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The million carats that make Antwerp and the world shine

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“Diamonds are a woman’s best friend,” sang Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Men Prefer Blondes. But in fact, this gem is popular all over the world because of its value and rarity, as it is extremely profitable for business.

So much so that his connections to smuggling have already been portrayed in several films, such as 007 – Diamonds Are Forever, 1971, in which the famous character James Bond is dedicated to investigating the theft of large quantities of diamonds in South Africa for smuggling. Or in 2006’s Blood Diamond, which addresses the problem of diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to finance conflicts.

The greed for these gems is such that one of the greatest thefts in history has been associated with diamonds. In November 2019, priceless diamond jewelry was stolen from the Grünes Gewölbe Museum in Dresden, Germany.

The museum, which is known for its one of the most important collections of antique jewelry in Europe, claimed at the time to be “the largest art theft since World War II”, surpassing the theft at the Gardner Museum in Boston, USA. resulting in a loss of $ 500 million (€ 454 million).

And these stones can cost truly exorbitant prices. In 2015, a blue diamond weighing about 12.03 carats was sold at Sotheby’s in Geneva for a record price of 43.2 million Swiss francs (about 40 million euros). This was the “highest price per carat” ever achieved for diamonds.

In the same year, another diamond was discovered at the Karow mine in Botswana – Lesedi la Rona, which was sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2016. It was expected to reach a value of over 60 million euros. It weighs 1,109 carats (222 grams), is almost the size of a tennis ball, and is the largest diamond discovered in over a century.

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In September 2016, the most expensive diamond in history was bought by De Grisogono at a private Sothebys auction in London for 56 million euros. It was named “Constellation”, weighs 813 carats, has a size of 6 centimeters and was found in Botswana.

Cullinan, the largest diamond ever discovered, weighed about 3,106 carats and was discovered on January 26, 1905 by Frederick Wells, manager of the Premier Mine in South Africa.

Although there are no diamond mines on the European continent, the truth is that the search for the perfect diamond has always been associated with the city of Antwerp, Belgium. A place of utmost importance for international trade, legally recognized as the capital of this gem. But countless jewelry stores and the arrival and departure of Orthodox Jews from the streets do justice to this distinction: about 86% of the world’s diamond trade takes place here.

The diamond trade in this port city began about 500 years ago, when the first rough stones were brought from India. Gradually, local diamond traders and cutters became known for their attention to detail and rich selection. So much so that in the 16th century even King Francis I of France began ordering his diamonds from cutters set up in Antwerp, not Paris.

The renowned diamond district of Antwerp is home to four of the world’s most important diamond markets: Beurs Voor Dianthandel, Diamond Club Van Antwerpen, Vrije Dianthandel and Antwerpse Diamantkring, each specializing in different types of diamonds, be they rough, polished or rough. It is also the hub for all the major diamond miners who supply diamonds to thousands of dealers around the world.

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Also in the heart of the city, on Hoveniersstraat, is the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), one of the companies that officially represents and coordinates the diamond sector, in charge of managing imports and exports of diamonds. inside and outside Antwerp. But how can such a city become the most obvious place for the international diamond trade?

According to DIVA, the Antwerp Museum of Diamonds, Jewelry and Silver, at the end of the 15th century, the diamond trade was centralized in India, and Portuguese Sephardi Jews were involved in this activity as it was one of the few that they did not do. prohibited due to historical persecution. When they were expelled from Portugal in the 16th century, they took refuge in Belgium and moved the business to Antwerp because of the seaport.

Its strategic location on the Scheldt River has direct access to the North Sea. The first evidence of the existence of a diamond trade in the city dates back to 1447. It was at this time that the city magistrate issued a decree on measures to combat the trade in counterfeit gemstones, including diamonds.

Later, after the end of World War II, the Jewish community dominated the industry, elevating Antwerp to the status of the diamond capital. Today, about 1,500 diamond companies are headquartered in the Belgian city, and their partners work in mines in South Africa, Australia, Russia and Canada that ship diamonds to Antwerp.

However, there are other places that are starting to stand out in the diamond business. One of them is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. According to the Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC), the city had $ 21.2 billion in diamond sales in 2019.

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Nord Stream: Anthony Blinken called Putin’s accusations about the pipeline “absurd and outrageous”

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“I have nothing to add to these absurd statements by President Putin that we or our allied partners are somehow responsible for this,” Blinken said at a press conference.

The head of the US diplomatic mission once again condemned the “scandalous disinformation campaign” of Russia.

At the conference, along with his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly, the American said he did not intend to prejudge the “ongoing investigation” into the origin of the explosions that led to leaks in gas pipelines, but assured that he was in “close contact with the Europeans on this issue.

The head of the Russian state today, during his speech in the Kremlin after the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, accused Western representatives of being behind the “explosions” that caused large leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines built for transporting Russian gas towards Europe.

“By organizing explosions on international gas pipelines crossing the bottom of the Baltic Sea, they actually began to destroy the European energy infrastructure,” he condemned, attributing this “sabotage” to the “Anglo-Saxons”.

Vladimir Putin also stressed that the United States is “pressing” on European countries so that they completely stop Russian gas supplies “in order to capture the European market.”

Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the European Union (EU) and NATO said this week that the Nord Stream leaks were due to “deliberate acts” and “sabotage”.

For its part, the Kremlin called “meaningless and absurd” European accusations that Russia could be held responsible for the damage found in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.

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Ukraine on Tuesday blamed Russia for the pipeline leak, condemning a “terrorist attack” against the European Union (EU).

The first Nord Stream, capable of pumping 55 billion cubic meters of gas a year, was halted after Russia claimed an oil leak at the only Russian compressor station still in operation.

On the other hand, Nord Stream 2 was never put into operation due to the blockade of infrastructure by Berlin even before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

However, both pipelines are filled with gas and therefore must maintain a stable pressure.

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“Victory will be ours!” Putin assured on Red Square

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“Victory will be ours!” shouted the President of Russia to the applause of a crowd of thousands.

“Welcome home!” – Putin said, addressing the residents of the annexed Ukrainian territories, believing that they “returned to their historical homeland.”

“Russia does not just open the doors of its home to people, it opens its heart,” he said from a stage specially installed on the symbolic square near the Kremlin wall (the residence of the President of Russia).

Many Russian flags fluttered among the crowd in attendance, and some people also wore black and orange striped St. George ribbons, an old tsarist military award that became a symbol of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany.

Several giant screens and a powerful sound system were also installed so that people could follow the speech of the President of Russia and the performance of various Russian pop stars who performed on stage.

The Russian head of state, in power for 22 years, referred to a “special, historic day of truth and justice” at a time when Russian soldiers are “heroically defending the people’s choice” in Ukraine, he said.

“We will do everything to support our brothers and sisters in Zaporozhye, Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk, improve their security, restart the economy, restore,” he also said, hours after signing the annexation of these four Ukrainian regions, in a ceremony in the Kremlin.

After this symbolic act in the Kremlin, which was a new step in his war against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a neighboring country, Putin defended his mantra with a raised microphone that Russia created modern Ukraine.

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“I can’t help but remember how the Soviet Union was formed. It was Russia that created modern Ukraine, transferring significant territories there, the historical territories of Russia itself along with the population,” Putin said.

“We are stronger because we are together. The truth is with us, and there is strength,” Putin said, adding once again: “Then victory will be ours!”

Kyiv and its Western allies have widely condemned such an annexation, with NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a Western defense bloc) classifying it as “illegitimate” and the countries of the European Union (EU) and the G7 (a group of the most industrialized countries in the world : Germany, Canada, USA, France, Italy, Japan and the UK) declared that they would “never recognize [tais] alleged annexations.

Putin has no intention of visiting the four Ukrainian regions now annexed by Moscow in the midst of a military conflict with Kyiv, a Kremlin spokesman said.

“Not yet, because at the moment there is a lot of work ahead, but this will definitely happen after some time,” said Dmitry Peskov, who was quoted by Russian news agencies and asked about the possibility of such a visit.

The four occupied regions of Ukraine, whose annexation treaties Putin signed today, make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory – Donetsk and Lugansk (which he had already recognized as independent republics shortly before the invasion of Ukraine), Kherson and Zaporozhye (which hosts the largest nuclear power plant in Europe). ).

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine has already caused the flight of more than 13 million people – more than six million internally displaced people and more than 7.5 million to European countries – according to the latest UN figures, which rank this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945).

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The Russian invasion, justified by Putin as the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community as a whole, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions against Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed since the beginning of the war, which entered its 219th day today, 5,996 civilians killed and 8,848 wounded, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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EU Agreement on Excess Profit Tax and Energy Savings

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This Friday in Brussels, European Union energy ministers reached an agreement on emergency intervention in the face of rising energy prices, which includes a solidarity contribution to the exceptional profits of companies in the energy sector.

The regulation, proposed this month by the Commission and given political approval this Friday 27, provides for a 33 percent tax on excessive profits from fossil fuel companies, to be converted into a “solidarity contribution” to be redistributed to the most vulnerable, a profit ceiling companies producing low-cost (renewable) electricity, and plans to reduce electricity consumption, voluntary (10% for total demand) and mandatory (5% during “peak hours”).

“Agreement! The ministers reached a political agreement on measures to reduce high electricity prices: a mandatory reduction in electricity demand, limiting the market revenues of over-marginal electricity producers and solidarity contributions from fossil fuel producers,” announced the current Czech Presidency of the Council. EU.

At the meeting, represented by Portugal’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Duarte Cordeiro, 27 countries will discuss policy options to reduce high gas prices, but no decision is expected today despite a large group of 15 member states. , including Portugal, demanded a “ceiling” on gas prices.

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