MOSCOW – There are four men, possibly five, who as former officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), know the sordid truth of the IMF’s intervention in the Russian economy, leading up to the decisions the Russian government took on August 17,1998, to cut the rouble loose, default on government debt, and cover the Russian oligarchs while they spirited several billion dollars offshore. (more…)


MOSCOW – A notable French medical researcher recently conducted an experiment with the drug Viagra on twelve men, who were helicoptered to one of France’s highest peaks. No women were present.

As is very well known, Viagra is taken by men who are sexually aroused, but lack an erection for sufficient time to enjoy the experience. By itself, Viagra (the brand name for the chemical compound known as sildenafil) isn’t a psychotropic drug, which spurs the brain to sexual arousal, commanding the lower organs to follow suit. Instead, it is a vasodilator, which stimulates the heart and the circulatory system, so that blood flow is increased around the body. By putting 12 men at an altitude of 4,362 metres, exercising them hard on bicycles and other machines, but keeping them away from women, and hiding the identity of the pills they were taking, the French doctors were trying to determine whether Viagra may open the gate to stopping pulmonary oedemas, and other serious circulatory disorders. The results aren’t in yet. (more…)


When two small Russians, each barely 165 centimeters in height, place for-sale advertisements for $3 billion apiece in the Financial Times of London, a tall story is certain to be in the offing — though not much taller than the Mother Goose tales, which are truer than you think.

In “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” for example, a father is overwhelmed by having to care for too many children. Accordingly, when a new infant arrives, the father sells it to the Devil in exchange for enough to eat for twelve years. At the end of that period, the boy returns home. Once again, the larder is stripped bare, and the family faces starvation. Only this time, using a ruse the boy has picked up from his apprenticeship with the Devil, he turns himself into a hunting dog and is sold again to the Dark Lord. After the father collects his fee, the boy/dog runs home again. The trick is played once more with the boy turning into a horse, except that, this time, the Devil manages to prevent his escape. A series of other tricks are recounted, in which the boy turns into a frog, only to escape the jaws of the Devil in the form of a fish. They then pursue each other as bird and hawk, respectively, until they fly into the window of a rich but ailing king who believes he will be saved by the orange into which the boy has metamorphosed himself. The Devil appears as a doctor, demanding the orange as his fee for curing the king. The boy then turns himself from an orange into seeds of grain, while the Devil becomes a hen. He is about to gobble the last grain, when it turns into a fox, which finally ends the transformations by eating the hen. That’s it for the Devil. (more…)


Glazyev’s star is rising on the politicai left – but you wouldn’t know it from his silence on Norilsk Nickel’s labor dispute

It is recorded that, in April of 1794, when Georges Danton, the French revolutionary leader, was awaiting the guillotine at the foot of the scaffold, he remarked, “Ah, better to be a poor fisherman than muck about with politics.” Ho fisherman is reported to have been present to nod his head. Just how penniless a man should become before he can afford to risk his life in politics, Danton did not have time to discuss.

Sergei Glazyev – at 42, a little older than Danton was when he made his last remark – may prove to be the man who risks himself for the highest political office in the land. But, for the time being, he is signaling he is uncomfortable risking anything. That is to say, he is saying next to nothing. If he were a poor fisherman, metalworker or miner, maybe Glazyev could afford to take Danton’s sharp advice. But he’s been a professional politician for a decade, starting as a liberal reform minister under then-President Boris Yeltsin and, then, his critic and opponent on the left side of the Duma. (more…)


A word about the common, green, wrongly maligned toad. “Don’t play with the toad,” French mothers used to warn their children, “because if he pees in your eye, you will become blind”. The youngsters might have been forgiven for not knowing what to do, because the appearance of the ugly creature was also said to do good, such as bringing rain to crops; and because it was also said that harming the toad would bring bad luck. Then again, country people believed it would provide protection to hang a dried toad’s body at the door to the henhouse and the stables.

Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of Russian Aluminium (Rusal), Russia’s largest aluminium producer, and head of Base Element, which holds his investments in other sectors of the Russian economy, has been feeling wrongly maligned for a long time now. A two-year old lawsuit by smelter rival Mikhail Zhivilo in New York, accusing Deripaska and his associates of illegal tactics in the acquisition of his assets, has been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. But in all likelihood the case will be returned to the courts on appeal, or refiled. The trouble Deripaska has had with the US authorities preceded the court case, and appears to be persisting, despite the efforts of well-known American lawyers he has engaged to clear him. In Zurich, Deripaska has lost an appeal of an arbitration panel’s award of $90 million to Krasnoyarsk arch-rival, Anatoly Bykov. He faces more of the same in other European jurisdictions. In Frankfurt, lawyers defending Germany’s leading financial newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, from a defamation suit filed by Deripaska have turned up more than he can have bargained for.

In Russia, Deripaska can also complain that he’s been wrongly maligned. In Moscow, he is the target of a recent petition to the Kremlin by paper and pulp producers who accuse him of a variety of hostile takeover tactics. His acquisition of the Ingosstrakh insurance company is under investigation by the General Prosecutor. Although he married into the Yeltsin circle, he hasn’t been able to turn his Kremlin connexions to much account in recent months. The four keys to his profit margin in the aluminium trade -electricity, alumina, freight rates, and tolling privileges – have come under serious pressure. His attempts to secure shareholding control or regional political influence over the price of energy to his smelters have been less than effective. His control of the Nikolaev alumina refinery, the supplier of roughly one-third of his smelter’s raw material requirement, is under threat from the government in Kiev, and from an ambitious Ukrainian metals magnate. Rail tariffs have recently been raised 5% or more,and the possibility of special discounting has shrunk. Deripaska was able to lobby Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin to drop his attempt to halt the tax concessions conferred by tolling contracts. But he lost a similar bid in the Ukraine.

Through Rusal Deripaska has made big promises-to build a new smelter in Murmansk, a new bauxite mine in Guinea, a new partnership with the Chinese Aluminium Company, a new metals complex in Australia, a new smelter in western Ukraine – but there is little yet to show for any of them. In the section describing investment plans for the next five years, Rusal’s website lists four priority projects that are quite different, and a good deal less costly. A Ukrainian court recently appointed an expert to take inventory of what exactly has been done at the site of the promised Pervomaiskoye smelter, in order to enable the court to rule on whether Deripaska has broken the terms of the agreement with the Ukrainian government that allowed him to take over the Nikolaev asset.

To the question of why his fellow oligarchs are looking to cash out at least some of their assets, but not Deripaska, the short answer may be that he has looked for a multitude of exits, only to find the way is blocked. He can’t list Rusal shares on the London or New York stock exchanges, because the company’s assets have yet to be consolidated into a single shareholding company. Although Deripaska recently denied that he had made a deal with Roman Abramovich to buy Abramovich’s half-share of Rusal, sources inside Millhouse, Abramovich’s holding company, claim that Deripaska has been making a bid, but lacked the cash to pay the $3 billion sale price outright, and cannot come to terms with other shareholders at Millhouse, who don’t share Abramovich’s desire to cash out of Russia. They may be biding their time for a counter-bid aimed at Deripaska’s half-share of Rusal. Then on October 3, Deripaska turned around and declared he had bought a 25% stake in Rusal from Abramovich. No price or payment terms were disclosed. Deripaska has never revealed the price of any of his transactions, or how they have been paid for.

Borrowing to fund asset takeovers, or to leverage existing assets, or even to pay for production upgrades and expansions, isn’t easy for Deripaska. Although he considers that a current debt portfolio totaling $1.5 billion -including last week’s $100 million loan from Credit Suisse First Boston – is a gilt-edged indicator of his international creditworthiness, he still trails behind his fellow oligarchs in being able to obtain unsecured credits. For every dollar Rusal borrows, international banks want their hands on a metal ingot.

It was therefore noteworthy when Deripaska, on a recent visit to the southeast Siberian city of Irkutsk, announced that he wants to add to his stakes in the region’s Bratsk smelter, a new smelter site at Taishet, and the regional electrical utility, Irkutskenergo. According to his quoted remark, Deripaska said he aims to bid for Sukhoi Log (“Dry Gulch”), the largest unmined gold deposit in Russia, and one of the largest in the world.

Now goldmining would be a first for Deripaska, and Sukhoi Log nothing if not expensive. A few days before his remark, Deripaska had lost out in the bidding for a 45% state shareholding in Lenzoloto, the Irkutsk region goldminer, which has been taken over by Vladimir Potanin’s Norilsk Nickel group at a price of more than $152 million. Potanin would like the market to think that, with control of Lenzoloto, he now has the inside running for the state award of the Sukhoi Log mining licence, which will go up for tender after the presidential election next March.

Deripaska’s announcement suggests that he thinks Potanin may be politically vulnerable, and open to a Kremlin challenge to knock him out of the race. Other declared bidders for Sukhoi Log include Polymetal of St.Petersburg, led by Alexander Nesis; and Khazret Sovmen, former owner of Polyus, Russia’s largest operating goldmine acquired a year ago by Potanin. One thing all of them have already learned – the tender will not be issued by the Minister of Natural Resources, Vitaly Artyukhov, until he learns whom the Kremlin wants to win. And that decision won’t be made until after the election season is behind us.

So Deripaska’s open bid for Sukhoi Log turns out to be a wager that, among the oligarchs and Yeltsin leftovers, he has a better chance of surviving than Potanin. Little wonder Deripaska thinks he’s been wrongly maligned to date.


A notable French medical researcher recently conducted an experiment with the drug Viagra on twelve men, who were helicoptered to one of France’s highest peaks. No women were present.
By itself, Viagra (the brand name for the chemical compound known as sildenafil) isn’t a psychotropic drug, which spurs the brain to sexual arousal. Instead, it is a vasodilator, which stimulates the heart and the circulatory system, so that blood flow is increased around the body. By putting 12 men at an altitude of 4,362 metres, exercising them hard on bicycles and other machines, but keeping them away from women, and hiding the identity of the pills they were taking, the French doctors were trying to determine whether Viagra may open the gate to stopping pulmonary oedemas, and other serious circulatory disorders. The results aren’t in yet. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  

With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age,  after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.

After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster  history to be her own joke.

Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself.   This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.  

In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English:  the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.  

The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British.  Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating.   The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin Blue Line (d. 1996).

The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful  Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok)  are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences.  The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.

Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money.  “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its  controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.  



By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow

It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.

The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.

Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first  Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.   

China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years.  The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).

A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester,  he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018,  claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.

Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly   by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”  

Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.  

After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.

The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.” 

Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.   

New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.

Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes,  it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the  evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to  cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.

The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory.  The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.

“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”

“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”

The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image).   McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.

Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.

In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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