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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Financial Times of London has replied in defence of its reporting on Sergei Pugachev (lead image, foreground), a Russian businessman on the run from a UK High Court conviction and two-year prison sentence.

In the Moscow evening, following yesterday’s publication on the Pugachev case, two emails were despatched, a long and a short one.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Pug dogs don’t live long. It’s because they lack proper noses, so they suffer from difficulties breathing in and out. That accounts for what everyone meeting a pug knows – they make a lot of noise trying to breathe.

Less well known is that while pugs hiss, snuffle, and snore, their body temperature is going up. For many pugs this is terminal — their organs are roasting internally. The better off pugs live longer if they sit in their owners’ laps without moving and eat little. Fat pugs suffocate and roast quicker than slim ones.

At the Financial Times there are many lap dogs, but the management has never acknowledged a problem of hissing in print; roasting internally is not a risk. Lionel Barber (lead image, left foreground), the newspaper’s editor, encourages hissing, particularly by reporters who specialize on Russia, Catherine Belton (centre) and Neil Buckley (right). They concentrate their efforts on the misdeeds of the Russian government; they are especially pit-bullish on President Vladimir Putin. They are cat’s paws, however, when it comes to the Russian oligarchs whose defence for stealing fortunes from Russia is that Putin made them do it; or that Putin trumped up criminal charges when he was stealing their fortunes for himself.

Sergei Pugachev (lead image) is a Russian businessman who made most of his fortune borrowing from state banks and bondholders, and not repaying. After ten trials before the UK High and Court of Appeal, eleven British judges have judged that Pugachev is a liar, guilty of deceit and dishonesty. But not Barber, Buckley, Belton and the Financial Times.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

On August 9, in St. Petersburg, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The moment is revolutionary. There has not been a comparable political turning-point in the 67 years since the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); not in the century since the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany against Russia in World War I; nor in the two centuries since Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II and the Russian Tsar Alexander I aligned against Napoleon and the British.

Russian sources say they are sure the Russian secret services did not warn Erdogan or help his forces prevail in the July 15-16 coup against him. After Erdogan began his counter-coup, and in the fight still continuing between Erdogan’s Islamic forces and the regular Turkish military, the sources add, there has been, and there will be, Russian help. It is more for the future, they explain, than for last week’s outcome that Turkish deputy prime minister Mehmet Şimşek told his counterpart Arkady Dvorkovich in Moscow on Tuesday: “I would like to thank you for support regarding recent events in Turkey, for supporting democracy and the Turkish government.”

The Russian sources say it is already agreed the two sides will pay a soon-to-be settled price in two-way trade; gas, nuclear and other energy projects; plus tourism. Much more is at stake, though, one of the sources adds. “Putin and his advisors believe Erdogan is still in danger. They support him now for the opportunity to reorganize the relationship with Turkey. They mean to secure Russia from encirclement on the southern frontier and the Black Sea, dismemberment of the Caucasus, and attack on the Kremlin by its enemies. Right now, as Europe collapses, the enemy is the US with NATO in support. If Turkey breaks with the US, NATO is a paraplegic. We shall see how Putin and Erdogan choose to portray the new Rome*, the new Byzantium* next Tuesday.”
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Statement by IOC Communications Director Gerry Rice on the Managing Director’s Urine Sample

July 22, 2016

In response to press queries, Mr. Gerry Rice, Director of Communications at the International Olympics Committee (IOC), made the following statement today relating to the Managing Director’s urine test in France:

“As we have said before, it would not be appropriate to comment on a case that has been and is currently before the French judiciary. However, the Executive Board has been briefed on recent developments related to this matter, and continues to express its confidence in the Managing Director’s ability to effectively carry out her duties. The Board will continue to be briefed on this matter. ”

Source: http://www.imf.org/en/news/articles/2016/07/22/13/01/pr16353-statement-by-imf-communications-director-gerry-rice-on-the-managing-directors-legal-case

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian state bond for $750 million is such an obvious target, European bankers are asking why didn’t US government warfighters against Russia shoot down last month’s Sovcomflot issue. This followed by just four weeks the campaign by the US Treasury to stop US investment banks and the international security clearance companies, Euroclear and Clearstream, from trading the bond issued in May by Russian state bank, VTB.

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state-owned shipping company and one of the world largest oil tanker groups, successfully placed $750 million in 7-year bonds at 5.375% on June 23 . VTB and Sberbank were the Russian underwriters, J P Morgan and Citigroup were the American bank underwriters. Sovcomflot’s prospectus confirms its bond has been cleared to trade with all three global clearance agencies — Depository Trust Company (DTC) of New York, Euroclear of Brussels, and Clearstream of Luxemburg. Says a London bond trader: “The DTC is dominated by Citi, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan. Euroclear is owned by J P Morgan. These Americans can hardly be sanctions busters unless the US Treasury has all of sudden decided to go soft on the Russian oil and gas business, and on Russians who have been on the sanctions lists for two years. Is the war petering out, like the Obama Administration?”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

As war and economic recession eat into their incomes, Russians are making fewer trips to restaurants and cafes. But because the tab is smaller, fast-drinks vendors are taking a larger share of the retail market than fast food. That ought to be good for Shokoladnitsa, Russia’s leading chain of hot-drinks and quick-service cafes. But cost-cutting by the chain has shortened menus and closed cafes, industry sources are now reporting. If Shokoladnitsa’s liabilities are overtaking its assets, the sources warn that Shokoladnitsa may follow the Russian shoe market’s leading retailer, TsentrObuv. In that financial black hole, the question is whether revenues and loan funds for another Russian retail market leader are being diverted to shareholder havens offshore.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

At the end of this month the Irish High Court in Dublin will consider an application for the arrest of Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades’s (lead image, left) law partner, Theofanis Philippou, and for an order to disclose company documents produced by them both on behalf of their client, the fugitive Russian businessman and former senator, Leonid Lebedev. An order for attachment and committal, as it is called in Ireland, directed against powerful figures in a neighbouring European Union (EU) country, is almost unprecedented, Dublin court sources say.

If the Dublin court agrees, Cyprus officials say they expect an Irish arrest order will be passed to the Irish police, and from them to the Cyprus Ministry of Justice. From there it will go to Cyprus Attorney-General Costas Clerides (2nd image, right). “We are interested to see,” officials say. “We will be waiting for this request.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

In “Any Old Iron”, a popular British music-hall song of a century ago, the cockney comedian Harry Champion made audiences laugh at the vanity of people showing off wealth they don’t have, and at pretentiousness in general. In our century there’s said to be a homosexual come-on in the words of the song, but they still mean the same thing — you aren’t worth what you say you are. This is the punchline: “Any old iron, any old iron, any, any, any old iron? You look neat, talk about a treat… But I wouldn’t give you tuppence for your old watch chain. Old iron, old iron.”

When Mikhail Prokhorov (lead image, right) announced last week that he wants to sell his 17.02% of United Company Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, he was asking the audience to believe the company controlled by Oleg Deripaska (left) is worth much more than it is. The market didn’t laugh or sing along. It did move more than the usual number of Rusal shares traded daily – 2.5 million – but the price went down by 4%. This means the market isn’t betting on Prokhorov to get his price.

In the Bloomberg version of what had happened, Prokhorov’s Moscow holding “made informal approaches in the past three months to sell its 17 percent stake to two other Rusal partners, Sual, a group led by billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, and Glencore Plc, the people said, asking not be identified because the discussions are private. No official talks were held because the two sides have different views on the value of the stake. While Onexim wants a premium to the current value, the potential buyers aren’t ready to offer it, the people said.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Radosław Sikorski (lead image, left), the ex-foreign minister of Poland, ousted Speaker of the Polish Sejm (parliament), and premature retiree from the Bydgoszcz constituency, doesn’t speak his mind so much as his interest. So why has he announced he is now in favour of leaving Crimea in Russia; a separate peace with the Kremlin for the Lugansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, and a strategy for the government in Kiev to “concentrate on creating success for the 90 percent of the country’s territory which it controls”?

Sikorski has also publicly broken with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has been employing Sikorski as a foreign advisor, by declaring the Ukrainian president must make his own business dealings less illegal. “The fight against corruption must come from the top,” Sikorski has said of Poroshenko. “The people in the top layer must show that their finances are in order, they are open to scrutiny and lead by example.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Paul Dibb, the former head of two Australian spy organizations and a deputy defence minister, has just published a call for Australian troops to be ready to fight in Europe against “Russia’s refusal to act in ways consistent with international law and standards of behaviour.” Dibb is known in Australia as “the country’s leading Cold War Russia expert.”

The Dibb report appeared on June 29, on the eve of last week’s Australian parliamentary election, when voters repudiated incumbent prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. He had called the snap poll, confident of expanding his majority in the two houses of parliament. He has now suffered a 3% negative swing by the voters; the loss of at least 23 seats; and months of political uncertainty ahead, including the possibility his party will replace him as leader.

Among Turnbull’s last-minute ploys to attract votes, one was the leak last month of Australian cabinet plans for an Australian Army force to fight in eastern Ukraine, alongside Dutch and other NATO units, to destroy the Donetsk and Lugansk rebellion against the regime in Kiev. Turnbull’s leak had suggested that Tony Abbott, the prime minister Turnbull had pushed aside to take the job, dreamed up the plan of Australian war at the Russian frontier by himself. The new report by Dibb now corroborates the idea of an Australian military expedition against Russia, in exchange for improved American commitments to defend Australia from the Chinese closer to home, in the Pacific. “How things work out in Europe,” Dibb claims, “ will affect Washington’s ability to reassure allies and partners everywhere, including those in our region who must contend with increasing coercion by China.” Unless Australia does more fighting with the Americans on the Russian front, he concludes, “China will take advantage of this, and allies and partners of the US in the region—including Australia—would be subject to further uncertainty about American military commitments to Asia.” Combating “Russia’s aggressive military behaviour “is necessary because, otherwise, “both Moscow and Beijing will be seen as getting away with it.”
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