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Ch... Ch... Ch... Changes
What's been going on?
It’s been a crazy kind of month. Loads of changes are happening (I’m dating myself with the title of this article), but does the late, great David Bowie really ever go out of style?
In any case, there have been a lot of developments during the past month, and you deserve an update.
Tomorrow I will be starting a new, exciting job with DOLFIN Academy. The Dedicated Online Financial Integrity Network is an international organization for financial integrity professionals dedicated to protecting the financial system from illicit use. I’m hoping that I left my former firm, FiveBy Solutions, better than when I first joined. The 3.5 years I have spent with FiveBy were transformational. I am leaving a better leader, a better manager, and a better professional (hopefully).
In financial news, there have been a ton of new sanctions during the past month, including a huge batch—more than 160—Russia designations meant to further hinder Moscow’s access to tools and technologies that help Putin conduct his genocide against Ukraine. Iranian media outlets, including Tasnim News Agency, Yaftar Pazhohan Pishtaz Rayanesh Limited Company, Press TV and Fars News Agency have also been blocked on the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. Other designations having to do with counterterrorism and counternarcotics, as well as Wagner group activities in Africa have also been added.
And speaking of the Wagner group… An aircraft that was supposedly carrying Wagner chief Yevgeni Prigozhin and founder Dmitry Utkin somehow magically exploded near Moscow and killed all aboard. Why do I say “supposedly?” Because although Russia claims it confirmed through DNA analysis the identies of those abroad, anything Moscow says in my mind is automatically suspect. In this case, I have to ask whom the confirmation of Prigozhin’s death benefits. If the remains weren’t confirmed, that means Putin and his goons screwed up again, like they did with Navalny with their failure to murder him by placing the nerve agent, Novichok, in the opposition leader’s underwear. That paints Putin as inept.
After Prigozhin’s supposed “coup” in June that “suddenly” stopped when his troops turned around before reaching Moscow, Putin had to attempt to rebuild his strongman reputation, because exiling Prigozhin to Belarus and singlehandedly putting a stop to this alleged “coup” certainly didn’t work to rebuild Putin’s respect among Russia’s elites.
So Prigozhin had to die, but Prigozhin also made a lot of money for Putin, and that’s something that would be difficult to give up. So what’s the answer? Confirm that Prigozhin died aboard the aircraft. Confirmation of death means no one will be looking for Prigozhin any longer. Putin gets to flex his muscles again, as the strongman of Russia, and Prigozhin gets to continue making money for the Kremlin, and for Putin, in Africa, where Wagner has been looting metals and minerals and stealing billions of dollars.
Occam’s Razor it’s not. But this is Russia. The one thing they’re good at is denial and deception.
Oh, and the UK has declared Wagner a terrorist organization.
A bunch of Russian oligarchs have been fighting their EU designations in European courts. For the most part, they have been losing. Russian steel billionaire Victor Rashnikov last week lost his lawsuit to be removed from the bloc’s sanctions list. Rashnikov made his fortune as the owner of Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel PJSC, known as MMK, among the nation’s biggest steelmakers. The EU General Court this week denied sanctioned Russian oligarchs Gennady Timchenko and Dmitry Pumpyansky’s requests to revoke EU sanctions against them and their families. The EU’s highest court recently ruled that sanctions against Alexander Shulgin, the former CEO of Russian e-commerce platform Ozon, should be rescinded. Those were removed last week, as were designations against three others individuals—Grigory Berezkin, Farkhad Akhmedov, and Russian military official Georgy Shuvaev, who was killed in Ukraine.
I’ve been more than a little amused that Russia—supposedly a country with one of the strongest navies in the world (at least according to Moscow’s propaganda) is losing vessels to a country with basically no navy. The Ukrainian forces have been pummeling Russia’s Black Sea fleet, with ships disappearing… somewhere. In addition, two adjacent docks at the Sevmorzavod repair facility were hit on September 13, damaging at least two ships under repairs, including a submarine. Ukraine overnight apparently hit Russian missile ship Samum near Sevastopol with an experimental drone.
I’m thinking the experiment was a success.
In addition, Russia has now lost an estimated 272,000 troops in their three-day “special military operation.” Russia is trying to recruit 420,000 new troops before the end of the year. That’s not going to be easy, given Russia’s economic problems and the fact that the country now knows how pathetic their invasion has been. Russia’s closest friends are now its fellow international pariahs North Korea and Iran, with its “friendship” with China being little more than the sub in Beijing’s little BDSM game.
Everyone has gone a little bananas over Huawei’s new Mate 60 Pro, which apparently contains Korean firm SK hynix’s chips. SK hynix is investigating. Some members of the US Congress are calling on additional export restrictions to China’s SMIC after disassembly of the Mate 60 Pro revealed it was powered by an advanced chip believed to have made by SMIC, which US legislators say could not have been created without US technology that’s currently restricted by the Commerce Department.
And that’s just a high-level overview!
It’s been a crazy month, and I’m grateful for all the readers and followers and those engaging on social media to discuss all the developments that have popped up during the past month.
I will definitely make an effort to write more regularly now that things are calming down on the job front. Maybe?
In the meantime, watch the regulators, the settlements, the mitigating and aggravating factors that have impacted penalties, the possible future designations and restrictions, and the developments around the world, including new coups in Africa, human rights violations, continued war crimes by Russia (which the UN nauseatingly hesitates to call genocide, for some reason), developing relationships between Russia and North Korea, and focus on countries that are acting—willfully or naively—as transshipment points for restricted goods and technologies to Russia.
In the meantime, ONWARD!