NO BOATS, NO BEACHES, NO PRIMITIVES, NO DIVIDENDS – MIKHAIL FRIDMAN TEACHES BOB DUDLEY THE RULES OF GORILLA WARFARE, AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the jungle there’s not much call for the subtle touch. So it’s not clear whether Mikhail Fridman’s announcements this week are intended as a dagger or as a club.

By resigning his chairmanship of the management board of TNK-BP, and vacating the chief executive’s role, Fridman (image centre left) hasn’t left the governing board of directors of TNK-BP, the joint venture between BP and Fridman and his partners, German Khan (image centre), Len Blavatnik, and Victor Vekselberg (centre right); the latter combine in a group named AAR after each of the initials of their holdings – Alfa, Access, Renova.
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CHELYABINSK APPEAL COURT RULES FOR ANOTHER POSTPONEMENT, BUT A NEW RASHNIKOV MYSTERY IS IN THE WORKS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Judge Galina Fedina ruled this morning, after a brief, open hearing, that she is postponing until June 6 her consideration of the injunction against Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) finalizing its takeover of Flinders Mines. The action was confirmed by the judge’s spokesman at the Chelyabinsk Court of Appeal no. 18, Olga Tige.

The court website reveals that yesterday the phantom shareholder and plaintiff in the case, Elena Egorova, filed two new motions which the judge conceded today she isn’t ready to consider. The website does not allow the motions themselves to be read.
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THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS*

In its May 23 edition, the Moscow Times has published the following item, apparently a notice from the press office of United Company Rusal, directed by Vera Kurochkina.

The new statement refers to Russian media reports of six months ago, including a Moscow Times publication which appeared on November 29, entitled “Foreign Journalist Sees RusAl Role in His Visa Trouble”.
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INTERGEO TRIES SPELL-BINDING, SPELL-CHECK AND OTHER MAGIC TRICKS, AS MAXIM FINSKY DEFAULTS ON $75 MILLION OF DEUTSCHE BANK OBLIGATIONS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not even the epitome of Canadian accountability and compliance, Dudley Do-Right, can remember a case when a man who has just defaulted on bank obligations of almost $75 million been allowed to sell promissory notes on his next adventure on the Toronto Stock Exchange. If Dudley is mistaken, and if Maxim Finsky succeeds in launching the Intergeo initial public offering, the market magic spellbinder who will deserve the credit is Corey Copeland (image).

That’s not a dunce’s hat on his head. With degrees from the University of Toronto and Harvard University, Copeland has been the spokesman for large metal and mining companies in the past, like Alcan, Rio Tinto, and Billiton. As reported here, Copeland is the front man for the Intergeo preliminary prospectus issued to the Toronto market on May 14. Company documents say that for his expertise, Intergeo is paying Copeland salary and perks this year of C$522,189. That includes a bonus for his good works last year of C$94,000. If the Intergeo shares make it to market in a few days’ time, he will also be entitled to share options at the IPO price for 0.15% of the total share issue.
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WHILE RUSAL BURNS, DERIPASKA PUTS GERMAN INSTEAD OF CHINAMAN IN RUSAL CHAIR

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (image centre) has told President Vladimir Putin that the only way to stop the rot at Rusal is to put an internationally respected foreigner at the head of the Rusal board of directors when the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) is held on June 15. Mikhail Prokhorov and Victor Vekselberg have told Putin the only way to stop the rot is to put a trusted Russian at the head of the board, and remove Deripaska from operational control of the company before he destroys it financially.

The foreigner Deripaska has told Putin he wants to appoint as chairman of the Rusal board is Matthias Warnig (image left), whose East German government career is not exactly respected outside Moscow. Because Warnig is also thought to be an early career ally of Putin’s, the Deripaska nomination has been interpreted as Putin’s decision. It isn’t, not yet.
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WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO IF MORGAN STANLEY CAN BE SUED FOR LYING? ISN’T LYING OK IN CANADA?

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s a pity it had to wait until the Facebook folly for a lawsuit to be launched against Morgan Stanley on the double-barrelled charge — the investment bank and underwriter lies in its prospectuses and makes saps of share-buyers. According to the federal US court filing, “the [Facebook] registration statement and prospectus contained untrue statements of material facts.” In addition, Morgan Stanley is charged with selective disclosure of information, so that “preferred investors” get the better of everyone else in the market.
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THE CHELYABINSK SHOWDOWN — RASHNIKOV CIRCUMNAVIGATES, EXITS AUSTRALIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Captain Matthew Flinders was a late 18th century British Navy captain and one of the greatest explorer navigators of his time. His circumnavigation around the southern continent he called Australia also led to the naming of dozens of places by his name, along with a species of local citrus tree. He spent so much time at sea, and so little at home, he wrote a book about his shipboard companion which he entitled Trim, Being the True Story of a Brave Seafaring Cat.

Understandably, Flinders Mines (FMS) thought their hole in the ground in Western Australia should be named after the captain, though after their six-month brush with the Russians, Trim might have been more apt. Here’s the tale so far.
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PROKHOROV AND FINSKY TRY THEIR MAGIC ON THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE — IS INTERGEO A LUCKY RABBIT, OR IS NOTHING THERE?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Magic is a type of confidence trickery, but not all confidence tricksters are magicians. The difference is whether, when the magician pulls, the hat has got a real rabbit in it.

Minerals under the ground have something in common with rabbits; that’s to say, sometimes they are there – sometimes there’s only the illusion they are. Junior mining companies have this much in common with magicians – if they point a wand and recite a spell, they expect you to believe they can deliver at the minehead what you can’t otherwise see underground. The other difference is that on the stock exchanges, mining company promoters can collect bigger fortunes than magicians with this sort of hocus pocus.
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NIKOLAI MAXIMOV BRANDED LIAR IN GERMAN COURT, BUT NEW YORK TIMES BRANDS HIM VICTIM OF KREMLIN PERSECUTION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK) and its owner Vladimir Lisin have won a suppression order against Nikolai Maximov, former owner of the Maxi group of minimills and scrap processors, from the Higher Regional Court of Hamburg. A three-judge panel has imposed a permanent injunction against publication in the press of claims by Maximov against Lisin, ruling that Maximov has made them up and despite dozens of court cases has failed to substantiate them.
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SERGEI FRANK PUTS HIMSELF ON TRIAL IN THE UK HIGH COURT AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the tarot pack, the card of the Hanged Man is not one everyone wants to be dealt. To some it portends doom. Others believe it symbolizes the great awakening to occur the moment after death when, if, there is a resurrection. As cards go, it’s a big bettor who wants this one.

This week Sergei Frank, the chief executive of the state tanker group Sovcomflot, decided to resurrect in the UK High Court allegations of fraud and corruption against Sovcomflot’s former ship-chartering partner Yury Nikitin. Some of these charges were tried by the court in 2009, and dismissed in rulings by Justice Andrew Smith of December 2009 and March 2010.
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THE GENERAL WHO GOT THE BOOT — SERGEI GENERALOV ASKS BILLION-DOLLAR PAYOFF FOR EXITING RUSSIA’S MARITIME SECTOR, TO JOIN PRINCE CHARLES OFFSHORE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Generalov, the controlling shareholder and president of Far Eastern Shipping Company (Fesco), has apparently decided to sell the company, once the leading dry-cargo shipping company in Russia. The buyer negotiating for the takeover is reported to be the Summa Capital holding of Ziyavudin Magomedov, a rival of Generalov’s in the ports and container segments of the Russian marine market.

Generalov holds about 56% of Fesco through his holding, Industrial Investors. Another 13% of the shares are held as treasury stock through an offshore entity called Neteller Holdings.The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and East Capital, a Swedish investment fund, have been minority stakeholders with 4% and 7%, respectively. Public shareholders of Fesco, whose primary listing is in Moscow, hold another 20%.
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MAXIM FINSKY’S WHITE TIGER GOLD COLLAPSES — BULL TRAP OR CLAP TRAP?

By John Helmer, Moscow

White Tiger Gold (WTG) was supposed to be the curtain-raiser on the Canadian stock market for Mikhail Prokhorov and Maxim Finsky, his childhood playmate, to sell shares in their collection of little known gold and other mineral prospects and mining licences in Russia. That collection is called Intergeo, and it cost Prokhorov and Finsky play money.

At one time, Prokhorov’s former shareholding partner in Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin, accused him and Finsky of filling Intergeo with stolen goods—licences originally acquired for Norilsk Nickel and with the latter’s money. That case never went to court because Prokhorov and Potanin managed to settle between themselves which side each would get out of the bed they had shared together. Finsky got out too on Prokhorov’s side, and became boss of Intergeo.
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FITCH ISSUES NEGATIVE OUTLOOK WARNING FOR MAGNITOGORSK – ANOTHER BLOW TO RASHNIKOV’S DEAL FOR FLINDERS MINES

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Fitch ratings agency today issued a warning that growing debt at Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), owned by Victor Rashnikov, is at a “higher level than previously expected”. With prices for MMK’s products falling, the company’s free cashflow is under pressure, the Fitch report claims, as it downgraded its outlook forecast for MMK from stable to negative. The agency said also that it has made no changes to MMK’s long-term and short-term issuer default ratings, which are BB+ and B, respectively. It may issue a downgrade of those, the agency adds, if the negative cashflow persists.

MMK’s version of the Fitch warning attempts a cosmetic makeover. That is as convincing to investors as French silicone is to breasts.
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SLAVE LABOUR ON BOARD RUSSIAN SHIPS – FIRST-EVER CHARGES TO BE BROUGHT BY RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR

By John Helmer, Moscow

In Russia, and at sea aboard Russian ships, it’s common for crews not to be paid; the shipowners usually get away with it, at least as far as the General Prosecutor, Yury Chaika, is concerned.. The tale of the Lyubov Orlova, whose two Russian owners abandoned the cruise ship at a Canadian port, defaulted on their port, agent and fuel debts, and marooned the crew without salary or food, is a salutary example.

Not paying Russian seamen, and forcing them to work without pay, forcibly preventing them from leaving the ship, denying them medical treatment if they are injured, and locking them up to die – well, Chaika’s Vladivostok bureau for prosecuting transport offences has decided to bring charges under Article 127, Part 2, of the Russian Criminal Code. This follows the deaths of two Russian mariners aboard the Russian-owned, Tuvalu-flagged motor ship, SS Ross. It is the first time in living memory that illegal deprivation of an individual’s freedom for the purpose of compelling him to work – slave labour – has ever been charged in a Russian court.
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PROJECTION, NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER, MISTAKEN IDENTITY IN THE CASE OF EUGENE LEBEDEV

By John Helmer, Moscow

By all accounts, particularly his own, Alexander Lebedev, aged 52, has been one of those clever KGB agents whose training inculcated the Protestant work ethic, and whose tour of duty in London the wits, to enable him to make a fortune without stealing from anyone; without bribery or administrative resources; without even being on favourable terms with President Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, or indeed anyone of significance in post-communist Russia. A private bank belonging originally to Gazprom, and Aeroflot, the state airline, are said to be the hidden hands by which Lebedev helped himself to his plenitude.
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RUSSIA WARNS THE SYRIAN OPPOSITION ALLIANCE NOT TO BITE THE BEAR’S SENSITIVE PARTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the Kremlin corridors under the new management, it is generally acknowledged that one of the stupidest things former President Dmitry Medvedev ever did was to order Russia’s representative on the UN Security Council to abstain from the vote and veto of the no-fly zone resolution aimed at the Muammar Qaddafi regime in Libya. That was on March 17, 2010. The Russian intelligence services already knew that US and British submarines were in place under the surface of the Mediterranean, ready to fire missiles to start a war that was intended to end in Qaddafi’s death. It did.
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RASHNIKOV REBUFFED – CHELYABINSK JUDGE REFUSES TO CLOSE DOOR ON FLINDERS MINES DEAL DETAILS, BUT SHE WON’T OPEN IT EITHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Whoever Elena Egorova may be, she and Victor Rashnikov, owner of Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), share exactly the same desire for personal anonymity and business secrecy as the Chelyabinsk court case against MMK’s half-billion dollar purchase of an Australian iron-ore mining project reaches its climax later this month. This is their story so far.

If anyone imagined that MMK is a public shareholding company with conventional accountability and corporate governance standards for spending $9 billion in annual revenues and $16 billion in assets, the action by a purported shareholder, with a name, a share, and nothing else, to halt the offshore acquisition has exposed a total blackout of information by Rashnikov’s company, and the refusal of Rashnikov, with 86% of the company shares, to explain his decision-making to his co-shareholders. But from the court file released this week, it now appears the plaintiff shareholder is as keen as the defendant oligarch to keep the evidence and the proceedings secret.
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OLIGARCH DROPPINGS FOR SALE – LONDON TELEGRAPH PRESENTS LEAVINGS FROM OLEG DERIPASKA AND ALEXEI MORDASHOV FOR THE HIGH COURT AND THE LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Every competent gardener knows that horse shit makes valuable fertilizer, so long as you give it at least two months of airing and composting to get rid of the acidity which kills plant roots, and the seeds which grow weeds where you don’t want them. Chicken shit is more balanced, biochemically and horticulturally speaking, because fowls do all their excreting through a single hole. The same can’t be said of the Sunday Telegraph of London or their Russian heroes, Oleg Deripaska and Alexei Mordashov.

That’s because Deripaska and Mordashov pay PR men to place their droppings, all too fresh, in the newspaper; from where energetic reporters, Kamal Ahmed and Elaine Rowley, shovel the product straight on to the Sunday breakfast tables of judges and investors.
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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

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THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  

With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age,  after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.

After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster  history to be her own joke.

Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself.   This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.  

In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English:  the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.  

The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British.  Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating.   The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin Blue Line (d. 1996).

The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful  Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion),  Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok)  are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences.  The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.

Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money.  “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its  controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.  

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.

The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.

Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first  Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.   

China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years.  The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).

A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester,  he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018,  claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.

Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly   by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”  

Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.  

After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.

The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.” 

Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.   

New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.

Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes,  it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the  evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to  cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.

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KILLING IS CHEAPER — THE US ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND WEAPONIZES TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, TELEGRAM

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.

The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory.  The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.

“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”

“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”

The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image).   McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.

Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.

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MARIA YUDINA OUT OF THE DARK – THE RUSSIAN CLASSICAL PIANIST PLAYS AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.

In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.

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Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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