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By John Helmer, Moscow

Chrystia Freeland, a leading figure in the Ukrainian and Canadian campaigns against Russia, was promoted last week in Ottawa to become Canada’s foreign minister. She is now one step away in her plan to replace Justin Trudeau as prime minister, sources in Ottawa, Washington, and Moscow report.

There was a hitch in the plan, though. Freeland had been hoping for a senior ministry when Trudeau took power in November 2015. Instead, he gave her the low-ranked international trade portfolio to keep her out of Canada as often as possible.  Freeland then counted on Hillary Clinton to win the US presidential election last November, in order to persuade Trudeau she had better relationships in the coming Washington administration than the incumbent foreign minister, Stéphane Dion.  The election of Donald Trump, with whom Freeland has no relationship and no agreement either, disappointed but didn’t deter her.

Trudeau has also accepted the Freeland scheme, and also for a Clinton reason. Trudeau will be safer in the prime ministry, Ottawa sources believe, if Freeland follows the Clinton role model into public acrimony, private hysteria, then defeat. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Three years ago precisely, on January 12, 2014 – just before the Anglo-American war against Russia began in earnest — we reported that the Moscow School of Management at Skolkovo was publishing  what it called  a market atlas of the jobs and professions which will be newly needed by the year 2020, and those to be needed no longer. One of the new ones was what the Skolkovo atlas called  a cyber-cleaner (кибердворник). This is a specialist in removing from the internet and all digital data archives whatever information someone pays to have cleaned or deleted entirely, and its substitution with what the specialist is paid to put there – fake news, kompromat, disinformation, PR, advertising, fraud.  One of the professions the cyber-cleaners will replace, according to the atlas, is journalism(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s been 412 years since the last foreign-arranged regime change that worked at the Kremlin — if briefly, and if you don’t count Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton. .

False Dmitry I (lead picture) was, to start with, the stooge of the Polish king and the Pope. Dmitry – aka Yury Otrepiev, aka Monarkh Grishka – had a few ideas of his own, one of which is still in the Kremlin drawer. That’s an alliance of Christian Europe against the Turks. Dmitry I was assassinated by the Muscovite oligarchs of the time. Then False Dmitry II, pretending to be the first, appeared on the Polish border, claiming the assassination had been fake news.  He too was hacked – er, dismembered — as was Marina, the lady who had been wife, mother and co-plotter of both ill-fated schemes.

But she may have survived. Her descendants are tweeting in Washington at this very moment. And in Warsaw, London, and NATO HQ in Brussels.  They oblige us to be on the alert for their False Dmitry schemes. Only the New Year will show for sure how many False Dmitry’s there are, and besides them, what is true, honest, real.

And so, dear readers, it’s our New Year wish that your eyesight will stay as discerning and sharp as the tip of our pen.

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin hosted his annual supper for the largest holders of capital in Russia on Monday evening. Compared to his table in December 2015, he added 15 extra seats, and for the first time men of little capital have been invited. Representatives of small business and even one Moscow house builder with a reputation for destroying city heritage sites were seated too. With a first-time invitation to sit down  also came rehabilitation for Sergei Frank, chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot, whose business practices have been judged by the British High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court to be dishonest

Putin’s address was shorter than usual. “Despite the unfavourable situation on the global markets and in the political sphere,” he said, “we have indeed seen changes for the better. We have succeeded in stabilising the situation in the economy. This is a clear and evident fact today. We need now to set in place a strategy for confident growth, and this is something we can achieve together. Of course, there are still many outstanding problems and many reasons for dissatisfaction. There is still much to change and improve in order to feel more confident. But at least we all agree what we need to do, how we need to do it, and what timeframe is realistic.” (more…)

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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.
(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The old Russian expression from sword-fighting days was “Scars adorn the man” (ШРАМЫ УКРАШАЮТ МУЖЧИНУ – lead image, top). But in the Russian pun (А ШМАРЫ УКРОЩАЮТ — lead image, bottom), do prostitutes “tame” the man? Appearances can be deceiving but not us.

Website attacks have intensified since the report last week of Igor Sechin’s Rosneft share transaction. Russian reporters attempting to cover the story by questioning the Swiss authorities about Glencore’s agreements, and Bank Intesa Saopaolo’s purported financing of the deal, say they have been ordered off the story by their managing editors. Italian and Swiss reporters will be publishing shortly. New York and Washington colleagues, Yves Smith and Alex Floum, have republished the story so that it can survive intact.

The info-warriors have left scars on the website’s reflexes and illustrations which will take time to remove. For the time being, they don’t obstruct the sense. You be the judge, and let us know.

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Captain Bear to bear artillerymen: “If they know enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, let them eat curds and honey. I told you, curds with a ‘c’. Now look what you’ve dropped on them.”

Sanitary notice for readers: if there’s a problem reading the latest news-breaking stories at www.johnhelmer.net, try johnhelmer.online. For password, open bible at the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 7, Section 15, and click.

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1888a

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.

(more…)

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1886

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian champagne is like fake news in the Washington Post; and Gresham’s Law on counterfeit money.  The supply of fake champagne, including fake bubbles, is now driving the genuine stuff out of the market. A study, released in Moscow last week by the new state agency, Russian Quality System (Roskachestvo), reveals that 30% of a sampling of the sparkling wines currently being sold on the Russian market fail both Russian and international standards. That’s because they contain artificially enhanced carbon dioxide; sugar additives such as ethanol; abnormally large volumes of preservatives such as sulphur dioxide; and false labelling and packaging to cover up.

This is wine soda pop — a new beverage category created in the Russian alcohol regulations in 2012. Adding carbon dioxide artificially is not prohibited by the Russian legislation, but “it’s legalized counterfeit,” says Vadim Drobiz, head of Centre for Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets (TsIFRRA) in Moscow. And the volume is rising, as champagne imports and domestic sparkling wine consumption drop. (more…)