WHO’S TO BLAME FOR THE GAS SHORTAGE & RISING PRICES IN EUROPE – IT’S THE EUROPEAN UNION STUPID

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.

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BLOOMBERG ADMITS LYING ABOUT ROSNEFT IN MOSCOW COURT, PAYS FINE – REUTERS TO CONTINUE LYING FROM NEW YORK

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

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.

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ATTEMPT TO ARRANGE PRESIDENT PUTIN’S MEETING WITH MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN TO STABILIZE OIL MARKET

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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”. 

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RUSSIA’S STAKE IN VENEZUELA

By John Helmer, Moscow

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 match for 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…)

ROSNEFT TRIES 3-MONKEY SOLUTION FOR ITS SHARE SALE PROBLEM, ITALIANS AND SWISS TOO

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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THE ROSNEFT SHARE SALE IS A GENUINE PIECE OF UNHACKED RUSSIAN FAKE NEWS, THE TRUTH OF WHICH THE SWISS GOVERNMENT HAS ORDERED GLENCORE TO PRODUCE FOR US GOVERNMENT INSPECTION, SO EVERYONE WILL KNOW THE TRUTH EXCEPT THE RUSSIANS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.

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THE STRANGE BUSINESS OF FATHER KHOTIN AND HIS SON – BILLION-DOLLAR CASUALTIES OF RUSSIAN BANK CREDIT, MOSCOW REAL ESTATE VALUE, AND WEST SIBERIAN OILWELLS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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THE QUALITY OF EUROPEAN UNION JUSTICE – HOW TO DISMISS ROSNEFT’S CHALLENGE TO THE LEGALITY OF SANCTIONS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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HANDS UP, PANTS DOWN! THE RAIDER RAIDED AS TATNEFT LAUNCHES STEALTH ATTACK ON IGOR KOLOMOISKY AND GENNADY BOGOLYUBOV

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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IN THE TAKEOVER OF UKRAINE GAS PRODUCER JKX , IGOR KOLOMOISKY HAS A NEW FRIEND IN MOSCOW

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV AND ARKADY DVORKOVICH FAIL TO SAVE SUMMA’S ROTTERDAM TERMINAL PROJECT REVEALING POWER SHIFT IN RUSSIA’S MARITIME SECTOR, KREMLIN TOO

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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THE ILLEGALITY OF SANCTIONS – UK HIGH COURT SENDS ROSNEFT CLAIM TO EUROPEAN COURT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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A CERTAIN LACK OF POLISH – INSIDER REVEALS VLADIMIR YEVTUSHENKOV’S PREDICAMENT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”
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VLADIMIR YEVTUSHENKOV RUNS THE GAUNTLET – WHY NOW, WHY NOT?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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LEONID LEBEDEV — IS THE KREMLIN TARGETING RUSSIANS CLOSE TO THE US FOR REVERSE SANCTIONS?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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WASHDAY BLUES — ANDREI GONCHARENKO’S £43 MILLION DEAL SURFACES AT LONDON TAX TRIBUNAL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”
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ROSNEFT INTRODUCES FORCE MAJEURE — HOW TO SHOOT DOWN STEALTH SANCTIONS WITH A PAPER DART

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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US NAVY IN BLACK SEA ENGAGEMENTS FOR AS LONG AS FUEL HOLDS OUT — MAYBE RUSSIAN FUEL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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

For its return voyage to the Mediterranean the Taylor had stopped at the Georgian port of Batumi, and was refuelled there. According to the bunker supplier, Marine Supply & Service, “generally, physical bunker supply by tankers is not available in Georgian ports since beginning of 2013. Vessels arriving to Georgian ports are supplied with MGO (Marine Gasoil) by tank trucks, while IFO (Fuel oil) delivery still does not exist.”
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THE CRIMEA EFFECT — WHOEVER CONTROLS CRIMEA CONTROLS HUGE RESERVES OF OFFSHORE GAS, BUT MAYBE THAT WON’T BE EXXONMOBIL OR NATHANIEL ROTHSCHILD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV TO IGOR SECHIN, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? ROTTERDAM OIL TERMINAL TO ROSNEFT FOR THE ASKING

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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

In Magomedov’s case, an appeal to Sechin also means that not even the financier of Magomedov’s last resort, David Bonderman of US-based TPG Group, is willing to put up his dime.
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EXILLON — A LESSON IN RUSSIAN ARBITRAGE, OR IS IT A PYRAMID?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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ELENA TIMCHENKO AND KSENIA FRANK SHOW FRIENDSHIP FOR RUSSIA, AND SOMETHING ELSE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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DUTCH BACKING FOR GREENPEACE AGAINST RUSSIA HAS A 390-YEAR OLD PRECEDENT — THAT WAS WHEN NUTMEG, NOT OIL, WAS THE TARGET FOR TRADE WARFARE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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NOT SO JOLLY GIANT — RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR PONDERS GREENLAND GREENPEACE PROSECUTION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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SHOWDOWN ON THE ICEPACK — RUSSIA INTENSIFIES CONTROL OVER NORTHERN SEA ROUTE SHIPPING, BUT SUEZ MAY STILL WIN

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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SERGEI FRANK TAKES ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK — RUSSIAN COMPETITION WATCHDOG CAUTIOUS ON ARCTIC LNG TANKER PLAN

one_step_two_steps

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”
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THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF, ER LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS – ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV TRIES TO FIND A NEW BUSINESS ON GAZPROM’S BACK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”
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GET YOUR GUNVOR PROSPECTUS HERE – SPOT THE MISSING LINKS

evolution

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.
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FRANCOIS HOLLANDE IN MOSCOW – TRIPLE ENTENTE FOR DEMOCRACY, TAX, OIL

By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.

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