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By John Helmer, Moscow

The bun has been in the oven for Victor Rashnikov for six months now. But did he go to President-elect Vladimir Putin and ask permission to put it there? It seems not. Has he been told to pull it out without burning everybody (except for the Australians)? Maybe.

For the previous two thousand years there’s been an argument among pagans and Christians over the hot cross bun – whether the cross stands for the quarters of the spring moon, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, both, neither, etc., etc. The Jews aren’t interested in this one, because they are obliged to stick with matzoh balls at this time of year. The closest Russians have come is the kulich, which is bun-like; it also is decorated with white icing, but instead of the cross, it carries the letters XB for Христос воскресе (“Christ is risen”).

In short, the signs of Easter are all around, and the markets of London, West Europe and Australia are taking their big Spring break. Russia is constitutionally secular; so the courts and the markets are working normally. In this interval, there is opportunity for lawyers from Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) to apply to the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court for the Russian equivalent of summary judgement, lifting the temporary injunction against the takeover of Flinders Mines, and dismissing the claims of minority shareholder, Elena Egorova.

So if MMK has had enough time to submit such a motion in court, and it hasn’t, what is Rashnikov waiting for? If it’s a sign from Putin, Rashnikov had ample opportunity to request one before and since he announced his takeover bid for Flinders Mines last November. The last time Putin was in Magnitogorsk was in July of 2011, and on that occasion he is recorded as spending three hours with MMK workers, none with Rashnikov. Rashnikov’s spokesman won’t say when was the last time her boss met Putin. On the July visit, and again this past February in Moscow, when Putin addressed Rashnikov among others of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, Putin made clear to Rashnikov who is boss.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Rashnikov (Viktor Rashnikov, head of the MMC managing company), wait a second! Please tell us, how much hazardous waste did the MMC emit, say, seven or ten years ago? And what about now? Tonnes, dozens of tonnes!

Viktor Rashnikov: Today we emit 220,000 tonnes as compared to 900,000 tonnes previously.

Vladimir Putin: Can you believe it? It’s hard even to imagine 900,000 tonnes of hazardous waste emitted into the atmosphere. It’s down to 200,000 tonnes now. That’s what modernisation can do. I’ve been to the region on many occasions, I was skiing there. Mr Rashnikov is very good at developing the social sphere for his employees and for other people residing in this area. I’d like to thank Mr Rashnikov, his colleagues and shareholders for their approach to addressing social issues.

Vladimir Putin: Mr Rashnikov, what do you think about the tax on luxury items?

Viktor Rashnikov: Mr Putin, we have only just now heard about it. I need time to consider it properly. But if it’s the right time to…

Vladimir Putin: All right, good answer.

Time is already telling whether Rashnikov stands behind the injunction against closing his Australian deal, or whether he’s its target. In the marketplace, the short sellers aren’t doing anything abnormal with Flinders Mines shares or MMK stock, so it seems there’s noone trading on the speculation with a well-founded hunch he isn’t sharing with everyone else.

So while we wait for all to become clear, singing along is seasonally appropriate and harmless too.

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One a penny,
Two a’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

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