06/09/2022, 09.28
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Putin and the Philosopher's Stone

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Since 1991, the Russian president has been searching for 'red mercury'. It is an element that does not exist in nature, part of a super-secret Soviet project to build weapons of mass dstruction. In the winter of 1991-1992, Putin was a key player in the foreign sell-offs of Russian energy resources.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Among  Vladimir Putin's many obsessions, currently focused on the conquest of the Donbass, there is one that has roots in the immediate aftermath of the USSR. Ever since he was called to chair the Committee for External Relations of the municipality of St Petersburg (then still Leningrad) in 1991, he has been searching for very special raw materials, trying to organise the export of rare metals and oil from Russia to the West, using the channels of many small companies and cross trade routes.

Some enquiries that have come out in the last few days speak of a 'Putin committee' that for years has been trying to carry out a phantasmagorical project, which is supposed to bring billions of dollars into the pockets of its organisers by selling 'super-secret Soviet projects' for the production of an unusual material, 'red mercury' (krasnaja rtut). It is a rather imaginative element, like the 'meat ice cream' that has been evoked since Soviet times as an achievement to be achieved, because it is a phenomenon never seen on earth.

The mirage of red mercury, the Putin philosopher's stone, is back in the news in these times of war crises and sanctions. The antecedent dates back to midnight in 1991, at the small Czechoslovak airport of Mošnov, when a Russian An-24 plane landed, and the military of the Prague services arrested some of the airport staff, making a long sweep of the territory, looking for highly dangerous materials.

The Czechoslovak counter-intelligence had received information about the arrival from the USSR of red mercury, a mysterious element with miraculous properties, which could be used as a deadly weapon, or be a component of weapons of extermination. According to intelligence reports, 60 kilos of red mercury had apparently been placed in a cement mixer on the airport grounds, but inspections yielded no results, and the information was considered a false alarm.

A number of Russian newspaper investigations that year shed light on Soviet firms that had allegedly ordered the mysterious materials, among which was the Russian-US joint venture Alkor of St. Petersburg, which was closely linked to the then deputy mayor Putin. According to newspaper reports, a kilogram of the mysterious material was then worth between 200 and 300 thousand dollars, and the trade involved an exchange of around 500 kilos per month. The accused company replied that it was trading with 'Arab firms'.

In 1992, a special commission of Yeltsyn's presidency of the Russian republic declared that red mercury did not exist, and the whole thing remained in the anecdotes of the improvised business deals of those early days of the new Russian capitalism. The matter remained in the purview of Deputy Mayor Putin, who controlled a share in Alkor. These were the times of the economic crisis following the failed Gorbachev 'perestroika', and attempts were made to attract foreign partners in any way.

In the winter of 1991-1992, precisely in the transition of economic systems, Putin was one of the key players in the foreign sell-offs of Russian energy resources, as evidenced by many news reports that are now completely obscured (we were just entering the internet age). It was the time when Russia was embarking on globalisation with the weapon of 'raw material for products'. Then came the failed coup attempt by a part of the KGB, not the one to which Vladimir Putin was attached, who in fact became its head a few years later, when the acronym had changed to the FSB. Immediately after that August of 1991, Putin worked on the export of 'precious metals', especially the red mercury that could have fueled nuclear weapons.

Many documents show that Putin established himself at the end of the uncertain 1990s also thanks to the 'philosopher's stone' of red mercury, a global threat that never actually existed. Today, he seeks to threaten the world with nuclear weapons, building on the apocalyptic fear that accompanied his rise to power, but perhaps these are just dreams of the past, casting shadows on the future.

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