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DwB_sc1677

By John Helmer, Moscow

The scaffolding is going up around the walls of Chatham House in London — we shall not see it dismantled again in our lifetime. Not even if the Royal Institute of International Affairs says it is doing no more than a repaint job.

According to a fresh report from inside the building, issued on June 4, it’s time to strike at Russia with “defensive strategic communications and media support…promoting truthful accounts of Western policies and values… through EU and NATO cooperation.”

In the City of London this is known as talking one’s book. On Madison Avenue, in New York City, it’s called advertising. Chatham House is applying for money for former British government officials to write reports to US, British and NATO intelligence agencies for the job of winning over, or neutralizing, those who are victims of Russian disinformation because they don’t believe what the US, British and NATO intelligence agencies have been telling them. The more incredible this proposition sounds, the more urgently Sir Roderic Lyne and Sir Andrew Wood and several other Chatham House apparatchiki say they need the money.
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DwB_1676

By John Helmer, Moscow

The semi-annual Russian art sales in London this week have finally responded to the laws of economics and politics. But softcore girlies and boy’s buttocks drew better than their estimated money shots, demonstrating that even on the eastern front, making love, not war, is still good for the art house.
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DwB_1675

John Helmer, Moscow

Russia survived the threat of a homosexual boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, handily. But can it survive the threatened boycott of the 2018 World Cup from a wannabe candidate to lead a minority party in the House of Commons; a British prince whose chance of becoming king is, failing accidents, at least 20 years off; and four US senators, one of whom has been indicted for taking bribes himself. The answer is yes – Russia will survive even this; and also what President Vladimir Putin has called a case of the US “illegally persecuting people”.

For the moment, though, no Russian owner of an international football team is willing to go public with a defence of Russia’s World Cup. Nor are they willing to endorse Putin’s claim that the US corruption charges against officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) are a political plot for “ulterior purposes”. Against Russia, Putin means.
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DwB_1674
By John Helmer, Moscow

Anne Applebaum, wife of the ex-Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, has suffered a 42% drop in her earnings last year, since the war against Russia, which Sikorski and she (Siklebaum, for short) have promoted in London, Warsaw and Washington, lost the big money backing it drew in 2013. The Applebaum loss is even sharper than the collapsing Ukrainian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) caused by the war. It is falling at a rate of 17.6%, according to the latest release from the Ukrainian statistics agency.
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DwB_1672

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the royal courts of olden times, the king’s favourite was showered with rewards for making the king happy, not for making the court or country happy with the king. PR was not what Barbara de Villiers did for Charles II, nor Madame de Pompadour for Louis XV.

At United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly, Vera Kurochkina (lead image, left) is Director of Corporate Communications, a title she’s held since 2006. For three years earlier she was called head of Rusal’s media relations. To company insiders she is the favourite of chief executive Oleg Deripaska. According to the company’s financial report for 2014, she was paid $1.236 million. That sets the public record for PR directors in Russia’s exchange-listed, state-owned, and most heavily indebted companies.
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DwB_1671

By John Helmer, Moscow

The old saw about how to make a small fortune can be adapted in Vitaly Mashitsky’s case, but you must still start with a large fortune — he’ll take care of the rest.

In a surprise to the amber industry of Kaliningrad, where about 95% of the world’s supply of amber is located, Mashitsky was appointed chairman of the board of the Kaliningrad Amber Combine (KYaK) late last month. The appointment was made by the state holding Russian Technologies (Rostec), which took over the combine in 2013, after bankruptcy, maladministration and bad business modelling left the enterprise unable to pay its debts, invest in modern mining, manufacturing or marketing, keep its workers, or attract serious capital. Rostec is run by Sergei Chemezov, a lifelong friend of Mashitsky’s, who has been pitching himself in Kaliningrad as the powerful lobbyist the region needs in Moscow. With his backing, Mashitsky began meeting senior figures in Kaliningrad and in the amber industry in recent days.

This month Mashitsky has also launched a selfie campaign in the Moscow press, publicizing his arrival as the new tsar of amber, and promising to replace black marketeers with billions of roubles in stable investment and employment for Kaliningrad. An amber industry observer in Kaliningrad, who had never heard of Mashitsky before last month, is skeptical. “Exactly what will follow down the track is not clear yet. We are just witnesses to what is happening.”
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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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