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eu_justice

By John Helmer, Moscow

Anders Fogh Rasmussen departs in two weeks from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), where he has been secretary-general since 2009, with a present from the General Court of the European Union Court of Justice. It’s a golden tongue depressor.

In a judgement issued in Luxembourg on Thursday, September 18, the court ruled that the European Union(EU) cannot lawfully introduce sanctions against states, corporations, state organizations, or individuals without stating reasons which can be substantiated in evidence to a standard of proof tested in court.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Polling of Ukrainian voters since the ceasefire in the civil war was negotiated on September 5 reveals that large, growing majorities of Ukrainians throughout the country are in favour of keeping to the ceasefire terms and stopping hostilities. The only political party Ukrainian voters say they support to do this is President Petro Poroshenko’s Solidarity bloc, an alliance with Vitaily Klitschko, Yury Lutsenko and Olga Bogomolets.

Ukrainian politicians, including the current Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk and former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, are losing support, the voters say, because they favour war in the Donbass, sanctions against Russia, and military intervention of NATO on Ukrainian territory. Yatseniuk and Timoshenko are leading blocs they are calling Patriots of Ukraine and Fatherland in the campaign for parliamentary seats to be decided on October 26. On current polling trends, their voters across the country will number less than 5%, the threshold for winning party seats in the new Verkhovna Rada.
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titanium_wars

By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow

On Sunday, September 14, Victor Pinchuk signed a declaration with a group of leading Russian and German businessmen, calling for decentralization of regional power in eastern Ukraine; self-determination and constitutional guarantees of minority rights; military non-alignment and neutrality barring Ukrainian membership of NATO or foreign military deployments, bases, advisors on Ukrainian territory, east or west; an end to sanctions; resumption of business as usual with Russia; modification of the European Union’s association agreement with Kiev by trade terms acceptable to Moscow; and Russian participation in multilateral financing for economic recovery and reconstruction of the war-damaged Donbass.
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war_party

By John Helmer, Moscow

Petro Poroshenko disappointed most of the audience at Victor Pinchuk’s Kiev party on Friday and Saturday by suggesting that he is ready to trim the terms of Ukraine’s partnership agreement with the European Union in order to meet President Vladimir Putin’s demands. But that’s exactly what Pinchuk (front row, 6th left) needs if Interpipe, his steel and pipemaking group in Dniepropetrovsk region, is to trade its way out of bank default and insolvency.

According to Poroshenko, “We have to be the most flexible concerning the [EU] Agreement on association and do everything possible to keep those opportunities which we will have within association, and at the same time to make it comfortable for Russia. I will personally use my best efforts for this purpose.”
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gontareva_beating_dead_horse

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the picture, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, an American, is applauding as the Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Valeriya Gontareva, beats a dead horse. For the metaphorically minded, the dead horse is the Ukrainian banking system. For the literally minded, Gontareva claims the horse is alive and running healthily. Kim, Gontareva, and the horse appear to have their eyes wide open on the scene. Either that — or at least one of them is blinking at the truth.

On August 8, the World Bank paid $500 million to NBU. The term is for 16 years, with the first seven a grace period, and a variable interest rate once repayments start.
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abyzov_fox

By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Abyzov (centre) is the man in charge of keeping the Russian government transparent, accountable and so far as the name of his ministerial commission can be stretched through 235 government press releases since his appointment in May 2012, open. But the Minister for Open Government has a secret he keeps closed.

Abyzov is now fighting for political survival, as President Vladimir Putin is being urged by his advisors to replace the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, and purge Medvedev’s allies, especially those with substantial or hidden links to the United States. Abyzov is a target, the sources claim, because he is alleged to be one of the fund-raisers for Medvedev’s political campaigning; and because he keeps a large part of his wealth in the US. For Putin partisans, Abyzov’s personal ties to the US make his Russian loyalties vulnerable.
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bacchus_titov

By John Helmer, Moscow

Boris Titov (centre) has proposed the revival of Crimean winemaking with at least $20 million in state budget funds each year for the next five. If everything goes according to his plan, the outcome by the end of 2019 will be a state winemaking corporation, ripe for privatization, with 140,000 hectares of vines producing a bumper harvest not seen since the Soviet Union. Even that is less than half the area of vineyards required to support the growing Russian consumption of wine, particularly of the champagne type.

Titov, whose official post in the Russian government is Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, is the owner of Abrau-Durso through Abrau Durso Group Limited of Cyprus, and Solvalub Trading Ltd., a company registered on the Channel Island of Jersey. Abrau-Durso is one of Russia’s leading winemakers, producing premium-priced sparkling and still white wines and reds. For the archive on Abrau-Durso, read this.
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ua_rider

By John Helmer, Moscow

After the steady rise of enthusiasm for war in Ukraine voter polls through the summer, Ukrainian politicians in favour of the military campaign against Donetsk, Lugansk, and Russia, have suffered a dramatic loss of support across the country.

This was reported in Kiev on September 3. In the first countrywide poll taken since the Ukrainian Army took heavy casualties and retreated from the Donbass at the end of August, voters who had supported the pro-war Radical Party, led by Oleg Lyashko (image-2), have dropped from 22.2% to 13.1%. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk’s (3) bloc, Patriots of Ukraine, which includes the police and national guard minister, Arsen Avakov (4), has collapsed from more than 9% to 3.7%. Yulia Timoshenko’s (6) Fatherland party has fallen below her former proteges to 3.5%. The Svoboda (“Freedom”) party of Oleg Tyagnibok (1), the candidate of the US Embassy in Kiev and the State Department, and Pravy Sektor (“Right Sector”), the party behind the national guard formations fighting in the east, have lost virtually all their support outside the far western regions of the country; across the Ukraine they are now polling just 2.5% and 1%.
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imf_ua

By John Helmer, Moscow

Bank robbers of the manual, stick-up type have a reputation for a sense of a humour. That may be a comfort to them, because they usually get caught. Bank robbers of the International Monetary Fund type lack even a sense of irony, because they expect not to be caught, and never are. In the bank- robbing profession also, the driver of the get-away car is usually the least talented, the witless one who doesn’t see the gag, especially not when he or she is the butt of jokes from the rest of the gang.

This week, when Alexander Shlapak, the Ukrainian Minister of Finance, helped himself to $1.39 billion, the second tranche of the IMF’s Ukraine Stand-By Agreement of $17.1 billion, he illustrated the ministry’s Facebook announcement in Kiev with a picture showing an anonymous figure carrying a cheap briefcase away from the IMF headquarters as the Fund’s front-door sign is partially covered up by the Ukrainian flag. Counting the first tranche of $3.1 billion Shlapak took away on May 5, the cover-up is currently blowing at $4.5 billion. Another $1.39 billion had been scheduled for the taking in October. But that has been delayed and doubled to $2.8 billion for payout by December 15.
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