NEW YEAR BREAK


 

We are taking our New Year break, but you’ll see – we’ll be back shortly on the run.

MILLENNIUM MEMORIES – REPRISE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Many things can make a person greater than he or she really is, except 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 accordingly was 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 a year, defied time. The evidence of that was surely that we were standing there saluting, wasn’t it?
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THE PASSING OF A CARDINAL — ALROSA NAMES SPECIAL EXECUTIVE FOR RELATIONS WITH SAKHA

By John Helmer in Moscow

Alrosa announced last week that it has appointed Vasily Grabtsevich as a special senior executive for managing relations between the two controlling shareholders of the company, the federal government in Moscow and the Sakha republic government in Yakutsk. The federal government controls almost 51% of the closed shareholding of Alrosa; Sakha controls 40%.

The creation of the new executive post at the vice president level, and the naming of a trusted subordinate of regional president, Vyacheslav Shtirov (centre figure), indicates the extent to which the new Alrosa CEO, Fyodor Andreyev (rear right), is intent on eliminating informal mechanisms and mediators, who have dominated the sensitive inter-government relationship under previous chief executives, Alexander Nichiporuk and Sergei Vybornov.
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HOW PROFESSOR JAMES MORIARTY CAME TO RUSSIA, AND FATHERED GUESS WHO…. BEARS’ PICNIC & HOLIDAY PUZZLER FOR 2009

At the Reichenbach Falls, May 4, 1891

This is how the two greatest criminal minds of the 19th century came to grips, and set the course for the history of Russia in both the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sherlock Holmes (right) met James Moriarty (left) in hand to hand combat, and the two of them followed Holmes’s hat (extreme left) downwards. But despite the appearances, not to the death of either of them. And so it is hardly an exaggeration to say that the plaque at the Falls today, which reads “at this fearful place, Sherlock Holmes vanquished Professor Moriarty, on 4 May 1891”, is a piece of Swiss confectionery, and not a very tasteful one at that.
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EVRAZ REPORTS THIRD FATAL MINE BLAST IN TWO YEARS – RENAISSANCE CAPITAL RECOMMENDS BUYING SHARES

By John Helmer in Moscow

Evraz, the largest of Russia’s integrated steel and mining groups, has reported that an underground detonation of explosives in a shaft of its mine Yestyuninskaya — part of the group’s Vysokogorsky iron-ore combine — has killed at least nine miners, and another four are still missing. The incident near the city of Nizhny Tagil, in the Sverdlovsk region, where Evraz operates its lead Russian steelmill, occurred Wednesday at a depth of 180 metres. A local police source said that about 4 tonnes of ammonium-based explosive had detonated while being trasnsported in shaft trolleys.
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THE SOVCOMFLOT CRASH TEST – SHIPPING COMPANY ANNOUNCES $5.5 BILLION INVESTMENT PLAN, WHILE RISKING HIGH COURT DEFEAT

By John Helmer in Moscow

Sovcomflot (SCF), the state owned Russian tanker operator, released this week a board-approved strategy for the next five years, proposing to invest $5.5 billion with a combination of new borrowings and share sales over a six-year period. This capital outlay on a fleet that already counts 146 vessels, with another 16 on shipyard order, is unprecedented.

According to Sovcomflot board chairman, Sergei Naryshkin, a career associate of Prime minister Vladimir Putin and a deputy prime minister in the present Russian government, the “strategic tasks for SCF Group from 2010 to 2015 include both further growth in the SCF Group’s share of servicing Russia’s seaborne exports , the provision of integrated logistical solutions for offshore upstream oil and gas projects, and the continuing expansion of traditional shipping services in the global market.” The statement is cited in the company’s posting of the results of its final board meeting for the year, on December 18. The full text can be read here: http://www.sovcomflot.ru/npage.aspx?did=57531
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SAPIENCE VERSUS PORK — TOBY THE SAPIENT PIG HAS A HUNCH RUSAL’S SHARE SALE IS AN INSIDER DEAL BETWEEN THE KREMLIN, THE UNDERWRITERS, AND SOMEONE IN CHINA WHO IS HAVING TROUBLE WITH THE HONG KONG SECURITIES AND FUTURES ORDINANCE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Hong Kong Exchange executives and the Hong Kong stock market regulator appear to be cracking and splitting under the strain of a phantom share listing and sale for United Company Rusal, Russia’s aluminium monopoly and one of the world’s leading producers of bauxite, alumina and primary aluminium. Although anonymous sources insist in press leaks that Rusal’s listing application has been approved, the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong refuse to say this, or issue any of the notices, announcements, and public disclosures that are standard in such cases.
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DIAMOND CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG — RUSSIAN STOCKPILE AGENCY TO BUY ALROSA PRODUCTION AT $71 PER CARAT

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia’s state stockpile agency Gokhran has this week released details of next year’s state funding for rough diamond purchases from Alrosa, revealing for the first time the average price per carat that will be paid.

According to a direct Gokran source and to an Interfax briefing by another Gokhran official, Gokhran says the 2010 budget allocates the rouble equivalent of $1 billion for purchase of about 14 million carats. This is an unprecedented public disclosure of the dollar and carat totals, allowing the first-ever calculation that Gokhran is paying, or plans to pay Alrosa, an average of just over $71 per carat.
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NOT EVEN THE WIND IS FAVOURABLE FOR DERIPASKA – HE FAILS TO TIE DOWN ASSETS AHEAD OF STORM, AND NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME

By John Helmer in Moscow

A powerful 6-point storm on Monday did an estimated $60 million worth of damage, and severely set back the construction schedule for the new Sochi cargo port, being built for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Imeretinsky Bay. The new port is being built by the holding company of bankrupt Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, and funded from the federal budget.

Liebherr-Werk Nenzing has the contract to supply mobile harbour cranes and other cargo handling equipment.
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CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? NODDY MORDASHOV ASKS MR PLOD TO FORGIVE HIS BILLION-DOLLAR US LOSSES, ASKS PERMISSION TO SELL ASSETS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russian business is child’s play, and very forgiving too, if you are big enough to pay for your mistakes. That’s why Alexei Mordashov is smiling in the picture, taken in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s office on December 4.

Mordashov is the owner of the second most heavily indebted steelmaking group in Russia, after Roman Abramovich’s Evraz group. Both have made multi-billion dollar blunders buying loss-making US steelmills at premium prices, just before last year’s bust reduced the value of the assets, but left enormous loans to be serviced. Both have laid off thousands of Russian steelworkers to “optimise” – Noddy’s word – on the costs of producing steel in Russia, so that the Russian mills will make profitable heaps of money, that can be spent subsidizing the blunders across the Atlantic. Mr Plod knows what’s going on – that’s his job. You might think he cares, too.
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THE GOODFELLAS DO THE BLACK SEA – STICK-UP FOR NOVOROSSIYSK PORT SHAREHOLDERS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia’s state-owned oil pipeline company Transneft has upped the pressure on the controlling shareholders of Novorossiysk Commercial Seaport Company (NCSC) in what one Moscow maritime analyst calls today “an arm-twisting preliminary to next year’s contest over the sale of the 20% state stake in the port.”

While in London the UK High Court enters the third month of the Sovcomflot trial, exposing how Russian maritime officials lie, threaten, plot, and bribe over tanker fleet concessions, the fight over shareholding control of Russia’s second largest oil port illustrates the lack of inhibition with which similar tactics continue to be used for oil concessions onshore, one stage before the oil is loaded for export. Supervising all oil concessions, and with a special interest in the maritime end of the sales chain, according to the London trial testimony, is Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (3rd from left).
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AND THE WAGES OF SIN ARE… AUSTRALIAN COURT ORDERS $11 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS FOR KAZAKH MINING AND OIL PROJECT SKIMMING

By John Helmer in Moscow

To all junior miners, resource project developers, and investors in the risky wilds of Kazakhstan, be of good cheer — a Supreme Court judgement issued on December 11 in Sydney, Australia, has awarded the equivalent of US$11.4 million in compensation, penalties, and costs against a group of lawyers who have been found guilty of engaging in dishonest business practices.

Justice Clifford Einstein had ruled in October that the Kazakhstan-based law firm of Michael Wilson & Partners had been defrauded by three lawyers who had been employed by Wilson; and who had secretly moonlighted to earn fees and share bonuses for stock market listings and other transactions involving several major Kazakh resource projects — Sunkar Resources’s Chilisai phosphate project; Frontier Mining’s Benkala copper project; Roxi Petroleum; Max Petroleum; two other Central Asian mining projects, Urals Gold and Ablai; and four projects tied to these and other operators in the same region — Karamandybas (oil and gas), Ravninnoye (oil), Beibars Munai (oil), Lancaster, and Kangamiut (seafoods).
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ARCHANGEL DIAMOND REVEALS LUKOIL CASH SMUGGLING SCHEME INTO RUSSIA — NEW EVIDENCE UNVEILED IN BILLION-DOLLAR RACKETEERING AND FRAUD CLAIM

By John Helmer in Moscow

Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC) has re-emerged from a bankruptcy proceeding initiated earlier this year by De Beers, to launch new charges in the Colorado state court against Russian oil company LUKoil, and well-known Russian oligarchs, Vagit Alekperov (lead bearer) and Alisher Usmanov (2nd bearer).

ADC is now being directed by a group of minority stakeholders, led by US attorney Bruce Marks; former board director, Clive Hartz; and the Firebird Global Master Fund of New York, with a stake of about 18%. De Beers owns 56% of ADC’s shares.
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THREE STEPS TO BAILING OUT A RUSSIAN OLIGARCH – BUT FESCO OBJECTS TO MEETING STATE BANK SECURITY REQUIREMENT

Step-1, believe me, I have no money Step-2, you drop your money in my hand Step-3, I wave goodbye and sail on my way

By John Helmer in Moscow

Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), the listed Russian dry-cargo fleet operator controlled by Sergei Generalov (left image), says it has run into a debt refinancing problem with the Russian state bank, Vneshtorgbank (VTB).

A Moscow report by Kommersant newspaper, quoting from a November 5 letter Generalov sent to the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Oleg Saveleyev, and a report this week from the Moscow brokerage Finam, indicate that, in order to receive state repayment guarantees of up to Rb2.5 billion ($83 million), Generalov must transfer asset value and shares required by the bank. However, Generalov says he can’t right now; or doesn’t want to.
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ASK TOBY THE SAPIENT PIG – WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OLEG DERIPASKA? WHAT NEXT FOR RUSAL?

Relayed by John Helmer in Moscow

Question for Toby: has the Hong Kong Stock Exchange rejected the share listing application by United Company Rusal?

Toby’s answer: Affirmative grunt.

For at least two months the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and its listing division, and in parallel the state regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) have been studying the proposal for listing and sale of shares by United Company Rusal, the first Russian company to attempt to list in the China market. Although the exchange and the commission don’t explain their action in individual cases, it is now plain that they could not agree to approve the listing in several sessions of the 28-member listing committee. The reports of their meetings – on November 19, 26, December 3 and 7 – have been cryptic, with anonymous sources claiming different reasons for deferral and inaction, until now the negative outcome is obvious.
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FLASH! HONG KONG EXCHANGE POSTPONES APPROVAL OF RUSAL SHARE SALE AGAIN — KREMLIN MAKES NEW OFFER TO BUY RUSAL SHARES IF NOONE ELSE WILL

By John Helmer in Moscow

In signals issued just ahead of today’s scheduled meeting of the Hong Kong Exchange Listing Committee, the committee announced a further postponement of its ruling on the Rusal application until December 7. The exchange has issued no public explanation. Media reports claim the reason is that the 28-member committee lacked the minimum required forum of 5 members to sit on the Rusal review. Earlier reports from the exchange had indicated that 8 members had been selected from the 28-member complement for the review. Today’s reports from Hong Kong suggest that 4 of these had dropped out for today’s meeting. The hint is that the applicant and its underwriters are being discreetly invited to take the initiative of withdrawing before next Monday, relieving the exchange of the responsibility of casting a vote on Rusal’s application. This option allows what one underwriter in London suggests as justification — market demand so late in the year is not sufficiently favourable for the share sale.
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WHO OWNS RUSAL NOW? WHO TRUSTS THE TRUSTEE? DERIPASKA GIVES UP RUSAL SHARES, BUT NOT QUITE CONTROL

By John Helmer in Moscow

A public statement by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin, which he then corrected a few hours later, confirms what Russia’s rival oligarch groups, including those seeking Rusal’s bankruptcy, have believed for many weeks. Oleg Deripaska, controlling shareholder of United Company Rusal, has given up control of his shares to Russian state officials in order to stave off his foreign and domestic creditors. It is also the decision of the state officials involved that, for their interest, possibly the state’s, but not necessarily to benefit Deripaska himself, the company must be protected from a shareholding combination of Chinese, Libyan, and other foreign shareholders. In short, Rusal has been nationalized in effect, if not in form.

This is not a last-minute expedient to make Rusal’s initial public offering (IPO) of shares appear to be a genuine privatisation transaction. The transfer of Deripaska’s control stake is a new stage in the way in which state officials run the aluminium concession, which Deripaska has brought to the point of bankruptcy at home, and asset forfeit abroad.
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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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