HIGHVELD HONEY-POT ATTRACTS RUSSIAN HIGH-FLIES

MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) — What is it that is drawing Russians like Victor Vekselberg and Alisher Usmanov to South Africa?

In Russian villages, the peasants used to say that where there’s honey, there will always be flies. By that, they mean flies, not bees – raiders, not producers. For Vekselberg, manganese is the honey; for Usmanov, vanadium; both produce alloys vital to the production of steel. To those who have signed joint-venture or buy-sell agreements with the two Russians, and also those who have not, but have seen them descend on their assets nonetheless, Vekselberg and Usmanov are agile predators, whose drive is in their nasal instincts, and whose wings are their protection.

Mineweb has already told the story of Vekselberg’s fly-over pursuit of manganese in the South African Kalahari , cheered on in Pretoria by the deputy minister of minerals and energy, Lulu Xingwana, and recently endorsed by President Thabo Mbeki. He has appointed Vekselberg as a member of his board of international mining advisors.

Mbeki’s advisors did not warn him of Vekselberg’s latest legal problems: the first, a clash in Kiev six months ago over a mystery $25 million down-payment that was paid, then forfeited, for the Ukraine’s Nikopol manganese ferroalloy plant; the second, recent Russian court hearings and a London arbitration over contract violations in the trading of shares of Russia’s principal titanium plant.

In Kiev, Vekselberg met his match in the person of then prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, and her local steelmaking supporters. Nikopol, the largest ferro-manganese producer in the world, and the most important source of the alloy to the Russian steel industry, is going back to the Ukrainian government to sell to Ukrainian bidders. In the more recent titanium case, Vekselberg has been swatted by Vyacheslav Bresht, the entrepreneur who introduced the concept of Russian racketeering to the US courts, winning control thereby of VSMPO-Avisma, the dominant titanium producer for the international aerospace industry.

Vekselberg’s troubles in the US courts are about to become even worse, as the man whose oilfield he “stole” almost a decade ago, emerging victorious from the US federal appeals court, gets ready to press Vekselberg and his associates into sworn testimony, and trial.

On the ground, at the Kalahari manganese field, locals tell stories of helicopter landings of men from Vekselberg’s Renova group, who drop in to sniff their turf, and discuss management arrangements with locals, if any are interested. In Gabon, the Kalahari’s African rival in the production of manganese, there is talk of more helicopter landings, Renova concessions for manganese, and more promises. Asked what they are doing in Gabon, Renova’s leadership has told Mineweb in Moscow that they “prefer not to answer that question.”

As metallurgists express its value, the purpose of cornering the world market in manganese, as Vekselberg has been trying to do, is to dictate its price, and hence its profit margin, to those who cannot do without it. The consumption of manganese is vital to steel production, directly at the pig-iron stage of manufacture, and indirectly, when the ore is upgraded to ferroalloys and metal. According to the US Geological Survey, “manganese has no satisfactory substitute in its major applications.” According to the court record, and also his family’s gossip, Vekselberg has made a career out of dictating price terms, and he gets very sore-headed when someone else out-manoeuvres him on price and margin.

Vekselberg’s Russian assets are a group of aluminium smelters, alumina refineries, and bauxite mines. Apart from pending claims in the Russian courts against the smelter Vekselberg allegedly arranged to steal, the underlying value of these assets depends on the Russian government’s attitude towards the price of electricity, and of the gas used to generate it. If the state decides not to subsidize the price of these inputs for up to 20 years ahead, Vekselberg’s assets cannot make a profit, and he cannot borrow the project finance to develop them. Vekselberg’s big Russian problem, therefore – one he is unlikely to advise President Mbeki at their next advisory council session — is that the state owned utilities, UES and Gazprom, may decide to share in the profit of the assets by taking equity in them, rather than granting Vekselberg the right to take the profit for himself. That would be quite a fly-swat, and Vekselberg’s Russian advisors do not hide their concern.

To hedge against this risk, Vekselberg should convert his Russian cash profit into non-Russian assets offshore. If those assets can then be used to produce cheaply, and export expensively into Russia, Vekselberg may be able to preserve the upperhand against his government.

In the case of ferromanganese, Russia cannot supply itself, and thus its strategic steelmaking enterprises are dependent on imports. In Soviet days, these were firmly under control in Georgia and the Ukraine. Today, Russia’s principal steelmaker Evraz – owned by Vekselberg’s sometime partner, Alexander Abramov – refuses to reveal where it buys its supplies from, terming the information a commercial secret. Other domestic steel and pipemakers say the same thing. But Russian trade statistics indicate that at least 85% of ferromanganese imports are Ukrainian. Poland contributes the next largest volume. The steelmakers estimate that the tonnage of manganese they need is equal to about 0.5% of their steel output, in 2004, Russian production was 54 million tons, and so the manganese requirement was about 2.7 million tons. For Russian steel output to expand, imports of ferromanganese must also grow. That’s what deposits in South Africa, and maybe Gabon, are for.

Vanadium is also an alloy for hardening steel. Most of the world’s reserves are in China, but South African reserves are almost as large, and SA mines produce more than their Chinese counterparts. Last year, about 18,000 tons were mined in SA, making 42% of the world total. China comes next with 14,500 tons, and Russia is third with 9,000 tons. As an alloy for steel, there are substitutes, such as manganese, titanium, tungsten, and columbium. But there is no substitute for vanadium in the titanium alloyed metal which the aerospace industry requires for its engines, and other sensitive components.

Russia’s principal source of vanadium is the iron-ore deposit known as Kachkanarsky. At present, that is controlled by Abramov and the Evraz group. The former owners of the combine are in court in the US, charging that they were robbed of the asset. Usmanov controls two of the largest iron-ore mines in Russia – Lebedinsky and Mikhailovsky – and also two steel mills, Nosta and Oskol.

Usmanov is a raider on his own behalf, and also on the behalf of others. His original moves into iron-ore and steel assets were directed by the Gazprom group, who converted mine and plant debts owed for fuel supply to Gazprom, into equity controlled by Gazprominvestholding and other companies. It was Usmanov’s job to manage the holding, and run the mines and plants. He did not own the controlling stakes by himself, at least not at the start. When Alexei Miller, an appointee of President Vladimir Putin, replaced the Gazprom leadership of Rem Vyakhirev, Usmanov faced the risk of losing control of the assets. He survived, and went on to take over the Nosta steelmill, whose previous owners had tried murdering each other, before they gave way to a man reputed to be employed by high-ranking federal police officers. Usmanov renamed the asset Ural Steel.

There is hardly a stone which Usmanov has lifted that Mineweb readers have not had the chance to measure. That is until this week, when Usmanov announced that his Metalloinvest group – for which he and a partner paid nearly $2 billion a year ago – is proposing to bid for Anglo American’s 79% stake in Highveld Steel & Vanadium Corporation. According to Usmanov’s spokesman, “We confirm our interest [in Highveld] and [confirm that Usmanov] was included in the short-list.”

For those readers, who remember that Usmanov once portrayed his raid to seize a diamond-mining licence in northwestern Russia as a patriotic service to keep the Oppenheimer family from Russia’s national treasure, Usmanov’s offer to carry a very large suitcase of case over the threshold built by Ernest Oppenheimer will be amusing.

De Beers is currently pursuing Usmanov through the courts of the US and Sweden for defrauding its company, Archangel Diamond Corporation, of the right to mine the diamonds it had discovered in 1996 at the Grib pipe, in Arkhangelsk region. Usmanov no longer defends what he did, saying only that he has sold out his interest to another partner, Vagit Alekperov, controlling shareholder of LUKoil, Russia’s leading commercial oil producer.

If Usmanov wants to follow Vekselberg on to Mbeki’s advisory board, he may find SA officials whose attitude towards De Beers is quite similar. But for the Oppenheimers, as well as for the Anglo American and Highveld boards, the important issue today isn not Usmanov’s wit or patriotism, but whether his suitcase has all the cash he promises.

Highveld acknowledged this week that it has drawn up a list of bidders, but it is not identifying them. Usmanov has declared himself instead, and is the fourth to do so. The others include the Mitta! group; the Indian steelmaker Tata; and the Kermas ferroalloy group, according to its London-based Croatian director, Danko Konchar. Kermas is connected to Russia through ownership of ferrochrome plants, but its principal business is largely hidden. Last year, Kermas arranged SA bank finance to buy Samancor Chrome for more than $430 million.

Usmanov’s spokesman was asked if he is intending to bid for Highveld alone or with partners. With the price of vanadium expected to stabilize this year, after the record burst in 2005, and Highveld announcing double profits for 2005, the value of the company is reputed to be between $1 billion and $1.6 billion. Usmanov’s bid is thus likely to cost him not less than $1 billion.

Usmanov’s power as the largest iron-ore producer in Russia does not generate free cash, or leveraging, equal to that figure, especially since this is not the only international billion-dollar offer for assets Usmanov is circulating in the international marketplace at the moment.

Bank sources report that, ever since he took over Metalloinvest’s Russian assets a year ago, Usmanov has been seeking long-term, large-scale foreign financing. In the deal to acquire Mikhailovsky, part of the cost was shouldered by Usmanov’s partner, Vassily Anisimov; he had sold his aluminium smelters to Vekselberg for about $500 million several years ago. Usmanov was probably obliged to provide about $500 million himself, and the remainder of the $2 billion purchase price was financed by the state-controlled Russian banking system, which agreed to take shares for security. International banks, with which Usmanov has been in negotiation, are reluctant to accept similar pledges. Also, Usmanov cannot be certain that his Gazprom friends, and the state banks, might still do to him what he and they once did to others – call in the debt, and replace him as the equity owner. It is, therefore, for the same tactical and strategic reasons that are driving Vekselberg into offshore manganese, that Usmanov is keen to move into Highveld vanadium. Funding the takeover is Usmanov’s immediate target.

His first attempt at creating an offshore asset base for himself was a failure in one sense, but a success in another. The largest source of Usmanov’s cash offer for Mikhailovsky last year was the proceeds of his raid on the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus. Buying Corus shares when they were at historic lows, Usmanov’s Cyprus vehicle Gallagher acquired a stake of almost 14%. The Financial Times obliged by reporting Usmanov as Corus’s saviour, promoting his bid for a seat on the Corus board; a deal to supply semi-fabricated steel or iron-ore to Corus plants; and other demands.

But Corus did due diligence on the Russian, and rebuffed him. When Boris Ivanishvili, owner of Metalloinvest and Mikhailovsky, told Usmanov that he was not prepared to enter into a holding partnership with him, and demanded cash instead, Usmanov had to find it. He sold out of Corus at $614 million, realizing more than $300 million in pure profit. Oleg Deripaska, the aluminium oligarch, was briefly Usmanov’s partner in the takeover of the Nosta steelmill, but he also asked Usmanov to buy him out with cash.

In more recent days, Usmanov (and partners in an entity called OEMK-lnvest) paid $400 million to Vladimir Lisin’s steelmill Novolipetsk to buy back a 12% stake which the steelmaker had held in the Lebedinsky iron-ore plant to assure their iron-ore supplies to the mill. At the same time, Usmanov sold to Lisin a 25% stake in another iron-ore producer, KMA-Ruda . Lisin was restructuring to sell off minority stakes and gain majority control of KMA-Ruda. Usmanov, it can be calculated, had to raise about $350 million for the combined deal.

if Usmanov is bringing a suitcase to Highveld, he must find new cash to fill it. That is not how flies usually think of approaching the honey-pot.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

(more…)

RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

(more…)

THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

(more…)

THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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),  Mail.ru (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.  

(more…)

RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



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

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.

(more…)

FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

KILLING IS CHEAPER — THE US ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND WEAPONIZES TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, TELEGRAM

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

MARIA YUDINA OUT OF THE DARK – THE RUSSIAN CLASSICAL PIANIST PLAYS AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)
Categories
Archives

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Education Template