Russian Politician Suggests Dividing Ukraine Along Lines Of Nazi-Soviet Pact, Proposes West Ukraine Referendum

It has been a while since well-known Russian nationalist and spotlight-grabbing politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, made headlines. The recent flame up of Cold War 2.0 is precisely the cover the flamboyant individual needed to reemerge once more, scandalous as ever. Because while the west scrambles to find a way to punish Russia for openly flaunting its relentless hollow threats by annexing Crimea, Zhirinovsky is back and has a “modest proposal” for Ukraine, and the countries neighboring the troubled former USSR territory: namely dividing the country along the lines of an infamous Nazi-Soviet pact, suggesting that regions in Western Ukraine hold referendums on breaking away from Kiev. In a letter sent to the governments of Poland, Romania and Hungary, Vladimir Zhirinovsky also suggested those countries hold referendums on incorporating the regions into their territory. The question is whether Zhirinovsky, who traditionally has been just a bit of a loose cannon yet whose nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament,speaks only for himself, or whether Putin is using him the way the Fed uses Hilsenrath.

Before readers dismiss his ramblings as those of a deranged lunatic, it is worth reminding that he is deputy speaker at the Duma and his ideas and language resonate with a large part of the Russian population and the Kremlin’s increasingly pro-nationalist rhetoric.

Reuters has more details on his proposal:

His letter, seen by Reuters, suggested Poland, Hungary and Romania, who are now in the European Union, might wish to take back regions which he said were in the past their territories.

 

The regions were incorporated into Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and featured in a secret annex of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under which the Soviet and Nazi German foreign ministers carved up the area.

 

It’s never too late to correct historical errors,” Zhirinovsky wrote. It was not clear whether the letter was serious or a publicity stunt. But it follows a crisis in relations between Moscow and Kiev since the Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was ousted as Ukraine’s president last month.

 

Zhirinovsky proposed Ukraine’s Chernivtsi, Zakarpattia, Volyn, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Rovensky regions, together with Poland, Romania and Hungary hold referendums on whether the regions should break away from Ukraine.

 

Romania might wish to have Chernivtsi, Hungary the Zakarpattia region, and Poland the rest, he said. 

 

The proposal would allow central Ukraine to be free of “unnecessary tensions” and the referendums would “bring prosperity and tranquillity to the Ukrainian native land,” the letter said.

We never said he didn’t have a sense of humor. One nation, however, was not amused: Poland…

Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski dismissed the letter as a “complete oddity” and regretted some Russians “still think in terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.”

… And of course Ukraine.

Ukraine’s government spokeswoman declined to comment. Sergei Sobolev, head of Ukraine’s largest parliamentary faction, the Fatherland party, called Zhirinovsky a “provocateur”.

 

“But Zhirinovsky often is the voice of Putin,” he added.

 

Alexandr Efremov, head of the parliamentary faction Party of Regions, Ukraine’s former ruling party, said he did not support Zhirinovsky’s proposal.

 

“Just as we have some intemperate people, Russia has some of them as well,” Efremov said at a briefing. “I do not support this (Zhirinovsky’s) approach.”

Perhaps the most important message here is that with the Russian nationalism wave increasingly a dominant talking point and motivation in voting for any one political party, hopes that the Ukraine “precedent” will promptly be buried under the rug can be soundly eliminated for good.


    



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Obama Demands Russia Leave G-8; June Summit Cancelled While Ukraine Deploys Army Along Borders

UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that it is “absolutely clear” that the G-8 Summit scheduled for June in Sochi, Russia will not go ahead. But it is President Obama that appears to be pressing the hardest for major changes:

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ

This comes at a time when Ukraine forces are being withdrawn from Crimea and deployed to North, South, and East borders of the region.  Meanwhile, Ukraine is taking its soldiers pulled from Crimea and deploying them along all other borders.

  • UKRAINE’S PARUBIY: PRIORITY IS TO PROTECT BORDERS, LEAVE CRIMEA
  • UKRAINE DEPLOYS ARMY TO NORTH, SOUTH, EAST BORDERS: PARUBIY
  • UKRAINE HAS MOBILIZED MORE THAN 10,000 PEOPLE, PARUBIY SAYS

David Cameron says G-8 Summit Scrapped…

There will be no G8 summit in Russia this year, David Cameron said in a further ign of efforts to isolate Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

 

The Prime Minister said it was “absolutely clear” the meeting could not go ahead.

 

Speaking in The Hague ahead of a meeting of G7 leaders, he said: “We should be clear there’s not going to be a G8  summit this year in Russia. That’s absolutely clear.”

 

Preparations for the planned June summit in Sochi had already been suspended as a result of Russia’s actions in neighbouring Ukraine.

And Obama is calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G-8.

  • OBAMA SAID TO PRESS ALLIES TO SUSPEND RUSSIA FROM G8: WSJ


    



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Russia Retaliates; Sanctions 13 Canadian Officials

With the list of high-ranking US officials running dry, it appears Russia has turned its attention, in the tit-for-tat sanction battle, to Canada. Following Canada’s sanctions against 10 top Russian an Ukrainian officials last week, Russia has placed travel bans on 13 Canadian lawmakers and officials.

  • *RUSSIA SETS SANCTIONS AGAINST 13 CANADIANS IN RETALIATORY STEP

The list includes aides to PM Harper and the head of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and is, according to Russia’s foreign minister, a response to the “unacceptable action by the Canadian side that has inflicted serious damage to bilateral relations.”

 

Russia announced on Monday that it was barring 13 Canadian officials, lawmakers and public figures from the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Canada over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Full list of persons sanctioned indicated on the Foreign Ministry’s website :

1. Christine Hogan –  ‎Foreign & Defence Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister at Privy Council Office

2. Wayne G.Wouters – public servant and Clerk of the Cabinet. Canada’s most senior civil servant.

3. Jean-Francois Tremblay – Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Operations), Privy Council Office

4. Andrew Sheer – Canadian Member of Parliament and the Speaker of the House of Commons. At age 32, he became the youngest person to serve in this capacity in Canadian parliamentary history

5. Peter Van Loan – Canadian politician who is the Member of Parliament for the electoral district of York—Simcoe. He has been the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons since May 18, 2011

6. Raynell Andreychuk – Canadian Senator, lawyer, and former judge and diplomat

7. Dean Allison – Canadian politician. He was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 2004 federal election for the new riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook

8. Paul Dewar – Canadian educator and politician from Ottawa, Ontario. He is the New Democratic Party Member of Parliament for the riding of Ottawa Centre

9. Irwin Cotler – Member of Parliament for Mount Royal. He served as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada from 2003 until the Liberal government of Paul Martin lost power following the 2006 federal election.

10. Ted Opitz – Canadian politician and a retired Canadian Forces Lieutenant-Colonel who was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in the 2011 election.

11. Christia Freeland – Canadian writer, journalist and politician. Freeland has served in various editorial positions with the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Thomson Reuters, where she was the managing director and editor for consumer news before she announced her resignation to run for the Liberal Party nomination in the by-election to replace Bob Rae as the Member of Parliament for Toronto Centre.

12. James Bezan – Canadian politician. In 2004, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Conservative.

13. Paul Grod – President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress

 

Intriguingly, they sanctioned 13 Canadians and only 9 Americans…?!


    



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Cocaine-Filled Condoms Intercepted On Way To Vatican

Despite Pope Francis’ recent attempts – mostly for media and public consumption, if not so much in actuality – to clear out decades of corruption at the Vatican including shady financial backroom dealings, involving countless global banks, some very odd things continue floating up to the surface. Like condoms filled with cocaine.

From AP:

German customs officials intercepted a shipment of cocaine destined for the Vatican in January, weekly Bild am Sonntag reported Sunday.

 

Officers at Leipzig airport found 340 grams (12 ounces) of the drug packed into 14 condoms inside a shipment of cushions coming from South America, the paper, reported citing a German customs report. It said the package was simply addressed to the Vatican postal office, meaning any of the Catholic mini-state’s 800 residents could have picked it up.

Not surprisingly, nobody at the Vatican stepped up to laim the 14 condoms. Especially since they appear to have been tipped off.

The paper reported that a subsequent sting operation arranged with Vatican police failed to nab the intended recipient. No one claimed the package, indicating that he or she was tipped off about the plan. The drugs would have a street value of several tens of thousands of euros.

 

A spokesman for the German Finance Ministry, which oversees the customs office, confirmed the report. Prosecutors in Leipzig planned to issue a statement Monday providing further details, Martin Chaudhuri told The Associated Press.

 

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Vatican police had cooperated with German police in an attempt to identify the traffickers. He said the investigation remained open.

The open question: was the cocaine sent for cardinal consumption, or even worse, for reselling purposes. Sure, the Vatican’s finances are hardly as strong as they were when the Vatican Bank was humming along but who knew things were so bad to essentially make the Vatican a Breaking Bad spin off?


    



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Guess Which Precious Metal Is Controlled By The Russians

Submitted by Tim Staermose of Sovereign Man blog,

Palladium is like the Rodney Dangerfield of precious metals. It never gets any respect.

If you ask someone about precious metals, in fact, just about everyone has heard of gold and silver. And occasionally platinum.

But palladium is one of those obscure precious metals that few people think about, or even know about.

Aside from actually having its own currency code (XPD), palladium is widely used in a variety of industrial applications, from spark plugs to catalytic converters to hydrocarbon ‘cracking’ to electronic components.

And here’s something most people don’t know: most of the world’s palladium is mined in Russia.

Since October 2013, Palladium prices have had a moderate boost—about a 5.3% increase in five months.

But given what’s happening in Russia, prices could soar. In fact, with trade sanctions looming, palladium could be taken off the world market indefinitely.

As the following chart shows, palladium has just broken out to a new 52-week high and is showing strong upward momentum.

1 year palladium Guess which precious metal is controlled by the Russians...

Moreover, if you look at the 5-year chart, it could be about to break out to even longer-term highs.

5 year palladium Guess which precious metal is controlled by the Russians...

I would consider buying palladium today, with a stop-loss order to protect your capital, at $759. That means if the market should prove this thesis wrong, the loss would be limited to just 4%.

I think the near-term upside target is the 5-year high of $855. That’s about an 8% gain from where we are today.

An upside of 8% versus a downside of 4% makes palladium a good risk/reward trade, given that the odds of the higher-price outcome are much better than the odds of the lower-price outcome.

But if tensions between the West and Russia escalate and trade sanctions stay in place for a prolonged period, $855 could be a very conservative upside target for palladium.

The last time Russia withheld palladium supplies from world markets back in 2000, the price rose 151% from a low of $433 in January 2000 to over $1,090 an ounce by January 2001.

In a scenario like that, palladium would be an incredibly profitable trade.

One easy way to take a position in palladium is via the ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (PALL on the New York Stock Exchange).

A new physical palladium ETF sponsored by Standard Bank has also just launched in South Africa.

And Absa Bank, which already sponsors the world’s largest platinum-backed ETF, has also announced it will launch a palladium ETF called NewPalladium. It will list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on March 27th.

These new palladium ETF launches, coming at a time of tightening supply due to Russian sanctions, could easily add more upward momentum to palladium prices, as they will withdraw supply from the market to physically back their shares.

However, if you want to avoid the possibility of any counterparty risk, there’s no substitute for owning the physical metal yourself.

The Royal Canadian Mint has in the past minted palladium versions of its very popular and instantly recognizable Maple Leaf bullion coins.

You can also buy 1 troy ounce palladium bars from most major dealers.


    



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Biotechs Battered And MoMos Muppet’d – Carry Unwinds Sparks Stock Dump

Despite the ubiquitous pre-open ramp by USDJPY, equity markets resumed Friday's weakness out of the gate led by the best of the worst. Biotechs are being battered (-13% from highs) and momentum-high-flyers are being monkey-hammered (led by NFLX and TSLA). This is weighing most heavily on Nasdaq for now but the dive in JPY crosses is dragging all stocks lower. Treasuries are rallying and the USD is rising modestly.

 

Biotechs are back at 7 week lows…

 

USDJPY in charge…

 

And since the FOMC, things have been ugly for the MoMos…

 

as all the major indices are now red post Yellen…


    



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Malaysia Airlines Says “Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt” Plane Crashed Into Indian Ocean, None Survived

The latest in the 2+ week search for the missing Boeing 777 MH370 plane is just out, via SkyNews:

 

 

We assume this means that the search for the missing plane is now over, even though there is so far no evidence to substantiate the lack of “any reasonable doubt” behind the Malaysia Airlines claim.

More from the FT:

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, announced at 10pm local time on Monday evening.

 

The news comes sixteen days after the Boeing 777 passenger jet vanished without trace in the early hours of March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a routine red-eye flight to Beijing.

 

For the past two weeks, more than two dozen countries have been helping Malaysia look for the jet, in the most intensive search for a missing aeroplane in history.

 

Australian and Chinese aircraft on Monday spotted several objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean where international teams are searching for the missing airliner.

 

Mr Najib said that based on new analysis from Inmarsat, the British satellite company, and UK investigators, the Malaysia Airlines flight had flown to a part of the Indian Ocean where there are no places to land.

Live Press Conference:


    



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US PMI Tumbles From Record High, Biggest Miss In 13 Months

Last month’s exuberance-filled, and instantly extrapolated, Markit US PMI print at the lofty levels of 57.1 (proving that the weather-delayed pent-up-demand was truly back) has been dashed on the shores of ugly reality. March’s print dropped to 55.5, missing expectations by the most since Feb 2013 as jobs grew at a slower pace and factory orders declined. This slowing in the US economy’s growth adds to last night’s weakness in Chinese growth. Given weather was not a majr issue in March, what excuse can we find for this?

 

 

In the detailed report breakdown of components, also notable is the decline in New Orders from 59.6 to 58.0, as well as the Employment index declining from 54.1, to 53.9

What about the weather: after all Markit was so vocal to blame snow in the winter in the last few months, even though the index magically soared to record? Well, apparently, the weather got better in March.

Reports from survey respondents cited improving economic fundamentals and, to a lesser degree, an on-going catch-up effect following weather disruptions earlier in the year.

Wait, the PMI index declined even as the weather got better? Huh? Yup. Commenting on the flash PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at Markit said:

The manufacturing PMI adds to evidence that the sector has shrugged off the weather-related weakness seen earlier the year, with strong demand encouraging firms to expand and hire new staff at a robust pace.

 

“The buoyant growth in March rounds off the best quarter for three years, indicating that the sector should provide a robust contribution to GDP in the first quarter. Growth was not as strong as February, but that’s in many respects only to be expected after last month’s numbers had been boosted by the rebound from January’s severe weather. The fact that the output and new orders indices remained so strong in March is very encouraging news that the sector has come through the weather-related soft patch and continues to play an increasingly important role in the economic upturn.

 

“Particularly welcome was the sustained upturn in hiring, adding to evidence to suggest that firms’ retain an upbeat outlook.

 

“One area of concern is the sluggish growth of exports, but this weakness is being more than offset by strong domestic demand.

 

”The survey is broadly consistent with manufacturing output rising at an annualised rate of approximately 4% in the first quarter and job creation in the sector running at around 10-15,000 per month. These are encouraging numbers that will no doubt add to the case for the Fed to continue reducing its asset purchases.”

Mmmk then.

Finally, what does this data tell us about the upcoming April NFP:

A solid rate of job creation was sustained across the manufacturing sector in March. Staffing levels have increased in each month July 2013 and the rate of employment growth was stronger than seen on average over this period. Survey respondents widely linked staff recruitment to improving confidence about the business outlook and greater optimism about the prospects for the U.S. economy as a whole.

In other words, it could be better… Or it could be worse than expected.

Source: Markit


    



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Furious Chinese Demand Money Back As Housing Bubble Pops

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned or, it seems, like a Chinese real estate speculator who is losing money. After four years of talking (and not doing much) about cooling the hot-money speculation that is the Chinese real-estate bubble (mirroring the US equity market bubble since stock-ownership is low in China), the WSJ reports that the people are restless as the PBOC actually takes actions – and prices are falling. With new project prices down over 20%, 'homeowners' exclaim "return our hard-earned money" and "this is very unfair" – who could have seen this coming?

Via WSJ,

After a four-year campaign by the government to cool spiraling property prices, rises in home prices are starting to slow and in some smaller cities they are weakening.

 

Growth in average housing prices in 70 Chinese cities moderated in February for the second-straight month though they were still nearly 9% higher compared with a year ago.

 

But weaker economic growth, slower home sales and rising volumes of unsold houses have convinced developers in a number of cities to cut prices to raise cash quickly.

And new home prices are down…in smaller cities…

Property developers say privately there isn't enough transparency in land sales and land use, which sometimes give rise to overbuilding in many smaller cities.

 

Phoenix Lake Garden, prices were cut by as much as 16%

 

According to property agency Soufun Holdings, Wharf cut prices of 20 apartments in the project to 8,200 yuan ($1,317) per square meter, down from the average 11,000 yuan per square meter it recorded in recent months.

 

Mr. Wu said he bought a 120-square-meter apartment in December, for 730,000 yuan. Prices are now 610,000 yuan for a similar apartment in the same tower

The drop in newer home prices hasn't gone down well.

Groups of angry homeowners put up banners and demanded their money back after Hong Kong-listed property developer Wharf Ltd. cut prices

 

Around 20 homeowners picketed outside a property showroom in Changzhou Saturday, demanding to meet executives of the developer. They said they wanted their money back after prices at the project dropped

 

Meanwhile, there was also a small disturbance at a second project called Ambassador House in the same city after the same developer cut prices there.

 

Furniture at the showroom of Wharf's Ambassador House was knocked over and the wooden stands for advertisements for the homes were flung on top of a model of the project.

 

Others said that as many as 100 people who had bought homes at the project had vented their frustrations outside the showroom over the past week.

The complaints…

"Wharf, give us justice. Return us our hard earned money," read one of the banners, held up on bamboo poles outside the Phoenix Lake Garden showroom of a project for mid- to high-end apartments and villas.

 

"We aren't speculators. We just want an explanation from the developer," said one 35-year-old home buyer, who said he had bought an apartment and gave his surname as Wu. "This is very unfair."

Unfair indeed. How long before we hear they are "entitled" to a fair return on their housing (non) speculation investment? Alas for China's "non-speculators", as we reported last week in "The Music Just Ended: "Wealthy" Chinese Are Liquidating Offshore Luxury Homes In Scramble For Cash" the real anger is only just beginning.


    



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