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DwB_1673b

By John Helmer, Moscow

Leonid Lebedev (lead image) has been ousted from the Federation Council, the Russian senate, after serving twelve years as a senator representing the Volga region of Chuvashia. This follows a Council investigation exposing earnings from offshore entities which Lebedev had failed to disclose in his official income and asset reports to the Council. Lebedev claims he has resigned his senate post voluntarily.

By exposing Lebedev’s money trail in Switzerland and Cyprus, the Russian investigation now threatens to unravel Lebedev’s year-long lawsuit in an American court for payments he claims he didn’t receive from Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg, and which he claims are still owed by them. Blavatnik and Vekselberg have asked the New York State Supreme Court to reject Lebedev’s claim because he is asking to be paid a second time for a 15% shareholding in the TNK oil company Lebedev sold to them in 2003, when they incorporated the stake in the TNK-BP combination with British Petroleum. Lebedev is asking the New York court to award him a share of the proceeds of Blavatnik’s and Vekselberg’s sale of their share in TNK-BP to Rosneft in 2013, ten years after Lebedev had sold out. Lebedev’s court papers make several calculations of shareholding value from $200 million to $2 billion.

Blavatnik and Vekselberg accuse Lebedev of hiding the decade-old deal and concealing the $600 million they paid him through a chain of offshore entities registered in Ireland and Switzerland, and ending up in Cyprus. According to Lebedev’s lawyers in the public court file, at a court hearing on April 9 Judge Saliann Scarpulla agreed to decide shortly on dismissing Lebedev’s claim.
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DwB_1688

By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced yesterday that it has managed a successful private placement of a quarter of the stake it owns in Lenta, the Russian supermarket chain. The press release by Anthony Williams, head of the EBRD’s public relations, said the selloff had “attracted strong interest and demand from a broad mix of institutional investors internationally.” Credit for EBRD’s deal, in which it earned $140 million, was given to Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley acting as the joint bookrunners.

The catch is that EBRD’s sharebuyers insisted on a price discount of 7.6%. When the market woke up to what was happening, it sold Lenta down by almost 9%.
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Dwb_1685

By John Helmer, Moscow

The German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 wiped out Amsterdam as the centre of the global diamond trade at the time. When the war ended, Antwerp, across the border in Belgium, was preferred by the diamantaires, and so it has remained. Until last week, perhaps.

That’s when the Belgian courts accepted an application from a group of Yukos shareholders to seek out and arrest bank accounts and other assets of identifiable Russian state entities. Alrosa, the state-owned diamond mining company, is considering whether it should continue to do business in Antwerp. Alrosa accounts for 28% of the world’s diamond supply, and 56% of Russian diamonds are exported to Belgium. As the Kremlin orders Russian trade in strategic commodities like oil and gas to move eastward and southward, away from Europe, will Alrosa redirect its diamonds?
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DwB_1686

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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DwB_1684

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the seedier studios of California, when the director cries “We’ve got wood!” he means the male lead has an erection, and it’s his cue to start his business while the cameras roll at a pornographic scene. Russia’s plywood business isn’t as sexy, but it’s faster growing and bigger too. It’s also becoming a oligopoly for Alexei Mordashov, who is already the well-known oligarch of the Russian steel and mining sectors.

Mordashov (lead image) met President Vladimir Putin in January. He claims he got the president’s go-ahead to build a new wood-processing complex at the village of Suda, outside Cherepovets. Public opposition is fierce – so fierce that the Kremlin is concealing what exactly Putin and Mordashov said about the project at their meeting; how much state money will be given to Mordashov for the scheme; and what Putin intends to do next. Not since Putin took sides with the locals in Irkutsk region against Oleg Deripaska’s paper and pulp plant on the edge of Lake Baikal, has there been such a test of Russians, oligarchs, the President – and who has wood.
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DwB_1683

By John Helmer, Moscow

In publishing on Russia, there comes a time when a writer, journalist, bank analyst, television presenter, or academic produces something so lacking in truthfulness, so replete with fawning and meretriciousness, that this website must kill and skin another goat; dry out the vellum; and have a fresh scroll inscribed with the Cat’s Paw – that’s the Personal Abasement Award (PAW).

This award is designed to encourage accountability and ethical reporting on Russia. The PAW committee decided to suspend the Cat’s Paw awards when the start of the Ukraine civil war threatened to overwhelm the supply of vellum and the goat population on which it depends. The goats who have earned the Cat’s PAW scroll have also multiplied exponentially.
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DwB_1682

By John Helmer, Moscow

Records uncovered in Canada reveal that Oleg Deripaska’s (lead image, right) Moscow holding EN+, which is the controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, is controlled by Cash Titan Mining Corporation Group Ltd. This company has an office at 1 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto, Ontario. The premises exist, but the company doesn’t — at least not in the federal Canadian and Ontario company registers. How can such a phantom represent itself as the offshore owner, and what part does it play in the plan Rusal announced in 2013 “for the transfer of financial and economic activity to the territory of Russia”?

The answer ought to be available from Philippe Mailfait, a 64-year old French national and Montreal businessman, who sits on the board of EN+ as an “independent director”. Cash Titan Mining lists Mailfait as its only director. But Mailfait
cannot be found, and EN+ won’t confirm he exists.
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DwB_1680

By John Helmer, Moscow

What to do if you are a Russian mining company with a billion dollars’ worth of asset exposure securing large debts, and your chain of production is struck at start and finish by corruption scandals, international litigation, popular protest, collapse of government authority, and homicidal violence? The solution is to pretend to your bankers you aren’t Russian — and privately beg the Kremlin for help.

That is what the Solway Group of companies has been doing at its nickel mine in central Guatemala, and at its ferronickel refinery in southeast Ukraine. Asked about Solway’s Russian roots by a Ukrainian reporter last month, Solway’s chief executive Daniel Bronstein replied that “Solway Investment Group is a Cyprus-based international industrial group with a 100% EU capital and operational offices in Luxemburg, Switzerland and Estonia.”

At almost the same time, a Russian source in Guatemala City said the Russian Ambassador, Nikolai Babich, had been to see the President of Guatemala, Otto Molina, to ask for his intervention on behalf of the mine’s Russian management and the Solway owners.
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DwB_v1679

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the history of warfare there is nothing new in the engagement of mercenaries to do the fighting and run the risks. The mamelukes (mamluks) were the most successful at the game — they started as slaves, became a warfighting caste, and ended as the rulers of the countries they captured, including Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517, and Iraq from 1704 to 1831. They defeated the European Crusaders. From then on, the term mameluke, when applied to someone in Europe, meant slavish obedience — the antithesis of independence. Napoleon employed a corps of them, and his long-serving bodyguard was one.

Sir Roderic Lyne (lead image, 3rd from left) is the number-2 executive in charge of the Royal Institute for International affairs (RIIA), known by its residence in London as Chatham House. Insiders say Lyne, a former British ambassador to Russia, has captured the organization, and turned it into a warfighting unit against Russia, though, the sources say, not without a fight. Amongst the organization’s members and financiers, opponents of the Lyne line against Russia accuse him of suppressing independence, and by promoting war against Russia of violating the Chatham House charter.
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DwB_sc1677

By John Helmer, Moscow

The scaffolding is going up around the walls of Chatham House in London — we shall not see it dismantled again in our lifetime. Not even if the Royal Institute of International Affairs says it is doing no more than a repaint job.

According to a fresh report from inside the building, issued on June 4, it’s time to strike at Russia with “defensive strategic communications and media support…promoting truthful accounts of Western policies and values… through EU and NATO cooperation.”

In the City of London this is known as talking one’s book. On Madison Avenue, in New York City, it’s called advertising. Chatham House is applying for money for former British government officials to write reports to US, British and NATO intelligence agencies for the job of winning over, or neutralizing, those who are victims of Russian disinformation because they don’t believe what the US, British and NATO intelligence agencies have been telling them. The more incredible this proposition sounds, the more urgently Sir Roderic Lyne and Sir Andrew Wood and several other Chatham House apparatchiki say they need the money.
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