DERIPASKA AND LAWYER ASKED FOR WARRANTY AGAINST RECEIVING STOLEN GOODS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska demanded, and received from Roman Abramovich, a warranty that in his takeover of Rusal shares, he wasn’t buying stolen goods. Testimony by Deripaska’s London lawyer, Paul Hauser, followed in the UK High Court last week with details which Deripaska himself claimed in his testimony he couldn’t remember at all.

The testimony ought to revise, dramatically, the history of the so-called Russian aluminium wars. Until now, it has been accepted that those who ended up with the goods bravely fought off gangs of primitive thieves and homicidal thugs acting on their own initiative.
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DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN ON BLACK, US REPORT OF THE END-GAME AIMS AT SARKOZY, KEEPS OBAMA OFF THE BOARD

By John Helmer, Moscow

In May, when not a single head of a government holding a seat on the board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dared say what he thought about the criminal case against managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said: “it really is hard to believe that everything is as it was initially presented. I just can’t believe that – it is beyond me to understand it.”

It’s a safe bet at this point in time, looking back, that Putin was pretty sure there was a plot against DSK; and that he believed that French and American government officials were in on it. But note — it’s easier to speculate the French were; easier to prove the Americans were.
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OFFSHORE SEQUEL — RASHNIKOV PAYS DOUBLE THE MARKET PRICE TO BUY AUSTRALIAN IRON-ORE PROJECT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Early this morning, November 25, Flinders Mines announced that Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), owned by Victor Rashnikov, has signed a full takeover offer, proposing to buy all 1.8 billion Flinders Mines shares (including options) on issue at 30 Australian cents. This values the company at A$546.3 million (US$530 million) — a premium of 82% to the share price and market capitalization of the company on November 22, before the offer was announced; and at double the value of Flinders Mines three months ago. The MMK offer will also provide $10 million for the share options claimed by Flinders Mines managers who commissioned the Citi banking group in September to look for candidates to buy them out.
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TARTS AND TOFFS – ALEXANDER LEBEDEV’S LONDON NEWSPAPER TARTS UP THE BANANA BUSINESS OF VLADIMIR KEKHMAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you could make more money turning bananas into ballet, it’s likely that you couldn’t do it in places where the supply of bananas is plentiful and the price cheap, but the demand for ballet non-existent. But what if in places where the supply of ballet dancers is large and their unit price low, you can use banana sales revenue to kick start a business, where the profit target is a brand-name like the Bolshoi Theatre?
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FOR THE CAT’S AMUSEMENT — RUSSIA’S FUTURE IS ON THE LINE (LEASH)

By John Helmer, Moscow

To gauge the future welfare of Russia and the Russians, nothing is more telling than the Cat Test.

Michel de Montaigne (left) originated it in one of his 16th century essays, when he wrote: “When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.” The name of Montaigne’s cat isn’t known. In any event, what he meant didn’t refer to a real-life cat. A hypothetical one would have done just as well, as Montaigne was making his point, not about cats, but about men. His point was: what if what we think about ourselves is insignificant, compared to what others think of us? In short, the Cat Test is a measurement of our capacity to think reciprocally.
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WHAT THE BUTLER SAW – MAKE THAT ABRAMOVICH’S COOK, HERR SPONRING

By John Helmer, Moscow

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently conceded that the oligarchs who were running Russia behind the shaking hand and raddled brain of Boris Yeltsin had caused such chaos, Putin was obliged to use what he called “manual control” to recover the country. The evidence given last week in the UK High Court trial of Berezovsky v Abramovich reveals what Abramovich got up to outside Russia, when he thought he was safe from Kremlin supervision – holidays, airplane rides, limousine and helicopter trips between seaside villas and ski chalets, lots of them. That is according to Christian Sponring, the Austrian cook who became Abramovich’s major domo, and after fourteen years, still is.
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EVEN IF US MARINES CAN DIG IRON-ORE AND COKING COAL, WHO WILL BUY IT? SUPPOSE CHINA WERE TO TELL AUSTRALIA IT PREFERS RUSSIAN MINES FOR ITS RAW MATERIALS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The share price of OM Holdings (OMH:U), one of the few pure manganese miners in the world to be listed on an international stock exchange, fell 9% the day after the Australian and US governments signed a new military pact, inviting 2,500 US Marines to a base in Darwin, and threatening China with as yet undisclosed new military measures. OMH’s manganese is mined in Australia, and that’s where its share is listed also. But its control shareholders are Chinese, who have employed Singapore-based nominees to run the Australian source of manganese – an alloy to strengthen steel — and protect Chinese steelmills from having the manganese price dictated by the real government in Australia, BHP Billiton, one of the world’s largest manganese producers. BHP’s share price fell 2% on the same day.
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AFTER HIS HIGH COURT TESTIMONY, WHICH WAY FOR DERIPASKA NOW?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has made his debut in the witness-box of the UK High Court, testifying for almost three hours on Friday afternoon, after being called as a witness by Roman Abramovich against the claims of Boris Berezovsky.

So precise and painstaking were Deripaska’s responses to some of the questions asked by the High Court Justice Dame Elizabeth Gloster and Laurence Rabinowitz, counsel for Berezovsky, that the near-total collapse of another of Deripaska’s cognitive functions, his memory, stunned the courtroom in London. At one point, the presiding judge told Rabinowitz that she permitted him to continue a line of questioning to probe Deripaska’s claim for forgetfulness after Rabinowitz said he had done as much as he could.
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ANDREI BORODIN OF THE BANK OF MOSCOW ACCUSES PRESIDENT MEDVEDEV OF STICK-UP

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a time when mass protests against the greed and criminality of bankers have spread from from the US to Greece, Italy and the UK, and on across the world, the London Daily Telegraph headline, “Financiers are being forced out of Russia”, might be widely applauded by a certain section of the population. So the Bolshie Russians are doing to them what noone else in the capitalist world dares – that might be the theme for Telegraph columnist Con Coughlin. Except that it isn’t.
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FIBS FROM UNDER GROUND – MECHEL MINING AND HIGHLAND GOLD

By John Helmer, Moscow

Ekaterina Videman is the spokesman for Mechel and Mechel Mining, wealth accumulation vehicles controlled by Igor Zyuzin (left). What she and the company announce publicly is what they want public shareholders to think, and they do not respond readily to questions. This is allowable under the New York Stock Exchange rules for Mechel, because it is a foreign-domiciled listing on the US exchange, and that exempts it from disclosure requirements which apply to the domestic stocks on the same exchange.
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RUSSIAN BEER – THE MAN’S DRINK GOES LIMP

By John Helmer, Moscow

Global warming should be so good for Russia that, as long as St. Petersburg can be jacked up by a metre or so, it may pay for the Kremlin to accelerate the melting of the Arctic ice-pack, if it can. But will that be so good for the beverages Russians like for slaking their thirst? Beer, for instance.

According to the latest announcements from Denmark-based brewer Carlsberg, profits of 3.3 billion Danish krone ($591 million) have fallen by 20% in the third quarter, ending September 30. And because almost half of Carlsberg’s profits are earned from beer sales in Russia, the bad news must be Russian in origin. Carlsberg sells 45 brands of beer in the Russian market, ranging alphabetically from Baltika to Nevskoye, Uralskoye, and my favourite, Zhigulevskoye (as aerated and rusty as my old car).
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WHAT GAME IS VLADIMIR KEKHMAN PLAYING WITH RUSSIA’S BANANAS?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Is Vladimir Kekhman going to lose his bananas because the Joint Fruit Company (JFC) he owns, Russia’s banana trade leader, cannot, or will not, pay $16.2 million in commercial damages awarded since August by the UK High Court in London?

Kekhman, who doubles as director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, was recently named Man of the Year in the Theatre Producer category by Russia’s GQ Magazine. In March, he won the Izvestia Celebrity of the Year award in the Culture category (Good Deed was the other category). The year after next, Kekhman said at the March award ceremony, he plans bicentennial celebrations for Wagner and Verdi. Until then, it’s a case of la forza del destino – though not the one commissioned from Verdi by the old Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg.
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ABRAMOVICH CONFUSES SCREWING AND MAKING LOVE, WITH OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

An unusual moment occurred on Wednesday this week in Roman Abramovich’s testimony in the UK High Court when he refers to the seigneurial right – that historically doubtful power a feudal lord claimed for first sex with young virgins on his estates, who were, by feudal law, his property.

Abramovich says: “Well, it’s the thing which is called the right of the first night”. In the Russian and the English, Abramovich is referring to the Latin jus primae noctis – properly translated, that’s the law of the first night. The feudal law textbooks claim the rape could be bought off if the girl gave the lord part or all of her dowry. Either way, she would become used property and unmarriageable.
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WHEN IS A FREE FLOAT A TOY BALLOON – POLYMETAL’S CONTROL SHAREHOLDERS PREPARE TO LET GO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Let’s hear it for Polymetal’s control shareholders – they have devised a scheme that appears to have fooled much of the Moscow market, but few in the London market. By moving Polymetal to the main board of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), they have camouflaged a free floating share bloc which isn’t, in order to create a better share-price platform to sell out. And that is what is known in the toy balloon business as a prick.
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SERGEI FRANK TAKES A STAB AT IRONY – UK COURT OF APPEAL RULES TO HEAR MORE

By John Helmer, Moscow

There are two ironies in Sergei Frank’s latest outing in the London courts on November 4. One is that Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot, is not lodging an appeal against rulings last December and March by High Court Justice Andrew Smith, judging Frank himself to have been dishonest. Nor is he claiming that most of the rulings, which have vindicated the three men he has targeted for almost six years– tanker charterer Yury Nikitin, and former chief executives Dmitry Skarga and Tagir Izmaylov – are faulty.
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WORLD’S WEIRDEST FACT – ROMAN ABRAMOVICH DOESN’T KNOW HOW OR IF RUSSIA TAXES DIVIDENDS

By John Helmer, Moscow

One of Russia’s richest men, and by some accounts one of the cleverest, claims he has no idea whether the principal source of his income is taxed. The admission came just a few minutes after three in the afternoon in London last Friday. Roman Abramovich may have been tired, having been on the witness stand in the High Court since 10 that morning, and for the fifth gruelling day in row.
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SEX CHANGE IN THE DIAMOND BUSINESS — ALROSA NOW WEARS THE PANTS, AFTER THE OPPENHEIMERS SELL THEIR BALLS, I MEAN THE CROWN JEWELS

By John Helmer, Moscow

There’s not much of a market in used testicles.

When Jonathan Oppenheimer (right image) was obliged to sell his last week, ending the Oppenheimer family’s century-old diamond business, those closest to the affair in Johannesburg sniffed that Jonathan Oppenheimer’s wife Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer had so gravely damaged the value of the De Beers brand, her father-in-law, Nicholas Oppenheimer, was obliged to accept a discount buyout from Anglo American Corporation.
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404 ERROR! WEBSITE ATTACKERS FOUGHT OFF AFTER DERIPASKA VISA STORY APPEARS

For readers who have been experiencing interruptions of internet connexion and seeing instead notices of 404 error, the explanation is a series of denial-of-service (DOS) attacks launched against this website in an attempt to stop publication. Technical evidence reveals that the attacker began bombarding the website server about 20 minutes after a story was published last Thursday, October 27, regarding Oleg Deripaska’s latest attempts to overturn the ban on his entry to the US. Here’s the story again.
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THE RUSSIAN DRINK BUBBLE BURSTS — FINANCIAL FIZZ AT COCA-COLA DEPENDS ON STILL JUICE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Carbonated water was an 18th century invention in England, associated with the brewing of beer. Fizz came in just over a hundred years later in New Orleans, when carbonated water was added to a cocktail of gin, lemon, lime, egg white and sugar, stirred. After years of trying fizzy drinks from the US, the Russian drinker appears finally to have decided enough is enough, at least for bubbles. Coca-Cola is discovering that its growth in Russia now depends on its Russian branded juice beverages, while sales demand for Coca-Cola-branded products appears to be declining.
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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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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