Thanks to a 5-word text message to his father, a Bloomberg reporter was taken hostage by Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint near Donetsk. What ensued is both frightening and fascinating...
Who could have seen this coming? Following the US imposition of further sanctions on Russia last week, specifically the import of Kalashnikov firearms, CNN reports gun stores across the US are experiencing a run on AK-47s. Yet another unintended consequence of US foreign policy...
If you thought the latest round of US sanctions against some largely unknown Russians and a few new companies listed here, most notably Rosneft and Gazprombank - but not Gazprom, never Gazprom - that would cut off Russian gas to Europe and Merkel doesn't want that - would be largely a non-event, you are right. Unless you own a Kalashnikov, aka AK-47 rifle. In which case read on.
Just as they promised (and acting unilaterally as Europe declined to go along with The White House), President Obama has unleashed a set of 'sectoral' sanctions to wreak havoc in Russia. The sanctions include the standard travel bans but adds rules that block several of Russia's largest firms from American debt markets. The plan - to restrict funding availability for Russian firms to under 90-days - is however, dead-on-arrival. As we explained here, Russian companies, facing $115 billion of debt due over the next 12 months, will have the funds even if bond markets shut as "the amount of cash on balance sheets of Russian companies, committed credit lines from banks and the operating cash flows they will get is sufficient for the companies to comfortably service their liabilities." This will do nothing but raise Putin's ire even more.
While - for now - Sunday's referendum for Donetsk remains un-postponed despite Putin's diplomatic call for a delay, the Europeans and Ukrainians are extremely displeased with his visit to Crimea today:
EU SAYS REGRETS PUTIN ATTENDED CRIMEA PARADE;
EU SAYS HE SHOULD NOT HAVE USED VICTORY DAY TO SHOWCASE ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA; and
Ukraine considers this step to be a blatant disrespect by the Russian side
The atmosphere in the nation is growing dark - as one source in Mariupol noted, "Electricity out in parts, barricades being pulled up. Feels like a country on the brink of civil war."
This morning we were treated to the usual stupifying comments from Greek leadership that "Greece won't need more loans," and will "start becoming a normal country," because the Greek 'recovery' is "built on solid foundations." However, it appears the public-at-large is not so happy as the BBC reports shots were fired at the German ambassador's residence in Athens. Samaras said Greeks "have gone through hard times." With over 60 bullets fired, it seems the someone is upset that their union overlords won't lift those hard times anytime soon...
It is perhaps ironic that the creator of the AK-47 assault rifle, also known as the Kalashnikov named for its creator Mikhail Kalashnikov, and of which there are between 70 and 100 million in circulation making it the world's most popular weapon, has just passed away from what is essentially old age, at 94. "It is difficult and sad to realize that Mikhail Kalashnikov is no longer with us. We have lost one of the most talented, memorable and committed patriots of Russia, who served his country throughout his life,” said the statement from the press secretary of the Udmurtia administration Viktor Chulkov.
We have shown the recent surges in both sales and capitalization of several far, far smaller weapons-makers in the US: Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger (along with the world's seemingly inexorable demand for 'bulk ammo'), but one can only wonder whether the market cap. of Kalashnikov (the maker of the world's most popular rifle) would be greater than that of AAPL if the firm had been based in the US and gone public at inception.
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Earlier today, we remarked on the story of a 77-year old Greek, now identified as Dimitris Christoulas, who at around 9 am took his life in the middle of Athens' central Syntagma Square with a bullet to his head. His full suicide note has been released. The note, presented below, ends in a solemn call to arms to "hang the traitors of this country."
In other news, soon to be skyrocketing Udmurtia unemployment from released Kalashnikov assembly-line workers, will be well below worst-case expectations, resulting in a dramatic pop in the regional stock market, where three Atari 2600 machines trade 10 shares of the one listed stock. Next steps: UAW to start a local branch to assimilate the work pool, and all secured debt in the semiautomatic gun maker will shortly be wiped out courtesy of a Steve Rattner, who seems to have disappeared completely from the face of the earth (but not so sure about 998 Fifth). Lastly, Goldman will somehow end up with full equity control over the legendary maker of AK-47s.