PSSSTTT! DID VICTOR RASHNIKOV MISLEAD PRIME MINISTER PUTIN ON WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON AT MAGNITKA? AND TURKEY TOO?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), owned by Victor Rashnikov (left image), released its second-quarter operational report today, several days behind schedule. The report confirms the Russia-wide trend, already reported here, of cutbacks by the steelmaker for most types of its domestic production.

The news may be awkward for Rashnikov, because a fortnight ago he assured Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that he was producing more steel, especially auto steel sheet, to feed growing Russian demand; because the only obvious sign of growth in production at Rashnikov’s enterprises is not at home in Russia, but across the water in Turkey; and finally, because Rashnikov’s balance-sheet is going to show that he’s making more profit on less production by driving Russian steel prices upward.
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LESSONS IN COUNTING — ALROSA TRIES AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, Russia’s near-monopoly diamond miner, is for the third year running the world’s largest diamond miner.

The good news appears in a brief summary report issued by the company this week. Production by Alrosa in the six months to June 30, this year, comes to 19 million carats. That compares with 15.5 million carats attributed from De Beers; 5.2 million carats from Rio Tinto; and just 1.1 million carats from BHP Billiton. De Beers managed to stay even with its mine result for the same period in 2010, but Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are reporting that their mine results are dwindling. On the face of it, Alrosa is not only producing 8% more diamonds by volume this year, compared to 2010; it is also widening its lead over its international rivals.
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SUMMER SWALLOWS IN THE RUSSIAN STEEL INDUSTRY – ARE THEY GOING UP OR DOWN?

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s almost August, the month when everyone knows that serious coincidences can happen in Russia – and I’m not talking about the lunar cycle or Ramadan.

In election years, the prevention of coincidences has always been Kremlin Priority Number-One. This year that’s tempered by President Dmitry Medvedev’s concern that nothing coincidental happens to his re-election campaign. And in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s White House, it is plain that reassuring Russian workers of their job security and income against negative coincidence is also a priority effort.
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WHEN THE PENNY DROPS IN BULGARIA, OIL PRICES GO UP – LUKOIL IN EMERGENCY TALKS AFTER REFINERY CLOSURE THREAT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Faced with a Bulgarian government-ordered shutdown of its Burgas oil refinery, LUKoil, the Russian oil producer and exporter, began emergency negotiations with Bulgarian officials this morning, a LUKoil source told Fairplay. Bulgarian opposition politicians say the negotiations are being staged by Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (image right) to protect his party and himself from voter wrath, as petrol prices continue upwards and the Bulgarian presidential election approaches its due date on October 23.

The Bulgarian Customs agency triggered today’s negotiations by revoking the Burgas refinery’s license to sell and buy crude oil products. The published reason is that LUKoil did not instal the meters required by the Customs to measure the crude and product flows to and from the refinery, and verify the product taxes it should collect.
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HOW TO HIDE A BILLION-DOLLAR RUSSIAN STEELMILL IN THE BRAZILIAN JUNGLE – IGOR ZYUZIN’S LITTLE VENTURE IN NON-TRANSPARENCY

By John Helmer, Moscow

On February 1, 2010, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a report on operational results for the previous year, 2009, of the Mechel steel and mining group, Russia’s fifth-ranked steelmaker, which is also listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The group is owned by Igor Zyuzin (image, centre) with 66.8% of the shares; and at the time of the SEC filing, he was the group chief executive officer. He also signed the disclosure.
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MANGANESE MINER FIGHT TRIGGERS SHARE PRICE FALL — THE TONG THAT TWISTS TOTH’S TONGUE

By John Helmer, Moscow

The fight by China Inc. to keep control over the flow and price of manganese into Chinese refineries, and out of the hands of pesky international shareholders, has moved into Round-3 after Rounds 1 and 2 turned into bruising knockdowns.

OM Holdings (OMH) — a Singapore-based manganese miner and metals refiner with mainland Chinese control shareholders — faces a new challenge from minority Australian and Singaporean shareholders, who formally announced today their call for an emergency general meeting (EGM) and the election of a new board of directors. A shareholder meeting and vote should be called by August 15 in Singapore.
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GUINEA PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT – ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the finale of the film Casablanca, the Humphrey Bogart character has shot the German officer to enable his ex-lover Ilsa and her husband, a Resistance man on the run, to make good their escape. Captain Renault sees an opportunity to do the right thing for a change, protecting Bogey and his friends. He orders the subaltern off to “round up the usual suspects.” Ilsa flies away, and Renault and Bogey walk into the fog, heading south for Brazzaville, in the Congo.
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WORSE THAN A CREAM PIE IN THE FACE – MURDOCH TAKES ONE-SIXTH OF HIS ASKING PRICE FOR NEWS OUTDOOR RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia, it turns out, has the only government in the world able and willing to do real damage to Rupert Murdoch – and throw him out.

While the UK and US governments hold their breaths as squads of policemen poke through the Murdoch media files to find evidence of corrupt entertainments and backdoor understandings with powerful politicians – some of them still hanging on to power — the Russian state bank VTB has put together a consortium and obliged Murdoch to accept $270 million for his 79% control stake in the outdoor advertising company, News Outdoor Russia.
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FESCO GETS CONSOLATION PRIZE, LOSES TRANSCONTAINER BID

By John Helmer, Moscow

Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), owned by Sergei Generalov, announced yesterday it has acquired MetizTrans, a small railcar operator in eastern Siberia. No value for the transaction was disclosed; MetizTrans owns 971 railcars, used mostly for delivering Russian coal to Sea of Japan ports for export.

The announced purchase makes a small increment to Fesco’s railcar fleet of 19,000 units, according to a Fesco release. “We believe the acquisition … will further boost our presence in rail transportation in these regions”, Fesco quotes Alexey Grom, its Vice-President for Rail, as saying.
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VTB GETS OLEG DERIPASKA BY THE SHORT HAIRS – CUTTING HIS ASSET VALUATIONS REVEALS CHANGE OF HONG KONG IPO PLAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

EN+, one of Oleg Deripaska’s holding companies, announced today it has swapped $500 million of its debt to VTB, the Russian state bank, for a 4.35% shareholding which the bank will now hold in EN+. Oleg Deripaska, who owns all of EN+ through another of his holding companies, Basic Element, was the seller. The transaction price means that Deripaska accepted a valuation by VTB for all of EN+’s assets of $11.5 billion:
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DID VLADIMIR YEVTUSHENKOV CLIP GNAT ROTHSCHILD’S WINGS IN THE VALLARES FLY-BY?

By John Helmer, Moscow

On Saturday, while the controlling shareholders of Sky News, Rupert Murdoch and his son James, were having to eat their words and apologize for invasion of privacy, bribery of policemen, lying to parliament, and other law-breaking — losing control of Sky News in the process — one of their ace reporters was claiming to have uncovered this scoop: “Exclusive: Hayward Eyes £8bn Russian Deals.”
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SERGEI FRANK HANGS ON SOVCOMFLOT PRIVATIZATION AND SHARE SALE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Frank (bottom image), chief executive of Sovcomflot, is hanging on to his job despite judgements by the UK High Court last December and this March that he is a liar and worse.

Sovcomflot, one of the largest oil tanker companies in the world, has sought leave to appeal against the rulings, and the trial judge’s dismissal of its first appeal application. The final judgement in the case has been delayed until October.
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US GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATIONS OF DERIPASKA REVEAL KREMLIN THREAT OF “YUKOS NATIONALIZATION” LEAVING US BANKS WITHOUT CASH REPAYMENT AND WORTHLESS SHARE COLLATERAL

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the wake of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s negotiations in Washington this week, US State Department documents have leaked from 2009 and 2010, revealing that American and other international banks were given an ultimatum by Deputy Prime Ministers Igor Shuvalov and Igor Sechin – either roll over the debts Oleg Deripaska had run up, or else the Kremlin would see they would get nothing at all.
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ABRAMOVICH TO GET THE SECOND BIGGEST GIFT IN RUSSIAN HISTORY, WHILE IGOR ZYUZIN HOPES FOR HIS TURN SHORTLY

By John Helmer, Moscow

If Vnesheconombank (VEB), the state bailout bank chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, really has agreed to pay $5.3 billion for the 80% control shareholding of Raspadskaya, the coking coalminer, then this is going to be Roman Abramovich’s lucky day. His second lucky day, if to count the September 2005 transaction when state-owned Gazprom paid $13 billion for Abramovich’s 72.6% stake in the oil company Sibneft. Well, it’s everyone’s lucky day, because Abramovich is known to be a sharing kind of man. With almost everyone.
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ANIMATION HIT PLAYS DC THIS WEEK – STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL DAN RUSSELL IN SONG AND DANCE COMBO WITH OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

During this week’s Washington, DC, visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a mid-level State Department official appears to be the key to whether Oleg Deripaska’s lobbying campaign to recover his US visa will succeed.

Dan Russell, who served in the US Embassy in Moscow between 2003 and 2008, is now Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. In a file just released for internet access by the US Department of Justice, Russell has been named by Deripaska’s lobbyists as having been on the receiving end of a spate of telephone-calls and emails – more than any US official has ever received from the Deripaska lobbyists to date; in the public record, that is.
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FIG LEAF OR MAPLE LEAF — MORDASHOV MANAGEMENT ACCUSES HELMER OF “NOT RELIABLE INFORMATION”

By John Helmer, Moscow

As Canadian stock market regulators open their first-ever investigation into listing practices by Russian companies trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the chief executive of High River Gold (HRG) has warned shareholders against reading reports appearing on this website.

A Canadian shareholder of HRG has received an email letter from Konstantin Soboloevsky, the chief executive officer of High River Gold based in Toronto. Alexei Mordashov owns about 73% of HRG; 27% of the shares are held by minority shareholders, most of them Canadians.
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HE’S A GOOD EGG – SOUTH AFRICAN INVESTMENT FUND REVIVES FABERGE EGG FOR FIRST NEW SALES SINCE 1917

By John Helmer, Moscow

Brian Gilbertson, the leading South African mining entrepreneur, has launched a new stage of his investment in the Faberge jewellery marque with the first release for sale since 1917 of Faberge jewelled eggs, designed by the family of the original Russian court jeweller, Peter Carl Faberge. Four of the eggs, including a solid diamond encrusted piece, were displayed in London today. The full collection went on display in Paris yesterday.
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THE ONTARIO SECURITIES COMMISSION ANNOUNCES THE UNPRECEDENTED: AN INVESTIGATION OF WRONGDOING BY “EMERGING MARKETS ISSUERS” – THAT’S DUDLEY DO-RIGHT FOR MAXIM FINSKY AND MIKHAIL PROKHOROV

By John Helmer, Moscow

The greatest of the great Canadians, Glenn Gould was, by his own admission, a lover of driving big, fast cars on the open road. When criticized for his rule-breaking, he acknowledged: “I know I’m at fault for driving through red lights occasionally. But look at the number of times I’ve stopped at the green, and never got credit for it.”
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BRITISH BEAUTY WAKES UP TO MURDOCH – THE CHARMING PRINCE TURNS OUT TO BE THE DIRTY DIGGER THE RUSSIANS ALWAYS KNEW HE WAS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Naivety is not what the British establishment can ever be accused of. Certainly never towards Rupert Murdoch, whose British nickname has been the Dirty Digger — a reference to his business practices and to his Australian nationality.

So yesterday in the House of Commons, when the Conservative Party and Labor Party leaderships claimed to have just woken up to what reprobates Rupert , his son James, and the senior management of his UK newspapers are – in relation to a telephone hacking and police bribes scandal – their statements drip with cynicism. Ed Miliband, the Labor party leader, led the chorus of hypocrites, referring to a News Ltd. Executive whom Murdoch himself continues to defend: “[she] “should take responsibility and stand down”. Actually, what Miliband means is that she should play scapegoat for Murdoch, and suffer nothing more serious than retirement on pension.
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A FISH FINGER IN EVERY PIE — TIMCHENKO TAKES A BITE INTO AND OUT OF THE RUSSIAN SEA GROUP

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you’re feeling peckish, but the price of fish is too high to swallow, whom do you call?

Gennady Timchenko (right image), that’s who – the man who has settled with several English newspapers out of court that he’s not a friend of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and benefits commercially in no way at all from his political and administrative contacts with people like Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin.
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TURKISH DELIGHT LOSES ITS TASTE — TRANSNEFT GOES BACK TO BULGARIA TO HAMMER PRIME MINISTER BORISOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s state pipeline company Transneft went public yesterday morning with an attack on the Prime Minister of Bulgaria for dragging his feet over the trans-Balkan pipeline proposed between Burgas and Alexandropouli, on the Aegean Sea. Transneft chief executive Nikolai Tokarev was reported by Moscow news wires as saying: “God save anyone from partners like our Bulgarian friends.”
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MORDASHOV HIDES GOLD MINING COMPANY FROM SHAREHOLDERS NEAR THE NORTH POLE

By John Helmer, Moscow

They said it could never be done, but Alexei Mordashov has done it!

Having failed to buy out the 27% Canadian minority shareholders in High River Gold (HRG), who refuse to sell at his price, Mordashov, owner of 73% of the shares, has hidden the annual general meeting where noone but he could find it – and where no shareholder could ask awkward questions. This first-ever hidden AGM has been arranged without audio or video or even telephone connection to the outside world, so that not even the investment institutions of London, who in February rejected Mordashov’s attempted initial public offering of Nord Gold shares, could listen in.
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THE STRAUSS-KAHN CRIMINAL CASE COLLAPSES — WHOSE FINGERPRINTS ARE ON THE FRAME-UP?

By John Helmer, Moscow

The disclosures by disgruntled New York law enforcers in the US press today, revealing that the accusing chamber-maid in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) affair is a career liar with thousands of recent dollars in her bank account, puts an end to the trumped-up prosecution. Whether Strauss-Kahn returns to be President of France is up to him. President, oops Prime Minister Vladimir Putin turns out to be right once again.
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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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