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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has launched an attack on Leonid Mikhelson, GennadyTimchenko and Kirill Shamalov in an oligarch showdown which President Vladimir Putin must decide, because Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev cannot. Not since 2008, when Deripaska appealed to Putin for support of his attempt to take Norilsk Nickel away from Vladimir Potanin, has there been a multimillion dollar contest like this, inside the Kremlin wall. Deripaska’s move also comes after two years of attempts by the US Government to force regime change in Moscow by attacking Putin, his family and his “cronies”.
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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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By John Helmer, Moscow

The US is intensifying the pressure on Cyprus to accept a secret NATO plan to keep Turkish forces on the island.

Victoria Nuland, the State Department official in charge of regime change in Russia and Ukraine, met for talks last week with the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and with Turkish Cypriot figures. The State Department and US Embassy in Nicosia have kept silent on what was said. A well-informed Cypriot source reports Nuland “was in Cyprus to pre-empt any likelihood of future deepening in relations with Russia. Anastasiades may not want to, but he may have no other option.” A second Cypriot political source said: “[Nuland] will try to blackmail him. I’m not sure how he will react.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

A rare drawing by Ilya Chashnik, a Russian artist who died in St. Petersburg in 1929, was sold last month by the Tajan art auction house after a warning that the provenance claimed for the work was false. The work was sold on March 8, according to Tajan’s specialist for modern art, Caroline Cohn. Subsequent requests for proof that the drawing is a genuine one, and that the expert authenticating it, Alexandre Arzamastsev, is also genuine, have been rebuffed by Tajan. “The tone which you use is totally discourteous,”Cohn emailed. “Please note that neither TAJAN nor myself authorize you to quote me in your article.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Faking of Russian paintings by forgers, certified by fraudsters pretending to be experts, is on trial in St. Petersburg and Wiesbaden, Germany, but until the verdicts are delivered, there is no certainty of value, no reliable pricing. Suspicious canvases are surfacing regularly in all the European capitals, including Moscow. But as the growth in market value of genuine Russian art slows to a halt, with the decline in fortune of Russian art-buyers, has the profit margin in faking become a better line of business to be in – if you are a seller?
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister in charge of the 2008 financial crash and two-times deputy prime minister, was sacked in September 2011 for overweaning ambition by President Dmitry Medvedev. No Russian politician has ever been cut to size so publicly as Medvedev did it to Kudrin. He has now been chopped again. This time it’s President Vladimir Putin who brought down the axe, four months after Kudrin announced to Bloomberg that he was running for “Top Job in Putin Government”.

If Kudrin — Putin told a questioner at his press conference last week — would try harder at being number-2, there will always be a place for him.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The confrontation last week between Russian aircraft and a US-Polish naval operation in the Baltic Sea, within shooting distance of Kaliningrad, was a long anticipated and professionally executed exercise by the military commanders of all three countries. “Unprofessional”, as Admiral Mark Ferguson commanding US Naval Forces in Europe called it, was the very least thing it was. But who provoked, who feinted, who attacked first, and who defended are questions the publicity that has followed is meant to obscure.

One outcome that was not anticipated by either the attackers or defenders has begun to materialize in Warsaw. There, the rhetoric of military buildup along Poland’s eastern frontier has run into the cold calculation that Poland’s survival chances aren’t likely to be much better than those of the USS Donald Cook, if there had been a real firefight, Turkish style.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Clifford Gaddy (lead image, left) has never recovered from his 20-year infatuation with Anatoly Chubais and Alexei Kudrin. Neither has Gaddy’s boss at Brookings Institution in Washington, Strobe Talbott (right), the regime changer-in-chief at the State Department in the 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin was his man in the Kremlin, and the rest of the country too weak to resist.

If only they ruled Russia today, President Chubais, Prime Minister Kudrin or vice versa, instead of President Vladimir Putin, there could never ever be the Kremlin plot Gaddy and Brookings charged last week for blackmailing United States officials and their allies with something like the Panama Papers. A regime-changing plot like that isn’t as preposterous as it sounds — not because Putin thought of it, as Gaddy now claims, but because Gaddy and Talbott used it a good many times themselves in Moscow, and in Belgrade too, until Putin put a stop to them. For lossmaking Brookings, however, putting a stop to Putin’s plotting is a desperate advertisement for badly needed funds.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Marche Slave and The Farewell of Slavianka, Tchaikovsky’s and Agapkin’s marches against the Turks, are always going to be popular in Moscow, whatever the Turks do. John Philip Sousa is not a name that’s heard on Moscow radio, and his Stars & Stripes Forever will not be broadcast.

Far from killing classical music on Russian radio, since the present war started audience numbers for Radio Orfei (Orphee, Orpheus), the national broadcaster of classical music, are up 20%. Over the past decade the audience for classical music radio in Russia has grown fourfold. Not so in the UK and US. Even with cash from the National Lottery, the classical listening audience in the UK is dwindling, dying of natural causes, like old age
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