim Group to sell and realize its profit.” On the 5-year view there have value peaks on paper, but ultimately no profit. Prokhorov has also failed to find an international goldminer willing to buy the assets. As Russian dealmaking goes, selling to Suleiman Kerimov, or to his stand-ins, as Prokhorov has announced, is a nothing more than a state bank bailout.
(more…)

FANTASY IN WHITE – POLYMETAL DREAMS OF THE MOTHER LODE, AND OLEG KISELEV MAKES A BLAST FROM THE PAST

By John Helmer, Moscow

When precious metal geologists kiss their wives good night, and go to sleep, they dream of pushing upstream from river-borne, alluvial or placer deposits of platinum, to strike the mother lode. In geological theory, this is the El Dorado of the platinum business – a bedrock of high-grade platinum ore, not too far underground, easy and cheap to excavate, in much larger volumes than can be extracted from panning or dredging downstream, where millions of years of erosion have washed the metal in grains or tiny nuggets. Unlike their wives or gold, geologists prefer platinum because its value is relatively stable.

This year, for example, look at the moving line and compare the volatility of the gold price (left chart) compared with platinum’s (right):
(more…)

ALEXEI MORDASHOV TAKES HIGH RIVER GOLD BECAUSE THE ODOUR OF MONEY IS SWEETER THAN NORD GOLD SHARES

By John Helmer, Moscow

It has taken Alexei Mordashov (image lower right) three and a half years to persuade shareholders of Toronto-listed High River Gold (HRG) to accept his takeover of the company. That’s the longest foreign defence against a Russian takeover in the oligarch record-book. But when the count was completed on December 11, Mordashov’s victory was still a close-run thing. What has happened is that most of the holdout shareholders opted to take cash for their shares, and abandon the business, rather than accept a swap of their HRG shares for shares of Mordashov’s larger goldmine holding, London-listed Nord Gold.

Mordashov has the company he wanted, but not with a vote of confidence in his or his goldmining future. In the process, not a single Canadian court, Canadian stock market regulator, nor even a Canadian newspaper reporter took the side of the minority shareholders. They have included Sprott Asset Management, one of Canada’s leading independent fund managers; according to its latest performance sheet, its investments in gold and precious metals stocks have been bleeding red for the year to date, the full year, and indeed for the past three years.
(more…)

YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE… ALEXEI MORDASHOV’S TAKEOVER OF HIGH RIVER GOLD STOPS SHORT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The deadline for Canadian shareholders to accept or reject Alexei Mordashov’s takeover terms for High River Gold (HRG) is fixed for next Tuesday, November 27. The latest count to be released to the market suggests he will fail because the holdout shareholders are convinced the offer price is too low. The price point isn’t news. The shareholder count may be.

According to Chris Charlwood, one of the coordinators of the HRG minorities, “we have collected confirmations from shareholders with approximately 90.2 million shares (10.73% of total HRG shares and 43% of the minorities rremaining) that they will not tender to Nord Gold’s offer. This includes shares owned in funds managed by Eric Sprott (HRG’s largest minority shareholder). Nord Gold would have needed 90% of minority to tender to the current offer in order to squeeze the rest out. With 43% of the minority indicating they will not tender, this should prevent this from happening on the Nov. 27th expiry date.”
(more…)

NOVOLIPETSK DOES SOMETHING NO RUSSIAN STEELMAKER DOES IN RUSSIA – NEGOTIATES COST, JOB CUTS AND CRISIS MEASURES WITH UNIONS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK), owned by Vladimir Lisin, has done something that no Russian steelmaker is on record as doing in the current downturn for steel production, sales, and profits; nor in the downturns which have preceded – 1991-93, 1998-99 and 2008-09. It is negotiating with steelworkers and their unions before deciding on how to cut costs. There’s a catch — that’s happening in Belgium, not in Russia.

For months there have been public demonstrations in the traditional steelmaking Wallonia (Walloon) region of Belgium, between Liege and La Louviere, 112 kilometres to the southeast. Unions, regional government, political parties of the right and left, and consultancy studies have recommended a variety of options for reviving the steelmills and keeping steelworkers employed in the region; none would cost less than €300 million. There is also sharp local argument over whether the region would be better off in the long run doing without the steelmills.
(more…)

IGOR SECHIN DEFEATED BY NORILSK NICKEL – RUSSIAN PLATINUM OUSTED FROM VITAL ASSET

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s more serious than a case of when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Arguments over Igor Sechin’s appointment to run the country delayed the announcement of Dmitry Medvedev’s government for several weeks in May. Now that Sechin’s at Rosneft in charge of constructing the most powerful energy-producing and trading platform in the world, he hasn’t had the time to supervise the Russian mining and minerals sector, as he used to do during President Putin’s second term and his prime ministry. In allocating Sechin’s time cost-effectively, there’s no comparison between running Rosneft and sorting out the problems of Norilsk Nickel, Rusal, Urals Mining and Metals, and Metalloinvest.
(more…)

WHERE DO RUSSIAN ELEPHANTS GO TO DIE? NOT BY CHOICE INTO ROMAN ABRAMOVICH’S BONEYARD

By John Helmer, Moscow

The two 20-year veteran coalminers who have directed Raspadskaya, one of Russia’s leading coking coal producers, have unexpectedly sold out their stake in the company. According to the terms of the deal announced in Moscow yesterday, Evraz, the vertically integrated steel and mining group controlled by Roman Abramovich (left image), will pay Gennady Kosovoy, currently CEO, and Alexander Vagin, board chairman, $202 million in cash, plus an 11.06% share of Evraz’s equity.

Kosovoy is the coalmine boss; Vagin runs political interference at the regional level and protection wherever required. They haven’t enjoyed being the co-control shareholders, with Abramovich, of the publicly listed company. Even less, they haven’t cared for Abramovich’s pressure to pay him dividends from Raspadskaya’s profit — and that was when the mining company was making a profit, and when the two veterans wanted to reinvest the proceeds in the mine itself. Because Raspadskaya was the only half-way independent coal supplier to the steel industry in Russia, its takeover by Evraz significantly reduces competition in the Russian market.
(more…)

PATSY’S GOT BALLS — MORDASHOV TO PULL HIS PRICE FOR HIGH RIVER GOLD UPWARD, OR POCKET HIS OFFER ALTOGETHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Canadian valuer hired to provide an independent valuation of High River Gold (HRG) for Nord Gold’s takeover offer appears to be recommending a higher price than Alexei Mordashov, owner of Nord Gold and 75% shareholder of HRG, wants to pay, leaving the takeover in limbo.

Paradigm Capital’s research department, headed by Daniel Kim of Toronto, has been working on the valuation since July, when Nord Gold announced a share swap or cash purchase equivalent to C$1.40 per share of HRG. That valued HRG at C$1.18 billion. To consolidate the minority shareholders, and absorb HRG entirely into Nord Gold – with the aim of lifting the latter’s struggling share price and worsening financial performance– Mordashov with 75% of the HRG shares in hand needs to have his bid accepted by another 15%. If he can reach or cross the 90% stake threshold, under Canadian takeover rules the remaining shareholders can be squeezed out by a mandatory buyout. As told in this sequence, the opposition to Mordashov has been successful so far in denying him the prize.
(more…)

NORD GOLD HIDES IN PLAIN SIGHT FROM HIGH RIVER GOLD

By John Helmer, Moscow

It takes a Russian to know how to build a Potemkin village, and hide behind it. It takes Alexei Mordashov to answer questions through a telephone number that rings in Amsterdam only to be relayed to a Moscow office, where the person in charge hangs up the receiver. That’s a false front that doesn’t deserve Count Potemkin’s name tag.

Mordashov is the owner of Nord Gold, the struggling goldminer spun out of the Severstal steel group. Since July 18, Nord Gold has been tabling an offer to buy out the minority shareholders of Toronto-listed High River Gold (HRG), the richest of the assets in the Nord Gold portfolio. Tabling isn’t quite what has happened. That’s because there won’t be an official offer to buy the remaining HRG shares until a purportedly independent valuation of HRG is completed and the share price offer put into a circular. That is a paper which Mordashov is promising to despatch to the hold-out HRG shareholders sometime soon. For the July 18 proposal, and the reaction of the market, read this.
(more…)

MECHEL’S IGOR ZYUZIN DUMPS TO AVOID CRASH

By John Helmer, Moscow

The co-founder of the Mechel steelmaking and coal-mining group, Vladimir Iorikh, always said the over-confidence of partner Igor Zyuzin (parachutist) would get the company into trouble as big as this. So, rather than go down in flames himself when the crash he expected would come, Iorikh sold out to Zyuzin in January 2007, taking $1.5 billion to Switzerland and setting up on his own.

Zyuzin congratulated himself on out-smarting Iorikh when Mechel’s value in the market grew to a peak of $21 billion in May 2008. Zyuzin’s stake of about 67% was then worth $14 billion. Today, with Mechel worth just about one-tenth of that at $2.9 billion, Zyuzin’s stake is worth $1.9 billion; maybe less, because in July Zyuzin started selling shares – a 1.93% bloc was let go to an unidentified buyer at an unreported price. If things continue to get worse for Mechel, Zyuzin’s net worth will be less than his old partner’s. If Iorikh was as prudent as he accused Zyuzin of not being, it’s probable that he vaulted over Zyuzin in the wealth brackets some time ago.
(more…)

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, SANCTIONS ARE SOONER — HOW ALROSA AND THE BELGIANS ARE LEARNING TO FIGHT AND TO FEINT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Belgians like to speak of themselves as the victims when the great powers of Europe go to war. They were when the Germans invaded in 1914 and 1940.

But since 2014 when the Belgian government has been repeating it is gung-ho for the war with Russia, there has been no Russian attack, no occupation.  Instead, there has been the amicable Russia-Belgium diamond trade worth more than $30 billion in annual exports and imports, supplied by the Russian state diamond company Alrosa.

If Belgian officials cut that trade off by agreeing to the European Union (EU) sanctions banning Russian diamond imports, as proposed by other EU states, that would  liquidate ten thousand diamond polishing and related jobs concentrated in Antwerp, and destroy the country’s fifth largest export business forever. Alrosa would move its diamonds to Dubai, killing Antwerp as a diamond trading and cutting centre, just as Amsterdam as a diamond centre was killed by the German occupation of 1940.  Antwerp took advantage of Amsterdam’s misfortune in 1946.   Dubai will now do the same.

This is what Belgian government and diamond industry officials mean when they say they favour the toughest possible sanctions on Russian gas exports to Europe  – but no sanctions on Russian diamonds. This is what Prime Minister Alexander De Croo meant when he told an Antwerp conference of diamantaires on September 14: “Sanctions should focus more on the aggressor than ourselves.”   

Earlier, reacting to an attack on the diamond trade with Russia by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in a speech to the Belgian parliament, the spokesman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) said: “Not only are thousands of jobs in Antwerp at stake in the short term, but this decision will inevitably lead to a worldwide shift in the diamond trade in the long term. As long as international policy-makers worldwide do not adopt a unanimous position to sanction Russian diamonds in their entirety, Antwerp will be the only place that will bear the consequences of an EU sanction.”  

By “worldwide shift” he meant Dubai.

De Croo has camouflaged Belgium’s resistance by repeating he will not veto a Russian diamond ban if there is “overwhelming support” for it in the EU. So a majority of the EU states have continued pressing; they are led by Poland. In March of this year, De Croo announced: “I would like to officially state that our country has never hindered any measures regarding diamonds. Our country did not interfere in this issue.”  In private, however, De Croo has been casting Belgium’s veto.  

The Poles have been attacking De Croo,  pressing the case for an EU  ban on Russian diamond imports as payback for De Croo’s insistence on imposing EU budget sanctions against the Warsaw government last year.  De Croo is also refusing to accept Ukraine’s demand for accelerated membership of the EU and of NATO, and for fresh EU funding to pay Kiev’s war-fighting bills.   

Instead, he has just announced €8 million in non-lethal aid to Kiev. “Ukraine can keep on counting on Belgium,” De Croo declared. “More than words, there are actions. Once again, Belgium is responding to concrete needs and will be providing essential equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks.”  The equipment is first-aid kits and pharmaceuticals produced by Belgian companies.

This week the secret Belgian veto campaign appears to have succeeded. The new draft of the eighth round of EU sanctions includes dental floss and deodorants; it leaves out diamonds.    This omission is expected to be confirmed publicly on Friday of this week at the EU summit meeting in Prague.    

 “At the moment, diamonds are not included on the agenda for the next round of sanctions,” announced Tom Neys, the AWDC spokesman. “But things change quickly. [On] Friday [October 7] they will finalize discussions, and the EU [leaders decide] on October 6 and 7. The fact that sanctions also create other ethical problems, and that these sanctions will have no effect in Russia, are probably important elements in these debates. Now is the time to focus on international solutions.”  

By “international solutions” the Belgians mean keeping Dubai from taking over Antwerp’s diamond business.

(more…)

WAITING FOR NUCLEAR WAR IN WASHINGTON, COCKAHOOP IN WARSAW, THE GERMANS RUN FOR THE BUNKER, AGAIN — GORILLA RADIO REVEALS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Timing is everything when you are telling jokes on stage; summing up for the jury in a murder trial; or when you are a general preparing to send your army over the top. Knock the comedian, lawyer, or general off his timing, and the laugh, the verdict, and the casualties will go against him.

John Mortimer, a London barrister and author of the Rumpole of the Bailey television show,  once told the story of a friend who was coming to the end of his final jury address when he saw the judge writing a note and handing it to the usher. When it was passed to the lawyer as he was speaking, he glanced down to read: “Dear Jim, I thought you’d like to know that your flies are open and I can see your cock.”

Cocks which show or crow – like boys crying wolf – don’t comprehend the risks they create for themselves, and others. This is how it is in Berlin for Olaf Scholz and in Washington for Joseph Biden right now. They can afford to be impervious to the derision they are drawing in Warsaw; not so to the reaction to their antics in Moscow.

In this broadcast by Chris Cook, Gorilla Radio blows the final whistle before we all go over the top (Germans first, then the Poles). Even former Secretary of State John Kerry, career liar that he’s been, is revealed to be blowing on the same whistle this time round.

(more…)

THE OCTOBER SURPRISE — ASK NOT WHAT THE KREMLIN WILL DO, BUT WHAT THE US WILL DO NEXT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The official Russian reaction to the Nord Stream attack is to identify it as a US military operation, and to wait for an investigation to produce the evidence. That means wait, delay. No retaliation.

“How will we respond?”  Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday in the most detailed briefing so far from Moscow.    “We will respond with an investigation. This is a must, and our law-enforcement bodies have already launched it. This [the gas pipelines] is our property, resources, and infrastructure.”

“I would like to believe that the international investigation of what happened on the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea will be objective… We will seek to conduct an honest and objective investigation… I hope that someone in the United States, or maybe someone in Europe — although, unfortunately, Europe in this case can no longer be counted on — someone from the independent investigators will have the desire to clarify the involvement of the United States, the special services and all other bodies in what happened on 25-27 September of this year in the Baltic Sea.”

This means that the Russian Government is waiting, delaying. There will be no retaliation for the time being.  

The reason is that Russian officials suspect the Biden Administration of preparing an October Surprise just ahead of Election Day, November 8: an attack on domestic US infrastructure – the electricity grids, for example – which will be reported as the Russian retaliation that won’t be.

The Nord Stream attacks were a military operation of the US, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, with additional NATO air surveillance support from bases in Italy.  Politically, they were an attack on Germany, but the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to say publicly what he knew in advance, what he knows now.

Who then knows what will come next except that there is now war in Europe, outside the Ukraine. Will the October Surprise begin war inside the United States?

(more…)

AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

(more…)

THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

(more…)

LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo. But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

(more…)

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

(more…)

RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

(more…)

THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

(more…)

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

(more…)
Categories
Archives

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Education Template