MOSCOW ( –On the eve of Good Friday, President Vladimir Putin called the leaders of Russia’s major businesses to meet with him at the Kremlin. The oligarchs were hoping that Putin would go long on resurrection, and short on crucifixion, at least of the type that has kept their colleague, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in prison, and destroyed his Yukos oil empire.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Oleg Deripaska, the oligarch who controls Russian Aluminium (Rusal), had his head down as Putin spoke, busy taking notes of the speech Putin was reading from three closely typed pages. Deripaska is the most active of the Russian oligarchs in Africa, with a big bauxite and alumina operation in Guinea, and ambitions to start aluminium smelting plants in Nigeria and the two Congo republics. He has also been trying to gain footholds in India, Venezuela, Jamaica, Australia,Rumania, and Montenegro.

Since the Kremlin issued a full text of the speech immediately, and Deripaska lacks short-hand notetaking among his skills, perhaps he was scribbling to show Putin how attentive he was.

Although Putin made one tentative concession to the assembled oligarchs — to cut the statute of limitations on illegal privatization to three years instead of ten – this can help Deripaska in no way, since he seized his aluminium assets and export revenues, not from the state, but from other Russian businessmen, plant managers, and workers.

“I consider it possible to support the idea of reducing the statute of limitations on privatization deals from 10 years to three,” Putin announced, paying careful attention to the word “possible”.

Putin did not say that he was shortening the statute of limitations on back-tax claims, something of much more urgent concern to most of the oligarchs, especially Deripaska. His Rusal group was identified last September in a report by the Tax Ministry to the cabinet as paying an abnormally low rate of tax on its booming aluminium export business.

This, the report said, was achieved by use of tax minimization schemes, such as tolling, regional tax-offset zones, and transfer pricing. If Putin wants to unleash the tax men, he could deliver a tax bill for Rusal of more than $1 billion per annum for each of the past five years. According to Rusal, in 2004 its aluminium sales, mostly for export, totaled $5.4 billion. Its accumulated debt -an undisclosed figure – stands at over $1.5 billion.

Putin cannot easily change the Civil Code, even if Deripaska wanted him to. Even a concession on privatization violations is of doubtful value legally, because it is not the rigged privatization, in which the Russian government itself was involved a decade ago, that opens up the oligarchs to prosecution. It is their fraud, grand theft, embezzlement, money-laundering, racketeering, forgery, and other crimes, for which the statute of limitations cannot be reduced by a presidential decree.

In the remarks which Deripaska also dutifully copied down, Putin added that “a healthy competitive environment also depends on the appropriate corporate standards and effective self-regulation mechanisms within the business community itself.” That was another warning, less ambiguous than the remark on privatization, that the oligarchs must clean up their acts.

Was this what Deripaska was doing when, a day later, it was announced in Moscow that he had settled claims against him and Rusal by Mikhail Zhivilo of Paris, former owner of the Novokuznetsk Aluminium smelter, which Deripaska seized five years ago?

It was that takeover, and the subsequent conversion of aluminium trading contracts signed between the smelter and the Base Metal Trading and Alucoal group of companies, controlled by Zhivilo, that were the basis of a billion-dollar damage claim in the US federal courts of New York. The subsequent reporting of Deripaska’s record identified him as an alleged racketeer unable to obtain an entry visa for the US. Although the substance of the allegations was never tested in the court, because it refused to accept US jurisdiction, international lenders to the Rusal group have been preoccupied ever since by the risks associated with loans to Deripaska’s offshore companies and the Rusal group in Russia.

Despite the vindication claimed by Rusal from the refusal of the US courts to try the Zhivilo case, and from a parallel rejection of jurisdiction last year by a Stockholm arbitration panel, Deripaska has now agreed to pay Zhivilo between $50 and $60 million, according to a source close to the deal. In the Stockholm arbitration, Zhivilo had sought $325 million in a trading contract claim.

When the US Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s rejection of US jurisdiction over the Zhivilo claims, Alexander Boulygine, Rusal’s CEO and close friend of Deripaska, said publicly: “each new ruling demonstrates there was never any case to begin with. Plainly, the plaintiffs thought that by generating negative publicity and raising our legal costs they could force us to pay them to leave us alone. We refused to be held to ransom.” Michael Burrows, his lead counsel, went further, attacking Zhivilo for making “false claims disguised with sensational allegations and far-fetched tales of intrigue. The plaintiffs sued without evidence or proof.”

Deripaska’s payment to Zhivilo goes a long way toward suggesting otherwise. It is the third major payment in the past 12 months by Deripaska and Rusal to claimants who had gone to court around the world, accusing his companies of contract violations, or worse.

Last year, Rusal was obliged by a Zurich arbitration tribunal and the Swiss high court to pay a $100 million claim from Aldeco, a trading company controlled by Deripaska’s arch-foe in Russia, Anatoly Bykov, the former head of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminium smelter. Deripaska and Rusal have also paid off a group of consultants in the Republic of Guinea, who won a UK High Court judgement against them for $3.5 million.

Rusal refuses to respond to questions about the settlement with the Zhivilo group, or the earlier deals. A spokeswoman noted that, according to a written order issued by ex-Rusal official Yevgenia Harrison, company executives are forbidden from speaking to Mineweb’s correspondent, and will be punished if they do.

Harrison, and her London-based husband Fred Harrison, recently lost their contract to represent Rusal. They were behind a series of attempts to induce editors of aluminium industry publications, notably McGraw-Hill’s Platts newsletter, into publishing only the good news about their group. After receiving a promotional payment from Rusal, Platts recently invited a Rusal executive, Peter Finnimore, to announce that among the “lessons” Rusal has learned in trading aluminium with the rest of the world, a “high level of customer service” and an “increased emphasis on social responsibility” are important, along with “governance”.

Finnimore glossed over the internal argument over Rusal’s public image. Late last year, this had led to a clash between the Harrisons and others in the company’s public relations division, who argued that negative tactics were continuing to damage Rusal, and that a respected international PR firm should be engaged to remedy the problems.

It will not be easy for Rusal to demonstrate it is turning over a new leaf. A claim for more than $300 million by Deripaska’s original offshore partner, David Reuben’s Trans World group of London, remains to be adjudicated in the courts of the British Virgin Islands. There are other conflicts heading for the courts as well.

Again, as with the Zhivilo claim five years ago, the potential damages of the new litigation are not only substantial, financially. If they reveal Deripaska as unrepentant, his business tactics unchanged, and his potential domestic tax liabilities uncertain, they will continue to cast a shadow over Deripaska’s efforts to persuade foreign governments otherwise. This is vital for him in the Ukraine, where Deripaska is dependent on alumina supply from the Nikolaev refinery, whose privatization is already under government review in Kiev; and in Montenegro, where Deripaska’s payment guarantees for a plant takeover were rejected last month.

In Guinea, and elsewhere in western Africa, the competition for bauxite and alumina is heating up with Alcoa, Alcan, Canada’s Global Alumina, Chinese companies, and others. This rivalry is unlikely to be decided by what goes on as Deripaska wages battle in the courthouses of Europe, or at the Kremlin in Moscow. But if he is to hang on in Africa, let alone expand, Deripaska must be able to convince his Guinea, Nigerian and Congolese partners that he can be trusted.


AND the Academy Award for best fascist dictator goes to Adolph Hitler! Woody Allen cracked the joke at the ex- pense of the US habit of making awards out of self-congratulation of the least worthy type. Were anyone to dare in the same spirit, they might award the new US nominee to head the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, the title of worst American to hold such a global post.

But wait a minute. Wolfowitz is hardly American at all, having spent much of his time as a career Washington warmonger under investigation by US counterintelligence and security agencies as an agent for a foreign power — for whose benefit he is suspected of supplying intelligence, cash, weapons and other favours.

In US law books, these may be crimes against the state, possibly espionage, even treason. But not the crimes against humanity which he has encouraged his favourite small state to commit, nor those which he encouraged his addled — if not yet treasonous — president to commit in the first of the great Middle Eeastem wars, which US forces will lose.

For Russia, against whom he has been waging war since he got out of short pants, his nomination as World Bank president presents something of a dilemma — and opportunity. During the first post-Sclviet decade, the bank under James Wolfensohn was one of many tools the US, as the bank’s dominant shareholder, used to destroy the economic: foundations of its rival superpower.

It paid stipends to Russian quislings; obliged the Russian government to incur sizeable debts for the privilege of being advised to dismantle its systems of command and control; and transferred the nation’s most valuable resources into the hands of a dozen individuals eager to betray their country for personal profit.

Not without reason was Wolfensohn’s favourite Russian counterpart Victor Chernomyrdin, the prime minister who enriched him self through creating Russia’s largest company, Gazprom.

Wolfensohn waged war by other means — Chernomyrdin was his collaborator; and the Russian treasury paid in full for its defeat

This arrangement could not last, and when the revival of the feeble Russian state began to challenge the value and terms of the bank’s operations in Russia, Wolfensohn decided to commission an assessment of the effectiveness of the programmes he had promoted in Russia.

He could have engaged Joseph Stiglitz, for four of the preceding years the bank’s chief economist, Nobel Prize winner and former chairman of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

But by the time Russia had grown sceptical of Wolfensohn, and called a halt to new borrowings from him, Stiglitz had become a ferocious critic of everything Wolfensohn had done, or tried to do.

Wolfensohn preferred to hand the assessment job to a minor academic who had enriched himself selling Russians the very adviot Wolfensohn asked him to evaluate. The hungry fox invited to call the roll in the henhouse was US-employed Swede Anders Aslund.

“We don’t necessarily take his advice,” commented Julian Schweitzer, the bank’s Moscow representative at the time, on the appointment

Aslund’s defence of everything Wolfensohn had done in Russia did not , encourage the Kremlin to resume borrowing. Instead, it resolved to pay Wolfensohn off, a task the Russian treasury completed just a few months ago.

From Wolfensohn’s point of view, the evaluation may have helped salve the wounds Stiglitz had inflicted on him and the institution

More practically, it encouraged him to try to evade the Kremlin’s veto on borrowing, and recruit thin Chernomyrdins in the Russian provinces.

These were governors, local warlords and corporate magnates as keen to leverage themselves with the bank as fat Chernomyrdin — and President Boris Yeltsin — had been 10 years before.

With tactics like these, Wolfensohn has hung on for another four years after the Aslund report, but in Moscow he has remained a has-been, the banker no one serious wants to borrow from.

Wolfowitz’s nomination ought to remove any possibility that Russia — now a greater oil power than Wolfensohn or Wolfowitz thought possible — would borrow itself, or recommend that anyone else should

The dilemma posed by the Wolfowitz nomination turns out to be an opportunity for President Vladimir Putin to conclude that, from Russian experience, the bank does more damage than good, and should be isolated and ignored by those countries and economies mos: in need of development financing.

This should not be interpreted as anti-Americanism.
If the Federal Bureau of Investigation were permitted to disdose all it knows, Wotfоwitz may not be the American he claims to be. And with a record like his, it may be a violation of the American statutes to borrow from Wotfowitz.

In US jurisprudence, it is not just immoral to make covenants with war criminals, it is criminal.


By John Helmer, Moscow

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”



By John Helmer, Moscow

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.



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.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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