ALUMINIUM WARS MOVE TO AFRICA AS RUSAL UNDER PRESSURE IN NIGERIA

By John Helmer in Moscow

Nigeria’s President Yar’Adua promises US to reopen Rusal smelter deal.

Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch who controls UC Rusal, the world’s second largest producer of aluminium, is in hot water in Nigeria, and in Washington, DC, as US companies have persuaded the Bush Administration to back them in a bid to oust Deripaska from the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon).

Leading the new US charge at a meeting on November 27 with the President of Nigeria, Umuru Musa Yar’Adua, are Reuben Jaja and his Los Angeles-based Bancorp Financial Investment Group (BFIG). BFIG has been suing Rusal in the Nigerian and US courts for abuse of the privatization process that awarded Alscon to Rusal on a low bid in 2004. Mineweb has reported the blow-by-blow action: http://www.mineweb.com/mineweb/view/mineweb/en/page36?oid=18731&sn=Detail
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TAJIK MINE RESOURCE PROMOTION MYSTIFICATION

By John Helmer in Moscow

Adam Smith hides his talent — making Tajik mining’s sow’s ear into a silk purse.

A European Commission (EC) contract to promote foreign mining investment in Tajikistan collapsed this month into denials and mystification, as the deputy head of the Tajikistan government’s committee on foreign investment claims he has never heard of it. A US project consultant and the London-based Adam Smith international, for which he worked, claim their task was to staunch a growing loss of confidence on the part of international resource investors, not promote fresh investment.

The apparent hitch in the promotional effort comes as Norwegian investigators probe financial relations between the state-controlled Hydro Aluminium company and Tajikistan aluminium Plant (Talco aka TadAZ), the dominant enterprise and principal export earner of the economy, which is personally directed by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon. According to many sources in Dushanbe and in the international mining community, Rahmon is part of the problem. According to the annual Tajikistan country report from the International Monetary Fund, issued on April 27, Rahmon told the IMF that “governance concerns, which continue to plague Tajikistan, are seriously affecting the business climate and private sector growth.”
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THE NORILSK CRACK-UP—PUTIN ON OLIGARCH DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russian oligarchs use the media for pressure on price and financing terms for change of ownership at Norilsk Nickel.

The Arab bedouin had a term for it – the jackals’ wedding. That’s a marriage of convenience between angry dogs, who couple for a single night, and then bite each other, as they pursue their own game for the rest of their lives.

This week, at a party-political rally in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin also referred to the rule of oligarchs as rapacious dogs. “They want to come back,” he said, of the factions which had ruled Russia during the Yeltsin period, “to return to power, to spheres of influence, and gradually restore oligarchic rule based on corruption and lies. Unfortunately, inside the country there are those who scrounge at foreign embassies, importune diplomatic missions, count on the support of foreign funds and governments, and not the support of their own people.”
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UKRAINE COAL MINERS BLAME BOARD CHAIRMAN FOR MINE DISASTER

By John Helmer in Moscow

The apparent owner and board chairman of the Zasyadko mine has been targeted for blame in Ukraine’s worst mine explosion by surviving miners.

Miners who survived the catastrophic methane explosion at the Zasyadko mine in the Ukraine on Sunday say that the mine’s chairman and apparent proprietor, Yefim Zvagilsky, is to blame for unsafe working conditions at the mine, and for imposing steep shift production quotas that led to the suppression of methane detection and shut-off systems.

The accident occurred on November 18 in the Donetsk area of eastern Ukraine. 457 miners were working the overnight shift, when a methane explosion occurred at the Zasyadko pit. A total of 90 miners are confirmed dead; 10 are still missing; 30 are hospitalized. The explosion and fire at a depth of more than a thousand metres has continued to burn; it incinerated most of the dead miners beyond recognition. The fatalities amount to the worst death toll in a Ukrainian coal-mine since 2000.
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GLOBAL TIZZ OVER TAJIK ALUMINUM DEAL

By John Helmer in Moscow

Suddenly this month, Hydro Aluminum, the state-led metal producer of Norway, has been called to public account by senior members of the Norwegian Parliament; by independent Norwegian experts; and by Norway’s trade and foreign ministers over the terms of alumina and aluminum contracts the company signed last December with the Tajikistan Aluminum Plant (Talco, aka TadAZ).

The Norwegian concern is focused on allegations of corruption among Tajik government officials involved in the aluminum business, and on what Hydro knows and is doing about it.

At the same time, Adam Smith International (ASI), a London-based consultancy specializing in Asian development, is stumbling silently over the terms of a contract, recently awarded by the Tajik government, to promote resistance among foreign investors to concerns about the risk posed by stories of corruption in the country.
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TORONTO EXCHANGE HALTS TRADING IN RUSSIAN DIAMOND STAKE

By John Helmer in Moscow

De Beers, NM Rothschild hold secret talks which could result in the release of Russian diamond asset

How long must the clock tick before disclosure delayed turns into news concealed, and insider trading?

Speculators on the share value of Toronto-listed Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC) — ticker AAD — thought they knew enough to start buying shares of the company after it reached a year-low of 35 cents (Canadian) on October 31. As the Bloomberg chart shows, on or about November 1, someone started buying, and the share price rocketed upward by 43%: Bloomberg ticker.

Trading in ADC has been so rare, and the share so illiquid, that the Bloomberg charts show the speculative jump has occurred on just four transactions, totaling just 29,200 shares. The biggest of the trades, dwarfing all others for the past six months, was 19,000. Unlike the earlier big trades on record, this one was a purchase, not a sale. The amount of money involved was paltry, but the motive serious.
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RUSSIAN DIAMOND CUTTERS ASK ALROSA FOR VAT DELAY

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russian diamond cutters face shutdown of operations or domestic supplies if VAT tax waiver is abolished on January 1.

Alrosa, Russia’s dominant supplier of rough, has sent a notice to domestic diamond cutters, warning that from January 1, it will add 18% value-added tax (VAT) to its rough diamond pricing. The diamond cutters have told Mineweb that, while they understand the move as a cost-cutting expedient for Alrosa, the impact will be ruinous for the low-margin manufacturers. They have asked Alrosa to reconsider, and delay the move for another twelve months, in order to allow time for the government to be persuaded to send a zero-tax amendment to tax legislation for enactment by parliament.

There is suspicion that Alrosa’s move is aimed at reducing the presence in Russia of foreign cutting enterprises, and boosting Alrosa’s cutting plants at their expense. At present, Alrosa reports that its own polished sales amount to about $160 million per annum. This trails well behind sector leader, Smolensk Kristall, which is state owned, and reports sales of $358 million in 2006; and Ruis Diamonds, which is controlled by Lev Leviev, and sells over $220 million in polished. According to one of Moscow’s leading cutters, “I wouldn’t say that Alrosa is making this move intentionally to destroy the remainder of the Russian cutting industry, but this [VAT] decision would be a catastrophe.”
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HYDRO ALUMINIUM IN TROUBLE OVER TAJIKISTAN CORRUPTION CHARGES

By John Helmer in Moscow

Suddenly this month, Hydro Aluminium, the state-led metal producer of Norway, has been called to public account by senior members of the Norwegian parliament; by independent Norwegian experts; and by Norway’s Trade and Foreign Ministers over the terms of alumina and aluminium contracts it signed last December with the Tajikistan Aluminium Plant (Talco, aka TadAZ). The focus of the Norwegian concern is allegations of corruption among Tajik government officials involved in the aluminium business, and on what Hydro knows, and is doing about it.

Talco is currently turning out about 450,000 tonnes of aluminium a year, worth about $1.2 billion on the international market. In December 2004, the Tajik government initiated a purge of the plant’s management, and defaulted on sale and purchase agreements with the ousted management, and with Hydro. The Norwegians sued for recovery in London; won a $150 million award in compensation for non-delivery of 80,000 tonnes of aluminium; collected compensation from a syndicate of insurers; and concealed the bookkeeping loss, and the payoff, in its consolidated accounts. Hydro has told Mineweb this isn’t concealment, because “the net exposure was immaterial for reporting purposes.”
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DIAMOND EXPLORERS FROM ISRAELI TELECOMS COMPANY CREATE MYSTERY IN ANGOLA

By John Helmer in Moscow

Israelis claim Russian identity to announce Angolan diamond mine venture.

That Russian mining companies have deep pockets and Kremlin clout is a handle that has been tried on South African gold bugs and the Canadian venture investor market with modest and shortlived effect. But it is unheard-of for a group of Israelis engaged in the telephone and internet business to portray themselves in Angola as Russian diamond-miners, especially when the leading Israeli diamantaire in Angola appears not to have heard of them either.

Notwithstanding, Tomer Peirce was welcomed when he stepped off his aircraft at Luanda airport recently; according to the Angolan News Agency, Peirce had gone to Angola for the Russian Diamonds Company. It was reported that he and his company are negotiating terms of participation in a new Angolan diamond venture called the Mualengue project.
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BLACKROCK SLASHES GV GOLD SHARE PRICE IN SECRET

By John Helmer in Moscow

BlackRock pays bargain-basement price for Russian gold miner after IPO fails.

The controversial US equity fund manager BlackRock, part-owned by Merrill Lynch, has failed in a bid to keep secret two transactions in which the fund appears to have acquired 34% of the shares of a small Russian gold miner, GV Gold. This follows two failed bids by GV Gold itself to sell its shares to the market this year, through a London initial public offering (IPO).

According to the official notice on November 2 from the Russian government’s market regulator, BlackRock’s UK affiliate has bought 209,000 shares in GV Gold at $80 per share for $16.7 million. The sale-purchase transaction for 10% of GV Gold’s stock values the mining company at just $167 million. That is three times less than GV Gold’s controlling shareholders set as their IPO target in February, and again in May of this year, when their IPO proposal found no-one willing to buy at that price.
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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