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DwB_1669A

By John Helmer, Moscow

The largest retailers in Russia are achieving revenue and profit growth at the same time as Russian consumers are suffering from falling wages, higher prices, and loss of confidence, which has dwindled to lows not recorded for the past twenty years. How the expansion of the retail business is made possible by the squeeze of its customers is a paradox which the supermarket companies themselves, many of them publicly listed shareholding groups, don’t want to discuss in public.

There’s an even more secret paradox. The biggest of the foreign retailers in Russia – Auchan, Metro, Ikea, and Kingfisher (Castorama) – are nationals of countries whose governments have gone to war with Russia, imposing the sanctions which have triggered the Russian economy’s current contraction. But in a series of interviews attempted this week in Moscow, the spokesmen for these foreign groups don’t want to acknowledge that they are profiting at the expense of their domestic rivals. What they fear, retail sector analysts say off the record, is that the Kremlin will introduce legislation to require an increase in the domestic sourcing of retailer supplies. That would be good for Russia, but bad for the German, French, Swedish and British groups.
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DwB_1670

By John Helmer, Moscow

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, would do almost anything to get and keep power. That, in the opinion of powerful German bankers, includes making herself look ready for war with Russia in order to make her political rival, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (lead image, right), the coalition Foreign Minister and opposition leader in Berlin, look too weak to be electable when the German poll must be called by 2017. So, sources close to the Chancellery say, Merkel insulted President Vladimir Putin and all Russians to their faces last week. This week Victoria Nuland, the junior State Department official who told the chancellor to get fucked a year ago, was in Moscow, replacing Merkel with a settlement of the Ukraine conflict the Kremlin prefers.

“We are ready for this,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Thursday after meeting Secretary of State John Kerry. Referring to Nuland, Lavrov added: “we were not those who had suspended relations. Those, who had done it, should reconsider their stance….But, as usual, the devil is in the details.” Lavrov meant not one, but two devils, who have sabotaged every move towards a settlement of the Ukraine conflict since the start of 2014 – Nuland and Merkel.
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DwB_1667b

By John Helmer, Moscow

Before a military strongman got himself elected prime minister of the south Pacific island of Fiji, he thought it a good idea to threaten his larger island neighbours, Australia and New Zealand, with the idea that Russia would arm his junta to the teeth, paying for the weapons with port rights for the Russian Navy, plus a bauxite mine concession for Oleg Deripaska’s Rusal.

That was before September 14, 2014, when Commodore Frank Bainimarama registered a 59% vote of confidence from Fijian voters. Democracy restored, a month later the Australian, New Zealand and US governments announced they were lifting the sanctions they had imposed on Fiji for the eight years since Bainimarama had pulled his putsch.

That’s also when Bainimarama didn’t need Russia any longer. Rusal lost its bid for Fiji’s second bauxite mine; that went to the same Chinese company which had taken the first in suspicious circumstances. Russian support for the Fijian military was cut back to lecture courses in Moscow, and vodka for Fijian soldiers. In return, Fiji abstained from the UN vote to condemn Crimea’s accession to Russia.

The Kremlin’s Pacific plot, once attributed to the scheming of Josef Stalin, has turned out to be a damp squib under Vladimir Putin. The squib remains a state secret in both Moscow and Suva.
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DwB_1669

By John Helmer, Moscow

Mining Maven is the London market’s bulwark against the meretricious drivel of the Financial Times, the Murdoch press, and the Guardian. And not only when it comes to investor hype, fraud, and insider dealing.
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DwB_1666

By John Helmer, Moscow

Four out of five Polish voters casting ballots in Sunday’s first-round presidential election were holding their noses. But what they want to say won’t be clear until the second round on May 24; maybe not until the parliamentary election in six months’ time. What is already clear is that the Poles have not been persuaded into voting for a candidate promising to go to war in the Ukraine or on the Russian border. Two displays of American military force in Poland – the armoured column which crossed the country at the end of March, and the portcall of the US Navy destroyer, USS Jason Dunham, at Gdynia last week, backfired by increasing voter insecurity and spreading protest.
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DwB_1665b

By John Helmer, Moscow

On display at this year’s Red Square parade on May 9 was something not seen in many years – the soldiers marching past were smiling. Only misanthropes and Russophobes claim that Russians don’t smile. Those who do claim have never been to bed with one, or to a Victory Day parade.

It is therefore bound to happen that Radio Liberty (Svoboda), the Legatum Institute, Fast Eddie Lucas, the Siklebaums, and the Washington war party will discover that the latest Russian weapon in the infowar ranged against them is smiling, laughing — humour on the back of auto bumper-bars.
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DwB_1664
By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week a Vienna, Austria, court ruled that US government charges against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash are unsubstantiated and unlawfully motivated by political scheming. Next up for the rule of evidence and of law — the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg must judge whether European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia are unsubstantiated and unlawfully motivated by political scheming.
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DwB_1661

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Moscow Times, a small English-language daily outlet for a string of foreign causes since 1992, has been sold by its Finnish owner, Sanoma. The new Russian owner, Demyan Kudryavtsev, told the newspaper on Tuesday he won’t be closing it down, but will be changing what it does. He told a Moscow Times interviewer the publication has “huge potential”, but that it is behind the times technologically, and failing to meet the needs of consumers.
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DwB_1663

By John Helmer, Moscow

A Vienna, Austria, court has ruled that Victoria Nuland (right), the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, attempted to pressure the President of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovich (left), into accepting Ukrainian association with the European Union (EU) by threatening Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash with arrest, extradition to the US, and imprisonment on allegations of bribery several years ago in India.
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DwB_1659_

“Journalists and activists should be trained and funded to investigate this world. Currently there are brave groups working independently in various countries, but little coordination. Those investigating corruption need to be protected by a legal fund so they are not intimidated by threats of libel.” — Peter Pomeranzev, April 15, 2014, US House Foreign Affairs Committee (early dementia symptoms: can’t spell, can’t check, lost track of time).