Translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
In official testimony to the European Parliament last week, the European Union Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, attacked Russia for “exacerbating the tight [supply] balance” and thus causing “the rising prices”.
Responding to allegations against Gazprom, Simson promised an investigation. “We are looking into this claim, through our competition angles…. Better response to any type of speculation and market manipulations is another area where I believe we should assess our options for action.”
Simson is an Estonian politician who has made a public career of drawing votes from Russian-speaking Estonians. She has failed in efforts to replace her party’s leader and former prime minister, Edgar Savisaar.
Simson is a wealthy politician. The current report to the European Union (EU) of Simson’s financial interests, dated this past January, is a near-total blank, except for three apartments she owns in Tallinn, plus a garage, in which she and her family do not live themselves; they live elsewhere, but not with her former husband, Priit Simson. He is a journalist at an Estonian daily newspaper; he specializes in the study of what he calls “extremist movements in the Russian-speaking population in Estonia.”
For an expert Russian response to Simson’s report to the EU, Vzglyad, the online Moscow analytical newspaper, published this piece by Olga Samofalova yesterday. Read on.
Last week in a Moscow court, Michael Bloomberg’s (lead image, right) organisation of New York City did something it has never done before. It admitted it has been publishing lies about Russia. It also paid a penalty of Rb12,600 ($170.25).
Bloomberg even promised that in future its reporting on Russia will “be guided in its work by recognised editorial standards of truthfulness, accuracy and objectivity of published information in accordance with its internal code of journalistic standards and ethics [and] best practices in the news industry.”
What Bloomberg was promising not to do was to print fabrications about Russia fed in secret to its reporters by agents of the US Government.
The Moscow bureau of Bloomberg said it had nothing to do with the court proceeding and refused to comment. The spokesman for Bloomberg’s European division in London also refused to answer questions.
An attempt is underway to arrange a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to restore the agreement on oil production cuts which MbS broke at the March 6 meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries with Russia (OPEC+). The Crown Prince is reportedly now ready to agree on a formula for oil production limits along the lines already discussed with the Russians.
His pre-condition is a domestic Saudi one. He is insisting that he will meet President Putin as the Saudi head of state, no longer as Crown Prince. This means that the full and formal transfer of power from his father King Salman bin Abdullaziz will take place “imminently”.
No ambition in Russia runs wider and higher than that of Igor Sechin, 58, chief executive of Rosneft.
To help fill the Venezuelan treasury, deter attacks on President Nicolas Maduro, reinforce his army, and show the world he’s the Russian who can defeat both types of war the US is waging against the world – sanctions war and regime-change war – no bill would be too expensive for Sechin to pay. And if he can do that, he will show that he’s the natural successor of President Vladimir Putin. In point of cost for Rosneft, the Venezuelan strategy is relatively cheap.
For the Russian military, who have created the most powerful army in South America (also a matchfor Canada ), with a decade of deliveries of air and ground weapons, the Venezuelan front is a fresh tester of American warmaking at low money cost and little risk of Russian casualties. The combination of Sechin and the Russian General Staff to defend Venezuela is a potent weapon to demonstrate to the world that US threats are bluff.
So, win or lose on the battleground of Venezuela, at home Sechin is showing his Russian allies that he’s their winner in the presidential power contest ahead.
Not everyone agrees. “Yes, the presidency is a matter of Sechin’s ambition; it’s also a condition for his survival,” comments a source who has known Sechin well. “As to who his allies are, I am not able to tell because he has managed to come into conflict with everyone around Putin. But if Sechin becomes the Kremlin’s lead on Venezuela, then Sechin will lose his battle for the Kremlin.” (more…)
The Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo, which was reported last week as the principal lender to Rosneft’s €11 billion share sale, has announced it has played an advisory role, not a lending role, and it is still in the “assessment phase” of the transaction — without a commitment to lend money.
On December 7, Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin told President Vladimir Putin “we will receive the first money transfers from our foreign investors in the next few days”. Rosneft announced at the same time “the acquisition of the Rosneft stake will be financed with investors’ own funds and will also involve debt financing. Investors’ equity in the acquiring vehicle will amount to EUR2.8 bn. The bulk of debt financing will be provided by Banca Intesa Sanpaolo.” Glencore, the Swiss trading company which is one of the two reported foreign share-buyers, alongside the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), announced in parallel that “Glencore will commit €300 million in equity and QIA will commit €2.5 billion in equity to the Consortium with the balance of the consideration for the acquisition of the Shares to be provided by non-recourse bank financing, principally by Intesa Sanpaolo S.pA..”
On Monday afternoon, at the bank’s head office in Milan, Intesa Sanpaolo issued an 11-line statement claiming there is no loan, financing or investment agreement by the bank for the Rosneft transaction, at least not yet; and that the bank’s “possible participation in the operation is conditional, first of all, on total support for the sanctions system adopted by the EU and US towards entities of the Russian Federation.” The bank also said it has so far done no more than act as advisor to Rosneftegaz, Rosneft’s parent shareholder, “which has not been subject of any sanction.”
In Moscow Sechin was asked through his spokesman, Mikhail Leontyev, to respond to the bank’s announcement. “How do you square this position with the Rosneft and Glencore statements of last week, confirming the bank as the principal lender to the deal?” Sechin and Leontyev refuse to answer. (more…)
As famous hoaxers go, Igor Sechin (lead image, centre), the chief executive of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, is at least as clever as Clever Hans (right), a German horse of the late 19th century.
Hans was apparently good at arithmetic. If his owner asked him to multiply three by four, he would tap his hoof twelve times. He could tell the square root of sixteen by tapping four times. He was also able to give answers to questions he hadn’t heard before. So he was a very famous horse in Germany. That was until a sceptical psychologist realized Hans would only get the answers right if his owner also knew the answers, and if the horse could see him when the questions were asked. If the owner or another questioner was invisible to the horse’s eye, Hans would fail. He even bit the psychologist after a string of tests produced wrong answers. The psychologist’s conclusion was that the horse was gifted, but not at arithmetic. Hans could detect the visual cues his questioner would give out when the horse was reaching the correct number of hoof taps, and he would stop. The owner wasn’t attempting a fraud, and Hans was exceptionally intelligent. But his calculations were a hoax.
In last week’s Rosneft share sale — the deal President Vladimir Putin has called the biggest privatization in Russia, and also the biggest oil sector sell-off in the world this year — clever Igor, like clever Hans, has proved his indubitable intelligence. But the arithmetic which the president has announced — €10.5 billion paid into the Russian state budget – is a hoax. That’s because a curtain has been drawn across all questions of where the money has come from.
In fact, Kremlin and Russian banking sources acknowledge, the money originated from the Central Bank of Russia, recycled through the Russian state banks to Rosneft and back, and finally concealed inside secret fiduciary agreements with a consortium of Glencore, the Swiss trading company, and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), an Arabian Gulf state agency. The agreements appear to make Glencore and QIA the owners of a 19.5% shareholding in Rosneft – when they are fiduciary shareholders – and that’s not the same thing as owners.
“The transaction has been financed by money creation by the Central Bank”, said a source close to the dealmakers. “The Central Bank can’t simply print money and give it to the federal budget. So this deal was engineered for Glencore and the Qataris to appear to be buying shares when the terms of the agreement reward them for acting as fiduciaries, but ensure they cannot vote the shares without instruction from the Russian state; that’s Mr Sechin. This means the privatization of the shares isn’t genuine. Also, three-quarters of the money going into the state budget is coming from the Central Bank.”
A Russian banker in London comments: “There’s a golden rule in Russian banking. If you fiddle around, never involve foreigners because in the end they will expose you. The announced terms of the Rosneft deal cannot stand the light of day. Inevitably, the truth will come out.” According to Swiss sources, the truth has already been demanded by the US Government of the Swiss Government, which will obtain the contracts from Glencore.
The Khotin family are either the cleverest new men on Russia’s billionaires’ row, strutting out with prime commercial real estate and oilfield assets, which will double or triple in value as soon as the war is over and the Russian market for corporate bonds and share listings revives. Or else the Khotins are walking corpses, whose income has plummeted below the level required to meet the interest instalments on their debts; their oilfields cost more to pump than the oil can be sold for, and their bank is going broke on defaulted loans from related parties – that’s themselves. The advantage of being, as one Moscow newspaper calls them, the “most secretive of Russian businessmen”, is that noone is certain whether the Khotins are alive or dead. In the current war, they may have been, or they are about to become, the costliest of casualties.
In the history of the last war the British have excelled in portraying themselves as secretly cleverer than their allies, the Russians and Americans, as well as their enemies, the Germans. In the archive of grand British intelligence deceptions, none was a more effectively kept secret — so the British claim — than Operation Mincemeat. That’s the one where the corpse of a London suicide was dropped by British submarine on to a Spanish beach, dressed in an officer’s uniform and carrying top-secret plans (lead image from the movie). The objective was to fool the Germans into opposing the 1943 allied Mediterranean invasion in Greece when the landings were really intended for Sicily. The way the British tell the story, the corpse was very persuasive.
In their business career so far, the Khotins are like that. Unrepayable debts, loaned by state banks on the personal say-so of high state officials, secured by future revenues enhanced by administrative favours, would be one reason for making the Khotins’ papers look exceptionally valuable, while keeping their existence secret. There’s another reason. No photograph of either Yury or Alexei Khotin is known to exist. The national photo archives of Tass, RIA-Novosti, Kommersant, Interfax, and Moskovsky Komsomolets all say they have no picture of them. (more…)
In fifty-nine single-spaced pages, issued on May 31, Melchior Wathelet (lead image) has demonstrated that the European Union (EU) has descended into a lawless dictatorship, in which the executive power of the Union and its member officials have “broad discretion” to attack states, their corporations and citizens without reason. Wathelet is the Advocate-General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), so he ought to know. (more…)
The Russian oil company Tatneft has launched a successful surprise attack in the UK High Court on the personal assets of Igor Kolomoisky (lead, left) and Gennady Bogolyubov (right). It is claiming $334 million in payment for crude oil Tatneft delivered in 2008 to a Ukrainian refinery which Tatneft controlled at the time. The two Ukrainian oligarchs subsequently took over the refinery with almost as much stealth as Tatneft’s retaliation in London.
The details of the case are being kept secret by Tatneft and the London lawyers for all sides. The case became public at a High Court hearing late last week when the court sustained a freeze order against Kolomoisky’s and Bogolyubov’s worldwide assets. This had been imposed on March 22, catching the two men unprepared. Kolomoisky lives in Geneva on a temporary residency permit; Bogolyubov lives in London. The High Court order limits ATM withdrawals for their personal expenses and transfers from their bank accounts to £5,000 per week. (more…)
The takeover of London-listed JKX Oil and Gas Plc, which was completed last week with a purge of the board and senior management, is an operation for the benefit of Igor Kolomoisky (lead image, right) and Gennady Bogolyubov, the Ukrainian oligarchs, according to sources in Kiev, Moscow, and London. Proxima Capital Group, a Moscow-based investment firm which won a vote of JKX shareholders on January 28 with 19.97% of the shares and took over leadership of the company, is led by Vladimir Tatarchuk (left). Proxima has announced it has a “fresh perspective” towards Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov, but Tatarchuk won’t say what that means. The sources claim he means a deal with Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov. (more…)
With announcements they will trade crude oil in different directions, Russia’s state oil companies have this week put the kybosh on Ziyavudin Magomedov’s (lead image, left) attempt to establish himself as the oligarch in charge of Russia’s westward oil trade to Europe. Magomedov’s demise follows the decline in political influence of Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dorkovich (right), Magomedov’s ally and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s protege. Magomedov, sources in the maritime sector say confidentially, is unable to raise financing for his Summa group in the US or Europe, and Dvorkovich and Medvedev have been unable to help him with money from the Russian state banks. Dvorkovich is now thinking of a job outside the government, the sources add. (more…)
The UK High Court has rejected a lawsuit by Rosneft challenging the legality of sanctions against its oilfield operations and international financing.
The court has ruled that for testing the legality of the sanctions British law and British courts are subordinate to the European Union, and that Rosneft must try its case in the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg. The ruling, which was issued on Monday, contradicts the judgement of the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, which decided last March that sanctions against the Iranian bank, Bank Mellat, had violated British law. The new judgement makes no reference to this or any other case decided recently in London on the illegality of UK Government sanctions.
The ruling by Lord Justice Sir Jack Beatson (lead image) and Justice Sir Nicholas Green also flies in the face of the British Government’s promise to preserve the primacy of the British courts over the EU judiciary, and keep London’s market dominance for global litigation. Acknowledging that the issue will be tested in the parliamentary election due in three months’ time, embattled Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed: “We want to make the Supreme Court supreme”. Cameron has promised to introduce a new Act of Parliament to establish the superior status in law of UK courts over the European Court.” That hasn’t happened. (more…)
Following the publication of yesterday’s report on the case of Vladimir Yevtushenkov, an insider from the Russian oil industry has communicated this analysis of what provoked Yevtushenkov’s arrest, and what will happen next. The insider has had more than 15 years of experience working with Igor Sechin, now chief executive of Rosneft.
“The problem of Yevtushenkov is in his misunderstanding of what it means to own an oil company. He was given a right just to touch the object [Bashneft]; to clean and polish it; and then to hand it over to Sechin [Rosneft]. But Yevtushenkov decided that he was the real owner, and he started disputing with Sechin over the price of the asset. That’s something that is totally indisputable.The Ukrainian theory [of the case] is just camouflage.” (more…)
Conspiracy or screw-up — there is no shortage of complicated theories in Russia to explain why an oligarch of Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s (image, left) size is being made to run the gauntlet, quite apart from the fact that he’s probably guilty of the crimes alleged against him. What is missing is the Russian equivalent of screw-up. That’s to say, who screwed up – if this is what is happening. (more…)
When it comes to Trojan horses, who better than the Government of Greece to judge.
The Trojan Horse that’s meant is Leonid Lebedev (lead image), the three-term, 12-year Federation Council senator representing the Republic of Chuvashia. Lebedev claims to be a billionaire with control of a conglomerate called Sintez. Its cash generation is reported to come from oil production in Khantiy-Mansiisk; oil trading; the TGK-2 electricity-generating utility; and proceeds from the sale of a number of smaller businesses. According to investigations last year by the Government of Greece, Lebedev’s claims to represent Gazprom and powerful figures in President Vladimir Putin’s circle lacked credibility, and more importantly, money. Sintez was disallowed the right to bid for the privatization of Greece’s state-owned gas purchase and distribution companies, DEPA and DESFA. (more…)
If Andrei Goncharenko paid £43 million for an asset worth no more than half as much, he has set something of a Russian record for business acumen. And he might well have kept that acumen secret, if not for a group of squabbling Englishmen wanting commissions for arranging the deal, and one in particular, who wanted to keep about £20,000 in value-added tax on his commission, to which the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs thought they were entitled instead.
Goncharenko is the deputy chief executive of a Gazprom subsidiary called GazpromInvest Yug (South). The company was created in 2002 as a contractor for construction projects decided on by its parent. The company website claims it does things like the “organization of construction and reconstruction of gas processing plants, the main gas pipelines, compressor stations, underground gas storage, gas distribution stations. In addition, the company is organizing the construction of energy, communications, infrastructure (boilers, wastewater treatment plants)…reconstruction of complex engineering and technical security systems, and anti-terrorist protection of objects.” (more…)
In the New York and London markets brokers and bankers explain that they are being discreetly called by US Treasury officials with this message: buying Russian equity or debt paper is legal, but in the event there is a new round of sanctions, it will be illegal to re-sell them, so there can be no profit in Russian assets. The market is calling this campaign “stealth sanctions”. It is an attack on the international market for Russian corporations, and on the international currency and security clearance systems on which the market depends.
According to the highest UK and European courts — reported here on March 25 — the type of formal sanctions which the US and the EU have already introduced are likely to be found illegal, if they are challenged in court. Stealth sanctions are more difficult to substantiate in court -– and also financially much more damaging. Until now, there has been no Russian retaliation for the sanctions, and no litigation. (more…)
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.” (more…)
Georhii Rudko, the chairman of the Ukrainian State Commission for Natural Resources, had nothing to do with the choice of the old British War Office as the venue; nor the timing of his speech, one day before the President of Ukraine and the constitutional order of the country were toppled. But Rudko’s presentation on the future for the oil and gas resources of Ukraine was anything but a sideshow.
Rudko was scheduled to speak at a meeting entitled “Black Sea & Caspian 2014 Conference – Unlocking Full Potential”. The date was February 20. The address was 89 Pall Mall, where the War Office was located between 1858 and 1906, just missing the Crimean War (1853-56), but managing the second Opium War against China; the three Basotho wars in southern Africa; several rebellions in India; and the Boer War in South Africa. As war offices go, the score was a grand slam for the British. (more…)
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. (more…)
Theologians may wrestle to Kingdom Come before they will agree that a gusher of faith can be drilled out of a bedrock of reason. In the case of junior Russian oil companies taking money from investors on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), the gushers are proving to be short-lived. The loss of faith can be measured in the collapse of share price and market capitalization – and in the files of Mirabaud Securities, the Swiss promoter of a great deal of short-lived enthusiasm.
Timan Oil and Gas, for example, failed to produce what it promised from prospects in the Arctic region of Timan Pechora; defaulted on its loans; delisted its shares; and is now in liquidation. Ruspetro, operating in the Khanty-Mansiysk region of western Siberia, listed its shares at the start of 2012, but in two years they have collapsed to a tenth of their peak value. Mirabaud was a lead manager for both issues. (more…)
Never let it be said that in Russia deeds done out of the goodness of the heart go unnoticed by the state. Nup. Not even when philanthropies are paid for with cash accumulated in violation of the state’s policy of deoffshorization. Nup, nup. There is even a special award minted by the Kremlin and intended to recognize the good which offshorizers do in friendship for Russia. Called the Order of Friendship, the ribbons are blue and black, colours which appear on no flag of any country in the world, and symbolize thereby the freedom of the blue sky and the black hole in which we are all obliged to dwell beneath. (more…)
Three hundred and ninety years ago the Dutch water-boarded and then executed a group of British merchants on the trumped-up allegation of plotting to seize the Dutch fortress on the island of Ambon, now part of Indonesia where it is called Maluku. Remember the Amboyna Massacre! became fighting talk in London for fifty years, leading to a decade of litigation in The Netherlands, and ultimately to the first Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54 The British won that one – and also the second war of 1655-57, and the third war of 1672-74.
The real reason for the massacre was that the Dutch were determined to hang on to their monopoly of the nutmeg harvest on the island, and make sure the British didn’t undercut their prices or their influence with the local sultans, who controlled the indigenous nutmeg plantations. In those days, nutmeg was more than the sweet spice it’s thought of today. It was a strategic commodity – almost a matter of national security. That was because it was believed to be able to ward off the fatal attack of the Black Plague. (more…)
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. (more…)
“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. (more…)
As a presidential assistant and a first deputy prime minister for many years, Igor Sechin grew accustomed to the illusion to which high officials in all states are prone – that the fault in efficient administration lies in the weakness of command-and-control systems, sociologically speaking. Or to speak psychologically of humankind, the reluctance of subordinates to do what they are told. As a government official Sechin tried to compensate for these sociological and psychological faults with the Russian combination of force and fear known as “administrative measures”. He’s also tried the old standby, money.
Now that he’s in charge of Rosneft, the publicly listed oil and gas company, Sechin is simultaneously accountable to the market and in the number-2 spot in Russian administration where only one accountability counts. Between the two, between the differently coloured telephones the chief executive can pick up on his desk, the rules aren’t quite the same. Indeed, paradoxical as this may seem to him, Sechin’s rules can be against the law. For a candidate to become the prime minister or more in Russia one day, such little paradoxes can have large and instructive consequences. Take, for example, the Rosneft business of putting fuel into ships’ tanks to drive their engines. (more…)
As larger cargo volumes and more international vessels move through Arctic waters, or the Northern Sea Route as the passage is generally called in Russian (SMP is the cyrillic acronym, NSR in English), the Kremlin’s strategy is to fund the construction of the most powerful nuclear icebreakers in the world, and ensure they dominate future navigation and convoys. These vessels are very expensive to build and to operate, however. So costly that just a few days of extra time navigating the icepack could eliminate the cost advantage which the Northern Sea Route is currently advertising over the Suez Canal alternative.
Because of the lack of ports along the Arctic shores, and tight beam and draught limits for vessels to navigate the eastern Laptev and Sannikov narrows, ten new Russian navigational and emergency centres will be installed over the next decade to bring the new traffic under Russian supervision and regulation. But there are technical problems with the maintenance of hundreds of strontium-90 powered navigational beacons installed along the coast line. Customs, coast guard, and special forces units are also being reinforced and tested to give the Russian regulatory authorities teeth to react to what the Kremlin considers foreign territorial or commercial threats. Ironically, according to one Moscow source, the satellite imaging used by the Russians to identify and navigate around thick ice concentrations is Canadian, not Russian. (more…)
The Russian government’s competition watchdog is waiting for state tanker company Sovcomflot and gas exporter Novatek to clarify exactly what plan they have decided on for liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments from Sabetta, Russia’s newest gas export outlet on the eastern shore of Yamal and the Kara Sea. Sovcomflot said last week it has signed with Novatek an undertaking to cooperate on a feasibility study of two tankers for shipment of LNG, once Novatek launches shipments from its Yamal gasfield and refinery in three to four years’ time.
A press release from Sovcomflot said that state-owned lender Vnesheconombank (VEB) “is to look into the possibility of financing the construction of two ‘pilot’ liquefied natural gas carriers for the Yamal LNG project. Sovcomflot has confirmed its interest in operating the new vessels as a bareboat charterer and technical manager.” According to Sergei Frank, Sovcomflot’s chief executive, “we are confident that our long-standing experience of Arctic shipping…will ensure we cope successfully with the task of providing uninterrupted LNG transportation, in the challenging climatic conditions of the Yamal Peninsula.” (more…)
Gazprom, the Russian gas producer and exporter, is thinking of reviving an old idea to refine natural gas on the Baltic shore and ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) westward to European markets in competition against Qatar and Nigeria. At least that’s what Ziyavudin Magomedov (image right), chairman of the Summa Group, wants everyone to think. Maybe Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s chief executive, too. Since neither Gazprom nor Magomedov’s spokesman at Summa Group, is willing to put a confirmation where the press leak was, noone is keen to believe either of them.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s chief executive, was speaking last week at a conference in the Siberian city of Tomsk where in an aside, he said the company might soon announce a new LNG project. “The key concept of Gazprom’s strategy is diversification,” Miller said in his prepared remarks. “Firstly, it is the diversification of our target markets. The Company’s operating principles are very simple: firstly, gas should be sold, then produced, conveyed and sold to consumers. Secondly, it is the diversification of our production regions, transport and finished products to be sold.” (more…)
If you are looking for Gennady Timchenko (second from right), the dominant Russian in the partnership which created the oil trader Gunvor, you won’t find him in the market prospectus Gunvor has just released to the market. That’s because the document, dated May 10, 2013, spells his name Guennadi Timtchenko.
The prospectus for $500 million in bonds is the first to be issued to the market by the hitherto secretive Timchenko and his partner, Torbjorn Tornqvist. Prepared by Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, ING and Societe Generale, the document says Timchenko and Tornqvist own the group 50/50. But the prospectus isn’t a prospectus in Switzerland because in that country, Gunvor can “not claim to comply with the disclosure standards of the Swiss Federal Code of Obligations and the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange Ltd. and corresponding prospectus schemes annexed to the listing rules of the SIX Swiss Exchange Ltd.” The prospectus can be read in full here. (more…)
The relatively new President of France is visiting Russia today for the first time since Francois Hollande’s election nine months ago. At the personal and policy levels relations between Hollande and President Vladimir Putin couldn’t be much worse. They disagree over which regimes they should support, and which they should topple. Hollande, his apparat announced through a Sunday newspaper, will be meeting Russians aiming to topple Putin.
The last time the two met – in Paris in June – they disagreed vocally over Hollande’s intervention in Syria on the side of the rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Hollande said of Putin at the time: “We have disagreements over who is responsible for the violence and over the need for Assad to leave. The actions of the Syrian regime are intolerable. Any solution to the crisis requires the departure of Assad.” Putin said Russia is opposed to foreign armed intervention for regime change. “We are not for Assad, neither for his opponents. We want to achieve the situation where the violence ends and there won’t be large-scale civil war. What is happening in Libya, in Iraq? Did they become safer? Where are they heading? Nobody has an answer.” (more…)
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age, after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.
After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster history to be her own joke.
Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself. This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.
In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English: the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.
The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British. Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating. The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin BlueLine (d. 1996).
The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok) are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences. The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.
Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money. “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.
By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.
The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.
Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.
China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years. The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.
So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.
The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).
A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester, he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018, claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.
Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”
Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.
After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.
The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.”
Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.
New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.
Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes, it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.