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By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Pinchuk (lead image, upper left) is to pay Dominique Strauss-Kahn (right) to sit on the board of his Ukrainian bank, Credit Dnepr. The Kiev Post reports the appointment, announced by the bank this week, as having “ the aim of boosting corporate governance.”

Strauss-Kahn has been losing large amounts of money in the courts of the US, France, and Luxembourg, as well as in his French businesses. He has been recouping by taking retainers as an arranger for the French investment firm Arjil-Atrium Capital; a promoter for the National Credit Bank of South Sudan; and board director for two Russian state-controlled entities, the Rosneft-owned Russian Regional Development Bank, and the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

For the past three months, Strauss-Kahn has been under investigation by prosecutors in Paris for alleged fraud and misuse of company funds involving a Luxembourg investment company he had bought into and directed between 2013 and 2014. The firm, Leyne Strauss-Kahn and Partners (LSK), is suspected of money-laundering, and is now bankrupt. “When it comes to name recognition,” said a Luxembourg finance market source, “Strauss-Kahn does not appear to bring luck to the institutions that recruit him.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The takeover of London-listed JKX Oil and Gas Plc, which was completed last week with a purge of the board and senior management, is an operation for the benefit of Igor Kolomoisky (lead image, right) and Gennady Bogolyubov, the Ukrainian oligarchs, according to sources in Kiev, Moscow, and London. Proxima Capital Group, a Moscow-based investment firm which won a vote of JKX shareholders on January 28 with 19.97% of the shares and took over leadership of the company, is led by Vladimir Tatarchuk (left). Proxima has announced it has a “fresh perspective” towards Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov, but Tatarchuk won’t say what that means. The sources claim he means a deal with Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Max Hastings’s hatred of Russians not only produces error after error to discredit the Russian side of his history of secret intelligence operations in World War II. The evidence Greek historians have uncovered and published of what the British secret services, directed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did to prepare the ground for the Greek civil war, beginning in December 1944, discredits Hastings on the Greek front.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sir Max Hastings, author of a new book claiming to be the first to compare the secret intelligence performances of the British, Americans, Germans, Japanese and Russians in World War II, has posted a picture of himself on the dust-jacket as a weasel.

“The best single volume written on the subject” is the blurb on the dust-jacket as the opinion of the Sunday Times, whose proprietor Rupert Murdoch, is also Hastings’s paymaster as owner of the book’s publisher, William Collins. Everything about the history of Russian spying offends Hastings almost as much as everything Russian offends Murdoch. This isn’t so much a history as it’s a textbook in info-warfare – and the antithesis of the conclusion Hastings suggests we should all come to. This is that in war force wins, not words – and that secret intelligence and propaganda are largely a waste of money and lives. “Allied intelligence contributed almost nothing to winning the war, ”Hastings quotes an American friend and expert, demurring that “this seems too extreme a verdict”, while adding his own: “official secrecy does more to protect intelligence agencies from domestic accountability for their own follies.” The exception proving both rules, according to Hastings, is the record of British intelligence compared to German, and to Russian.

Deception, that’s another story – unless The Secret War is an example of how Hastings has fooled himself. On this score, Hastings’s 612 pages are an unprecedented achievement in decoding his own text, and warning his readers off it. Murdoch and his media have been duped by Hastings out of the truth, though not out of the profit.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The conflict between Romeo’s Montagues and Juliet’s Capulets went deeper than the scent or the name of flowers, and we know it ended badly for the two of them. That’s to say with white lilies, not roses.

In the Russian market for cut flowers – until recently, the fastest growing in Europe — the war has cut imports by a third in value last year, compared to 2014. The deepest cut of all for exporters was suffered by The Netherlands, whose government has been outspoken in support of European Union sanctions; NATO military movements towards the Russian frontier; and support of the Kiev regime in the investigation of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 disaster.

But wait! is that a Montague and a Capulet bloom, an Italian rose, which has appeared on the Russian market in recent months? Yes, in the December quarter of 2015 the Italians jumped to fourth place in the table of top-5 exporters of cut flowers to Russia with shipments of 66 tonnes, at a value totalling $563,200. They replaced the Dutch. In the comparable quarter of 2014, The Netherlands had ranked number-4 with 560 tonnes worth $4.8 million; at the same time Italy delivered almost no flowers at all to Russia. The explanation, according to Moscow market sources, is that the Italian growers have found a way to avoid the Dutch flower auctions, and ship directly to Moscow.

The aggregate numbers speak for themselves with another meaning. In 2015 the total value of Russian imports of flowers from the top-5 sources came to $215 million. That was a 31% reduction compared to 2014. Imports over the full year from The Netherlands fell by 65% — from $29.7 million to $10.4 million.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Gennady Bogolyubov, Victor Pinchuk, and Igor Kolomoisky (lead image, left to right), the three Ukrainian oligarchs who settled their business differences last Friday, were afraid to risk their bank credit lines if a High Court trial, scheduled to commence this week, went ahead. Sources close to the three men say it proved easier for them to agree on a secret money deal between themselves than to trust a British judge to assess their deal-making record in public.

“MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction – that was the outcome if the three oligarchs went into court against each other”, says one source. The sources confirm a report circulating in Kiev and another in Davos that Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov have agreed to pay Pinchuk $500 million in instalments over several years. The money may come from assets jointly owned by Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov; these include Privat Bank, the Nikopol ferroalloy refinery, or the Krivoy Rog iron-ore combine, which has been the focus of the most recent dispute. Pinchuk’s public relations agent in London, William Clutterbuck, released the settlement announcement in a brief email. Lawyers and associates of Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov refuse to speak.

“The fact that this was settled at all,” comments one of Pinchuk’s creditors, “suggests Pinchuk’s case had some merit after all; that he was not about to run out of funding for his legal fees; and the defendants found the allegations about to be aired [in court] unduly embarrassing. This was a fist-fight in the ballroom of a sinking Titanic. Both sides have finally agreed to abandon their primary pursuit and head for the rescue vessels instead. They might even be sharing one.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, last Wednesday, January 20, with US Secretary of State, John Kerry. The meeting-room and press opportunity were set up by State Department officials. One of the Kerry delegation was Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. She is one of several Washington officials directing the war against Russia on the Ukraine front. In her arsenal, Nuland’s mouth has been used to attack European governments reluctant to join her war, as her “Fuck the EU” remark to US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, revealed at the start of 2014, before President Victor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev.

The sequence of stills showing Lavrov greeting the US delegation for the press, ahead of the Zurich talks, has been extracted from a videotape recorded by a Russian press camera crew. Lavrov’s hand shakes every US official introduced by Kerry (1), except for Nuland. Her hand was extended (2), then slipped, or slapped past, as Lavrov turned to his left to greet each of the junior US officials lining the wall. As he did so, Lavrov presented Nuland with his right shoulder. Nuland’s mouth fell open (3); the microphones recorded that nothing came out.
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By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Court of Human Rights is refusing to act on a year-old case from the daughter of a Dutch passenger killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on July 14, 2014. Denise Kenke, daughter of Willem Grootscholten, accuses the Ukraine Government of failing its legal duty to prevent civilian aircraft from flying into the airspace Ukrainian officials knew to be dangerous. Her court papers say the claim is also founded on the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board, reported last October, that the government in Kiev had been negligent in failing to act on “sufficient reason for closing the airspace above the eastern part of Ukraine”.

Although the 11-page application was filed on November 17, 2014, the Court has imposed a secrecy blackout on all details of the case, preventing website access. After Kenke’s lawyer, Elmar Giemulla of Berlin, a leading German aviation law specialist, filed additional argument, legal precedents, and evidence from the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), the Court refused to acknowledge receipt or to reply. Tracey Turner-Tretz, spokesman for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and its registrar, Roderick Liddell, a British national, said this week: “the application in question was granted confidentiality.”

Giemulla for the Grootscholten family said he had not applied for confidentiality, and was not informed by the court that it had been imposed. “I do not know anything about ‘grant of confidentiality’ . I do not even know whether the court has ever dealt with my complaint apart from internal administrative procedures.” When Liddell and his spokesman Turner-Tretz were asked what communication the Court has been having on the Kenke case with Ukraine government representatives, and whether Kiev had requested confidentiality, they refused to reply. A US attorney with a US and Ukraine practice says “it’s not possible for a US court to seal a case from public disclosure without argument in court by lawyers from both sides, and without a recorded ruling.” From Berlin, Giemulla said this morning: “Someone, I don’t know who, has decided that this case is confidential — from the plaintiff!”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

Former President Boris Yeltsin’s passion for killing moose (boar, duck, hare, bear, deer) to feed his appetite for their small body parts, cooked or pickled, has been repeatedly attested in the memoirs of his staff . But the state-financed Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre, run by deputy executive director Vladimir Shevchenko, Yeltsin’s former chief of protocol, refuses to say that he ate moose lips even once.

“What are your goals in asking these questions?” Shevchenko telephoned to say, after the Centre had been requested to confirm that moose lips had been on the menu of a luncheon Yeltsin hosted for US President Bill Clinton January 13, 1994. Clinton referred to the dish of moose lips, and also pig’s ears, in a telephone conversation he had with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in a record declassified and released publicly earlier this month. Shevchenko said he is concerned by the moose lips question because of the presidential election campaign now under way in the US. Perhaps it can affect [Hillary] Clinton, he mused aloud. He wanted to know whether the question was being asked to strike at Clinton’s campaign. “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” Shevchenko asked – without divulging whether moose lips had been served 22 years ago last Tuesday.

The full story of Clinton’s secret conversations with Blair about Yeltsin was published yesterday. After the Yeltsin Centre refused requests to confirm the moose lips reference, and Shevchenko replied with his Clinton campaign question, he was asked to say what the presidential centre records show of how many moose Yeltsin had shot, and whether he had done so with the same hunting arrangements as characterized the famous hunter of the Soviet epoch, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.

“I am not going to tell you anything,” he replied. It was “provocative”, he added, to compare Yeltsin’s hunting and eating habits to former Soviet leader Brezhnev. “If you use Clinton sources, and search for your information there, I have the right to refute this.”
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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the time of President Boris Yeltsin, there was no difference between loose lips and moose lips.

According to newly released records of President Bill Clinton’s secret conversations with Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a luncheon on January 13, 1994, Yeltsin served Clinton “roast pig and told me real men hack off the ears and eat them. And once he served 24 courses, including moose lips.” But Clinton and Blair didn’t think Yeltsin was a real man. They thought he was an ingratiating stooge, whom they could rely on to agree with them so long as his health held. When it didn’t, they were happy to see him out of the way by staging, as they discussed in the planning, his succession by Victor Chernomyrdin.

There’s many a slip between the cup of national interest and the lip of its betrayal. According to the Clinton records, Yeltsin tried them all. In secret he agreed to the US expanding NATO to include former East European and Balkan allies of Moscow. He dismissed the Russian opposition to that move as “a lot of old ladies out in the country”. He went along with the US war on Serbia and on Iraq, so long as Clinton fabricated a self-defence justification to keep it from a United Nations Security Council vote. He begged Clinton for money. Immediately after the financial crash and government default of August 1998 he asked Clinton to come to Moscow to reassure the world Yeltsin wasn’t culpable, and was still in charge. Clinton told Blair: “My relationship [with Yeltsin]… is such that all [Kremlin] hardliners believe I could talk to [him] and get him to sell the oil wells for three dollars and a half, but that’s not true. He’s just more far-sighted and progressive than they are.”
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