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By John Helmer, Moscow

There are many reasons why, to Russians who suffered through the regime of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin’s son-in-law Valentin Yumashev should be regarded with the same contumely as the people of Paris considered Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre-Dame in Victor Hugo’s tale.

Yumashev, who failed to complete a journalism degree but ended up ruling the Russian media, lacks the physical deformities, most of them.  But his attitude is the same. Quasimodo “turned to mankind only with regret”, according to Hugo. “His cathedral was enough for him. It was peopled with marble figures of kings, saints and bishops who at least did not laugh in his face and looked at him with only tranquillity and benevolence. The other statues, those of monsters and demons, had no hatred for him – he resembled them too closely for that.”

 “When it shall please you to have me to fall,” Quasimodo told the hostile crowd, “you will not have to even utter a word, a glance will suffice.”

Yumashev and Putin have had such a relationship, a reciprocal one as it has turned out. So why is the bell-ringer who has been hiding in the Kremlin towers all these years – why is Yumashev, who calls his occupation a real estate developer, being revealed this month as Putin’s official advisor? The answer, says a Moscow source, is American.  “Yumashev is to Putin as [White House Senior Advisor Jared]  Kushner is to Trump.  Look carefully at their backgrounds;  their sources of money; their methods. Putin has calculated that it is up to Yumashev to negotiate with Kushner an end to the American war on Russia.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Adam Waldman, a Washington lobbyist, was authorized by Julian Assange in March of 2017 to set up a trip to Washington for Assange, and broad terms of discussion there between Assange and US Government officials of highly sensitive intelligence information, including US offers of assistance to protect Assange from “foreign espionage risks”. By that, Waldman meant Russia.

Waldman refused last week to discuss the details of his meetings with Assange and subsequent negotiations on Assange’s behalf in Washington. Late on Monday afternoon, Washington time, Waldman was reported as telling a US reporter: “Mr. Assange offered to provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases. Finally, he offered his technical expertise to the U.S. government to help address what he perceived as clear flaws in security systems that led to the loss of the U.S. cyber weapons program.” By “clear flaws” Assange appears to have meant flaws clear to Russia. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Over weeks and months of last year,  Adam Waldman (lead image, left), a Washington lobbyist with ties to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton, tried to lure Julian Assange (second from left) into making incriminating admissions to benefit the Democrats’ campaign alleging Russian collusion in Clinton’s defeat by President Donald Trump.  Assange tried to use Waldman for a deal with the US Department of Justice, exchanging an offer to withhold disclosure of classified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents and trade other secrets, some Russian, in exchange for a grant of immunity from US prosecution.

At the same time, Oleg Deripaska (third from left), the oligarch in control of the Russian aluminium industry, paid Waldman to offer US prosecutors information about the Trump election campaign manager Paul Manafort and others connected to the Trump campaign, including Russians,  in exchange for a US Government promise not to impose sanctions on Deripaska.  Last week Luke Harding (right), a reporter for the Guardian, a London newspaper, sold the story of Waldman’s meetings with  Assange and Deripaska as a conspiracy to advance a scheme by President Vladimir Putin to control the US Government.

Four plotters; more than four schemes; money in Waldman’s and Harding’s pockets; not a shred of  truth. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In fear of  the Central Bank and the General Prosecutor investigating evidence of embezzlement, racketeering and fraud,  Boris Mints (lead image), a collector of  Russian painting of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, has fled to the UK.  How Mints turned his proceeds into artworks was one of the questions which Mints’s Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow was asked this week. Another was what dealings Mints may have had with Yves Bouvier, the Swiss operator of art transaction networks and freeport storages which are now the target of fraud and tax cases in Monaco, Switzerland, and the UK.

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Canada has endorsed US trade warfare against China, Russia, the European Union states, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela,   but registers its dismay when the Trump Administration refuses to give Ottawa an indemnity pass so that it can benefit from the damage inflicted on the others.  

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has accepted a “Diplomat of the Year Award” from Foreign Policy Magazine, a subsidiary of the Washington Post and the Jeffrey Bezos media conglomerate which is sworn to topple President Donald Trump. Freeland’s supporters in the Liberal Party claim she has been exceptionally effective lobbying for Canadian interests in the US. After her lobbying has failed, Freeland claims it is unfair, absurd and illegal for the White House to threaten Canada with penalty duties on steel, aluminium, and cars.

In all common sense what can Canadians expect from the Americans if this is how Canada’s leaders behave? (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Long before the Christians claimed credit for enunciating the Golden Rule, it was the ancient Greeks who started it off. By all reports, Jesus of Nazareth gave the Rule its positive spin – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Greek spin was negative – don’t do to others if you don’t want them to retaliate.    

The Jewish versions of the Rule are a bit guarded. That’s  because they distinguish between neighbours and brothers on the one hand; to them the Golden Rule applies. But enemies on the other hand – they get whatever is coming.

That’s also the Ukrainian version of the Rule. This explains why Chrystia Freeland, Ukrainian by blood, homeowner in Kiev,  and Foreign Minister of Canada (lead image, centre), thinks the Golden Rule in its Christian version applies between Canada and the United States, but not between Canada and Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, and when she thinks circumstances call for it, Japan and other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) —  Australia, Brunei, Chile,  Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British state broadcasting authority BBC reported  on Saturday morning that people who shit in public places are suffering from several different pathologies. That was before Saturday afternoon, followed by all day Sunday, when US President Donald Trump (lead image, left), his national security advisor John Bolton, his economic advisor Lawrence Kudlow, and his trade advisor Peter Navarro coordinated their movements to crap publicly on Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

“I always ask the police whether it’s soft or hard,” the BBC quoted its expert, Professor Mike Berry, a clinical forensic psychologist at Birmingham City University. “They look at me like I’m absolutely mad. And I say, if it’s soft, then it’s somebody who’s anxious, so you get a kid who goes and craps on the bed. And if it’s really hard stool then it’s an indication of somebody who’s angry and bitter about what he’s doing.”

To Canadian political analysts, the weekend attacks on Prime Minister Trudeau are the worst insults from the US Government in remembered history. They aren’t sure whether they are soft, because Trump is anxious; or hard because the Americans want to destroy Trudeau politically.

Canadian analysts agree that Trudeau and his Liberal Party government have been weakening in the Canadian polls for the election due on October 21, 2019.  The analysts are divided, however, on whether the impact of the American attacks on Trudeau will trigger a patriotic rally in support of the prime minister, or steady erosion of his party support and a gain in Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s (lead image, right) ambition to replace Trudeau.  One of Freeland’s backers, a veteran Canadian official, claims “the Trump people hate Chrystia before any and all.” He was unable to provide any evidence for this.” Other Canadian sources say that in the American government’s attitude towards Freeland, there is “nothing of the kind.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Dmitry Peskov’s (lead image, right) future has still not been decided by President Vladimir Putin (left) after weeks of delay in which every other major figure in the Kremlin administration has been confirmed either as staying or as departing.  This morning Andrei Tsybulin, currently titled “Chief of the Presidential Press and Information Office”, was asked by telephone if the President has officially appointed Peskov to a post in the new presidential administration — yes or no?  He replied: “We don’t give any comments. Please — wait for the official announcement on our website or in the media.”

A week ago, a Kremlin press office source claimed that Peskov would be visibly in charge at Putin’s Direct Line national television show on June 7. That was yesterday – but Peskov was neither mentioned by Putin, nor picked out by the cameras during the four-hour broadcast.

Tsybulin’s reference this morning to media reports as an alternative to a Kremlin announcement is a hint that Peskov has not been reappointed, and that Putin has not found a replacement for him yet. This is because the Moscow media have reported the fate of everybody on the senior Kremlin staff – except Peskov.   (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

One shadow hanging over the Russian art market was dispelled in London this week when the British Government’s media campaign against wealthy Russians failed to deter record sales of Russian artworks at the leading London auction houses.

Together, sales by Christie’s, Sotheby’s, MacDougall’s, and Bonhams fetched £21.7 million. That is three percent better than they achieved in June of last year. MacDougall’s set a house record, with an increase in value of its sales by 49% over a year ago. Christie’s also sold 35% more in value of Russian artworks.

Sotheby’s, however, recorded that its auction of Russian paintings fell to £6.9 million,  down from £9.9 million in June of 2017, a drop of 30%. And this is a new shadow in the Russian art market which leading European art dealers are reluctant to discuss openly.

Russian collectors, buyers and sellers of artworks say they are well aware that Sotheby’s is accused of colluding with the Swiss dealer, Yves Bouvier, to rig art prices and defraud buyers. A London High Court claim, seeking hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation and penalties, brought by Dmitry Rybolovlev, former owner of Uralkali, Russia’s leading potash producer, is due to start shortly. At the same time in Geneva, a criminal court proceeding is underway against Bouvier and his associates for price rigging and fraud against the Kaliningrad auto manufacturer, Vladimir Scherbakov. A third Russian art collector, real estate developer Boris Mints, is under investigation by Central Bank regulators and the General Prosecutor in Moscow; Mints has allegedly diverted bank loans into personal assets, and fled for refuge to London. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The collapse of stock market confidence in Magnit, the largest and most valuable Russian retailer in the domestic and London stock markets, has triggered widespread speculation that Sergei Galitsky, 50, the founder and control shareholder of Magnit since 1998, was attacked by corporate raiders led by Andrei Kostin, head of the state VTB Bank, and Alexander Vinokurov (lead image, above), son-in-law of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (below) and business associate of Mikhail Fridman, owner of X5, the second supermarket retailer in Russia and Magnit’s biggest competitor.

As a two-step plan of takeover, the exit of Galitsky (born Arutyunian) and the takeover by VTB and Vinokurov, have been reported in the Russian press as the business deal of the year. But they are  unable to agree on why it has happened. A half-dozen reporters from Russia’s leading business media, who have covered the deal, and sixteen of the analysts they have quoted in their coverage, were asked to say if they knew of business conflicts Galitsky had been having; whether there was reason to believe that Kostin and Vinokurov had been acting in concert to oust Galitsky, drive the share price of Magnit down, and re-sell the asset to a potential competitor in the Russian retail market. Had there had been non-market reasons – asset raid in Russian — they were asked?

More than twenty sources in all, but not one of them agreed to answer the questions on the telephone or by email, notwithstanding promises of strict confidentiality. Their fear is infectious; their reaction is the strongest confirmation so far that Magnit is the target of an ongoing asset raid, which will hold down the value of the company’s shares no matter how much Russian consumer income and  market demand recover to lift Magnit’s financial results.   (more…)