MOSCOW (Mineweb.com) — In football parlance, a ghost goal is usually understood to be the one that scores without the goalkeeper seeing where it came from, or who booted it.

Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who now lives in England, might be considered an expert on the matter since he owns the Chelsea Football Club, and spends a good deal of money on buying players to score goals. But no one has ever imagined that Abramovich himself might be the kicker of a goal on what used to be his playing field, Russia. Notwithstanding, on the front page, with a prominence that often costs dearly, a Moscow newspaper has reported that Abramovich is currently negotiating to pay about $2 billion to buy a minority ! shareholding in the steel, vanadium and coal-mining group, called Evraz. Russia’s largest steelmaker, Evraz is controlled by a man with a similar surname, Alexander Abramov. According to the newspaper report, Abramov is proposing to sell Abramovich 25% plus one share. But after collecting his cash, he is intending to retain his current level of control over the Evraz group.

If the newspaper report is to be believed, Abramovich has kicked a ghost goal, spending money for the first time in years to buy a Russian asset in a sector he is never invested in before, for a reason he has yet to admit to, and without gaining a notable advantage over the seller, except to make him even richer than he already is, and relieve him of his liabilities. Since Abramovich and his UK-domiciled Millhouse group have been selling their Russian assets, and have spent no money in Russia for at least three years, no one can say that they saw Abramovich booting the goal that Abramov leaked to the newspaper. Also, it is unheard of for Abramovich to buy a passive minority stake in a Russian company, let alone accept another Russian’s hidden liabilities. Abramov is thus in the improbable position of being the goalkeeper who says the ball has scored, although there is no other witness to the shot.

Abramov has always exaggerated his goal-keeping credentials; that is to say, the extent to which he controlled the majority of shares in the Evraz group.

In the prospectus for investors which Evraz issued for its initial public offering in London last June, it is claimed that “Evraz was founded in 1992 as the limited liability company Evrazmetal. Evrazmetal was established by a group of Russian scientists and engineers led by Alexander Abramov.” The “original group” was good at mathematics, and the sums they did led them to supply raw materials like iron-ore, coking coal, and electricity to steelmills, and take steel products for sale in return. “As a result”, comments Morgan Stanley and Geary Gottleib, financial and legal advisors to Evraz, “these traders became the largest creditors of the mills.” They then put the owners of the bankrupt plants out of their misery, swapping debts for equity. Not long after helping to compose this account, there was a falling-out between Morgan Stanley and Abramov – but more of that in a moment.

At IPO listing, twelve years after Abramov, 45, had started, he claimed to own 65.26% of Crosland Global Limited, which in turn owned 100% of Mastercroft of Cyprus. Mastercroft in turn owned varying percentages of the assets in the group, until it was reorganized, and absorbed by Evraz of Luxembourg. Subsequent share sales by Abramov have left him with between 51% and 59% of the controlling shares.

In fact, Abramov was an administrator, put in charge of the steel, iron-ore and coal assets after Iskander Makhmudov, a much more potent figure, had grabbed them Another of the real shareholders was Oleg Boiko, who graduated from running a defunct Russian institution called the National Credit Bank to a betting empire called Ritzio, How Boiko acquired his “beneficial interest” in the Evraz assets is less important now than the fact that, as late as 2001, he held one-third of the stakes, and although he wanted to sell out, his partners would not agree to his price.

In the 1990s, Makhmudov had been one of the original founders of all the Russian base metal groups, including aluminium, steel, copper, and their raw materials — iron-ore and coking coal. He has admitted agreeing to leave the aluminium business to Oleg Deripaska, and to specializing for himself in copper and coal. In copper, he controls the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, which is the second producer of copper in Russia, after Norilsk Nickel. More recently, Makhmudov had a falling-out with a young protege named Igor Altushkin, who now controls the third copper producing group, Russian Copper Company.

Makhmudov has admitted that through 2001 he was still Evraz’s “partner”, albeit an almost silent one. In 2001 and 2002 he was intent on expanding his steel business by acquiring control of the biggest of the steel mills, Magnitogorsk. He failed at that, and claims he sold his stake to Abramov’s group. At least, Makhmudov says he sold his steel-making interest. In its IPO prospectus, Evraz’s account of its coal assets leaves very unclear how the most important of mines are owned, and by whom. When asked to clarify their ownership, and the nature of their equity and trading relationships with Evraz, the coalmine managements refuse to say.

Difficult as it is to penetrate this murk, it is clear from court claims in the US and Europe that Abramov exercised much of the control he claimed for himself from trustee arrangements with the real shareowners. A claim filed in the UK High Court last December accused Abramov of violating one of these arrangements, and seizing control of a stake of at least 10% in the Evraz group. The claimant in that case was the widow of Aidyn Kurbanov, who died in November 2003, a little more than a year after signing a trust deed under UK law with Abramov. That “settled [the shares] on the Defendant [Abramov] on trust for himself as beneficiary by written trust deed.” According to the Moscow lawyer for this claim, the shares were in a Panama-registered entity called Venturi, which was a “mirror company”, holding effective ownership over the Evraz group. Venturi’s existence had been concealed from investors in the IPO, and from Morgan Stanley, which had drafted the IPO prospectus. The Kurbanov estate lawyer claimed that, in fact, Kurbanov held an even larger shareholding in the Evraz group, but that the 10%-stake was the only one subject to English court jurisdiction.

The Kurbanov claim was the first to intimate publicly that Abramov may not have been the controlling shareholder he claimed. Since the December filing, the lawyers involved in the Kurbanov case have been negotiating with him for weeks, but they no longer return calls to discuss the case.

Before they fell silent, one of them told Mineweb that she believed Abramov’s purported control shareholding in Evraz included other trusts. One which had come under Russian media scrutiny was the estate of a senior executive of the group, Andrei Sevenyuk, who was killed in an aircraft crash in September 2004. Before his death, Sevenyuk had hinted to Mineweb that he was in control of a sizeable stake in the company. Subsequently, uncorroborated reports suggest that his survivors accepted Abramov’s payment of $124 million for a shareholding of 4.17%, leaving what Morgan Stanley estimated as a residual 0.8% bloc of shares still in the Sevenyuk estate’s control. Moscow newspaper reports have speculated, however, that when he was alive, Sevenyuk controlled at least 15%. If true, then together, Sevenyuk and Kurbanov may have been controlled approximately half the shares Abramov claimed for his own.

Until and unless he settled with them, or with their heirs, Abramov ran the risk of trying to sell what was not his.

Other court claims dispute the ownership which Evraz claims in its prime assets. A claim filed in federal and local courts last November in the US state of Delaware four companies representing an Israeli and US investors had once controlled about 72% of the shares of the Kachkanarsky ore-processing combine (GOK), an iron-ore and vanadium mine that is today Evraz’s most important source of the raw material. The claimants say that between 1999 and 2001, they were forcibly deprived of their asset. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint in Delaware’s Chancery Court, Evraz, one of the eleven listed defendants, is described as having been “owned, directly or indirectly, by [Mikhail] Chernoi, [Oleg] Deripaska, [Iskander] Makhmudov, and [Mikhail] Nekrich, and operated and managed by them, or under their direction and control.”

The Delaware court has been told that “in late 2000 the Conspirators arranged for Plaintiffs’ shares in [Kachkanarsky] GOK to be transferred to the Delaware corporate defendants, utilizing, inter alia, fraud or corrupted court proceedings in which Plaintiffs were not even named as parties; the Delaware companies ultimately transferred these shares to UGMC [Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company, owned by Makhmudov] and then to Evraz, which is controlled by Chernoi, Deripaska, Makhmudov, and Nekrich.”

In the Evraz prospectus, these claims are referred to in four paragraphs set 84 pages apart. The legal defence will concentrate first, Cleary Gottleib says, on challenging US jurisdiction for the claims, and arguing that a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds in a related New York case precludes a fresh court adjudication in Delaware.
To the substantive claims raised by the former owners of Kachkanarsky, Evraz says, twice: “Evraz acquired its shares in KGOK through transactions mediated by an experienced market intermediary, and received from the sellers the limited representations and warranties that are customary in the Russian market in respect of the shares it acquired.” If the words drafted by experienced lawyers have meaning, these ones appear to be consistent with the factual basis of the Delaware court claim. They do not deny what has been alleged, inter alia, by the one-time CEO of Kachkanarsky and financial advisor to Makhmudov, who is the principal witness for the claimants. But Evraz goes on to persuade potential investors that “the risks that the ultimate resolution of the suit case will have a significant impact on the financial position of the Group is remote.”

When the former owners of Kachkanarsky filed suit in Luxembourg, following Evraz’s IPO, the Evraz lawyers told the judge that the Luxembourg registered company, Evraz SA, didn’t own the mine. It was owned, instead, they said, by two Russian companies. Although the admission repudiated the IPO prospectus, contradicted the undertakings which Evraz SA had made to investors, and made a liar out of Morgan Stanley, the judge ruled that Luxembourg had no jurisdiction. “Evraz is either lying to the market or to the Luxembourg court”, Bruce Marks, US attorney for the Kachkanarsky claimants, declared, and further litigation is pending.

The legal claims against Abramov and against Evraz have so far had little impact on investor confidence or the Evraz share price. After listing at $14.50, the share price is now almost $23.50, a gain of 62%. More experienced Russian investors have been more wary. A bid by Alexei Mordashov’s Severstal group to merge with or acquire Evraz is known by Moscow bankers to have been discussed, and halted. Other sources have told Mineweb they expected Vladimir Lisin’s Novolipetsk Steel group to try a takeover. Russians of their caliber know how to find, and also to hide beneficial ownership. They also know how not to buy a pig in a poke.

It is for this reason that few serious Russian bankers believe the report that Abramovich is negotiating to pay Abramov $2 billion for a minority stake of Evraz. One of the results of the falling-out between Abramov and Morgan Stanley during last year’s IPO is that not many bankers outside Moscow know Evraz particularly well. Morgan Stanley thought it did, but Abramov reproved them for lack of enthusiasm in the marketing of his securities at the listing. It is still unclear why Morgan Stanley behaved as it did.

If there is a negotiation between Abramov and Abramovich, then Russian banking sources think that Abramovich must be acting for others; possibly state interests who have shared in the proceeds of Abramovich’s sale of his Sibneft oil company to Gazprom. And if Abramovich is doing that, then Abramov’s room for bargaining over what stake to sell, and at what price, may be limited to the newspapers. In practice, if he is now the target of a takeover, he will not be able to dictate either. . Certainly not if the state marshals what it knows about how Abramov came by his shareholding in the first place.

Evraz’s head of investor relations, Irina Kibina, initially responded to questions about the ghost goal by pretending Evraz was not watching. The company is “closed” for a 60-day period until April 27, she said, at which time the company’s 2005 financial results will be announced. Under pressure of the press leaks, she was obliged to issue this statement, acknowledging that as a publicly listed company, Evraz knows what is doing when it stays silent. “Evraz Group S.A.is aware of certain rumours circulating in the market relating to potential transactions in its shares,” the company release said on Tuesday, “and does not propose to comment on this market speculation or rumour. Evraz Group confirms it is aware of its disclosure obligations as a listed company.”

This is hardly a convincing display of transparency by the management of a publicly listed shareholding company. What it concedes is that Abramov runs Evraz out of his back pocket. That is the pocket where he does not keep his wallet.


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),  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.  



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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