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Russia’s real estate sector is starting to rebound

Investment into Russian real estate is now up by 9%

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(bne IntelliNews) – Russia real estate sector is starting to recover after years in the doldrums, with the investment volume up 9% in 2017 to $4.6bn, reports JLL.

Russia’s real estate investments reached $1.9bn in the last quarter of 2017, up 88% y/y versus $1bn in last quarter of 2016, according to JLL calculations. This brought the full year volume to $4.6bn, up 9% from $4.3bn in 2016.

“In 2017, the market underwent both positive and negative changes. The Russian economy has been recovering,” Olesya Dzuba, Head of Research, JLL, Russia & CIS, said in a report. “The ruble traded within a narrow range. Inflation declined below the Central Bank target. Despite the raising concerns about the banking sector stability, a number of large deals closed at the year-end. These included the sale of Immofinanz shopping centre portfolio and the part of Sever-2 warehouse complex. We expect the investment volume to climb to $5bn in 2018, up 9% y/y.”

In 2017, the retail sector accounted for 40% of the total volume. Offices followed, with 34% of all deals. The retail sector dominated over the whole year, with the sale of the Immofinanz shopping centre portfolio to Fort Group supporting this in the fourth quarter.

“Moscow remains the main investment destination in Russia. In 2017, its share was close to the level in the previous year, at 79%,” JLL said in its report.

But higher investment activity was recorded in St. Petersburg, whose share had increased from 9% in 2016 to 16% in 2017. In absolute terms, the St Petersburg investment volume grew by 96% y/y, from $380m to $744m. Investors considered St Petersburg assets as an alternative to those in Moscow, increasing their activity in the Northern capital.

And foreigners are getting back into the market. The share of foreign investments increased from 6% in 2016 to 17% in 2017.

“In 2017, new foreign investors entered the market. At the same time, those who have already been present there became more active. The newcomers included the Chinese company Fosun Group, which purchased the Vozdvizhenka Centre office building in Moscow. Raven Russia, the British investment fund, which acquired assets both in Moscow and in St Petersburg, led the ‘old timer’ list,” Evgeniy Semenov, Regional Director, Head of Capital Markets, JLL, Russia & CIS, notes. “The investment market recovers gradually, with the share of restructuring deals dropping from 48% to 2% in 2017.”

Prime yields remained flat last year. As benchmarks for the market players, JLL analysts consider Moscow prime yields between 9.0-10.5% for offices and shopping centres and 11.0-12.5% for warehouses; St Petersburg prime yields were at 9.5-11.5% for offices and shopping centres and 11.5-13.5% for warehouses. Following key rate cuts by the Central Bank, the cost of bank financing will continue declining and will likely lead to yield compression this year.

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Kaspersky Lab snags former NSA contractor stealing hacking tools

Semi-buried article did see publication on Politico and Fox News, but Kaspersky Lab was not vindicated for its help in solving this case.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In a time known for Smear Campaigns of the Strangest Kind, we have seen Russia blamed for being there, for interfering and preventing the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Presidency, putting Donald Trump in the White House instead. One of Russia’s companies, Kaspersky Lab, has a particularly notable history of late; that is to say, this computer security company has found itself on the receiving end of quite frankly, illegal levels of slander and punishment without cause from the US government. Kaspersky Lab owner and CEO tried very hard to come to the US to discuss these matters with a Congressional committee, only to have the meeting shelved into limbo.

However, the truth made itself manifest when it became known that Kaspersky Lab actually helped the American FBI catch Harold T. Martin III, who was found to be attempting to steal some of the American government’s most sensitive hacking tools. This fact emerged on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, when sources familiar with this investigation spoke to The Politico magazine. Politico says the following in its report:

[Kaspersky Lab’s] role in exposing Martin is a remarkable twist in an increasingly bizarre case that is believed to be the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

It indicates that the government’s own internal monitoring systems and investigators had little to do with catching Martin, who prosecutors say took home an estimated 50 terabytes of data from the NSA and other government offices over a two-decade period, including some of the NSA’s most sophisticated and sensitive hacking tools.

The revelation also introduces an ironic turn in the negative narrative the U.S. government has woven about the Russian company in recent years.

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, officials have accused the company of colluding with Russian intelligence to steal and expose classified NSA tools, and in 2016 the FBI engaged in an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit the company and get its software banned from U.S. government computers on national security grounds. But even while the FBI was doing this, the Russian firm was tipping off the bureau to an alleged intelligence thief in the government’s own midst.

“It’s irony piled on irony that people who worked at Kaspersky, who were already in the sights of the U.S. intelligence community, disclosed to them that they had this problem,” said Stewart Baker, general counsel for the NSA in the 1990s and a current partner at Steptoe and Johnson. It’s also discouraging, he noted, that the NSA apparently still hasn’t “figured out a good way to find unreliable employees who are mishandling some of their most sensitive stuff.”

The Politico piece as well as Fox News’ variant still seem somewhat determined to keep that negative narrative in place, with Fox assessing that the FBI had a “strange bedfellow” in the investigation, and what appears to be an absolutely enormous presumption in Politico’s piece:

The first message sent on Aug. 13, 2016, asked one of the researchers to arrange a conversation with “Yevgeny” — presumably Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky, whose given name is Yevgeny Kaspersky. The message didn’t indicate the reason for the conversation or the topic, but a second message following right afterward said, “Shelf life, three weeks,” suggesting the request, or the reason for it, would be relevant for a limited time.

However, there are many people in the world named “Yevgeny” (Evgeny, or Eugene) in Russia, and presumably many Evgenys in Kaspersky Lab itself. The notion that the CEO of the company would be involved in this appears to be an absolutely enormous leap of logic.

The maintenance of a negative narrative about Kaspersky Lab has been one of the most frustratingly effective examples of American propaganda in use since Russia overall became increasingly used as America’s newest scapegoat.

This is also not the first time that Kaspersky Lab saved the day for an American intelligence agency. In 2017 the same company’s services found 122 viruses on an NSA employee’s computer.

Kaspersky Lab itself is a highly sophisticated company based in Moscow, Russia, specializing in securing computers against malware, viruses, ransomware and all manner of invasive efforts by the bad guys out on the ‘Net, and among the providers of such services it consistently rates among the best in the industry, including in US surveys. While US retailers Best Buy, Office Depot and the US government have banned selling or running Kaspersky Lab software, European allies of the US have not even breathed the slightest bit of discontent with the AV provider. The narrative is the only thing that is actually wrong, and since Evgeny Kaspersky’s education was largely at the Academy that trained former KGB personnel, (now called FSB), the anti-Russia narrative in the US the acronym “KGB” is usually enough to alarm most low-information American news readers and watchers. 

However, logic and awareness of life in modern Russia, point to the fact that getting an education on security at the FSB Academy ought to be equivalent to the same education at the CIA. Who would know better about how to create security than those people specially trained to compromise it? However the propaganda vantage point that Kaspersky afforded the US government in its drive to get rid of President Donald Trump made the Russian company too juicy a target to ignore.

Over the last year or two, however, this narrative has slowly been falling apart, with this Politico article being a significant, though still small vindication of the company’s prowess and abilities.

That a Russian Internet Security company could succeed where American enterprises failed, and especially where it helped the Americans catch a man who was stealing very powerful hacking tools, is a significant story, indeed.

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Russia’s court jester that tells the truth: Meet Vladimir Zhirinovsky [Video]

While Mr. Zhirinovksy failed in his presidential run, this man is unafraid to speak truth to power. He has done this in Russia for years.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The ancient tradition of court jester is not dead in the world. In Russia it is manifest in the person of Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party of the Russian Federation. This man is Russia’s answer to the legendary late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, with his famous “I get no respect at all” shtick. However, Mr. Zhirinovsky does his act in full view of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov and others who are extremely important in the government of Russia.

His “jestering” is often utilized by the government because he has a way of presenting information that other people are reluctant to talk about in such company as the Russian President, and so among Russians he has earned this reputation as a court Jester to President Putin. However, like some jesters have done in history, this affords Mr. Zhirinovsky the unique ability to speak very freely and directly about all manner of topics. Wikipedia refers to him thus:

He is fiercely nationalist and has been described as “a showman of Russian politics, blending populist and nationalist rhetoric, anti-Western invective and a brash, confrontational style”.[1] His views have sometimes been described by western media as fascist.

In this video, just released by VESTI News, the fiery politician made his first major appearance since the 2018 Presidential elections, and he spoke about his views on foreign policy, not only of Russia, but of the United States, China and the rest of the world. What he had to say is nothing less than fascinating:

Some of the more salient points:

[00:15] – Nobody knows how to go on across the whole planet. The age of empires is over.

[00:40] – The US became the sole ruler of the world after 1991, but that time is over. It is neither willing nor able to remain the sole ruler.

[01:00] – North Korea became a nuclear power, able to negotiate on even terms with the US, though it is very small

[01:20] – The Middle East is following a relatively peaceful (!) scenario, tending toward peace.

[01:40] – China has unleashed its full potential, but it doesn’t know what to do next. China knows it could be on top but it isn’t because it doesn’t know what to do with such power, and the US is visibly having problems with such a role.

[02:13] – Ukraine is the nastiest problem. Zhirinovksy predicts they will become more fascist over time, and eventually will “Balkanize” into separate countries.

[03:11] – He goes on to point out how the Russian “elite” who is essentially pro-Western, have essentially sold Russia out, but in so doing, they have lost their happiness because the West used them to punish Russia.

Mr. Zhirinovsky does not stop here. He actually discusses a common phenomenon among the Russian “elites” which is that they often take citizenship in other countries, such as England, Germany and even the United States. Their children attend fine European schools. Yet they keep their Russian citizenship as well. When the Western powers started leveling more and more sanctions against Russia, sometimes it was these elites who took the brunt of the hit. For Mr. Zhirinovsky, Russia’s response should be to strengthen, to let the West know that Russia will never be on the same side as the West, nor will it ever become part of the Western world.

No doubt the Western press, if it picks this story up, will lift this sort of rhetoric out of context, taking it as a “sure sign” that Russia is trying to take over the world. To that end they would refer to Mr. Zhirinovsky’s hopes of Russia stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indian Oceans, and say that this “fascist” leader wants Russia to do something similar to what the West charges President Putin of wanting.

However, this is not exactly the gloom and doom scenario Zhirinovsky envisions. As one continues to watch the video clip there is history, viewpoint and a stunning assessment that excessive focus on capitalist notions like wages, taxes and salaries is a source of great unhappiness in Russia. Far from focusing on “progress” as merely economic development of free markets, Mr. Zhirinovsky goes a different direction, pointing out although the monarchy cannot be restored to Russia, there are elements of it that Russia might call on to get to a better place.

A deeper study of Mr. Zhirinovsky’s context reveals some interesting features that even made it to Wikipedia’s pages in English. We include a few select points that appear interesting:

Zhirinovsky has expressed admiration for the 1996 United States presidential election contender Pat Buchanan, referring positively to a comment in which Buchanan labeled the United States Congress “Israeli-occupied territory.” Zhirinovsky said that both countries were “under occupation.” and that “to survive, we could set aside places on U.S. and Russian territories to deport this small but troublesome tribe.” Buchanan strongly rejected this endorsement, saying he would provide safe haven to persecuted minorities if Zhirinovsky were ever elected Russia’s president, eliciting a harsh response by Zhirinovsky: “You soiled your pants as soon as you got my congratulations. Who are you afraid of: Zionists?”

Zhirinovsky has Israeli relatives, including his uncle and cousin, [and]… [he] has led a number of official Russian delegations to Israel, on behalf of the Russian government. Visiting Israel, he says that he is concerned particularly about the economic situation for the more than one million Russians living in Israel. He also states that “Russia will never allow any kind of violence against Israel.”

Besides expressing his concern for Turks and Caucasians displacing the Russian population from their settled territory, Zhirinovsky also advocated for all Chinese and Japanese to be deported from the Russian Far East. During his 1992 visit to the United States, Zhirinovsky called on television “for the preservation of the white race” and warned that the white Americans were in danger of turning their country over to black and Hispanic people.

In 2004, Zhirinovsky spoke at the City Court of Saint Petersburg, in reference to the assassination of Galina Starovoytova. After accusing Starovoytova of having worked for foreign intelligence, he said “I have always said openly that for democrats of pro-Western orientation there are only three roads: prison, the grave, and emigration.”

In August 2016, Zhirinovsky prayed for the Republican presidential election nominee, Donald Trump, whose antics were similar to Zhirinovsky’s but different in backgrounds, to defeat Hillary Clinton, whom he considered dangerous, in order to take his party’s ideology global. He also expressed his desire to test his DNA to determine whether he and Trump were related. In April 2017, Zhirinovsky promised to drink the champagne for Donald Trump’s impeachment, saying: “A half of Americans voted for different foreign policies. Trump breaks his promises, and if he continues breaking them, his impeachment is inevitable.”

The Last Break Southward (1995) is the magnum opus of Zhirinovsky in which he expressed his worldview. “Since the 1980s, I have elaborated a geopolitical conception—the last break southward, Russia’s reach to the shores of the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.” This is “really the solution for the salvation of the Russian nation … It solves all problems and we gain tranquility.” Russia will rule the space “from Kabul to Istanbul…” The “bells of the Orthodox Church must [ring] from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean.” And Jerusalem becomes close. It is necessary that “the Christian world reunifies in Jerusalem.” The Palestinian problem can be solved by partial transfer of the Palestinian population to the former territories of Turkey and Iran. The great Russian language and Russian ruble would wield Near Eastern and Central Asian peoples into one Russian citizenship.

Along the Russia southern sphere from India to Bosporus, other spheres of influence will stretch from north to south in the forthcoming world order, Latin America would be in the American sphere, Africa in the European sphere, and Japan and China will rule Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Australia. Everywhere “the direction is the same—north-south. “Geopolitically, it is logical. “Hence, the distribution along such a geopolitical formula would be very beneficent for the whole of humanity, and all over the planet would be established warm and clear political climate.”

But his talk in the video makes another stunning point: The spirit of the Monarchy must be returned, rather than thoughts only of wages, spending and taxes. “We must restore the sanctity of power”, says Zhirinovsky, and this is a radical departure from the viewpoint of market economics such as is held in the West.

There is much about the rhetoric of Mr. Zhirinovsky that would, at first and even second glance, would alarm readers schooled in the Western way of viewing the world. But this is also the function of the court jester in motion. Mr. Zhirinovsky has never earned more than about 9.5% of the vote for any of Russia’s recent Presidential elections and he earned only 5.65% in the most recent 2018 election, probably because he dug into a nasty row against the supremely unqualified but nonetheless female candidate Ksenia Sobchak in debate.

However, his function is no less important. In listening to and reading his works, such as “The Great Break Southward”, there are salient points that he has made in the past that turn out to be true. The Jester was able to speak such truth to power and remain unassailed, and yet, this ability does help get people to think.

 

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Britain’s Real Enemy, Not Russia

Britain needs defending alright — from the likes of Gavin Williamson and his incompetent government.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via SputnikNews.com:


Britain’s defense minister Gavin Williamson this week said that he will tackle the alleged threat from Russia… by sending warships, submarines and marines to the Arctic.

No kidding. The man in charge of defending Britain, Gavin Williamson, told Bloomberg News that the UK is to urgently adopt Cold War strategy to confront Russia and that forces must be readied.

Defense Secretary Williamson said under his ministerial watch Britain would be redeploying Cold War strategy which had been abandoned more than two decades ago, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

He said warships, attack submarines and helicopters were being made ready to confront an alleged threat posed by Russia to Britain’s national security.

“In response to current Russian aggression, the UK has also stepped up training of its Royal Marines in Norway’s Arctic,” reported Bloomberg. No evidence was cited as to what constituted the alleged Russian aggression. It’s all on the say-so of people like Williamson and media stenographers.

Now, one would think that given there are only 100 days to go to Britain’s tumultuous divorce from the European Union on March 29, the British minister would have a lot more urgent issues to consider.  Apparently not.

Business leaders and assorted commentators, as well as large numbers of the ordinary British public, are deeply alarmed about the possible chaos if Britain crashes out of the EU without any trading arrangement. The so-called “hard Brexit” is looming ever more likely as Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May fails to galvanize support for her withdrawal deal.

There are reports this week of British businesses rushing to form contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit. There are fears of trade and transport disruption causing severe shortages in consumer goods and medicines.
The British cabinet has drawn up plans to deploy some 3,500 troops across the nation in the event of Brexit chaos. What those armed services would be doing precisely is not clear.

But it is reported that Britain’s top national security committee, COBRA, is to meet on a daily basis in the countdown to Brexit, presumably to assess the impact on defenses from a disorderly exit from the EU.

With all the concern over social disruption from the impending divorce from Europe, one wonders why Gavin Williamson devoted his time this week to talk about “tackling the threat from Russia” and dispatching warships and troops to the Arctic.

Surely a preposterous lack of priority! But then what should one expect from the 42-year-old boyish-sounding defense minister who has been one year in the job? Before that high-level posting Williamson has had exactly zero experience in military affairs. He neither served in the armed forces, nor had he any government service relating to military or defense matters.

Indeed it is something of a mystery how a former manager of a pottery and china plate factory should six years after becoming a Member of Parliament in 2010 now be the man in charge of Britain’s war policy.

Previously, Williamson gained notoriety during the Skripal affair earlier this year when he declared that “Russia should go away and shut up!”. For that outburst, Russia’s Ministry of Defense spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov ridiculed Williamson’s “intellectual poverty”.

Despite his dubious intelligence, the former pottery-sales-manager-turned-armchair-general has been running his mouth off about how Russia is allegedly targeting Britain with cyber attacks and other forms of aggression. Williamson has recklessly accused Moscow of plotting to sabotage Britain’s undersea cables for communications and its civilian power infrastructure. Again, no evidence is ever presented, merely lurid sensational claims.

Nothing it seems would please Britain’s callow defense minister than to start a war with Russia. For him that would be a pinnacle career move even though the country he is supposed to be defending might possibly end up as a heap of radioactive ashes. Imagine him atop the pinnacle with a potty on his head and radioactive ruins below.
This scaremongering, warmongering Russophobia is all about keeping idiots like Williamson in a high-paying job. And no doubt a plush job to follow at some warmongering pro-NATO think-tank.

However, this week’s installment involving sending British forces to the Arctic “to defend Britain from Russia” is obviously aimed at the additional purpose of distracting Britons from the Brexit mess that Williamson’s government has created.

It truly is mind-numbingly appalling that a time when Britain is seeing record numbers of child poverty and homelessness — which could all be greatly exacerbated by Brexit — you have the man in charge of national defenses talking about sending warships and troops to the Arctic to fight Russia.

In long-held scurrilous tradition, Britain’s ruling class are squirming out of responsibility for their atrocious failings by blaming some imagined foreign enemy — in this case, Russia.

It is time for British people to realize that their real enemy is the effete, elite ruling class which treats with them contempt, poverty and abject callousness.

Britain needs defending alright — from the likes of Gavin Williamson and his incompetent government.

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