If Sergei Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian shipping company, had not been judged recently in the UK High Court to be dishonest, vindictive, and unbelievable, a warning from a global ratings agency of potentially bad news to come about his company may not be as serious as the red flag raised this week in London.
On September 28, Fitch Ratings issued a release announcing that it “has placed Russia-based OAO Sovcomflot’s Long-term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of ‘BBB-‘ on Rating Watch Negative (RWN). SCF Capital Limited’s senior unsecured notes, which are guaranteed by SCF, rated ‘BBB-‘ have also been placed on RWN. The RWN is pending completion of a review by Fitch of additional details including but not limited to the issuer’s increased capital expenditure programme over the next few years compared to Fitch’s previous expectations. Fitch expects to resolve the RWN within the next week.” (more…)
Alexei Mordashov’s plan to revive the initial public offering (IPO) of his goldmining group Nord Gold has been reported to be aiming at a relaunch date before Christmas; his first attempt at selling shares on the London market was called off in February when market conditions were much more favourable to him than they are now. The current volatility in gold and other metals prices – Nord Gold documents are forecasting a 10% decline in gold prices between 2010 and 2012 — and in mining share prices, may compel another postponement for Nord Gold. (more…)
In retrospect, Alexei Kudrin, deputy prime minister and minister of finance, has turned out to be less stupid than Mikhail Prokhorov, when offered President Dmitry Medvedev’s poisoned chalice. On the other hand, by declaring yesterday the race for prime minister is now wide open to all-comers, Kudrin invites a chancy political replay, in which the only certain votes Kudrin can count on are in the Anglo-American financial media, and in Washington, where Kudrin has just issued his bid for Vladimir Putin’s endorsement. In Russian politics, that makes a chalice even more poisoned than the one Kudrin refused and Prokhorov swallowed in June. (more…)
Joint Fruit Company (JFC), once the owner of Russia’s largest fleet of banana boats and the largest importer of bananas in the Russian market, is slipping on something much bigger than one of its own fruit skins. But the company and its owner, St. Petersburg entrepreneur Vladimir Kekhman, insist everything is ship-shape. More, they say — it’s British justice and five High Court judges who are at fault for JFC’s troubles. Kekhman owns 80% of JFC through Cyprus and British Virgin Island-registered entities, Huntley and JFC Group Holdings. Bank of St. Petersburg owns a 20% stake. (more…)
Until now the principal reason Russian businessmen ran for election to parliament was to secure legislator’s immunity from criminal prosecution. Lobbying their business interests into legislation, or drawing money out of the federal budget into their company projects and pockets, didn’t require getting elected or taking a parliamentary seat. (more…)
The warrior qualities of Russia’s patron saint could come in handy in politics – aim, endurance, fearlessness – but Mikhail Prokhorov has managed in his three-month political career to demonstrate their opposites, and to prove – stunningly if you calculate his personal wealth — that he’s innumerate: his capacity to count – votes, not money – is pathologically unformed. (more…)
The state-owned Russian tanker company Sovcomflot revealed this week that its profits are sinking, and that despite months of effort Morgan Stanley, Sovcomflot’s banker and broker, has been unable to attract market demand for its shares. As the much delayed privatization and initial public offering (IPO) of Sovcomflot shares fail once more, the company board chairman, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin, remains at his post. This is despite the decree signed on April 2 by President Dmitry Medvedev requiring senior state officials to vacate their seats on state company boards. (more…)
There is no negotiation under way and no agreement between Alrosa and India’s state-owned Minerals and Metals Trading Company, MMTC, for a private placement of Alrosa shares in Indian hands, Russian sources, including a high Alrosa official, told PolishedPrices.com today.
They were responding to a string of recent press reports from Mumbai claiming MMTC has been discussing a share buy with Alrosa worth an estimated $2 billion. The last valuation of the state-owned Russian diamond miner, whch was made public by its chief executive Fyodor Andreyev in March, indicated a target range of between $6 billion and $12 billion. (more…)
The big difference between the penny dreadful and the novels of the great crime writers is not the characters who wind up dead, nor who did it to them, nor how; but rather what truth the tale reveals about the society in which the crime takes place and the humankind responsible for the dirty deeds.
Originally, in the mid-19th century, the penny dreadful was a type of mass-market syndication of stories that would cost their readers only a penny to read in weekly serializations. That was at the time in England when Charles Dickens’s value-added serializations cost one shilling, twelve times the price. The lower the cover, the simpler the tale, the cheaper the paper, and the more lurid the details. In other words, maximum sex and violence, minimum sociology, politics, and moral philosophy. (more…)
Intelligence quotient tests are not required for visas to enter Russia temporarily, especially not if you are running another country.
The last certified fool to be received by the Kremlin at the head of government level was Ronald Reagan. In retrospect, it is now clear that he was in an early stage of clinical brain damage. But in the case of British Prime Minister David Cameron, the symptoms appear to have been evidence when he was just 19 years of age. (more…)
In case you’ve been missing the action this summer: the Russian wheat harvest is proving to be so abundant, Moscow experts and grain traders are forecasting that exports will reach up to 23.5 million tonnes in the trading season which runs until June 30, next year.
Alexander Korbut, spokesman for the Russian Grain Union, representing the exporters, said the target of 23.5 million tonnes is “realistic, because Russia has plenty of grain, and it is absolutely necessary to export this volume to empty the storages. The market environment is also favourable.” (more…)
The last time Russia’s leadership assembled to listen to a piece of classical music was seventy-five years ago. It was on January 26, 1936, that Josef Stalin and the entire Politburo were at the Bolshoi Theatre to hear Dmitry Shostakovich’s opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Stalin was seen not to like the atonal harmonies or the loudness of the percussion and brass lines; he also laughed at one of the erotic scenes.
Look carefully at the lower box on the left-side of the Bolshoi stage and on the right-side of the ground-floor buffet (before reconstruction), and you will have been able to spot the special doors through which Soviet leaders could come and go to the music with least distraction for the audience. It was through that passage that they exited when they didn’t like what they heard. How courteous of them, you might think in retrospect (more…)
Victor Rashnikov, owner of the Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), appears to have done it to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin one more time.
The latest financial report, issued last week by the company, reveals a whopping 93% plunge in net income – second quarter compared to first quarter — despite a 9% gain in sales revenues. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the company forecast for the third and fourth quarters suggests that Rashnikov is aiming to limit production and cut costs in Russia, and transfer his profit-taking to Turkey. (more…)
“Conversations with senior representatives of ALCOA indicate that SUAL was not Deripaska’s first or only choice for this merger (which is one possible reason why it has taken more than five years for the two parties to come together). Deripaska approached ALCOA in the first half of this year, but the talks broke down when the asset valuation gap could not be closed to Deripaska’s satisfaction.”
This time it seems to be clear that Transneft, Russia state-owned oil pipeline company, has had quite enough of both the Bulgarians and the Turks, and has told them it won’t build its planned pipelines across the territory of either of them. This puts an end, a temporary end probably, to the three-cornered political games the governments have been playing for more than a year now. (more…)
If you are just back from the beach with your sachel of books dog-eared, riddled with beach sand, even read to the finish, you may have missed the latest in this year’s crop of thrillers with Russians for villains. Mark Mills’s House of the Hanged was released in July. The Independent newspaper of London, owned since March by ex-KGB man Alexander Lebedev, claims this is the author’s “best work in an already accomplished career.”
A few weeks earlier, Chris Morgan Jones’s Agent of Deceit had a paid-up state-owned Russian oligarch in the seat of villainy, with the fear of Imperial Russia Revived the touchstone of a plot that tied British journalists, London due diligence investigators, and MI6 on the same side (Good). (more…)
Nostradamus, the 16th century French sage, doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his recipe for the Black Plague. He recommended swift removal of infected corpses; fresh air; clean water; and drinking copious amounts of Vitamin C in rose-hip tea. He was also against the then customary practice of bleeding patients.
The beak in his outfit was filled with aromatic herbs for staunching the putrid air. But the mortality rate among plague doctors was high; most survived by running away from their patients. To keep them on the job, municipalities used to offer them four times the going rate for conventional doctors. (more…)
Dmitry Rybolovlev’s interest in acquiring US assets is well-known in part because he paid the highest price in American history for a house. Take the tour.
Compared to the asking price of $125 million and the transaction price of $95 million, Rybolovlev got a 24% discount. But the asset value of the house has done poorly compared to Rybolovlev’s Uralkali shares. The assessed value of the Miami property dropped about 40% in the twelve months since he bought it. (more…)
Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.
There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.
There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.
Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers. In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.
Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.
How little the Germans have changed.
But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.” By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”
So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.
Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.
China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.
The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.
In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022, is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.
There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself. Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”
This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.
The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.
Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age, after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.
After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster history to be her own joke.
Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself. This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.
In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English: the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.
The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British. Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating. The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin BlueLine (d. 1996).
The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok) are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences. The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.
Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money. “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.
By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.
The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.
Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.
China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years. The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.
So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.
The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).
A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester, he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018, claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.
Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”
Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.
After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.
The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.”
Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.
New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.
Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes, it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.
The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.
The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory. The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.
“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”
“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”
The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image). McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.
Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.
Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.
In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.
Those lighting Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral pyre are torching the truth of the matter – that Gorbachev was a liar of monumental vanity who betrayed his country out of greed and incompetence, outpointed by his adversaries in Moscow, Washington, and London because they knew him better than he knew himself.