On June 16, 1858, in Springfield, Illinois, the young Abraham Lincoln launched his campaign for a seat in the US Senate for Illinois, with a speech that became famous for these words: “In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.” Lincoln was defeated in the election by the incumbent, Stephen Douglas.
According to anonymous government sources reported by the Wall Street Journal, in August and again in early October of this year, the Obama Administration has decided to allow Oleg Deripaska, the controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal and Russia’s most indebted man, to enter the US, without an approved visa and without public disclosure – at least until now. The US State Department appears from the newspaper report either to have been unaware of, or to have opposed, Deripaska’s entry, which has been barred twice; most recently since 2006. The following US organs reportedly favoured giving Deripaska what the newspaper calls a “limited-entry permit” – the FBI, the US Department of Homeland Security, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and General Motors. (more…)
Alrosa’s new management, headed by Fyodor Andreyev (right picture), has announced this month that, despite one of the worst years on record for global diamond demand, the Russian company expects to sell roughly the same dollar value of diamonds this year as last, and to earn a bottom-line profit as well.
The announcements of the projected financial results have been posted by dead-drop on wire services or internet sites. Andreyev has yet to answer direct questions from the industry media since he took over the company in July. His spokesman, Andrei Polyakov, does not respond to calls. (more…)
One celebration drink too many in Bar Vogue, in downtown Almaty, has turned out to leave a very bad taste for lawyers advising hard-rock mining and oil project start-ups in Kazakhstan.
In a 216-page judgement issued this month, after three years of litigation across half the globe, a group of Australian lawyers was found guilty of stealing clients from their employer, the Kazakhstan-based law firm of Michael Wilson (see left image) & Partners (MWP). The judge, Clifford Einstein, presiding in the New South Wales Supreme Court, ruled on October 6 that John Emmott, Robert Nicholls, and David Slater had conspired together to exploit their positions in MWP to breach their employment contracts and fiduciary duties to MWP by secretly creating a competing firm of their own, Temujin International, registered in the British Virgin Islands. (more…)
The Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), owned and run by Sergei Generalov, Russia’s largest dry-shipping operator, is to receive a state guarantee for loan repayments of Rb1.5 billion ($52 million), and will apply this to a loan of Rb2.5 billion ($86 million), which is being finalized this month with state bank, VTB.
The decision to award the guarantee was made by a unit of the federal Ministry of Economic Development yesterday, and confirmed by Fesco and Moscow brokers. Separately, Fesco’s railway subsidiary, Transgarant, has received a Rb1.45 billion ($50 million) loan, also from VTB, secured by its railcar fleet. The publicly listed Fesco is the first in Russia’s shipping sector to get a public bailout from the Kremlin. (more…)
A hitherto unknown Russian, believed to have intelligence connexions in Africa, has made contact with the Guinean government in a bid to save the Russian bauxite and alumina concessions in the country. The move, orchestrated in Paris this month, is the first indication to date of French moves afoot to intervene for regime change in the west African republic of Guinea — with methods and motives associated with the infamous murder of Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, in January 1961. Then, Belgian officials, backed by the CIA and a White House assasination order, did the deed, claiming justification from Soviet support of the popular nationalist figure. This time round, the Russian interests are causing a switch in sentiment.
Victor Alexeyevich Boyarkin (literally translated into English, the name means “belonging to the boyar”) was in Paris a few days ago, according to local sources, where he was introduced to Guinean Government officials as a close associate of Oleg Deripaska (see boyar figure to left), the chief executive and controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal. Boyarkin has an office and secretary at Rusal headquarters in Moscow, and company sources confirm that he heads a department there. During Deripaska’s visit to Paris to meet with French banks a few days ago, Boyarkin was seen with him, and was introduced as one of the company’s top troubleshooters. (more…)
The new Economy and Energy Minister of Bulgaria, Traycho Traykov, has issued a warning to Moscow that if Russia intends to build a new cross-Turkey crude oil pipeline, running from Samsun on the Black Sea, to Ceyhan, on the Aegean, that will mean the cancellation of the long planned Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, crossing Bulgaria and Greece. (more…)
It was ten years ago, almost to the day, that a lawyer from Philadelphia named Bruce Marks had a very smart idea.
If you are too small and weak, physically or legally, to recover money you unwisely entrusted to a big Russian crook, Marks recommended going to your nearest federal US District Court; and get the judge there to convict the bad guy of something that’s the crime of racketeering in the US, but regular biznes in Russia. And so, civil claims were born out of the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The first trial run by Marks was a 1999 lawsuit in New Jersey by Vyacheslav Bresht against a bunch of US investors, who had bought a rip-off scheme for the Russian titanium producer, Avisma-VSMPO. Rather than go to court and face disclosure of what they had done, they paid up. (more…)
Billy Bunter was a fictional schoolboy character well-known to British and colonial schoolboys of my generation. Like most of us, his eyes were bigger than his stomach. Unlike many, by the age of ten Bunter had grasped the concept of leverage — to feed himself he was always borrowing against the legendary postal order that was in the mail from his Pater. To assist in his cons, Billy was also a gifted ventriloquist, making voices appear to come from everywhere but himself. This was always amusing even though — maybe especially because — Bunter was usually caught out, and either caned by his school masters, or kicked by his classmates. (You can have a Russian empire if naughty boys get away with their japes, but not a British one.) (more…)
It’s either a comedy starring Pinocchio, or a tragedy ending in Seppuku.
According to Section 1 of Sovcomflot’s corporate code of governance — ratified by the company board in 2007, and posted on the company website — one of the principles is “prompt disclosure of complete and reliable information about the Company enabling informed decision-making by the shareholders and investors of the Company”. Another of the provisions in this section obliges company officeholders to ensure “compliance with ethical standards of business conduct.” By these standards, what is to be made of the public clash in a London courtroom last week over evidence of a relatively paltry sum of one million dollars that hasn’t managed to be identified in Sovcomflot’s accounts yet? (more…)
It’s not so surprising that religion tends to be humourless. Making people accept the impossible usually requires threats, not jokes.
There is no record that Jesus Christ ever laughed out loud. His idea of humour was sarcasm, and puns he lifted from fishermen and carpenters. But for overdoing seriousness, the early eastern patriarch, St Cyril of Alexandria (378-444 AD), takes the cake. He’s the fellow who sets the record for heaping more anathemas on a single target than anyone in Christian history. (more…)
In Russia it is traditional for the tsar to invite the culpable to assist him in finding and punishing the culprits; or to bargain for scapegoats.
On Thursday last, October 15, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told the regular weekly session of government ministers that he has ordered the Prosecutor General to investigate corruption in the state bureaucracy.
On Wednesday of this week, October 21, President Dmitry Medvedev invited a group of Russia’s oligarchs and figures of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists to give him their thoughts on government action to deal with the economic crisis. (more…)
Gazprom, Russia’s leading company, has told Fairplay that reports that Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin agreed this week with the Turkish government to reroute the South Stream gas pipeline on to Turkish territory do not mean that Gazprom has decided to lay a land segment of the pipeline in Turkey, and bypass Bulgaria altogether (for the route until this week, see map). (more…)
Unprecedented disclosure of the financial intimacies of world tanker leader, state-owned Sovcomflot, continues in the UK High Court in London as Igor Borisenko, the former chief financial officer and deputy CEO of Sovcomflot, returns to the witness stand today and tomorrow.
Borisenko has told the judge that, although he was in charge of Sovcomflot’s finances, he could not remember offers of sale and lease-back transactions with Sovcomflot vessels from Clarksons, Boeing Capital, and other sources, at a time when Sovcomflot’s new CEO, Dmitry Skarga, was struggling to repay a Soviet-era loan debt of $500 million . “Are you saying that there was no discussion at all around this time, that you are aware of, about whether sale and lease-back might be a source of finance?” asked Justice Andrew Smith. “I do not remember, my Lord, that this matter was discussed with me.” (more…)
In the very small world of Russian steelmaking genius, Dmitry Pumpyansky (see right figure) has always been thought a bright bird at managing his pipemills, rather than for picking the right ones to buy, or the right price to pay. As the history books show, the acquisition of the Russian mills comprising the TMK alliance was due in the first place to tough measures by tough men from the Urals, with an altogether different skill set.
Pumpyansky’s big flight test was last year and now, as the full cost of his acquisition of pipemills in the US and Canada has become grimly clear. Just how grim is spelled out by Ernst & Young in unprecedented warnings attached to the TMK financial reports, which were released on Friday. As they read the results, the stock markets chopped 3% off TMK’s share price. (more…)
The key witness in the $800 million Sovcomflot (SCF) case against former CEO, Dmitry Skarga, and charterer Yury Nikitin, has contradicted a core claim by the company in his High Court testimony this week.
Igor Borisenko, SCF’s former chief financial officer, told the court he supported chartering of oil tankers to the shipping arm of the Kirishi refinery group, a company known as PNP, run by Yury Nikitin, before Skarga took over Sovcomflot in 2000, and afterwards as well. Borisenko was cross-examined about the written submission by Sovcomflot’s solicitor, Stuart Shepherd, that “Sovcomflot would not have done business with Mr Nikitin’s companies at all, had it not been for the bribes or other benefits provided by Mr Nikitin to Mr Skarga.” Borisenko told the court: “I think that Sovcomflot could charter vessels to PNP without bribes being paid.” (more…)
If the North American Treaty Alliance (NATO) takes seriously the threat the members believe the Russian military poses for the Saakashvili regime in Georgia, or the equally jumpy rulers of the Baltic shore, it might think twice about putting more North American beef into the borsch and pelmeni that Russian tankmen and parachutists eat each day to keep up their protein levels.
US purveyors of New York sirloins and T-bone steaks may take comfort from the defence that most US beef has long been ousted from the Russian meat market; their only sales go to the elite restaurants and hotels of Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the Russian Army, USDA Prime goes only to the generals.
On October 6, Sergey Frank criticized John Helmer in testimony in the UK High Court, condemning, as he has done before, Helmer’s reporting of the affairs of the Sovcomflot shipping company, headed by Frank since 2004.
On October 12, the Foreign Press Centre of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation telephoned Helmer in Moscow with a request to meet the next day with Boris Shardakov and Oleg Churilov. Shardakov is head of the office of work with foreign correspondents.
On October 13, at 4 in the afternoon, Shardakov and Churilov told Helmer that a letter addressed by Sovcomflot to the Foreign Ministry had been received. It was signed by the spokesman for Frank, Andrei Kechashin. (more…)
The Guinean government in Conakry has decided not to despatch a Foreign Ministry delegation to Moscow for the time being, while it gives negotiators from Russia’s aluminium monopoly, United Company Rusal, the chance to discuss privatisation, tax and accountingclaims next week.
Guinean sources have told Business Day that a planned trip to Russia, agreed with the Russian Foreign Ministry for last week, has beenpostponed on Conakry’s initiative. The Guinean proposal to Rusal aims at a meeting next week in a European city. Rusal mines bauxite at Kindia, and holds the mining right for the undeveloped Dian-Dian bauxite deposit. The company lost its Friguia concession and the Friguia almina refinery after a privatisation process held in 2006 was ruled invalid by a Conakry court last month. (more…)
One of the reasons for pornography is that it provides a low-cost alternative to the real thing. Not to mention the chance to fantasize immediately about a future pleasure that isn’t likely to materialize — or to be affordable if it does.
The announcement on Tuesday of Russia’s agreement in principle to supply up to 70 billion cubic metres per annum of natural gas by pipeline to China is like that. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin needs to show that his command of Russia’s energy concessions is capable of delivering cash into the counting-house. A UK High Court trial, also under way this month in London. of claims relating to the management of the state-owned oil shipping company Sovcomflot has exposed the lengths to which Sechin, other government officials, and commercial allies in oil trading, ports and tankers, have already gone for this cash. A damage assessment in Moscow of the disclosures in the London court has the potential to cause problems for Sechin, if on top of everything, the counting-house goes short. (more…)
First there was Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, then Qaddafi the Leader’s Little Green Book, and now, from the witness box of the UK High Court, in testimony given over four days, October 5-8, 2009, comes… (more…)
Chinese checkers may be the closest Russia’s metal oligarchs, Igor Zyuzin (right) and Vladimir Lisin (left), have come to understanding Chinese strategy. The problem is that the game is neither Chinese, nor checkers. It’s actually an American invention, dating from the 1880s. It is based on the simple tactic of jumping your pieces further and faster into your opponent’s goal, before he can do the same to yours. As developed 15 years ago, Russian asset raiding tactics in the metal and mining sector are not more sophisticated.
Wei Chi, on the other hand — also known as Go, in Japan — is said to have been created by the Emperor Shun around 2200 BC, to train the brains of his son and heir. The game has evolved such complex strategy over the board space that a novice cannot readily understand how his space has been surrounded without apparent capture; and in the champion games, who has won and how. (more…)
Vanity corrupts; pathological vanity corrupts pathologically. That’s when you cannot believe that others are capable of disbelieving you. An American president who is at that stage will contrive anything, including war, for his personal benefit.
For Obama to feel, as he said, “deeply humbled” when awakened by the Nobel Peace Prize telephone-call on Friday morning, you have to think that he and his intelligence agencies failed to know he was a candidate for the award, and did nothing to lobby the Norwegs against the two hundred or so other candidates. If true, he should have announced he was deeply blind-sided, deeply stupid. Then you have to accept that Obama believed from the start of the process that he deserved the award. If true, you can clinically measure the crack in the cerebellum between reality and judgement. And finally, you have to realize that Obama calculated the prize would be better for his polls than not. Given what is already known about Obama’s readiness to escalate at least one of the two losing wars he has yet to withdraw from, that last one is a piece of such cynicism he will put all of his warmongering predecessors in the shade. One-term predecessors, it might be added. (more…)
Sovcomflot chief executive Sergey Frank (left, centre figure) testified in the UK High Court last week that as Russia’s Minister of Transport he opposed the privatisation and IPO sale of Sovcomflot shares, despite company board and other ministry approvals starting in 2002. Under cross-examination by counsel for former CEO Dmitry Skarga (right, left figure) and questioning by Justice Andrew Smith, Frank dismissed the share sale plan, which was intended to raise $300 million to buy new ice-class oil and LNG tankers to service the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 oil and gasfields. Implying this plan lacked “the proper price received and value”, he testified the government preferred to “sack the management and…find a better team to run the company.”
Frank denied that after losing his own ministry post, he fought against several ministers and Kremlin advisors backing the privatisation, until he was appointed CEO of the shipping company in Skarga’s place in late 2004. Asked if his takeover had been arranged by Igor Sechin (now deputy prime minister) and the oil trader Gennady Timchenko, who wanted to merge Sovcomflot with Novoship before selling shares, Frank said: “basically, my level of education giving me enough comfort to express my own vision of any issue, and that doesn’t need any support of people to say that.” (more…)
The board of Vnesheconombank (VEB), the state bailout bank chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, agreed yesterday to extend for a year a $1.8 billion loan to the Evraz group, controlled by Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse holding.
The loan was first issued in mid-November 2008, and is the largest single government financing for the Russian steel sector since the global crisis began a year ago. It was sought to enable Evraz to repay foreign bank loans, which had been raised to pay for Evraz’s expansion abroad, primarily for purchase of steelmills in North America. At the time of last year’s VEB rescue, Evraz was the third most heavily indebted Russian company, with a total of $9.9 billion in net foreign debt outstanding. Only the two state-owned energy companies, Rosneft and Gazprom, were more heavily indebted abroad than Evraz.
Its short-term (6-12 month) debt at the time of the VEB loan was $4.2 billion; $2.1 billion was due and payable by December 31. Although it is a state institution funded by public money, VEB does not issue transaction or audited financial reports, not even in open form to the Russian parliament. Nor has VEB disclosed the terms by which it has secured loans to borrowers. (more…)
Sergey Frank, the chief executive of state owned Sovcomflot (SCF), one of the top-5 tanker companies in the world, is now into his fourth straight day of cross-examination in the UK High Court for what is turning out to be an unexpectedly dramatic examination of the way high Kremlin officials have fought each other over the management of Russia’s oil shipping concession. (more…)
It took several shots over a thousand years before people who scribble for a living could get the jingle about their business quite right. Euripides tried it with: “The tongue is mightier than the blade”. To the modern ear that sounds a little on the sado-erotic side. Shakespeare had the phallic inspiration: “many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills”. The great Nap got into the right ballpark, but struck out with: “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”
Then along came Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who arranged in 1839 for the lead in his play about Cardinal Richelieu to say: “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Even more forgotten than Bulwer-Lytton, though, is what the stageboard Richelieu says next: “Behold the arch-enchanters wand – itself a nothing! – but taking sorcery from the master-hand to paralyse the Caesars”. (more…)
Alrosa appears to be selling all of its rough diamond production this year to the state stockpile agency, Gokhran, exceeding earlier estimates of the state budget funds previously allocated to sustain the state-owned company’s mining operations. Both Alrosa and Gokhran are under the control of Russia’s Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin (pictured right).
According to a report by Interfax, in September Alrosa has sold Gokhran rough worth an estimated Rb20.4 billion ($669 million). For the 9-month period just ending, Interfax reports that Alrosa has sold a total of Rb32.5 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of diamonds to the state repository. Alrosa’s chief executive, Fyodor Andreyev (pictured left), and his spokesman, Alexei Polyakov, were unavailable to confirm the numbers, but a Gokhran source has confirmed their accuracy. Alrosa is not clarifying either its production target for the year, or its sales target. (more…)
On July 31, the UK Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of High Court Justice Christopher Clarke that the administration of law in Russia is liable to be manipulated by powerful Russian businessmen and politically influential individuals pursuing vendettas for their financial gain. “Improper interference by State actors” was the phrase accepted by the three appeal court judges to refer to the behaviour of the Russian prosecutor-general, ministries of Interior and Justice, police, and courts. (more…)
Sergey Frank, Sovcomflot’s chief executive, has testified in the High Court that he knew nothing about an illegal information- gathering operation, targeted against his rival and former CEO, Dmitry Skarga, but that the figure in charge, who is referred to in the court evidence, may have been Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, chairman of the SCF board until last year.
Frank and his company charge Skarga and SCF’s former chartering partner, Yury Nikitin, with fraudulent ship sale and lease-back transactions, and receiving kickbacks on hull sales and shipyard orders. The lawsuit was initiated almost four years ago, after Frank, a federal transport minister, had been dropped from the government, and appointed to the shipping company instead. Skarga was then moved by the Kremlin to the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, to be Senator for Volgograd. (more…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 BlueLine (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 @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.
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.
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.
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.
Those lighting Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral pyre are torching the truth of the matter – that Gorbachev was a liar of monumental vanity who betrayed his country out of greed and incompetence, outpointed by his adversaries in Moscow, Washington, and London because they knew him better than he knew himself.