THE PICTURE IS A FAKE — VICTOR VEKSELBERG WINS UK HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT TO GET HIS MONEY BACK

By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Vekselberg won a major UK High Court action on Friday, and the presiding judge, Justice Guy Newey, has ordered that he should get his money’s worth returned. No ruling of fraud was allowed. The amount may turn out to be less than Vekselberg has spent on lawyers and experts over the 25 months the case has been pending.

This isn’t the case currently under way in the London Court of International Arbitration where Vekselberg is suing Oleg Deripaska for violation of the shareholder agreements on the basis of which the two of them have been directing United Company Rusal since its formation in 2006 and merger with Vekselberg’s Siberian Ural Aluminium (SUAL) in 2007. That case was first reported here. The proceedings are being conducted behind closed doors.
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THE CANADIAN RESISTANCE AT HIGH RIVER GOLD PUSHES BACK AT ALEXEI MORDASHOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is a unique protection in the Ontario Business Corporations Act which may have Alexei Mordashov’s name written all over it. It’s called the oppression remedy.

What this does is to allow minority shareholders to go to court to challenge the votes and decisions of majority or control shareholders in a Canadian company, when the latter act in a way that is prejudicial, disadvantageous, or unfair to the former. The evidence and standard of unfairness can be decided by a court-ordered investigation of the company’s affairs and of the “reasonable expectations” of the shareholders. Such an investigation is the first thing a Canadian judge can do, before ruling on unfairness. What’s more, an applicant shareholder needs to convince the investigators, not of evidence of fraud or dishonesty, but of the “appearance” that the board of directors, control shareholders, or company management “unfairly disregard” the interests of the minority.
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HOLIDAY POSTCARD – WHAT IS SULEIMAN KERIMOV GOING TO DO WITHOUT HIS YACHT AND BEACH HOUSE?

By John Helmer, Moscow

It seems that this August Suleiman Kerimov will be holidaying with his Mother, as in Motherland.

A recent yachting news bulletin from the port of Bergen, Norway, reports that Kerimov’s motor yacht is “docked next to Bryggen, in walking distance to most of the attractions in the center of Bergen. The yacht ICE is registered in the Cayman Islands and was previously owned by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov.” Kerimov had put the boat up for sale last year, when his New York lawyer, Eliot Lauer, claimed it wasn’t really his. Here’s the yacht-for-sale story, and here’s Kerimov’s response through his lawyer. But that was last autumn, when the going price for M/Y was €200 million.
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FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM, WHEN MICHAEL CHERNEY AND OLEG DERIPASKA WERE PARTNERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Once upon a time, Oleg Deripaska was the protégé of Mikhail Chernoy (Michael Cherney). In that relationship, Cherney, the older, taller one, called Deripaska, the younger, shorter one, Zaichik (“hare”). When he grew up, Cherney made him his business partner.

In the year 2000, the man who is today Deripaska’s principal Russian lawyer, strategist of all his litigation, advisor to the initial public offering of Rusal in 2010, and current member of the Rusal board, knew that Deripaska and Cherney were business partners. That is because he said so in filings to the federal US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The man’s name is Dmitry Afanasiev. In December 2000, he was one of the lawyers who filed this case:
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WARMAKING AGAINST SYRIA, RUSSIA — CHARLES CLOVER WINS CAT’S PAW AWARD FOR THE FINANCIAL TIMES

By John Helmer, Moscow

Tall stories told by newspapers and their reporters generally don’t start wars. But they do justify them in advance. Afterwards they protect the officials who start them from being prosecuted for war crimes.

On August 5, 1964, there was no truth in President Lyndon Johnson’s claim – reported by every major US newspaper – that there had been “open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America” by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin. That’s because the US Navy destroyer Maddux had been inside North Vietnam’s territorial waters to pinpoint shore targets, after US and South Vietnamese naval vessels had opened fire on North Vietnamese islands in the area several days earlier. The August 4 reports of a gunboat attack on the Maddux “appear very doubtful”, according to a secret cable sent by the Maddux commander to his headquarters at the time. In retrospect, all the available evidence indicates that no attack took place. What is certain, however, is that the fiction was good enough for Johnson to get the US Congress to enact the August 7, 1964, resolution giving the US administration the warrant to start a full-scale invasion of Vietnam by US ground forces. The outcome is well-known. The US was defeated in that war. About 50,000 US soldiers returned in body bags, and about 3.8 million Vietnamese (10% of the population) went prematurely into the ground.
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LOCK-UP OR STICK-UP – ALEXEI MORDASHOV TRIES TO FINISH OFF THE CANADIAN RESISTANCE

By John Helmer, Moscow

You don’t have to be Mr Plod to suspect that Noddy isn’t playing fair.

More than half the Canadians who hold shares in High River Gold (HRG:CN), and who have resisted Alexei Mordashov’s buyout offers in the past, think he’s low-balling them again. Having driven up the share price to C$1.43, three cents over Mordashov’s latest offer price for his takeover of HRG, the sentiment in the share market is against Mordashov. Or is it?

On July 18 Nordgold (NORD:LI), which already owns about 75% of HRG, announced that it wants to buy the rest. Nordgold is listed on the London Stock Exchange; HRG on the Toronto Exchange. The former has a market capitalization of US$1.71 billion after listing in Moscow and London between December 2011 and January 2012. Since then it has lost more than 60% of its value.
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ISKANDER MAKHMUDOV – ELEPHANT IN OLEG DERIPASKA’S (HIGH COURT) ROOM

By John Helmer, Moscow

Iskander Makhmudov (right image) is cultured, charming, gracious, hospitable, polite, discreet – he has more of these qualities than his oligarch peers.

But for Oleg Deripaska, his junior in the division of the Russian metals businesses that took place between 1995 and 2000, before the formation of Russian Aluminium (Rusal), here’s what Mark Howard said in the UK High Court last week: “[Makhmudov’s] role in these proceedings we suggest raises serious difficulties for Mr Deripaska’s case on a fundamental level. Indeed, we suggest he is very much the elephant in the room.”
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MMK LOYALTY CARD – VLADIMIR PUTIN GIVES VICTOR RASHNIKOV WHAT HE DESERVES

By John Helmer, Moscow

A year is a long time in Russian politics, and Vladimir Putin isn’t the same man he was a year ago.

Then — on July 15, 2011 — he visited Magnitogorsk, presided at the official commissioning of the new automotive steel production line known as Mill-2000, and spent three hours answering questions from the workers of Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK). This Monday, July 16, Putin was back at MMK, pressing the button alongside MMK owner Victor Rashnikov to inaugurate two sub-sections of a sub-production line. The Kremlin has (so far) released no record of what was discussed with the steelworkers.

Rashnikov is also a changed man. In between the two Putin visits, Rashnikov attempted to invest half a billion dollars of MMK’s cash, and $1.5 billion in borrowed money, some of it from a state-controlled Russian bank, in an Australian iron-ore mining project known as Flinders Mines twelve thousand kilometres away. Then in late March Rashnikov suffered an abrupt loss of will and change of mind. Twelve weeks later, at the start of July, he formally withdrew from the entire scheme. Not once did Rashnikov explain what he was doing.
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THE MYSTERY OF RUSAL’S SHAREHOLDERS — OLEG DERIPASKA’S KRYSHA REVEALED, AND THE DOLYA, $1 BILLION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Look carefully at who is in the driving seat.

The records of RTI Limited (formerly Rusal International Trading), the next to highest control entity in the corporate organization of United Company Rusal, show that it was registered on October 27, 2006, one day after the parent company was registered. At the time, the parent’s capital consisted of 10,000 nominal shares, and according to Point 6 of its memorandum of association, each Rusal share was worth one US dollar. A few weeks later, the parent’s annual return declared its shares were now worth one English pound, and that just two of them had been paid up. The owner of these two was EN+, not identified then as a personal holding company of Oleg Deripaska’s. By February 28, 2008, in Rusal’s next annual return, the shares were again denominated in US dollars, and all 10,000 were paid up. We’ll come shortly to who owned them.

According to the printed notes of the Jersey companies form, “the Annual Returns cannot be accepted until they meet the requirements of the Companies (Jersey) Law 1991, as ammended [sic].” There’s a lot the Jersey authorities don’t do in conformity with accepted practice – spelling is just one of them.
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NORILSK NICKEL LAUNCHES COUNTER-ATTACK AGAINST RUSSIAN PLATINUM, AGAINST IGOR SECHIN TOO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Norilsk Nickel has declared war on Alexander Popov (image centre), a 57-year old veteran of the oil industry and the new head of the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use, Rosnedra. In the circumstances this can mean only one thing — Vladimir Potanin (right), the dominant shareholder of Norilsk Nickel, has decided on a duel with Igor Sechin (left), former deputy prime minister and now chief executive of Rosneft. This is because Popov’s job for the past eighteen months has been as an assistant to Sechin; when Sechin left his government office in May, he put Popov in charge of Rosnedra’s key function – awarding licences for oil, gas and hard-rock mining. Sechin is also believed to have been behind Popov’s predecessor, Anatoly Ledovskikh, who decided last October not to allow Norilsk Nickel to extend its mining rights in the Norilsk-1 area on the ground that, though it is already mining in the area, it was the sole bidder for the adjacent mining rights.
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OLEG DERIPASKA’S SECRET ACCOUNT BOOKS REVEALED

By John Helmer, Moscow

Fifteen years ago, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported research that not all obsessive-compulsive disorders are alike. Two individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the scientific evidence showed, may have totally different and non-overlapping symptom patterns. For example, the obsession with counting, hoarding, arranging and collecting doesn’t usually accompany the compulsion for hand-washing, religious ritualism, sexual aggression, or vice versa.

At yesterday’s opening presentations in the UK High Court in the case of Michael Cherney v Oleg Deripaska, the evidence of Deripaska’s meticulously recorded and coded account books was revealed for the first time. No major Russian business figure has ever been obliged to reveal such intimate financial data in a public forum. “The balance sheets,” according to Cherney’s advocate Mark Howard QC, “are documents of the utmost importance in the case.”
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DEAD MEN TELL TALES – OLEG DERIPASKA TAKES BORIS YELTSIN TO THE HIGH COURT AGAINST MICHAEL CHERNEY

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska’s sole defence against having to pay Mikhail Chernoy (Michael Cherney) the dividends, assets, interest, and the corpus of his patron’s stake in United Company Rusal is that Cherney extorted the money by presenting him with a trust agreement and contract, and threatening to break his bones if he didn’t sign it. This is the gangster defence. It has already been curtailed by several preliminary UK High Court rulings; Justice Christopher Clarke, who presided in the trial of the jurisdiction issues in the case, ruled that he didn’t believe it.

But there is one respect in which it is almost certainly true that someone tough has been forcing Deripaska to run Rusal the way he has. That man, the control shareholder of Deripaska’s nominal 47.41% shareholding, is Boris Yeltsin.
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DERIPASKA LOSES SHIRT — COURT STRIPS RUSAL OF ALUMINIUM SMELTER ASSETS

By John Helmer, Moscow

An 8-year long case charging Oleg Deripaska and his Russian Aluminium (Rusal) group with fraud and corruption in acquiring aluminium assets, gas and electricity supply and port outlet in a rigged privatization scheme has ended in Deripaska’s defeat and the loss of his assets. The court ruling was issued on Friday, July 6. In Nigeria.

On the eve of the start of Mikhail Chernoy’s (Michael Cherney) trial for recovery of his 13% shareholding in Rusal, to commence in the UK High Court today, the Nigerian Supreme Court judgement by a unanimous 5-judge panel is automatically endorsed by the US federal court, which had ceded jurisdiction over Rusal for the claim, on condition Deripaska submitted to the Nigerian courts. The ruling cannot be appealed; and for an asset which cost $3.8 billion to build, it is the most costly defeat Deripaska has suffered in the international courts to date.
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RUSSIA TO SHOOT DOWN TURKEY’S BILLION-DOLLAR FRUIT AND VEGETABLE TRADE IN RETALIATION FOR INTERFERENCE WITH RUSSIAN SHIPPING BOUND FOR SYRIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

A century ago and longer, the Ottomans understood not to press the Russians in close encounters; the Turks are slow learners. After several recent episodes in which the Turkish armed forces have attempted to interfere with Russian vessels delivering cargo to Syria, the Russians have now delivered the message that Turkish cargoes headed for Russia may be stopped altogether.

The subtlety of this message has yet to be detected by the Anglo-American war media. They are still blustering over the message the Syrians delivered when they used Russian-made cannons to shoot down an American-made Turkish spy plane over Syrian territory on June 22.
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FIRST SWISS INVESTIGATION OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND BRIBERY TO INVOLVE GUNVOR

By John Helmer, Moscow

Money laundering is one of those things that is usually accompanied by a lot more gossip than conviction. Exactly what gets washed and for whose benefit are difficult to pin down, usually because those who do it are smarter than your average washerwoman. Still, if the Swiss money police are on the case, that’s so unusual, there’s bound to be more than the customary ladies’ chatter. For Gunvor, the Geneva-based oil trader which has been the foundation of Gennady Timchenko’s (image right) fortune, the police make a novel experience. And one such experience might become a precedent for others – or at least that’s what the washerwomen on the bank of Lake Geneva were surmising before their picture was taken.

What is being reported authoritatively this week is that there was a Swiss police search of the Gunvor offices overlooking Lake Geneva in January. Either before, or not long after, the Swiss federal prosecutor opened a formal investigation of suspected money laundering by person or persons unknown. At least one Swiss bank account is reported to have been frozen as part of the ongoing investigation. This has happened at Bank Clariden Leu, a Zurich-based private institution which was part of the Credit Suisse holding until April of this year, when it merged and ceded its name to the Credit Suisse brand.
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THE SILENCER — WITNESSES THREATENED BEFORE MICHAEL CHERNEY CASE OPENS IN HIGH COURT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of United Company Rusal, is prosecuting his old friend and Rusal veteran, Andrei Raikov, on charges already dismissed by the Moscow police and the Moscow courts, because Raikov, according to his representatives, has refused to testify for Deripaska against another old friend, Mikhail Chernoy (Michael Cherney).

Cherney’s 6-year lawsuit in the UK High Court to recover his 13% shareholding in Rusal, and enforce the shareholding contract and trust agreement he and Deripaska signed in March 2001, goes to trial next week. Lawyers for Cherney and Deripaska will present summaries of their positions, before the court adjourns for the summer recess. Witness testimony and cross-examination will start when the court resumes on October 1.
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SURPRISE TOY! – CHELYABINSK COURT DELAYS FLINDERS MINES CASE UNTIL AUGUST 1

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a closed-door hearing today at the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court, Judge Natalia Bulavintseva again refused to hear argument for and against the proposed half-billion dollar acquisition of an Australian iron-ore miner, Flinders Mines, by Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK). The court secretary Sergei Povalyaev said the judge ordered the hearing postponed for another month, until August 1. The reason, the source said, was to allow a “request for financial and economic expertise, which was filed by one of the parties.” Because of the closed door, he claimed he could not say whether MMK filed the delay-making request, or Flinders Mines, or the purported plaintiff in the action, MMK minority shareholder Elena Egorova.
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THE BRITISH MINISTRY OF TRUTH DECIDES THAT ANOTHER THREE WELL-KNOWN RUSSIANS ARE LIARS – LEV LEVIEV, ARKADY GAYDAMAK, AND CHIEF RABBI BERL LAZAR

By John Helmer, Moscow

When a powerful Kremlin official recently confided that he values the usefulness of UK High Court proceedings involving some of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen, he probably wasn’t thinking of the case which concluded on Friday with a judgement issued by Justice Sir Geoffrey Vos. The Russian official was intimating that the British court is providing an internationally credible platform for forensic analysis of crimes which have been the foundations of many recent Russian fortunes. He probably wasn’t thinking of the diamond and real estate fortune of Lev Leviev (image left); the Soviet debt, gun and diamond fortune of Arkady Gaydamak (centre); or the celestial credits of Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar (right). All three were condemned by this ruling.
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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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