MARKET TREATS TREW’S RESIGNATION FROM OXUS GOLD AS PORTENT

By John Helmer in Moscow

Another Xmas mystery at Oxus – CEO leaves, unlocks value.

The idea that Santa Claus brings presents to those who deserve them comes from the original St. Nicholas, a bishop of the Byzantine era. He was famous for his gifts to the poor, in particular presenting the three miserable daughters of a pious Christian in the diocese with dowries, so that they would not have to become prostitutes. Names and addresses aren’t given.

The deal also made Nicholas the patron saint of those who specialize in giving with one hand, and taking with the other – pawnbrokers.

The Christmas mysteries at Oxus Gold, the London-listed junior, have been chronicled by Mineweb as the share price collapsed in November on no news, and then hesitated with two announcements from hedge fund, RAB Capital Special Situations, that it was buying Oxus shares (November 26), then selling them (December 10). Accompanying RABcap’s moves, the management of Oxus has been assuring the market that all is stable.
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A NEW YEAR’S GREETING

Many things can make a person greater than he or she really is, except for time.

Time activates the bacteria that strip the flesh off the bones, until only a forensic pathologist can detect the tiny signs of individuality; and even they add up to nothing more than a catalogue of pain and death.

Time unravels the outcomes of all endeavours. The maddest passions, the wildest exploits, the most ruthless ambitions, the most victorious strategy – all lose their genius in time.

I was brought up on the reverse. I read, and was accordingly certain, that mankind produced heroes whose deeds outlived themselves. Even small deaths, the ones we as schoolboys used to stand at attention to remember twice or three times every year, defied time. The evidence of that was surely that we were standing there saluting, wasn’t it?
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MITTAL TRIES TO CRACK RUSSIA OPEN – AGAIN

By John Helmer in Moscow

Despite several rebuffs this year already, and problems faced by other non-Russian putative investors into the country’s steel sector, ArcelorMittal tries to set up new steel mill near Moscow.

For the great Anglo-Indian families — I mean, wealthy Indians who live in London — it is galling to observe the contrast between the ease with which they draw passports and titles from the British government; and the difficulty they encounter arranging a cup of tea with the President of Russia.

But then it oughtn’t to be so difficult for the Mittals or the Hindujas to appreciate the traditional Russian maxim — never stand between a dog and a tree.
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ZUBKOV ONE-LINER BOWLS PLATINUM HAT TRICK

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russian PGM sales controller complains market reaction isn’t cricket.

A one-line decree, issued by Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov, has stumped Russia’s platinum producer, Norilsk Nickel; the state agency for export sales of platinum, Almazjuvelirexport; and the government body in charge of issuing export licences, the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade.

Whether Zubkov was warned to anticipate the market impact or not, international spot trading in platinum has driven the metal price up 6% this week to a record high approaching $1,520/ounce.
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OXUS GOLD’S SHARE PRICE — SEASONAL TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY

By John Helmer in Moscow

London market plays Scrooge as RAB sells Oxus Gold for 100% premium.

The streets of all the Christian cities of the world are filled at this time of year with buskers singing carols, holding out hands or buckets to receive offerings of money for the less fortunate in this world.

It must have been in this spirit that on December 10, Oxus Gold, the London-listed junior gold miner, announced that its principal shareholder, RAB Special Situations (Master) Fund, has granted Zeromax GmbH, its second largest shareholder, an option to buy up to 52.254 million of Oxus shares. RAB proposed to sell at 80 pence per share until December 18, with the possibility of extending the offer to January 31, 2008. On the day, RAB made this offer, the market price of Oxus shares was 40 pence. Thus, it seems the seasonal charity was on the Zeromax side, and it was RAB doing the busking — for a premium of 100%.
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FIGHT FOR NORILSK NICKEL GOES TO BANKER’S RISK COMMITTEE

By John Helmer in Moscow

The casebook of the great modern neurologist, Oliver Sacks, contains the extraordinary case of Dr Tony Cicoria, who was struck by a bolt of lightning, and left for the rest of his life with an insatiable desire for classical music. Uncontrollably, he heard a piano playing in his head, and would try to write it down. This was difficult, because he had paid little attention to music for most of his life, and had forgotten how to notate it.

The usual brain scans have all been tried, but noone, not even Dr. Sacks, knows how the near-fatal bolt of electricity has caused such an inspiration.

About the recently disclosed sale, purchase and loan agreement between Mikhail Prokhorov, part-owner of Norilsk Nickel, and Oleg Deripaska, controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, something like the mysterious bolt of electricity must have struck, because of the strange and unprecedented inspiration that has followed.
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POLYUS GOLD TO VOTE ON ASSET RANSOM

By John Helmer in Moscow

Ivanov tries a second board meeting to push through mine licence and share transfer.

In Russian villages, they say the law is like a sleigh. A clever man can steer it either way. If the villagers knew about share emissions, their suspicion would be the same.

On December 18, the board of directors of Polyus Gold is scheduled to consider a proposal for a share emission, which is being steered by Mikhail Prokhorov, at the moment the controlling shareholder of Polyus, and his chief executive, Evgeny Ivanov. They are proposing the board agree to a share emission by Polyus subsidiary, Polyus Exploration (Russian name, PolyusGeologoRazvedka, PGR) that would do two things – dilute the stake of Prokhorov’s rival, Vladimir Potanin, in the new company; and transfer gold exploration and mining licences, plus mine company shares, from the parent company to the affiliate, in order to pay for the vesting.
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NORILSK NICKEL ASSET SPINOFF – REVENGE PLAY BY PROKHOROV

By John Helmer in Moscow

The war over Norilsk Nickel’s shares to trigger owners’ battle on Friday.

“Let the man who seeks revenge,” the old Chinese proverb warns, “remember to dig two graves.”

For months now, Russia’s most valuable mining asset, Norilsk Nickel, has been the object of a bitter personal war between the two men, who took the asset from the state a decade ago – Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov. Norilsk Nickel has a current market value of $52.2 billion; its share price on the Moscow exchange is currently $274. But the value is under pressure from the war, and on Friday this week in Moscow, they will stage a new battle. The occasion is an extraordinary general shareholders’ meeting, called to vote on the 11-month old plan to create a new company, Energopolyus. Prokhorov has said he will vote his 28% stake in the company to prevent the spinoff of non-core electricity assets into Energopolyus, which was agreed by Prokhorov and Potanin last February.

The fight over the division of the assets Potanin and Prokhorov have co-owned for more than a decade has turned vengeful — and Prokhorov has started digging graves. A banker close to him has told Mineweb Prokhorov isn’t so much opposed to the spinoff, as determined to throw a spoiler in the transaction, creating uncertainty and confusion for the bankers being asked to lend on either side of the split between Potanin and Prokhorov.
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PUTIN’S ENDORSEMENT IS NO BLANK CHECK FOR MINING

By John Helmer in Moscow

Putin’s endorsement of Medvedev, and vice versa, leaves mining policy issues up in the air.

President Vladimir Putin did his best to make the selection of Dmitry Medvedev, 42, his former chief of staff and St. Petersburg lawyer, as natural an endorsement as he could of the capabilities of a man he’s worked with for 17 years. But Prime Minister Victor Zubkov went one better. He revealed the power politics behind the selection.

Putin stage-managed the announcement in Monday’s meeting with Boris Gryzlov, the outgoing parliament speaker and leader of the dominant incoming party, United Russia. It was the classic Russian line: the tsar is the father of the people. According to Gryzlov, “we believe that [Medvedev] is the most socially oriented candidate and has demonstrated his abilities well in leading the national projects and the demographic program. “Putin declared: “We have worked closely through all of these years, and I completely and fully support this choice.” This was the classic Bolshevik refrain – loyalty to unanimity, unanimity of the loyal. Victor Ilyukhin, a senior Communist Party figure, responded with the classic statement of the left opposition, identifying Medvedev as without party principle, ideology or conviction: “Medvedev is insecure, weak. Putin can have full control of him.”
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IN RUSSIAN POTASH MARKET, NUMBER-2 TRIES HARDER

By John Helmer in Moscow

Silvinit, until now a second string potash producer, challenges Uralkali, with state help.

Until recently, Silvinit, a major Russian potash miner, appeared to be playing second-fiddle to its larger, and financially more powerful mining neighbour in the Urals, Uralkali. But in the hungry Russian resource market, with potash’s accelerating value multiples in the commodity and share markets, the fiddler can wind up being on the menu to be eaten — and that appeared to be the direction in which Silvinit was headed.

One takeover candidate was Uralkali, which listed its shares in London in October, and has since seen its market capitalization rise to $11.4 billion — more than double its listing target. Uralkali is controlled by Dmitry Rybolovlev. In October 2006, Uralkali had announced an IPO plan for the sale of 21% of its shares, offered at the time at $2.05-$2.45 per share. This past October, the company placed 12.75% of its stock at $3.35/share. The current price ranges between $5.35 and $5.75.
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ABRAMOVICH DEFIES GRAVITY IN HIGHLAND GOLD PURCHASE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Confidence in Roman Abramovich’s staying power supports Highland Gold’s value

Top-secret documents have recently been discovered, proving that sex between consenting adults cannot be managed in space. That’s because zero gravity makes the normal positions impossible. US and Russian experiments are also reported to have been carried out to determine what positions make it possible. The secrecy is so tight, mining newspapers can’t discover what these are.

The fareastern Russian province of Chukotka is not exactly outer space. It may be zero-value – the equivalent of weightlessness in some asset sectors — but it’s not zero-gravity. Still, it remains an official secret how precisely the governor of Chukotka, Roman Abramovich, one of Russia’s (and England’s) richest individuals, has managed twice to couple with the region’s most valuable gold deposit, Mayskoye, coming away each time with a pleasurable profit.
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TWO FRESH EXPLOSIONS LEAD TO CALLS FOR CLOSING UKRAINE COAL MINE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Ukraine demand for coking-coal weighed against rising death toll in possible decisions to shut down coal mine where 106 miners have been killed and many injured in methane explosions.

Ukrainian miners have proved that when it comes to methane, lightning can strike twice, and thrice, in the same place.

This week, the Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko ordered the suspension of operations at the Zasyadko coal-mine in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after a third, and fatal, explosion in the mine on Sunday. His political rival, Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, has also issued a public call for suspending mine operations.

In the latest incident, five were killed, and 66 injured, 9 seriously, according to a local miners’ union source. He told Mineweb there have been three methane explosions at the mine in the past fortnight — on November 18, when 101 miners were killed; on December 1, when there were no fatalities, but 44 miners were hospitalized; and on December 2, when 5 miners were killed. “I can’t tell you if there is any decision to close the mine, but methane concentration seems to be dangerous, ” the union source said.
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OXUS GOLD SHARE PRICE – WHEN NO NEWS IS BAD NEWS, THEN GOOD NEWS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Is holding hedge fund a gold share price hawk or a vulture?

On Thursday of last week, Oxus Gold, a junior gold miner listed on the London Alternative investment Market (AIM), lost 18% of its market value, pricing at 25.5 pence, with a market cap of GBP93 million. The chart of the company’s share price shows that it hit this year’s high in May at 66.25 pence. It then held in the 50 to 60-pence range until November. But from then, the price plummeted downwards.

During October, the price of gold was marching steadily upwards from $730 per ounce to hit November highs of around $840.

Oxus, whose principal gold assets are in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, is flummoxed by the share movement. “As far as I know,” Oxus investment relations shpokesman Julia Flowers told Mineweb, “there isn’t anything to cause the share price to go down.”

Two days later, on Friday November 30, the price shot up 28% on a trading volume of almost 5 million shares (1.4%). Today, on smaller volume, the share price gained another 9%. It is currently at 35.5p.
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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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KILLING IS CHEAPER — THE US ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND WEAPONIZES TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, TELEGRAM

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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