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Ukrainian Parliament turned into a Fight Club

For those of you who have not seen the images on TV, a great moment of Ukrainian democracy… A steamy debate with smoke grenades. No comment!


Sergei Adoniev: Skartel’s co-owner, the new big player in Russian new technologies (Kommersant)

Sergei Adoniev is one of the managers of new Russian telecommunication giant Skartel (traded as Yota). With Skartel, Adoniev is leading the Wimax technology (or 4G) market in Russia, a technology which is replacing the current 3G. I’ve put below a translation of a very interesting Kommersant article on Sergei Adoniev and fast-growing Skartel, which was published on December 2, 2009.

Kommersant, December 2, 2009

One of the co-owners of the WiMax operator “SKARTEL” (Trading as YOTA, 25.1% owned by the state company Rostechnologies) is Sergei Adoniev, a former business partner of Vladimir Kekhman, the primary shareholder of one of Russia’s main fruit importers, JFC. Mr. Adoniev’s stake is inferior to the blocking stake although it is thought that he could have held up to 75% of the Operator.

A source close to the Company indicated to “*” that Sergei Adoniev is one of the fund managers of TELCONET CAPITAL LIMITED (which possesses 74.9% of WIMAX HOLDING, which in turn controls SKARTEL). According to the source, Mr. Adoniev has a stake in TELCONET CAPITAL which is less than the “blocking stake”. He did not provide the names of the other managers of the fund. Another source close to the Company stated that when the Operator was starting to provide its services in 2008, Sergei Adoniev owned 75% of the Company. “Afterwards the individual contributions to the Company’s capital could be modified” clarified “3”‘s source. SCARTEL’s CEO, Denis Sverdlov has refused to comment on Sergei Adoniev’s shareholding in TELCONET however he did not refute the information.

Sergei Adoniev is known for having created the company OLBI-JAZZ in 1993 with Vladimir Kekhman. OLBI-JAZZ is the commercial division of the OLBI-DIPLOMAT consortium. In one year, the Company became one of the biggest fruit importers (it also imported sugar). After the sale of “OLBI” to the National Sport Fund, Mr. Kekhman founded his own company, JFC which is currently one of the leaders in Russia’s fruit market. Mr. Adoniev no longer has any stake in JFC.

According to SKARTEL’s CEO Denis Sverdlov, the operator SKARTEL (OOO SKARTEL provides services under the ensign YOTA) is wholly controlled by the company KRISTIVA HOLDINGS LTD which in turn is 100% owned by WIMAX HOLDING LTD. ROSTECHNOLOGIES possesses 25.1% of WIMAX HOLDING LTD, the rest being owned by the administrative company TELCONET CAPITAL PARTNERSHIP. According to information provided by “*” SKARTEL’s CEO, Denis Sverdlov is also an investor in the fund.

In October last year ROSTECHNOLOGIES exercised its option to purchase 25.1% of the company WIMAX HOLDING LTD. The transaction did not occur via an increase in the capital of the administrative company, in other words this was not the result of a call for investment/funds to further develop the business. It was in fact TELCONET CAPITAL LP which sold its stake. In November the same year, SKARTEL announced that its operations had achieved profitability. According to Denis Sverdlov, the Company’s October profit was USD 6 million and the performance indicator EBITDA was positive for the first time. The subscriber database is made up of 250’000 individuals according to Denis Sverdlov. 

IN 2008 SKARTEL announced the launch of its WiMax mobile network in Russia. The Operator promised that it would provide coverage within 3 to 4 years of 40 of Russia’s largest cities and that it would invest about USD 1 billion in network development. According to Denis Sverdlov, at this point in time USD 500 million has been invested in the Operator. Networks have already been built in Moscow, St Petersburg, Oufa, Krasnodar and Sotchi. It was quickly apparent that the operator was ready to expand overseas. SKARTEL has planned to create networks in a series of Latin American countries: Peru (license obtained), Nicaragua, and Venezuela and also envisages targeting the mobile communications market in India.


Was the hijacked Russian cargo loaded with nuclear arrows?

To be honest with you, this whole story of nuclear arrows illegally on board on the Russian cargo first sounded too much of a James Bond plot to be taken seriously.

But it seems that every day I hear new pieces of information about this story (and it’s hard not to get the Moscow buzz) and I start to wonder if there’s not some truth into this story.

 Was the Russian cargo which mysteriously disappeared a few weeks ago in Scandinavian waters was actually carrying nuclear arrows? Nuclear wastes?

One thing sounds clear to me. There was something a lot more important on board than timber.

I must admitt that even at the very beginning of the story, I did not buy the Somali-type pirate attack along North-European shores. Who would be stupid enough to hijack a timber loaded boat in the midst of the most crowded and secured sea area on the planet?

Well, either someone very dumb, or someone who knew the cargo had a much more valuable freight than a bunch of trees…

Once that said, I would not have imagined one second that the freight was about uranium, nuclear wastes or even nuclear arrows.

The information has come around for quiet a time now around Moscow, but I first did not want to report it. I try in this blog to bring balanced and serious non reported information on Russia, I’m not here to spread all the conspiracy theory rumours that comes around (and believe me, there’s a lot of them!!!)

Well, I do not pretend that this nuclear theory is hard as a fact, but it gets more consistent every day.

If not (and I deeply hope it’s not), the Russian cargo mystery will remain intact for some time. One thing is sure now: the hijackers did not give a s*** about timber or even ransom. They took this huge risk because they knew there was something of high interest on board.

Hope we’ll know what it was soon enough.


Someone talked about Dagestan and Ingushetia…

Public unrest in Dagestan and neighbour Ingushetia is getting worst and worst everyday. I wrote about it almost a month ago, but I guess the death toll was not high enough by this time.

It seems that enough innocent people (not all them were not that innocent) died in attacks and bloody assassinations and Western media are now discovering where Dagestan is located on a map.

And as always, the coverage is nothing less than superficial and sensational.

Does anyone wonder who benefits from the crime? Who are the people that are killed and who might be behind this unrest? I do as many in Russia.

Wait and see for the next episode…


Putin and the FSB: Big brother is Watching you

fsb-bw1I consider the Putin/FSB relation as one of the most interesting myths of today’s Russia.

I guess this show the great charisma of Putin who has been able to make believe to the whole world that he heads and perfectly controls the scariest organization: the FSB (formerly known as the even scarier KGB)

 As any myth, it is  very convenient to give a single globalizing explanation to situations that can hardly be linked to each others.

Let me explain my point. I’ve lived in Russia for years and I tend to believe that the FSB power is highly over-rated in Western medias.

It reminds me a bit of the last years of the soviet era, when American journalists and politicians scared the hell out of Americans on Soviet stength and military greatness. It took them years to realize that the so-called military greatness was nothing but a “paper tiger” as would Mao say.

I believe that today’s FSB is a little bit in this type of situation. They undoubtedly have a great know-how in intellligence and “counter-terrorism” technics.

But let be honnest, they have very little means and therefore they are unable to realize the huge and disgusting work the KGB did under Stalin’s rule.

Moreover, it is also very convennient to believe that Putin perfectly controls the FSB. As in any organization, there are struggles and tensions among the FSB.

People like Sechin for instance also have a huge influence among FSB top officials. Greater than Putin’s? I don’t think so, but great enough to be able to send contradictory messages and orders.


Breaking News: Russian propaganda outbreak in the UK!!!

bear-cartoon_1390024cJust a short post to mention that the british newspaper The Telegraph has reprinted yesterday a Moscow Times article entitled: What the West thinks of Russia is not necessarily true.

Don’t know why but it sounds familiar to me. Please read it below:

Poor, authoritarian and submissive?

If we can’t refute popular impressions of Russia and Russians, let’s try to explain their origins and how they reflect reality.Everyone is poor in Russia. Yes, there is a huge income difference between the top and bottom 10pc. In 2008, income at the top 10pc was 16 times higher than the bottom 10pc. In Moscow it was 40-50 times higher.

Some people think social polarisation between rich and poor is linked to taxation, citing the US, where disparity in levels of pre-tax income is also considerable but evened out by taxation. Russia has a flat rate income tax: 13pc. Moreover, the habit of conscientiously paying taxes started taking root only recently. Historically, the concept of “no taxation without representation” was unknown, because Russians didn’t know what representation meant.

A significant difference in incomes makes society unstable, because it gives rise to indifference in some sectors and a hatred of wealth in others. In America, the American Dream and people’s confidence in their potential compensate for income inequalities. In Europe, higher incomes compensate for inequality of opportunity. Russia is more like Latin America.

If you compare us with the West, Russian democracy is not the same: too much is decided at federal or regional level. But we mustn’t forget that for centuries Russians have associated the power of the country with the power of the state. Russians have grown accustomed to measuring their country’s power in terms of victories. Russian victories came in times of strong rule – from Peter the Great to Stalin. Its people are afraid of weak rule because the believe weakness leads to chaos, and that means injustice and even greater poverty and lawlessness.

“Grassroots” power has effectively never existed in Russia, particularly in the political sphere. There’s an old saying: “We’ll wait till the squire comes, and he’ll sort it all out.”

The Russian philosopher Nikolay Berdyayev wrote: “The Russian loves Russia, but he’s not used to feeling accountable to Russia.”

Are Putin’s approval ratings artificial? Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Centre, a leading sociological centre, explained this in the Novyye Izvestiya newspaper:

“Russians are always afraid of poverty. This is the ‘genetic’ fear of a poor society. People’s aspirations are all linked to two aims: to escape a situation of chronic need and to make sure their children are healthy and prosperous. This is what they measure everything by, including political events.“

The country has never lived so well [in recent years], and people believed it would stay like that for ever, or at least would not get worse. Moreover, there’s one important aspect of our national psychology or culture that is underestimated – our willingness to passively put up with things.”

And although the percentage of Russians who believe the country is going in the right direction has fallen from 54pc in Oc-tober to 43pc in January, Putin avoided a similar fate. His approval rating rose from 80 to 83pc since the war with Georgia; President Medvedev’s is also up, from 70 to 73pc.

“Criticism doesn’t stick,” says Gudkov. People, he adds, still believe in Putin. “Their dissatisfaction is directed towards the middle-level bureaucrats… People’s trust in Putin isn’t based on his practical actions: it’s more complex in nature. Putin’s high rating is made up of hopes… the role he plays is symbolic, not practical.”

  • Svetlana Babayeva is RIA Novosti US bureau chief, Washington

Don’t be afraid of the bear’s hug

Foreigners quite often see Russia as a bear. It was used in cartoons and articles at least since the 19th century, and related alike to tsarist Russia, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia.

And the connection is correct. The bear, like the biggest country in the world, is a huge animal that weighs 100-700 kilos. And if you squint your eyes the right way, Russia’s geographical shape on the map is quite similar to a bear’s silhouette.

During the Soviet era, the bear was most often drawn in the Western press facing west, with the head being made up of Soviet republics. Nowadays with the new shape of Russia the bear usually faces its rear end towards Europe and its head toward the Far East.

A bear was the symbol of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and the image of “Mishka” floating away into the sky after the games will never be forgotten.The roots of the bear connected to Russia go deep. The first time this image was linked Russia was in the 16th century when bears were depicted as shield-bearers on the Muscovy Company emblem (an English company founded in 1596). There was no political colouring, just the attribute of mysterious Muscovites.

In the 18th century, this image appeared in politics and represented a monstrous and aggressive creature from the east. In the heat of trade competition between Russia and Great Britain, the latter aimed to impose a negative image of Russia on the world arena.

Among the most significant political caricatures there were titles such as “The Russian Bear and her invincible rider encountering the British Legion” and “From Russian gears good Lord deliver me…” This usually shy animal was somehow depicted as cruel and ruthless.The perception of the bear is entirely dif-ferent in Russia. After the Olympics it was taken up as the symbol of the dominant United Russia Party.

We should remember that the bear is not naturally aggressive. In fact, its diet is three quarters vegetable and fruit. Still, brown bears may attack young deer, moose and caribou, but their prime choice is fish. They hibernate for six months, are lazy and prefer eating honey to hunting.

Thus, the most intimidating thing about bears is their size. Surprisingly, these big creatures do not usually attack first, unless they feel their cubs are threatened. Like the noble lion of the jungle, the bear is often regarded as king of the forest.

All of the above is true of Russia as well. There is no aggressive bear here. The negative perception of Russia is imposed on the West at every opportunity. A bear is often used in the media to describe Russia, but rarely favourably. Recently, Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonian Minister of Defence, commenting on the Russian-Georgian conflict, said that Russian bear behaviour had deteriorated.

Do you think “deteriorated behaviour” is Russia’s question? It is more likely the answer. Punch in “Russian bear” into your in-ternet search engine and negative articles will pop up. But Russia isn’t a hunter, it prefers a “vegetarian diet”; and it rarely kills people unless provoked. A brutal and clumsy animal has a different face.

The ties between Russia and bear allego-ry are close, but there is more. Ironically, Russia’s current president has a “bear surname”. In Russian, “bear” is medved – and President Dmitry Anatolyevich’s surname is Medvedev (genitive of “medved”).

Now Russians can nod their heads in agreement when foreigners ask: “Are there bears on Red Square?”

  • Daria Chernyshova is a commentator for The Moscow News

How Putin saved Russia’s oligarchs’ *****

Once almighty and arrogant, Russian oligarchs have all learnt a bit of humility these past months.

Despite their visible  wealth, their huge industrial empires, mostly built on natural ressources, were not ready to face the economic global crisis.

Strangled by gigantic debts, Russian oligarchs were more thhan any other investors in the world massively struck by the liquidity shortage and were unable to refinance their debts.

Earlier this winter, most of their glorious holdings (which were considered in Russia as the milestones of new Russian prosperity) have come very close to a full collapse.

Once almighty and even scared by senior government officials, the most prominent Russian businessmen had no other choice than to come and beg for some cash to Vladimir Putin.

Britain Rich Russians' RefugeEveryone in Moscow has heard about these night time stories at the Kremlin were guys like Roman Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska or Vladimir Potanin were queuing for hours waiting for a few minutes meeting with Putin or Igor Sechin.

Putin has built these men and he had the opportunity to crushed them the same way he crushed Khodorkovsky. Why did he decide to finally save their ***** and pay for such an expensive bailout plan?

The most obvious reason is that Putin, as Obama in the US, did not want to see a negative domino effect throughout Russian economy (keep in mind that all started when the US government decided not to support Lehmann Brothers!!!).

That makes a lot of sense and was probably a vital move for the sake of Russian economy.

But I also believe that Putin saved a little more than the half dozen billionaires he once created. Abramovich’s, Deripaska’s or Potanin’s empires are part of Putin’s great ambition of hidden nationalisation of Russia’s natural ressources.

And he is not about to give up Russia’s natural ressources as he perfectly sees that the 21st century’s strugles will be about nothing else but it!!!