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By John Helmer, Moscow

When you have been the target of assassination by a powerful figure in Russia, as I have, and you survive the hit, as I did, you learn one thing or two things before; more in retrospect. One is that the Moscow police act quickly and competently, as they would elsewhere – so swiftly, in fact, that the powerful figure may not have the time to close down the investigation before the evidence can be saved. A second is that even hits ordered by powerful figures generate a trail of planning and positioning they didn’t intend to leave behind, pointing to their identity, and that in turn to their motive. A third is that in Moscow assassinations the place of ambush is always selected to raise the probability of success for the assassins, the hit, and the getaway – never the chances of survival for the victim. The fourth is that if the target is lucky, the assassination plan is interrupted by an unforeseeable mistake in placement or timing; a weapon fault; a passing witness; or a lucky circumstance.

On the physical evidence of what happened in the 30 minutes preceding the February 27 murder of Boris Nemtsov, the probability of his being attacked on Bolshoi Moskovoretsky Bridge was one in thirty-six (less than 3%). Nemtsov wasn’t just unlucky: his assassins were correspondingly fortunate, more than they could have planned.
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DWB-1630

By John Helmer, Moscow

The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades agreed last week with President Vladimir Putin on what is reported in London and Washington to be a military basing agreement with Russia for Russia’s naval and air forces in the Mediterranean. In the aftermath, Putin did all the talking to the press, making it clear, if not explicit, that in current Russian strategy, Cyprus is far more important than Greece.

Returning home to Cyprus on the weekend, Anastasiades has disclosed no papers with his signature, assuring his party supporters – among them, the anti-Russian voter bloc on the island – that so far as military terms are concerned, he has signed nothing new. The Cyprus Mail, an anti-Russian newspaper, called Anastasiades’s trip to the Kremlin a “fizzle”. A source close to the Cyprus presidency comments that the idea of a Russian base agreement in Cyprus “is agitprop. It’s all a lot of bull.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Kremlin doesn’t want to say so exactly. But right now it is as reluctant to support the Greek Government in its conflict with Germany, as Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Politburo wanted to back the Greek Communist Party during the Greek civil war between 1946 and 1949. So, when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) met in Moscow with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotsias (left) two weeks ago, he offered Athens a hypothetical conditional: “Russia is also in a tough financial situation caused by a unilateral illegitimate policy of our Western colleagues. However, if the government of Greece ever comes up with any requests then, as Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said, they will, of course, be considered…”

Speaking a few hours before on Athens television, the new Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos proposed the Greek hypothetical conditional: “if we see that Germany remains rigid and wants to blow apart Europe, then we have the obligation to go to Plan B. Plan B is to get funding from another source. It could the United States at best, it could be Russia, it could be China or other countries.”

Asked to say what Greek Government requests Finance Minister Siluanov is considering, the ministry spokesman said today – nothing. That’s to say, the Greeks haven’t proposed a Plan B, and if they do, the Russian response will be — nothing. The Russian reason – the new Greek Government, like its predecessors, is regarded by the Kremlin as a US client, engaged in secret dealings with Washington which would put a Russian loan, if it were extended, at risk of being wasted, or lost.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (left), chief executive of the Russian state aluminium monopoly Rusal, makes a practice of thriving when everyone else is suffering. That’s because the Russian government and the state banks cast a more protective cover over heavy debtors when times are bad than when times are better.

Rusal owes $9 billion, a sum that has been greater than its stock market capitalization for much of the past year. But since January 1 Rusal’s share price has been doing so well, the company has issued notices to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange claiming it is innocent of any hanky panky. If Deripaska isn’t protesting too much, what then is driving Rusal’s apparent recovery so far this year?
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian oligarch who took sides for the European Union (EU) against Russia, is running out of money, company officials admitted last week in a confidential briefing.

Pinchuk has been forced to provide his company with $20 million in emergency cash to stave off insolvency, but bondholders and banks owed more than $1 billion have not been paid. Although company officials admit that Interpipe, their pipemaking business in Dniepropetrovsk, has not been attacked directly by the fighting in Donbass, they say they are now cut off from supplies of scrap steel for smelters, electricity, and coal from Lugansk and Donetsk. As a result, Pinchuk is now planning to lay off at least 3,000 workers – one-fifth of his Dniepropetrovsk workforce. A brewing worker rebellion and bankruptcy action by unpaid bondholders are part of what one Interipe executive calls Pinchuk’s “fundamental risk”.

The timing of the disclosures could not be worse for Pinchuk, or for Dniepropetrovsk — until now the bastion of Igor Kolomoisky, Pinchuk’s commercial rival and governor of the region. Pinchuk was the target in the US last week as US newspapers opened investigations into the flow of money Pinchuk has directed to the Clinton Foundation, and to lobbying for commercial and political favours from Hillary Clinton and State Department officials directing the Kiev administration.

According to Interpipe sources, neither the EU nor the US is buying enough Pinchuk pipes to offset the shutout in the Russian market, and the collapse of demand in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The drop in the global oil price has triggered sharp cutbacks in oilfield spending and pipe demand in the US and the Middle East. The American shale oil boom has proved no good for Pinchuk too, because shale oil drilling requires premium pipes which Interpipe doesn’t manufacture.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Central Criminal Court have reported that Nikolai Zlochevsky, a Ukrainian businessman and twice the minister of state for oil and gas licences, is the controlling shareholder of the Ukrainian gas producer Burisma. So what are employees of Igor Kolomoisky, warlord of Dniepropetrovsk and controller of the Privatbank Group, doing as the shareholder representatives on the Burisma board?

Kolomoisky isn’t the accommodating, retiring, passive sort, say sources who work with him. Zlochevsky has the more bending character of the two, the sources claim. So is Burisma their cooperative and joint venture, or is Zlochevsky Kolomoisky’s front-man, just as others were for Zlochevsky in the ten-year history of Burisma’s acquisition of valuable oil and gas prospects.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Burisma, an influential Ukrainian oil and gas company with disputed ownership involving Nikolai Zlochevsky and Igor Kolomoisky, is under criminal investigation in the UK. But you wouldn’t know it from a release issued by the company on January 22. According to Burisma, “Britain closed criminal proceedings against the assets of Nikolay Zlochevskyi [sic]. The case was closed after the Court analyzed the period from 2002 to December 2014 for alleged illegality of the source of funds of companies the ultimate beneficiary of which was Nikolay Zlochevskyi [sic] and ‘found no grounds for further consideration of the case’, said the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales decision.”

A statement issued yesterday by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in London, which initiated the criminal proceedings against Zlochevsky in April of 2014, said its investigation of Zlochevsky and Burisma is “ongoing”. The SFO regrets, it added, that unexplained changes of position by the state prosecutor in Kiev led to last month’s court judgement. “We are disappointed,” said the SFO spokesman, “we were not provided with the evidence by authorities in the Ukraine necessary to keep this restraint order in place. Our criminal investigation continues.”

No trace of Burisma’s “no grounds” quotation from the court judgement can be found.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

South African government officials have attacked Russia’s bid to supply South Africa’s new nuclear reactor programme, accusing Rosatom, the state nuclear power agency, of imposing financially and legally disadvantageous terms which the South Africans, speaking anonymously, term “scary”.

The attack was launched Friday in the Mail & Guardian, a local newspaper associated with the Guardian of London. Just one SA Government official, Enver Daniels, the chief state law advisor in Pretoria, was identified as behind the allegations. Speaking anonymously to the newspaper also was a group identified as “numerous”, and representing the SA ministries of energy, international relations, trade and industry, and the treasury.

The SA officials launched their attack on Rosatom after the full text of the Rosatom agreement on nuclear cooperation with South Africa was discovered openly published on a Russian Foreign Ministry website. The SA Government continues to keep the text of the Rosatom agreement classified. The accusing officials are also familiar with the terms of rival nuclear cooperation agreements signed with the French state company Areva, and with the Chinese government, in collaboration with the US. The SA officials are keeping silent on the terms of these pacts, and on a lobbying campaign by the US and France to drive the Russians out of the running for the $50 billion contract, the largest state procurement in SA history.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

It is eleven weeks since President Vladimir Putin visited Brisbane, Australia, for a summit meeting of the G20 states. Putin was escorted in the Coral Sea, east of Brisbane, by a Russian Navy flotilla making the longest deployment of the Russian surface fleet ever displayed. Including Russian submarines shadowing the flotilla, this was also the most powerful Russian force ever to practice aiming at targets on the Australian continent operated by the Australian Defence Forces, the US military, or the two at bases they operate together.

Because these bases run in secret, most Australians had no idea what was happening, and what was changing. The Australian media – controlled by three proprietors — Rupert Murdoch; the government; and until February 6 a mining oligarch called Gina Rinehart — didn’t alert them. For the story the Australian and Russian press didn’t report, click.

The Russian Navy off the Australian east coast in November was armed with ballistic and cruise missiles, with nuclear warheads capable of striking every US warfighting base on the Australian continent, plus the Australian cities. Like Putin, the flotilla withdrew northwards to base on November 16. They left behind a death ray which is destroying the local politicians most hostile to receiving Putin at the summit.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Timothy Colton, a Russia expert at Harvard University in the US, has admitted he has been engaged in research on Russia’s leaders as part of the Pentagon’s top-secret Operation BODY LEADS. Top-secret, that is, until last week’s disclosure of the operation to investigate President Vladimir Putin’s and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s brains from their body movements and other evidence gathered under cover by academics and journalists. According to Colton, “I was not and never have been in any way a clandestine military contractor. I have never had a security clearance, and I have never conducted classified research for any organization.”

The disclosure sheds new light on the operation of universities, think-tanks and academic researchers engaged in the US Government’s campaign to overthrow the Putin government.
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