Some people like to watch the sun going down.

Alexei Mordashov, the third-ranked Russian steelmaker, and a 40-year old man with enormous personal vanity, has been persuaded by some desperate, but clever fellows in Luxembourg that, to watch his own sun going down, and exiting Russia, Mordashov should pay a ticket price of $2.7 billion. For the time being, that costly blaze of light has blinded the world’s business media, and also the Russian stock brokerages, to what the Arcelor-Severstal merger really means, at least in Russia.

For the first time, a Russian metals oligarch has sold out of his business, following oil oligarch Roman Abramovich on the well-trodden path out the exit door, marked by the approaching changeover in the Russian presidency. Unlike Abramovich’s sale last year of his Sibneft oil ^ enterprise to Gazprom, the Russia’s largest enterprise, Mordashov’s exit allowed, apparently and for the first time, a foreign-owned corporation to acquire majority control of a strategic Russian metalmaking enterprise, plus its iron-ore and coalmines. The only comparable -‘oligarch exit in favour of a foreign company like this was the sale by Victor Vekselberg, Mikhail Fridman and Len Blavatnik of their Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) to British Petroleum in February 2003. That deal was allowed by Putin, just before the Americans launched their war against Iraq, when the Kremlin had reason to fear a collapse in oil prices might push the heavily indebted TNK, other Russian oil producers, and the Russian banking system into bankrupcy. When, afew weeks later,Mikhail Khodorkovsky asked Putin to allow his sale of up to 40% of the Yukos oil company, Putin said no, twice. Everyone knows what happened to Khodorkovsky for not listening.

Whether the Kremlin, which has designs on one, possibly two other steelmakers — Alexander Abramov of the Evraz group, and Igor Zyuzin of the Mechel group — had been pushing on Mordashov, or whether he rode off into the sunset by choice, is still far from clear. Asked to say if President Vladimir Putin, who spent an hour meeting with Mordashov on May 16, and the next week met with a group of European Union officials, had heard of the Arcelor buyout from either, or had approved the deal in advance, Putin’s spokesman refused to confirm, telling Russia Journal “we do not have such information.” No one in the Russian steel business believes that Mordashov would contemplate an exit, and the sale of Severstal to foreign control, without Kremlin approval. According to one of Mordashov’s biggest Russian rivals, “the reasons of [Mordashov’s] meeting with Putin were obvious. Severstal has a strategic meaning for the Russian economy. Such decisions never made without approval.”

There are reasons better left unsaid why Kremlin officials do not advertise the obvious. But if the Kremlin approved in secret, Putin is reserving the opportunity to say no publicly, when the government anti¬trust agency, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS), must review the terms of the proposed deal, and issue a ruling either approving, rejecting, or modifying it. The FAS does what it is ordered to do by its superiors. It was the agency by which the Kremlin slowed down the sale of two aluminium rolling-mills by Oleg Deripaska’s Russian Aluminium (Rusal) to Alcoa of the US. It was also the agency which forced Siemens of Germany to abandon a bid to buy control, and nickel oligarch Vladimir Potanin to sell out of a turbine builder and heavy engineering firm, proposing a minority stake transfer instead.

There has been speculation in the press that Putin doesn’t like Lakshmi Mittal, and refused to meet him last year, after Mittal had won control of the Ukrainian steelmaker Krivorozhstal, and proposed talking about his steelmaking ambitions there, in Kazakhstan, and Russia as well. If Putin wanted to say no to that, refusing to meet was a polite form of discouragement. For the episode to trigger the idea that Putin encouraged Mordashov to plot with Arcelor, and the governments closest to it — France, Luxembourg, Belgium — to frustrate Mittal’s hostile takeover attempt is unlikely.

For one thing, the Arcelor deal with Mordashov, announced last Friday,had already been rejected by another Russian steelmaker, Vladimir Lisin — owner of the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK) — because it violated the golden rulebook of the Russian steelmakers:

1. Russians never buy minority stakes below the control, or at least veto level.
2. Russians steelmakers never spend more than $1 billion of their own, or their company’s cash on an acquisition.

According to the terms announced by Arcelor to date, subject to a Luxembourg shareholders’ meeting in a month’s time, and what Mittal may devise as a counter- bid strategy, Arcelor and Severstal claim to have agreed to a “merger”. Mordashov will acquire 32% of Arcelor, while the Severstal units, at least in Russia, will keep their Russian name. Arcelor’s existing shareholders will retain 68% of the company. The combination of companies “will be the Number 1 steel company in the world with Eur46 billion in sales.. .and 70 million tonnes of production.” If the terms are not implemented, Mordashov will earn a deal-break fee of Euro 140 million.

“I do believe in this very much”, Mordashov said repeatedly during a press conference with Arcelor executives on Saturday. Was he trying to convince himself?

Examining the financial terms of the deal, Mordashov receives a position in Arcelor, which according to share values and market capitalization the day before Friday’s deal, should have cost Euro7.3billion, or about $9.3 billion. The official announcements indicate that for this Mordashov is transferring his 89.6% shareholding in Severstal; they include relatively easy to value assets of Severstal North America — the Rouge mill in Michigan, a planned auto steel plant in Mississippi, and the Mountain State Carbon venture with Wheeling-Pittsburgh to build coke batteries. At last Thursday’s market valuation, Severstal was worth $6.5 billion, and thus leaving aside the minority shareholders, Mordashov’s stake was worth $5.8 billion.

In addition, Mordashov is handing over the Russian iron-ore and coal 1 assets he has been planning to sell back to his own company at an ‘r elevated value, $4.3 billion; plus the personally held stake of 42% of the Italian steelmaker Lucchini, acquired a year ago, but not yet fully transferred to the Severstal balance-sheet; this is worth $239.4 million. Altogether, Mordashov’s asset transfers to Luxembourg add up to $10.34 billion. It is customary for foreign buyers of Russian assets to apply what is known as the Russian risk discount, which acknowledges 3 the possibility that the methods by which the assets were acquired were illegal, and could be reversed by the federal government in Moscow; or i that the cashflow accounting by which the management enriched themselves and their shareholders might have violated Russian tax and fraud laws, not to mention the international money-laundering statutes. It is thus not surprising that Mordashov’s asset value exceeded by more than $1 billion the Arcelor value he received in exchange.

But the deal announcement also indicates that Mordashov agreed to sweeten the pot by paying cash of Euro 1.25 billion, or $1.6 billion. Media reports suggest that Mordashov will borrow to finance this part of the transaction. The grand total proffered therefore was $11.96 billion. The difference in Arcelor’s favour is $2.66 billion.

In its announcement, Arcelor Board of Directors said it “believes that the merger with Severstal fully recognises the value inherent in Arcelor, and offers Arcelor shareholders superior industrial logic, greater value and the highest standards of corporate governance compared to Mittal Steel’s offer. Therefore, we believe that this deal is in the best interests of Arcelor’s shareholders.” Mordashov’s pricing allowed Arcelor to claim that its share value was Euro44 ($56.23), a premium on over Arcelor closing price on 26 January, the day before Mittal announced its takeover offer. This price is also Euro 6.26 ($8) over Mittal’s latest offer for Arcelor, announced on May 16.

Mordashov has been announcing publicly since 2004 that he wishes to be the world’s largest steelmaker, or at least the equal of Mittal and Arcelor. Mordashov initially told a steel industry conference that he anticipated “a situation in the steel industry where within a few years four to six companies each had a capacity of about 100m tonnes of steelmaking per year. We would like to be among those companies.” But even with Rouge’s and Lucchini’s output added, Severstal’s aggregate output has been unable to breach the 20-million ton mark. Until now, to meet his ambitious target, Mordashov had more than 84 million tons still to buy. The task was too big for the ambition.

But to sell out his assets to Arcelor is also inconsistent with Mordashov’s ambition. The Luxembourg directorate therefore found the means to make their Russian minority stakeholder feel good. Mordashov, Arcelor announced, is to be appointed the non-executive “President” of the Arcelor board of directors, and have the right to appoint 6 of 18 directors. As the current chairman of the board, Joseph Kinsch, will retain his position, and chief Executive Guy Dolle as well, Arcelor appears to have created a double-headed eagle to symbolize the change, without an underlying shift in management control. Russian oligarchs never spend a billion dollars without acquiring control, unless they are playing a portfolio share-game, and Mordashov has signed a 5-year lockout agreement to prevent him doing that. The small print in the Arcelor announcement reveals what little power Mordashov has acquired at so high a price: “Arcelor’s executive management will remain in place, supplemented by Severstal executives…Mr. Mordashov has agreed to vote his shares in accordance with the recommendations of the Board of Directors.”

The only explicit statement of a Russian government official has so far come from Alexei Kudrin, the Finance Minister. ” I basically consider,” he said, “that Russia goes on to the world markets, and we welcome cases when business itself finds to itself of favour with foreign partners. This is a certificate of trust to Russia as a whole.” In some countries, finance ministers are powerful figures. Russia is not one of them, and Kudrin conducts his portfolio with the ever-present fear of being replaced, and the anxious hope of being restored to the deputy prime ministership which he lost last year. The Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade have long favoured Severstal’s lobbying campaign to have the government adopt steel trade arrangements with the European Union and the US which benefit Severstal, at the expense of other Russian steelmakers and the rest of the Russian economy.

Kudrin must have been forgetting a dossier that has been accumulating dust on his heavily loaded desk. That is the one which investigated Severstal’s tax avoidance practices. In a confidential report of the federal Tax Ministry of September 2004, delivered to the Prime Ministry but not acted upon at the time, it was noted that Severstal was paying tax at between 12% and 14% of revenues, far less tax than the norm among Russian oil exporters, by employing a variety of transfer pricing and tax optimization schemes. Another study indicates that Severstal had underpaid its 2003 tax bill by $40 million via tax optimisation schemes based in the Russian republic of Kalmykia.

A tax bill of so little is not the stuff of which the downfall of oligarchs is made. Kudrin’s forgetfulness is indicative of the way he perceives the Kremlin flag is blowing, at least towards Mordashov’s enterprise. Had he been asked whether the Kremlin intends — through monies held in trust by Abramovich — to buy out Abramov’s control stake of Evraz — he might not have wished to say anything at all. Kudrin is not a decision-maker of consequence.

Mordashov has had commercial enemies in the past, and in Russia such enemies often seek ministerial and Kremlin support for their schemes. Mordashov’s biggest rival was the copper and coal oligarch, Iskander Makhmudov. He helped finance a court challenge to Mordashov’s shareholding, but then abandoned it. Makhmudov has steel sector ambitions, but he has even fewer friends in government than Mordashov.

And so the one person on whom Mordashov’s future in Russia depended was President Putin. Their meeting together at Putin’s summer residence in Sochi two weeks ago provoked a great mystery. On the surface, it appeared to be the longest conversation ever conducted on large-diameter pipemaking by a Russian president, and perhaps the longest ever held by any head of state.

Mordashov also told Putin that “in Cherepovets 250 children every year abandon their homes. Who will work at our enterprises and who will live in our cities? It for us even a personal problem.” Putin responded that “it is healthy, that you, in business, understand this sort of thing.” Asked whether Severstal management has been cutting jobs at its plants, a spokesman for the Russian company told The Russia Journal that the payroll at the Cherepovets plant was 35,589 at the end of 2005, down 183 jobs from 2004. At the Rouge plant in Detroit, Severstal has cut 600 jobs since it took over, 22% of the pre-sale workforce of 2,700.

The Kremlin transcript reports Mordashov as telling Putin: “We hope for a great volume of orders [of the LD pipe] from our country.” “Including for the North-European gas pipeline,” Putin asked. “Undoubtedly, our first priority is deliveries for the North-European gas pipeline,” Mordashov replied, referring to the project in which Vyksa and the UMC are already well advanced in supplying Gazprom, the principal Russian project partner. “And how do you build relations with possible customers?” Putin asked. “We perfectly well understand that this is fundamentally important for us. First of all – Gazprom. We have had a working group with Gazprom from the very beginning of [plant] construction. Gazprom…is for us the most important and fundamental customer.” He went on to tell the president that the key issue for Severstal now is “to provide high quality of pipe in absolutely new conditions. An underwater gas pipeline.” Putin asked Mordashov if he remembered where pipes were sourced from for the Black Sea Bluestream project supplying gas to Turkey. “I do not remember, Mordashov said. “Perhaps Japanese or German pipe was used.”

“It is necessary that your quality should be better [than the imports]”, Putin said. “For us, it is fundamentally important to make good steel. This is a big technological call, but I think we shall meet it.”

If Putin and Mordashov had been secretly chatting about the prospect of a Luxembourg-based European steelmaker taking entire control of Severstal, its pipemaking division included, this apparent reference by Putin to beating European imports of pipe looks, in retrospect, to be ludicrous camouflage.

Putin then changed tack, asking Mordashov for other details of the Severstal group, including payroll numbers at both the domestic steelmaking and the automobile divisions, and at Severstal’s plants abroad. “How do you estimate the technological level at your enterprises abroad?” Putin asked. “With us, no worse [than others]. Everyone has advantages. But as a whole, certainly, we are better.” Mordashov claimed that in buying out bankrupt plants in Italy and the US, Russia was “reviving” the industry. “And how are social questions solved at your enterprises?, the president asked. “Except for us,” he said, “nobody can provide quality of life to our workers. This is the situation as it has developed historically in Russia.” He told Putin that Severstal operates at a youth camp in Cherepovets for 2,500 children, plus an ice-hockey team.

In short, Mordashov tried to pull the wool over Putin’s eyes regarding the social welfare policy he has been implementing, beyond youth camps and hockey games. But can he have dared to speak to the President about caring for young runaways from Cherepovets, when Mordashov himself was running away from Russia?


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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow

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

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


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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