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1594d

By John Helmer, Moscow

Edward Lucas has revealed that he is virtually leaving the UK for Estonia. His wife, Cristina Odone, too.

That may be strategic, because they think they should be closer to the front line in the war against Russia. It may be personal, because they want to be closer to their family friends, ex-foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Anne Applebaum, his wife, who have suffered from recent scandal and misfortune in nearby Poland. When asked to explain in an interview with Estonian state television in Tallinn on Monday, Lucas said he wants to take advantage of Estonia’s tax system. A Russian invasion notwithstanding, about which Lucas has done much broadcasting, he thinks the risk is outweighed by the benefits of Estonia’s zero tax rates for company income, dividends, interest payments, and copyright royalties.
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1587a

By John Helmer, Moscow

If the flock of smart tarts speaking Russian into their smartphones along King and New Bond Streets in London last week were a sign, nothing much has changed in the Russian art market. Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the art auctioneers, would be the last people to say if or when the bottom has fallen out of an art market. But the results of the major Russian art auctions in London in the last week of November indicate the top of the market has fallen in.

Non-Russians (mostly Europeans) continue to dominate the sellers, while Russians remain the big majority of buyers. But this time the former overstepped the price which the latter will agree to pay. Wishful European expectation for price has met sober Russian asset stocktaking. This in turn means that Russian art buyers are no longer anticipating the rapid growth of value in Russian art assets recorded in the summer auctions.
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1588d

By John Helmer, Moscow

When the Russian delegation arrives in Peru next week for a fresh session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is proposing several initiatives for debate and vote. None of them proposes to cut greenhouse gas emissions below the target set a year ago by President Vladimir Putin. But according to a report issued this week in Moscow, that target has already been achieved. For further cuts there is next to no enthusiasm from state or business officials.
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1589d

By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpol has issued a Wanted Notice for Sergei Pugachev, making him the first Russian oligarch to have Russian charges of fraud endorsed by the international police organization – and to make a money-launderer of the Financial Times. If Pugachev crosses the border between his homes in England and France, the policemen on either side will see his name flashing on their computer screens, and they will be under standing orders to arrest him.
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1856d11

By John Helmer, Moscow

When an elephant means to put his foot down on something with the objective of crushing it, a German speaker uses the same word as in English – trample (trampeln). When the intention and the outcome are emphatic, an English-speaker can say trample underfoot.

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel (lead image) expressed the idea in a speech on November 17 that she objects to the legality of Russian actions in Crimea and Ukraine, she used a different expression — mit Füßen getreten wird. Literally, that means “with feet is kicked”. To the customary German ear, it means “kicked aside”, “ignored”.

To the New York Times and The Economist, the expression was a signal from Merkel of an angry change in German strategy. But comparing the English interpretation with the German original, this was incompetent translating and unprofessional reporting.
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1585d

By John Helmer, Moscow

The war against Russia outside Russia is being lost inside Russia. If the Allied strategic bombing campaign against Germany’s cities failed seventy years ago, and since then every US attempt to topple Middle Eastern and South American regimes, what reason or reward do the bow-and-arrow brigade have for thinking otherwise?

The latest Russian opinion polls reveal that President Vladimir Putin enjoys a greater reserve of domestic political support than his western attackers, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron, anticipated for Putin — or enjoy for themselves. In the war of attrition Russians believe to have been imposed on them, Putin has more time to spare than Obama or Cameron – and not less than Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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1584d

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you think Russia’s food supply is crashing under the impact of international sanctions because that’s what the Obama Administration is telling its media, think again. This week’s reported panic over the staple buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum, groats, grits, гречневая крупа) is a figment.
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1576A — копия

By John Helmer, Moscow

When Alfred Sloan ran General Motors in Detroit, he supplied Nazi Germany with engine technology, assembly lines, and working capital for Messerschmidt and Junker warplanes, Panzer tanks, troop and gun transports, along with land mines and torpedo detonators. The Germans said they couldn’t have invaded Poland, Belgium, Holland, Norway, France, or Russia without him. Sloan was breaking US law at the time, so he destroyed the company records of his collaboration with Berlin. He also supplied the US war effort with comparable military technology, if a bit slower in the air.

World War II was a good business for Sloan. “The business of business is business” is a motto attributed to Sloan. He may not have said it. There’s no doubt he thought it.

Since March of this year the US Treasury has declared war on Russia, and through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) it has ordered US businesses and banks not to collaborate. The European Union (EU) and other US allies, like Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Canada, and Australia, have been asked by Washington to implement the same measures. But the country sanctions lists aren’t quite the same. In the gaps and differences, a model of Russian business is emerging into plain light. A theory of the political succession in Russia, too.
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1583

By John Helmer, Moscow

Petropavlovsk Plc has almost run out of tricks.

Advertisements placed at the start of this month in the London papers that the goldminer may be on the receiving end of a Russian-funded bailout lifted the London Stock Exchange share price for less than 24 hours. The market capitalization has since continued on its trajectory towards worthlessness. Kirill Androsov of Altera Capital, the door-opener for a fresh Sberbank financing, is refusing to say which way the door is swinging. According to a leading London mine financier, “Petropavlovsk’s assets just don’t have any value. Low grade and tough metallurgy. Gentle euthanasia is the best option.”
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1581d

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly run by Oleg Deripaska (lead image), has announced a third-quarter profit of $25 million, its first bottom-line in the black for three years. The company’s report explains the result by pointing to production cuts, the decline in costs of production, and a rise in the market price of aluminium.

In theory, the reason for the profit is that demand for Rusal metal is growing, and supply falling. “Healthy consumption growth,” Deripaska said on the company website last week, “coupled with production curtailments, have led to a deficit in the global market, ex-China, of 0.9 million tonnes of aluminium in the first nine months of the year. This, together with falling LME inventories, which have dropped below 4.5 million tonnes, means the deficit is continuing to widen. These positive market developments and our continued focus on cost controls and increasing margins through value added production have enabled UC RUSAL to report significantly improved third quarter results.”

In fact, Zug, London, and New York traders report, demand for physical metal is uncertain, especially inside China, while supply outside China is being restricted in warehouse by producers like Rusal, and traders allied with them. It remains more profitable to finance aluminium in storage than to sell to metal users and consumers. This is market manipulation, the traders say, pointing to Glencore, a minority shareholder in Rusal and Rusal’s principal trader. The fix isn’t stable and the revenue benefit for Rusal is neither certain nor predictable, the traders warn.
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