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DwB_1813

By John Helmer, Moscow

A lucky man can stumble upon a treasure, runs an old Russian proverb; an unlucky one can’t even find a mushroom. If he does find a mushroom, Lewis Carroll’s account of Alice in Wonderland added a problematic choice: eating one side of the mushroom may dwarf you; eating the other may turn you into a giant. The blue caterpillar didn’t make clear to Alice which side was which.

Investing in Russian mushroom farming to replace imports is the same – your money could go either way. Especially if, as the new mushroom farmers of Moscow and St. Petersburg are finding out, they grow low-cost, high-margin oyster mushrooms, which Russians haven’t thought of collecting from the forest, or considered paying money to eat before.

For the moment, the case of the oyster mushroom is being called patriotic import substitution. But if the mushroom entrepreneurs are calculating that war conditions in Russia will be extended for years, continuing to diminish most Russians’ buying power and their ability to eat meat for protein, then mushroom protein for sale may be a new form of war profiteering, financed out of the state budget.
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DwB_1812_f

By John Helmer, Moscow

An Australian coroner and a firm of Sydney, Australia, lawyers have taken the global lead in fabricating criminal charges and billion-dollar compensation claims for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 — without producing evidence. Michael Barnes (lead image), a former tabloid journalist and now coroner for the state of New South Wales, ruled last week that MH17 had been shot down in a “deliberate” act of “mass murder” by “firing a missile equipped with an exploding warhead at the jetliner”. The coroner accepted testimony from the Crown Solicitor assisting the inquest who testified that “certain persons of interest have been identified” as the murderers.

Barnes issued his ruling after he decided to keep secret testimony from Australian police and forensic experts; and after he accepted as evidence a videoclip from the Dutch Safety Board (DSB). This, the coroner ordered to be excerpted in the courtroom, removing DSB criticism of the Ukrainian Government and Malaysia Airlines. Barnes also accepted that the evidence submitted by Catherine Follent, the Crown Solicitor, was “uncontested” and “comprehensive”.

Follent issued a warning in the courtroom, telling Barnes it was “inappropriate” for the coroner to draw conclusions for which there was no evidence. Barnes overruled her.

Barnes has been followed by an American named Jerome Skinner and a Sydney law firm called Leitch Hasson & Dent ( LHD). They claim to have filed suit in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, charging the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin with liability for the downing of the aircraft.

Publicity for this claim in the Australian media, amplified by the Financial Times and Guardian of London, has not been substantiated by the court itself. According to a spokesman for Roderick Liddle, the ECHR registrar, there is no confirmation that the LDH claim has been received. If it is, lawyers practising at the court say, it is fifteen months past the filing deadline set in ECHR rules, and barred by the ECHR requirement that claimants make their case in national courts first. Liddle refused to confirm or deny this.
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DwB_1810a

By John Helmer, Moscow

Since he first came to Russia as a Dutch journalist with leftwing claims, money, unlike butter, has always melted in Derk Sauer’s mouth (lead image). Until last week there’s been a quite lot of it — more of it for Sauer to keep than for the string of loss-making publications he has run in Moscow.

Sauer has been identified as a target in an investigation by state prosecutors of fraud at the RBC media group in Moscow. Mikhail Prokhorov owns the control stake in the group; Sauer has been his employee to supervise the editorial and financial sides of the business. A police raid on the offices of Onexim, the Prokhorov holding where Sauer is a vice-president, took place on April 14. Charges against RBC were announced by the Ministry of Interior on April 29. The editors of RBC were sacked last Friday, May 13. More criminal charges have been foreshadowed; Onexim, Sauer, and RBC executives deny them categorically.

A source close to Prokhorov says: “Mikhail doesn’t want to tell anybody, but the people close to him believe that the main reason is [President Vladimir] Putin took personal offence when RBC published a number of articles on the younger daughter Ekaterina and her husband’s [Kirill Shamalov] business, when Putin refused to approve or support one of Mikhail’s projects.”
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DwB_1809_отредактировано-1

By John Helmer, Moscow

The privations of war and the taste for oysters don’t usually go in the same direction. Two years into the new war, the problem now for Russian oyster farmers is that if they aren’t careful, they may harvest not just plenty of home-grown oysters to replace imports within a year or two. They may also produce far more oysters than Russian consumers can afford to eat. If that happens, it will be the Russian oyster farmers and investors along the Black Sea shore who will suffer.
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DwB_1807_b_red_cobbles

By John Helmer, Moscow

“There is a limit to everything. And with Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line.” That was President Vladimir Putin’s declaration on March 18, 2014, when he addressed a special assembly of the Russian parliament before the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation was enacted.

It is likely to be the most consequential line in this century’s history of Russia – the rest of the world, too — because it marked the end of a half-century of peaceful co-existence between Moscow, Berlin, London and Washington; a quarter-century of the end of the Cold War. That’s to say, the limit reached, the line crossed, mark the start of a state of real war.
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dwb_1808

By Simon Hewitt, Geneva*

AN AUCTION staged in Paris this March has written another unedifying chapter in the art market history of the Russian Avant-Garde.
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dwb_1806

By John Helmer, Moscow

The ex-Polish Foreign Minister and ex-Speaker of the Polish parliament, Radoslaw Sikorski, has failed to disclose his wife, Anne Applebaum’s (lead, right) income for 2015, in the annual disclosure required by Polish law for government officials and members of parliament. He has also failed to report his own income for several months of the year. Polish parliamentary staff say they are investigating before state prosecutors may be called in.
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1805b1

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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DwB_1804_1

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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DwB_1803_

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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