VICTOR RASHNIKOV IS CUTTING STEEL PRODUCTION AT MAGNITOGORSK, BUT GEORGE TELL-NO-LIES WASHINGTON HE ISN’T

By John Helmer, Moscow

Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), a publicly listed shareholding company controlled by Victor Rashnikov, says that in the first two months of this year, it has not cut back on production of steel. “Everything is fine and we now have growth,” Yelena Evstigneyeva, MMK’s spokesman told CRU Steel News.

She was responding to a report of monthly production and market data, issued on March 26 by the federal Ministry of Economic Development (MED) in Moscow. The report says that in January and February, MMK turned out 1.804 million tonnes of finished steel; this was down by 6.2% from the same period of 2011.
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DERIPASKA TRIES DESPERATION MEASURES, SUCKERING MURDOCH’S POST, TRIGGERING CONTEMPT OF COURT INVESTIGATION IN NEW YORK

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska’s courtroom defence against the multi-billion dollar claim by his former patron and business partner, Mikhail Chernoy (Michael Cherney) collapsed into lawyer malfeasance and retraction of charges in federal US district court in New York last week.

A leak to the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, published on March 26, has also triggered pending action for contempt of court. This relates to peddling on Deripaska’s part, publication on the Post’s part, of false allegations contained in a court filing which Deripaska was obliged to withdraw, and which was then placed under US court seal.
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MASTERING THE ART OF THE SHORT SENTENCE IS THE MARK OF A GREAT CIVILIZATION – MIKHAIL ZOSHCHENKO’S LESSON NUMBER-2

By John Helmer, Moscow

Now we move on from the lesson of how to be victorious over big people and bullies when still small —that’s for getting through the daytimes with ВЛАДИМИР ВИЗАНТИЙСКИЙ – to the lesson of how to write a short sentence and say everything that must be said at the same time. That’s for getting through the terrors of the night.

In the department of small sentences, Mikhail Zoshchenko (centre image) is the greatest Russian exponent. For the English, Shakespeare and Dickens don’t make the grade, because they were best at writing long, contorted ones. In French, Flaubert beats Proust to a pulp. In American, Edgar Allan Poe and Raymond Chandler leave Henry James and Saul Bellow biting the dust.
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MEDVEDEV SHOULDN’T CRY OVER RUSSIA’S SPILT MILK – HE PUT IT THERE

By John Helmer, Moscow

If Russia’s Agriculture Minister, Elena Skrynnik, went to the trouble last week of decrying adulteration of Russia’s milk, then one thing is certain – the Franco-American syndicate which sells most of Russia’s milk and dominates the market is having trouble pricing down or buying up milk producers in the regions where they claim adulteration is “unfair competition”. That’s because “unfair competition” is what Danone of France and Pepsico of the US have been hoping would be more effective in the Russian milk market than it is proving to be. Naturally, what is unfair depends on who controls the milk production chain, and who doesn’t.

According to the milk sops in the Moscow media, Skrynnik recently sent a letter to the governors of regions specializing in milk production, urging them to halt sales of sub-standard milk. The adulterators are being accused of adding cheap palm oil imported from Southeast Asia instead of the more costly butterfat required by Russia’s product standards. “The use of tropical oils is unacceptable. The ministry will regularly monitor the situation,” Skrynnik is reported to have said.
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THERE IS NO BLAVATKIN, NO NUTKIN EITHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Valued correspondent (aka Boris Bear) has written in to point out an odd typo which crept into the texts of two recent stories involving Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik.

They are the two shareholding partners of United Company Rusal, with a 15.8% stake between them, who appear to have uncovered cooking of the books by Oleg Deripaska in relation to the value of Rusal’s 25% bloc of Norilsk Nickel shares. Deripaska amended the company’s financial report. Vekselberg went public.
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SKIRMISHING WITH STEEL – HOW THE US ATTACKS RUSSIA, RUSSIA FIGHTS BACK, AND VICE VERSA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Commanders of empires like the French, British, American and Russian suffer from an identical blind spot.

They all believe their power (arms, cash) is or should be great enough to destroy their adversaries decisively, totally, so that they can’t get up to fight again. The Americans lost the Vietnam war, as they are losing the Iraq, Afghan and in time, the Libyan and Syrian wars, because their enemies can and do get up to fight again. Not even B-52 carpet bombers, Tomahawk cruise missiles, or assassin drones can kill enough of them, nor the firepower prevent the empire’s casualties reaching breakpoint.
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BC IRON ON THE GRIDDLE — WHAT IS STEPHEN DATTELS DOING NOW?

By John Helmer, Moscow

BC Iron is a small but promising iron-ore miner from Western Australia, which is China’s mineral supply province and rival of Russian suppliers to China. The company is now testing the share price at which it was the target of an abortive takeover attempt a year ago. The bidder at that time, Regent Pacific, a Hong Kong-listed promoter of a junior mining stocks, is part-owned and part-chaired by Stephen Dattels, an impresario of stock market wagers. On the latest available financial reports, Regent Pacific is losing money at the mining game.

Regent Pacific is also the operator of a fixed-odds financial betting scheme which, according to the company website, is “the market leader in its [wagering] industry.” Gambling can be profitable; it seems Regent Markets Holdings Ltd, the betting affiliated unit of the group, is turning over far more money than the mining holding, and at last report generated a 6-month profit of US$1.07 million, compared with US$1.8 million loss for the mining business.
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ALROSA ISSUES SHARE WARNING, LUKOIL REPEATS MINE SALE OFFER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa has announced that the privatization plan for sale of its shares on the open market should be restricted in order to preserve government control of the company. The announcement was released Friday after a meeting of the Supervisory Board, Alrosa’s board of directors.

Now why exactly would this group of government officials representing the principal and controlling shares in the Russian diamond mining monopoly go to all the trouble of declaring the obvious? Who doesn’t already know and accept this policy?
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PUTIN ORDERED VNESHECONOMBANK NOT TO VOTE FOR RUSAL CHAIRMAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Ahead of the March 16 election of a new board chairman for United Company Rusal, President-elect Vladimir Putin did something that isn’t widely known; has never happened before; and has not been disclosed by Rusal.

The story of what happened in the run-up to the board vote can be read here. The qualifications of the new chairman, Barry Cheung, are here.

According to the Rusal press release of March 18, “Barry Cheung’s election as a Chairman was supported by a majority vote of the Board, including the independent directors. This proves that his candidacy meets the interests of all shareholders, including minorities. His appointment was also met by a marked rise in the Company’s share price, which had been declining over the past few days under pressure from the emotional and groundless statements made by SUAL Partners [Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik].”
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SHADOW THEATRE – THE RUSAL PUPPET SHOW GOES EAST

By John Helmer, Moscow

Barry Cheung (second left), the new board chairman of United Company Rusal and the first non-Russian chairman of a Russian monopoly, is viewed by his countrymen and business peers as a technocrat, a politician, and a businessman, in that order.

The one business he reports in the curriculum vitae released by Rusal is the Bermuda-registered, Hong Kong-listed Titan Petrochemicals Group Limited. This company says it has concentrated on selling floating and land-based oil storage services for Chinese oil buyers, as well as bunker fuel for vessels, after dropping out of the business of oil trading in 2008. Cheung says he was chief executive officer between July 2004 and January 2008, and then vice chairman of the Titan board. A search of Titan’s annual reports from 2008 to 2011 reveals that Cheung was replaced as chief executive in 2007 and moved to deputy chairman of the board; but he resigned from that post in June 2008.
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Correction: MRS KEKHMAN

Because the JFC company spokesman refused to confirm the name of Vladimir Kekhman’s wife, and thus clarify whether she has played a role in the management and board direction of JFC, it was incorrectly reported that Tatiana Litvinova, until very recently a board director at JFC, was Kekhman’s wife. This appears to be incorrect, based on research in the publicly accessible picture files of Russian media.

According to JFC, Mrs Kekhman’s identity was a private matter, and that’s where it would remain, if Viktoria Aminova had not agreed to publication of photographs of her with her husband (numbers 1 and 2), at presentations of fashion designs she sells (3 and 4), and at a public lecture on ballet and fashion (5). The likeness is confirming; so is the ring on the left finger in pictures 1, 3 and 5.

KEKHMAN FACES CONTEMPT OF COURT JUDGEMENT IN LONDON

By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Kekhman, the controlling shareholder of Joint Fruit Company (JFC), Russia’s biggest banana trader, has received a summons to appear in the UK High Court to face charges of contempt of court. If he is found culpable, he may be jailed. If he doesn’t appear and is convicted, he may be arrested on warrants exercisable at the frontiers of almost every country Kekhman likes to visit, especially on the tours planned this year for the Mikhailovsky Theatre and Ballet Company which Kekhman also directs.

It is unprecedented for a major Russian business figure to undergo a contempt of court proceeding in the British courts, and to date none has been sent to prison. But the case of Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov is a warning and omen for Kekhman. Ablyazov, the former controlling shareholder of BTA Bank, was convicted last month and sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt in relation to High Court asset freeze orders. He is now on the run.
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THE COLD CHAIR – WHO IS THE INDEPENDENT WHO WILL SIT IN DERIPASKA’S SEAT WITH KREMLIN PERMISSION?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (image top right) has always had trouble with his business partners when money rewards, administrative pressure, threats, or rigged courts failed to be persuasive. So he might have been more cautious announcing yesterday that the replacement of Victor Vekselberg as chairman of the board of United Company Rusal will be Deripaska’s decision to make swiftly and easily. At a conference call yesterday with reporters, Deripaska claimed the appointment will be made at a board meeting on Friday; and that Vekselberg is likely to be replaced by his choice of one of the board directors Deripaska considers independent. “The chair won’t even get cold,” Deripaska is reported as telling the reporters. None of the reporters is reported to have said anything.
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ACCOUNTING CHAMBER TRIES ATTACKING DERIPASKA’S TAX DODGES AGAIN, BUT SERGEI STEPASHIN HESITATES TO DEMONSTRATE HIS STRENGTH

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Stepashin is a former Prime Minister of Russia. He’s also been a security minister, justice minister and interior minister. He holds a doctorate of law, the academic rank of professor, and the military rank of Colonel-General. This is a serious pedigree — when he tilts at a target, Stepashin is a master of pen and sword. For many years he has headed the state audit organization responsible for supervising the legality and efficacy of state tax-gathering and state spending. This outfit is called the Accounting Chamber. Since it was created in 2000, Stepashin has been its only chief.
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VICTOR VEKSELBERG PLAYS DOMINOES — SECOND RUSAL CHAIRMAN REBELS AGAINST OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Vekselberg, chairman of the board of directors of United Company Rusal, has done what no Russian business partner of Oleg Deripaska has dared to do before, with one exception – announced publicly, and to Deripaska’s face, that Deripaska has violated his signed agreements and brought discredit on his business. Vekselberg, who once proposed merging his Siberian Ural Aluminium (SUAL) company with Mikhail Chernoy’s (Michael Cherney’s) 20% stake in Siberian Aluminium, putting Deripaska out of the business, now follows Chernoy in charging Deripaska with dereliction of his fiduciary duty, and worse. Cherney, the exception now joined by Vekselberg, takes Deripaska to trial in London in June.

It is unprecedented in Russian business for the chairman of the board of a major Russian company to make a public attack on the competence and propriety of the chief executive. This is because the board chairman of a Russian public company is generally the control shareholder, or the trustee of the control shareholder. But in this case, Vekselberg with 15.8% of the Rusal shares (shared with his partner Len Blavatnik) is implicitly challenging Deripaska’s nominal shareholding of 47.41%, hinting at what is widely suspected in Moscow – that Deripaska doesn’t himself control that bloc, and can be called to account for the loss of Rusal value by those who do.
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WHAT IS TRUE GRIT? BRITISH SPECIAL SERVICES KILL HOSTAGES IN NIGERIAN OPERATION WHICH THE RUSSIAN SPECIAL SERVICES REJECTED AS FATAL FOLLY YEARS AGO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Imagine that Russian spetznaz troops were helicoptered into a foreign country, opening fire on a hideout in which Russian citizens were being held hostage by heavily-armed bad guys demanding a ransom for their captives. And suppose the outcome of the firefight was the deaths of the hostages. One can be sure the Anglo-American media would headline the operation as a botch-up demonstrating the incompetence of the Russian military, the Russian lack of respect for the human rights of its citizens, and the ruthlessness of President-elect Vladimir Putin for giving the foolhardy order to fire.

“The beginning of the end of Putin” would be the sub-text, just as The Economist has front-covered its reporting of Russia this week, while its sister publication, The Financial Times, tries to talk down Putin’s election majority, talk up Russian risk in the markets, and ignore the contrary evidence of the RTS index — up 24% since the start of the year; down 4.3% after election day, and up again by 2.2% yesterday. As a Moscow-based reporter of a US paper of record complains, his bureau has been under orders from headquarters to keep up the anti-Putin drum-beat to the exclusion of other news.
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MADAME MEDVEDEVA GOES TO MONTECATINI, RUSSIA TAKES A BATH

By John Helmer, Moscow

This morning Signor Enzo Caderni, the Director of the Grand Hotel & Pace Spa at Montecatini Terme, a well-known establishment in the Tuscan mineral waters resort, has confirmed that the wife of the outgoing president of Russia, Svetlana Medvedeva , has taken his hotel for a personal visit. The entire hotel, but not all of its 140 rooms.

Details of her stay appeared first in the Italian newspapers, then in the Russian media. Since the hotel is currently closed for its seasonal break, and will not reopen to regular guests until March 23, it’s possible that the First Lady’s party will benefit from a substantial discount for their accommodation. Otherwise, her presidential suite would cost about €600 per night, and the full complement of connecting or accompanying rooms and suites about €12,000 per night, not counting nourishment, treatment, water, etc.
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IN THE HEAT OF THE KITCHEN – MURDOCH UNDER NEW PRESSURE FROM RUSSIAN CORRUPTION CHARGES

By John Helmer, Moscow

When British prime ministers borrow horses to ride from Rupert Murdoch’s employees, and Scotland Yard inspectors are entertained on their tab, it has been natural for Murdoch to expect he could tie a bridle on prime ministers and policemen and lead them in whatever direction he wanted. And so he has.

Still, the bribery, invasion of privacy, perversion of justice, and corruption troubles which Murdoch and at least one son, James Murdoch, are in at the moment in London show signs of being remedied at a price Murdoch can afford to pay.
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ONE HARE, TWO TORTOISES AND THE FBI — THE SCOOP ON RUPERT MURDOCH’S ALLEGED RUSSIAN CORRUPTION

By John Helmer, Moscow

For three years, between 2008 and 2010, Rupert Murdoch and his subordinates in charge of the Russian asset he owned, News Outdoor Russia (NOR), were under the investigation of the Moscow city prosecutors, the city Duma, and other government agencies for alleged bribery of municipal officials in exchange for business favours.

NOR’s business was erecting billboards in public space on city or state property, and advertising products to passers-by. The less NOR managed to pay in rent for the land and permissions on which the billboards depended, the more profit Murdoch took from the advertising charge. Maybe Murdoch shared his profits with city officials, maybe he didn’t – that was the crux of the corruption enquiries.
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THE FUR-HAT MISTAKE — NOW FOR THE START OF SOMETHING BIG, AND I DON’T MEAN MISHA EIGHT PERCENT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia is big, so when people make mistakes about Russia, they make big ones.

Take this one, for example, by the self-proclaimed genius of the opposite of investigative journalism – advertising. Asked if he planned to open one of his international ad agency offices in Russia, David Ogilvy responded: “what are we going to sell? Fur hats!”

There’s no permanent damage to reputation in making mistakes if you can recognize them later on, acknowledge them, learn from them. It also stands to reason that the bigger the mistake, the bigger the concession, and maybe the more valuable the lesson.
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THE POLITICS OF GUZZLING – NOONE OWNS UP TO ORDERING RUSSIAN BEER OUT OF PLASTIC BOTTLES

By John Helmer, Moscow

Does the Russian vodka lobby fear or hate beer so much, it’s thought up a devious customs regulation to make the latter more expensive, and thus less drinkable among penniless Russians? And are the vodka schemers so devious, they have hidden their intention by introducing the customs regulation in the guise of standardizing (harmonizing is the bureaucrats’ term) the different customs rules of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, which together comprise a single customs union these days?
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SEVERSTAL HAS ANOTHER WEST AFRICAN PROBLEM – IT FORGOT LIBERIA IS NOT A TAX-FREE ZONE

By John Helmer, Moscow

It isn’t known whether Alexei Mordashov is religious enough to have studied the Proverbs section of the Old Testament. But as a guide to mining in Africa, he ought to have read this one: “Whoever digs a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolls a stone, it will return on him.”

The reason this might have occurred to Mordashov and his Severstal mining division is that the pit he dug for himself in the Republic of Guinea at the LEFA goldmining concession, he is now about to fall into at the Putu iron-ore project in Liberia.
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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.

(more…)
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