CHINESE MANDARINS DON OLD HAT TO PLAY EMPIRE GAME

By John Helmer in Moscow

China has joined an English peer, a Bush Administration retiree, and a special Kremlin envoy in the attempt to persuade or pressure the Guinean Government into halting its court proceedings and fraud and tax audits of international mining companies, and restore concession rights, corruptly acquired, to Guinea’s resource treasure. At stake for China is access for Chinalco, the state-owned metals and mining company, to the Simandou iron-ore concession — one of the largest unmined reserves of iron-ore in the world.
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WHO’S IN THE MISSIONARY POSITION NOW – KREMLIN EMISSARY IN GUINEA BEGS RELIEF FOR RUSAL CONCESSIONS

By John Helmer in Moscow and Conakry

Alexey Vasiliev, a Russian professor specializing in the history of Saudi Arabia, flew to the west African republic of Guinea last week in a bid to lobby the Guinean Prime Minister, Jean-Marie Dore, on behalf of United Company Rusal, the bauxite and alumina producer in Guinea. Rusal is the largest Russian company currently operating in Africa.

Vasiliev’s mission was also to make it appear that the Kremlin wants Guinea to take its teeth out of Rusal, whose mines and an alumina refinery in Guinea are under threat of licence revocation, and of a billion-dollar damages claim currently being prepared by Guinean government auditors and international experts.
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WHAT GAME, WHOSE DEAL IS THIS? ARCELORMITTAL CONSIDERS BUYING COAL MINES FROM EVRAZ

By John Helmer in Moscow

In an unusual break with the traditional hold Russian steel companies like to keep on their domestic coking-coal sources, and secure the future expansion of their steel capacity with ample reserves, the Evraz group is reported to be considering the sale of two of its Kemerovo mines to global and regional rival, ArcelorMittal. If they are good mines, why is Evraz selling? And if they are bad ones, why is ArcelorMittal buying? ArcelorMittal, which initiated the industry reports of the asset deal, has firmly silenced the tongue that was wagging; Evraz refuses to open its mouth at all.
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RAIL BOSS YAKUNIN ADMITS RISK THAT PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CHAIKA IS CROOKED – STATE RAILWAYS COMPANY WARNS LENDERS THAT THE VOLGOTANKER-TYPE ATTACK MAY HAPPEN AGAIN

By John Helmer in Moscow

It’s fashionable in trade these days, especially when delicate consumer sensitivities are involved, to call a slaughter-house a meat-packing plant, as if what goes in the front-door can be made to seem as tasteful as what goes out the back. The German slogan, “Arbeit Macht Frei”, tried the technique on human beings. For the livestock concerned, the smell is always the giveaway.

In Russian business, it’s the prospectuses which release the tell-tale odour. What’s remarkable about this tell-tale prospectus is who is doing the telling – one of the largest and most powerful of Russian state companies, accompanied and advised by the state-controlled bank, VTB, pointing the finger at the Prosecutor-General.
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TOUGH LOVE IN A HOT BUSINESS — COORDINATION URGED IN THE GAS TRADE AHEAD OF ALGERIAN MEETING

By John Helmer in Moscow

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin tried sweet-talking the Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Jabr al-Thani, in Moscow this week on “closer coordination” between the world’s leading exporters of natural and liquefied gas (LNG). At stake are the growing deliveries of shipborne Qatari LNG to European ports, versus the shrinking deliveries of Russian natural gas to the same market, across land by pipeline.

Qatar more than doubled its shipments of LNG into the European market last year, to 15.9 billion cubic metres. Gazprom is estimated to have suffered a reduction of 19 bcm delivered to Europe in the same period; about half of that loss was made up by Qatar.
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PUTIN MAKES FIRST STATE VISIT EVER TO A BANANA BOAT – IS THIS BANANA BUSINESS OR MONKEY BUSINESS, AND WHO GAINS?

By John Helmer in Moscow

Visits by politicians to banana boats are almost unprecedented outside the tropical climes; no Russian prime minister has ever boarded one before. Almost as rare is it for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to favour a foreign-owned shipping enterprise when it is competing against a Russian enterprise owned, not only by a fellow St. Petersburger, but the oligarch in his sector.

So who gained, and why, from Putin’s presence aboard the Maersk Niamey in St. Petersburg port on Monday?
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PUTIN ASKS CLINTON FOR US GOVERNMENT SUPPORT OF RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who also chairs the Russian bailout bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), asked Friday for the US Government to signal its support for at least two oligarch-owned Russian companies in the US.

The remark, which has taken State Department officials by surprise, mentioned Norilsk Nickel and steelmaker Severstal, whose controlling shareholders are Vladimir Potanin and Alexei Mordashov, respectively. But Putin is believed to be thinking also of two other, heavily indebted oligarch groups with American interests and US bank obligations — steelmaker Evraz, controlled by Roman Abramovich (left image), and Oleg Deripaska (right image), owner of United Company Rusal and the Basic Element automobile group.
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PROJECT UNIVERSE DEFEATS JP MORGAN, AS MANGANESE MINER LOOKS BEYOND TO CHINA WIN

By John Helmer in Moscow

In the first of a worldwide series of trials scheduled against JP Morgan Chase, the US-based banking colossus, a judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court in Sydney decided last week that an attempt by JP Morgan to claim A$50.18 million (dollars are Australian unless noted) in fees was “capricious, unreasonable and unjust”. He also ruled that, before JP Morgan launched its lawsuit, the bank had received a $20 million payment for services rendered that was too much, with the balance to be refunded.
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ALROSA UNVEILS PRODUCTION TEASER TO BEAT DE BEERS

By John Helmer in Moscow

Russia’s dominant diamond miner, state-owned Alrosa, has grabbed the crown from De Beers as the world’s largest diamond producer – and most profitable one, too.

According to a press release, reporting what was said at the executive board meeting of Alrosa in Mirny, early this week, a draft annual report for last year was recommended for approval by the Supervisory Board, as Alrosa’s board of directors is known. Since the board has yet to meet and vote its approval, no report has been issued yet. However, the company release claims this report contains an aggregate diamond sales result for 2009 of $2,212.6 million. If this includes sales of polished, as well as rough, then it marks a decline of 5.3% on 2008. when Alrosa reports selling $157.6 million worth of polished, and $2,178.8 million of rough.
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US JUDGE REPLACED IN ARCHANGEL DIAMOND CASE

By John Helmer in Moscow

The US federal district court judge hearing the multi-billion dollar damage claim by Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC) against LUKoil has been replaced this week in Colorado, after an ADC shareholder discovered that the judge, Christine Arguello, had once worked for a law firm which has been associated with LUKoil.
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WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BEAR? RUSSIAN PIPELINE BOSS CASTS NEW DOUBT ON AEGEAN TANKER TERMINAL, BULGARIAN LINK

By John Helmer in Moscow

The chief executive of Russia’s pipeline company Transneft, Nikolay Tokarev (left), has told Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin that there is not enough Russian crude oil to make commercially feasible the proposed trans-Balkan pipeline to a new tanker terminal at Alexandroupoli. Tokarev’s opinion, conveyed privately last September, appears to have encouraged Sechin to announce the following month that he, Russia’s chief decision-maker for oil, gas and the energy sector, favours replacing the trans-Balkan pipeline route between Burgas, Bulgaria, and Alexandroupoli, Greece, in favour of a much bigger-capacity pipeline delivering Russian crude from the Turkish Black Sea port of Samsun, across land, to Ceyhan, the Turkish tanker terminal on the Aegean.
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MORDASHOV’S TUTTI FRUTTI OFFER — PAY MY €800 MILLION DEBTS, AND I’LL SELL YOU THE ITALIAN STEEL COMPANY I SOLD TO MY SHAREHOLDERS FOR THE PRICE I GOT FOR IT THREE YEARS AGO — €1.1 BILLION

By John Helmer in Moscow

Banking sources in Moscow are reporting that the sale of the Lucchini assets of the Severstal group, controlled by Alexei Mordashov, is not imminent.

According to the sources, a precondition of the transaction is a refinancing or renegotiation of the terms of Lucchini’s current debts, estimated to be about €800 million. Severstal has confirmed it is discussing the Lucchini sale to several interested buyers, including Metinvest of the Ukraine. Tata Steel (India), Baosteel (China), Gruppo Riva (Italy), and ArcelorMittal (Euro-India) have also been reported as interested to bid. Baosteel, Metinvest and Gruppo Riva are viewed in Moscow as having the most free cash to spend to pay the Severstal asking price.
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INDIAN DIAMOND CUTTERS CELEBRATE FIRST BIG RUSSIAN DEAL

By John Helmer in Moscow

Alrosa has signed a series of three contracts worth a total of $490 million at current diamond values with three Indian cutters, traditionally Alrosa’s largest clients in India. But industry sources in Moscow say they are concerned to find out whether the announcement presages a much larger flow of Russian midsize rough to India, with less available to Russian cutters.
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ICEBERGS AHEAD, ATHWART, AND ABAFT – SOVCOMFLOT’S RATING SINKS, AS HIGH COURT RULING LOOMS LARGE

By John Helmer in Moscow

Sovcomflot, the global tanker group run by Sergei Frank (left) and Russian government officials, received a negative rating report from the Moody’s international rating agency this week, as proceedings in the company’s half-billion-dollar claim against the former management wind up in the UK High Court in London. According to Moody’s latest report, Sovcomflot’s outlook has been changed from stable to negative.

Closing submissions from lawyers for the shipping company and for Dmitry Skarga, the former CEO (right), and charterer Yury Nikitin, reach the High Court in London this week, and oral argument will be concluded by March 31. Justice Andrew Smith is expected to rule by July. If Sovcomflot loses, it may face an order to pay defendant costs and penalties of more than $50 million, plus legal costs of its own, which are believed to be even greater.
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SPARKY ISN’T SURE THIS TIME — CRIMINAL CASE OPENED INTO MECHEL COKE BATTERY EXPLOSION

By John Helmer in Moscow

The Chelyabinsk prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into a lethal explosion this week at a coke battery of the Mechel group in Chelyabinsk. One worker at the battery was killed immediately, and three others are in serious condition in hospital after the blast, which occurred, according to a company statement, on Thursday morning, at coke shop number 2 of Mechel-Coke. A search by Emergency Ministry specialists continues today for others who may have been killed in the explosion, and remain unrecognizable in the rubble.
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BLIND FORTUNE — GOKHRAN TO CUT DIAMOND STOCKING FROM ALROSA THIS YEAR; REVALUE THE STONES FOR THE MARKET, BUT DEFER SALES FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS

By John Helmer in Moscow

The state diamond stockpile agency, Gokhran, will not be purchasing as many Alrosa rough diamonds this year as had been expected and budgeted for, according to a brief statement by the Gokhran head, Vladimir Rybkin. But before Gokhran sells any of its new stocks, Rybkin said the state agency will have to re-value the Alrosa rough.
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RUSSIA LIFTS BAR ON US PORK, CHICKEN, AFTER US ACCEPTS RUSSIAN DOCTORING

By John Helmer in Moscow

Two chickens were lying side by side in the refrigerator case of a Moscow shop in the Soviet year of 1988. One, American, was plump and cheerful; the other, Russian, was scrawny and sarcastic. “I’m so much fitter than you,” said the American to the Russian. “Well, at least I died of natural causes,” replied the Russian.

Not funny any more, and no more jokes like that. Today, if the American chicken is to be allowed into the Moscow shop, he will be obliged to pass a medical test which the local poultry has already passed with flying colours. Pigs, too.
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IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE GREEKS – TWO OPTIONS FOR REPAYING THE GERMANS

The Koukidis Option

On April 27, 1941, Konstantinos Koukidis was the Greek Evzone on flag-guard duty at the Acropolis, when the German invaders arrived. When a German officer ordered Koukidis to surrender, give up the Greek flag, and raise the German flag in its place, Koukidis took the Greek flag down, wrapped it around his body, and jumped from the Acropolis rock to his death.

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GV GOLD TRIES TO SELL ITSELF, AGAIN

By John Helmer in Moscow

In the junior goldmining business, hope springs eternal. So naturally it did, when GV Gold, the Irkutsk-based junior goldminer controlled by Sergei Dokuchayev, went before a recent Moscow miners’ beauty contest to announce a new share issue bid. Maxim Gorlachev, head of corporate development, told the Adam Smith Institute metals conference in Moscow that “an IPO is one of the options we are considering in order to fund growth.” The target for fund raising is $300 million, he said, in order to lift the volume of current gold produced from 111,000 troy ounces to four times that amount, 438,000 oz., in another four years. The shares might be listed and sold in Hong Kong, London, Moscow or Toronto, Gorlachev is also reported to have said.
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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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