Interview with Maxim Shkadov by Vladimir Kulakov and John Helmer
The 36-year old Kristall Production Corporation is one of the world’s leading producers of polished diamonds, and Russia’s biggest. It remains 100% state owned under the supervision of the federal Ministry of Finance, and is headquartered at Smolensk, where it cuts and polishes diamonds, before distributing them for sale across the world. The sales network for Kristall’s stones covers the major diamond markets – Antwerp, Hong Kong, New York, and Dubai. Maxim Shkadov is the chief executive. On a visit to Smolensk after an interval of fifteen years –the first visit was in 1994, when Alexander Skhadov, Maxim’s father, was the CEO – this interview is the most detailed public assessment of how the Russian diamond industry has fared during the global collapse of demand. (more…)
Sad to say, there is no magic in capitalism. If there were, it would have been entertaining to watch how Polyus Gold, Russia’s leading goldminer, suddenly snapped a losing streak on Friday, and rocketed upward with a 4% share price gain in Moscow (MICEX rouble exchange), 7% on the London Stock Exchange, and 8% on the Frankfurt exchange. This came despite a 5% drop earlier the same week, and forecasts from well-known brokerages and investment banks that the share price might have another 5% to fall.
Say the magic word! Add a big puff of stage smoke! Bravo Maestro! The trick is a marvel! (more…)
Suleiman Kerimov is selling Polyus Gold shares in a bid to raise cash. The market signal triggered a price decline for the Moscow and London-listed share (PGML:LN) of 5% this week through Thursday. A Moscow brokerage is predicting that the selloff may cut the price by 10%.
The chain of circumstances was revealed by a source close to the transaction, who clarified why the first press leak in Moscow suggested that both Kerimov (38%), and his co-controlling shareholder Mikhail Prokhorov (40%, including friendlies), intended to sell 5% apiece, for a total disposal of 10%. Onexim, Prokhorov’s holding, refused to confirm this, and on November 19, Polyus Gold posted this website announcement: (more…)
Confucius say – why buy a treasure from a man, if you can wait for him to lose it.
The turmoil now affecting Oleg Deripaska’s United Company Rusal has become a critical test of the difference between the Russian and Chinese approach to resource concessions and national company value. Even those guardians of international financial propriety, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, have noticed that Rusal’s market valuation is dropping through the $20 billion point and reaching the mark once privately predicted by Renaissance Capital, now a Mikhail Prokhorov property and Rusal underwriter – just $10 billion. (more…)
Land-based delivery of Gazprom’s natural gas is more than holding its own in the European gas market against competing seaborne deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG), according to a report from Gazprom in Moscow yesterday. This says that Gazprom’s exports to the European Union (EU) increased by 19.4% in the third quarter of this year, compared to the second quarter. This was also up 9.5% on the same period of 2008, and 8% above the the level for Q3 2007.
The figures are a sharp demonstration that Gazprom is managing to regain its share of Europe’s gas market with lower prices than the LNG tankers from Qatar, Algeria and Egypt can deliver through the Adriatic and Mediterranean. The Italian market is leading this new trend, with 22% growth in Gazprom purchases compared to last year. This is despite the relative ease of access for tankers to deliver LNG to Italian port terminals at Isola di Porto Levante (Adriatic), Panigaglia (Mediterranean), and Brindisi (Adriatic). (more…)
Put a little Hong Kong whitewash on your Rusal brush, and look at the difference it makes to your teeth…
By John Helmer in Moscow
A left turn and quick walk out of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) building on the waterfront in Central Hong Kong will take you to the ferry for Macau, where, in less than sixty minutes , you can be at the roulette wheel of the Sands Macau; and within a comparable interval you can gamble away a fortune. This Thursday, inside a closed meeting-room of the exchange, a handful of insiders will decide whether the HKEx intends to spin a wheel of its own, and offer a betting opportunity to a selected group of financial institutions. The HKEx wager is much bigger; the odds less chancy. (more…)
The Russian grain trade is complaining that there has been another outbreak of the weevil wars delaying large consignments of Russian export wheat from being landed and sold at ports in Syria and Egypt, ostensibly for reason of infestation.
This time, two vessels and 110,000 tonnes of grain, originally loaded at Novorossiysk, are reported to be standing at the Syrian port of Tartus. The Russian Grain Union president, Arkady Zlochevsky, revealed the shipping problem at a meeting in Moscow yesterday of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). (more…)
Yury Privalov, the former head of Sovcomflot’s London-based shipping operations, wound up his testimony in the High Court this week with half a dozen new allegations undocumented before in court, or since his release on parole from a Moscow prison on October 10, 2008.
Testifying over eight days by videolink from Moscow, Privalov, who has already served 22 months in Swiss and Russian prisons, revealed that his sole employment now is as a consultant to Sovcomflot chief executive, Sergey Frank (right figure). Details of hidden commissions he admits skimming from newbuild contracts and bank loan transactions were admitted in court, with deal percentages ranging from 1% to 4.3%. In total, Privalov’s bank account balances were identified in testimony at $14.5 million at the end of 2004, when Frank started an investigation. (more…)
The Russian government has decided to underwrite the refinancing of pipemaker TMK’s loan portfolio with state repayment guarantees. TMK is controlled by Dmitry Pumpyansky (see right figure).
A curt statement, issued Tuesday by Deputy Minister of Industry and Energy, Andrei Dementyev, said “the necessary papers are being processed by the Finance Ministry”. What the official didn’t say was how much debt the guarantee (and taxpayer obligation) will cover; and whether it will be limited to Russian state bank loans, or TMK’s entire loan portfolio. At present, TMK’s debt is more than $3.6 billion, of which $2 billion is short-term, and must be repaid within six months. (more…)
A flurry of sales and revenue claims posted on the Alrosa website have yet to be substantiated by the chief executive, Fyodor Andreyev, or his spokesman, Andrei Polyakov. Their silence four months into Andreyev’s term in office recalls the claims, issued in June and July by the former chief executive, Sergei Vybornov, that he had fixed from 6 to 15 sales contracts for a total value of $900 million. The pricing formula, according to Vybornov, was “the price-list of the Ministry of Finance plus 17 %”. Each contract, according to Vybornov, had been for not less than $200 million, and for terms of 3 to 5 years. The buyers, Vybornov claimed, included Tiffany of the US; Dali Diamonds and Diarough of Belgium; and some unidentified Israeli companies. “We have begun with [the Belgian companies],” Vybornov said publicly, “for the simple reason that the Belgian government declared the granting of guarantees to the diamond banks for a total of $1 billion A bit later, this initiative got the [additional] support of the Flemish authorities, declaring guarantees for $250 million.” (more…)
In the business of boxing, a pugilist’s hands are not only his stock in trade, but weapons as potentially lethal for him to wield as a pistol is for a stickup man. If a boxer uses his fists outside the ring, he may have difficulty proving self-defence, while his adversary will have less trouble justifying having to shoot him.
So in the business of banking, if a banker offers a mining company not money, but advice, what exactly is the service rendered, and what is the banker’s word worth? How dangerous might it be for the financial health of a business to take the advice, and who carries liability, especially if the banker doesn’t perform any other service except being on the losing side of a takeover bid? And what of the practice of bankers charging twice and three times over for the same advice, plus signing fees, monthly retainers, and personal expenses on top? (more…)
The Bank of Moscow disclosed today, without comment, that in obtaining court orders in Moscow and Novosibirsk to seize Vadim Varshavsky’s salary and Moscow apartments, it has also obtained legal sanction for “the restriction of V.E.Varshavsky’s departure from the Russian Federation.”
Vadim Varshavsky, the owner of the bankrupt Estar group of midsize, specialty steel mills, has been hit with court bankruptcy orders in Moscow and Novosibirsk to sequestrate half of his salary as a member of parliament, and at least two apartment residences he maintains in Moscow.
The orders by the courts are in relation to debts claimed by the Bank of Moscow, which is owed more than Rb364 million ($13 million) in defaulted loans to the Estar trading unit and to Novosibirsk Metal Works (NMZ), one of the mills in Varshavsky’s Estar group. NMZ was transferred on a 5-year lease to Metallservis, a metal trading company owned by Oleg Tyurpenko, in July. But creditors have continued pursuing Varshavsky, who had given his personal guarantee to secure the Bank of Moscow loans. (more…)
Ronald Knox’s “ten commandments” that summarize all stories in the detective genre were published in 1929. Here they are:
1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
2. All supernatural or praeternatural phenomena are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. (more…)
There is no evidence currently available that Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has anything like the hot-line to God which enabled Noah of biblical fame to master the surge of the Black Sea, and with the help of the birdie — the first spy satellite on record – to make it safely to land.
What is known about Noah’s Black Sea strategy has been the subject of controversy among believers for several thousand years. More interestingly, since 1997, academics have speculated that during the glacial meltdown between about 15,000 BC and 5,000 BC, the Black Sea level dropped below the level of the Aegean and Mediterranean, causing a surge northward through the Bosphorus. The surge, according to one geological report, was a big one – 200 times the volume over Niagara Falls, each day for 300 days. (more…)
High River Gold (HRG:CN) is being prepared for a sale, along with other goldmine assets of the Severstal Resources group belonging to Alexei Mordashov, to a Chinese buyer.
At least, that is what Moscow sources report as the rationale behind a proposed swap of equity for loan, announced by HRG and the Troika Dialog-Standard Bank group last week. This proposal has drawn immediate opposition from independent minority investors in HRG, who have complained to the Toronto Stock Exchange that the transaction is a sweetheart deal at an advantageously low price for the new shareholder. (more…)
Russia’s state-aid agent for struggling shipyards, the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), is to have another chief executive after the current one, Alexander Buzakov (right figure), was ordered out by the chairman of USC’s board, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (left figure).
A newspaper leak, published in Moscow on Monday, reporting that Buzakov had aroused Sechin’s ire, without identifying the cause, has mystified St. Petersburg shipyard sources. One told Fairplay that poor financial control may be one of the reasons. Another suggested that the new holding is unwieldy, and impossible to put on a sound financial footing. The shipyard union in Kaliningrad and a St. Peterrsburg shiping expert say they believe Buzakov is being scapegoated for trying to halt the diversion of state cash through the corporation. (more…)
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?”
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.
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.
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.