THE YOM KIPPUR WAR – MICHAEL CHERNEY DEFEATS OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Wednesday September 26 was Yom Kippur – the annual Day of Atonement for Jews, the most solemn holiday on the Jewish calendar, when according to the relevant Scripture, God opens his Judgement Book, and takes applications from everyone with an interest in having the black mark removed from his name. God’s finger is moving; in Israel, where Michael Cherney lives, nothing stirs.

In London, according to records of the High Court registry, an application was lodged to postpone the scheduled restart of the proceedings in Michael Cherney v Oleg Deripaska until next Tuesday, October 2. Advocates for each side had already presented their opening arguments to the presiding judge, Andrew Smith, in July, before the court took its summer recess. The trial schedule had provided for witness testimony and cross-examination for several months, starting this week.
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MECHEL’S IGOR ZYUZIN DUMPS TO AVOID CRASH

By John Helmer, Moscow

The co-founder of the Mechel steelmaking and coal-mining group, Vladimir Iorikh, always said the over-confidence of partner Igor Zyuzin (parachutist) would get the company into trouble as big as this. So, rather than go down in flames himself when the crash he expected would come, Iorikh sold out to Zyuzin in January 2007, taking $1.5 billion to Switzerland and setting up on his own.

Zyuzin congratulated himself on out-smarting Iorikh when Mechel’s value in the market grew to a peak of $21 billion in May 2008. Zyuzin’s stake of about 67% was then worth $14 billion. Today, with Mechel worth just about one-tenth of that at $2.9 billion, Zyuzin’s stake is worth $1.9 billion; maybe less, because in July Zyuzin started selling shares – a 1.93% bloc was let go to an unidentified buyer at an unreported price. If things continue to get worse for Mechel, Zyuzin’s net worth will be less than his old partner’s. If Iorikh was as prudent as he accused Zyuzin of not being, it’s probable that he vaulted over Zyuzin in the wealth brackets some time ago.
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PROMSVYAZBANK TO SELL SHARES IN LONDON – WHAT’S AN ANANIEV OR TWO WORTH WHEN RUSSIAN BANKS ARE SINKING?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian banks have been reflecting ponds for their owners since they began twenty years ago; wishing-wells too. That explains why Commerzbank accepted less than $200 million for its 14.4% shareholding in Promsvyazbank earlier this year, fixing the valuation of the bank at $1.4 billion; and why the bank owners, Alexei and Dmitry Ananiev, imagine that London investors should pay $500 million for a 25% stake; that’s a very wishful 50% premium.

You can tell how handsome they are (above Alexei, below Dmitry), but do the Ananiev brothers qualify for such a premium?
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THE FULL MONTY – JUSTICE GLOSTER DEMOLISHES BORIS BEREZOVSKY, AND ALSO STEPHEN CURTIS, BUT LEAVES OLEG DERIPASKA’S FATE TO JUSTICE ANDREW SMITH

By John Helmer, Moscow

The full text of Justice Dame Elizabeth Gloster’s judgement in the UK High Court case of Boris Berezovsky v Roman Abramovich runs to 356 pages, 1253 sections, one appendix, and 555 footnotes. She is kindly toward the case lawyers, the computer system operators, the courtroom administrators, and the simultaneous translators. She is unapologetic about the length of the judgement, citing Blaise Pascal to the effect that she lacked “the leisure to make it shorter” (footnote 555 gives the original French in case of appeal against the judge’s translation).
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THE BIG BOART BANG – RUSSIA TO SUPPLY DIAMONDS FOR CHINESE TEETH, SAVE GLOBAL DIAMOND MARKET

By John Helmer, Moscow

After more than forty years, the last great Soviet state secret is out. And in its wake, a sensitive Chinese state secret, too.

Russian geologists reported over the weekend that the Popigai crater on the border between the Krasnoyarsk and Sakha regions of north eastern Siberia, formed by the 100-kilometre wide impact of a meteorite about 35 million years ago, could contain trillions of carats of small diamonds. The secret has been locked up in the Soviet archives since the discovery of the crater at least forty years ago.
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WHEN THE CASH COW IS KICKING THE BUCKET, OLIGARCHS LOSE THEIR LIQUIDITY – HOW BROKE IS SULEIMAN KERIMOV?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Swiss bankers aren’t famous for their sense of humour. So it will come as no surprise that the Gnomes of Zurich were serious when they recently sent a questionnaire to 22 of the richest crooks and liars in Russia, asking them for their assessment of the prospects for Russian wealth management — and printed their answers with a straight face. According to UBS, 55% of their 22-person sample say corruption is the biggest problem they currently have in increasing (or keeping) their wealth; well ahead of macro-economic problems like falling demand; global problems like the collapse of commodity prices and producer share prices; and domestic commercial problems like the weakening rouble, rising costs, and dwindling bank credit.

The twenty-two made the UBS sample if they were domiciled in Russia and admitted to a net worth of at least $50 million apiece. One in 10 of the sample (that’s two) “belong to families worth between $250 million and $500 million, with one family worth in excess of half a billion dollars.” Of the remaining 20, 13 reported a family fortune of between $50 million and $100 million. Three put themselves in the wealth bracket between $100 million and $250 million. Richer crooks and liars may have returned the UBS questionnaire unanswered. But those responding acknowledged that when it comes to running their businesses and making money, they don’t give a fig for accountability, transparency, or the conventional standards of corporate governance. According to the report, “the percentage of respondents adhering to a corporate governance code has fallen substantially to just 23% [five]. Of the remainder, 41% say they are in the process of implementing a code, but 36% simply state that they do not comply with any corporate governance code.”
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BLIND JUSTICE – MOSCOW COURT JAILS YURY PRIVALOV; KEEPS BLINDFOLD ON LEGAL COSTS AND LIABILITIES IN UK COURTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Yury Privalov, the Sovcomflot shipping manager charged with embezzlement from the company, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison, and fined Rb1 million ($32,250), Judge Natalia Morovoza ruled this evening in the Dorogomilovsky court of Moscow. Privalov was not in court to hear the verdict; he is reported by his lawyer as having had a “hypertensive emergency” on Sunday evening, and been hospitalized at the Bakulev Scientific Centre for Cardiovascular Surgery.

Morozova began reading the judgement at 10 am on Monday, and continued reading the 300-page document until 8 pm. A guilty verdict was not in doubt, as Privalov had already pleaded guilty. There was no testing of the evidence in court; and no cross-examination of witnesses. The prosecution had requested a sentence of six years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rb1 million. Sovcomflot had requested Privalov’s discharge on a non-custodial sentence. The jail term announced by Morozova includes the 22 months already served by Privalov in a Swiss prison between 2006 and 2008, when he was challenging extradition to Russia.
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ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO REVOKE MECHEL STEELMILL PRIVATIZATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

There have been demonstrations this month in the Romanian town of Campa Turzii against plans by Russian steel maker Mechel to cut its local steelmill’s workforce by up to a thousand jobs, after rolling job cuts have already reduced the plant’s workforce over recent years. The Romanian government responded on Friday by promising a ministerial investigation into how Mechel acquired the plant in a privatization transaction in 2003, and whether it has met the government’s terms for investment and job security since then.

Liviu Pop, the Minister of Social Dialogue, announced after a meeting with steelworkers: “There are some questions about the privatization of Mechel Campia Turzii in 2003. There are signs that this contract was not respected. The Government is obliged to take the first step and we will have a discussion with ministers of Economy, Finance, Environment, and AVAS [state property agency] to see what is the situation of the privatization contract and its consequences. If irregularities are found, the state organs will be notified of the details. If it is unfair competition, abuse of office , misconduct in office, we will consider revocation of this contract”.
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PUSSY FOOT NOTE — WAS GRANDPA DREAMING OF PUSSY RIOT, OR DID PRIVATE EYE INVENT HIM?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Private Eye, the only periodical of investigative journalism still made of paper and ink and for sale in the UK, is old enough to be a grandfather in his dodders. So when the editor, Ian Hislop (aged 52), and his anonymous reporters took sides with Pussy Riot last month, it may have been natural for them to find a figure they called a “British grandfather”, and here’s what he reportedly did:
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INVESTIGATORS CLOSE IN ON OLEG DERIPASKA’S MONEY BOX IN LATVIA

By John Helmer,Moscow

Russian government investigators are focusing on a tiny, little known Latvian bank through which Oleg Deripaska (front) has been holding and moving billions of dollars. The Latvian Trade Bank (LTB), as it was known for many years, has recently been renamed Expobank, after it was taken over by Igor Kim, who bought the bank from Alexander Mamut (left).

The bank was a target of investigation by lawyers for Roman Abramovich and Boris Berezovsky, as they prepared for their recent trial in the UK High Court. Its money-laundering business became public during the witness testimony at the trial last October and November. At one point, the bank’s management agreed to submit to the UK court’s jurisdiction and accept a court order to disclose its transaction records.
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THE GOLDEN GALLEON SAILS IN FOR GLOBAL PORTS INVESTMENTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the history of the Spanish Main, it was always tricky to tell who had title to what, as the Spaniards stole gold and silver from the Aztecs and the Incas, and the British pirated the Spanish galleons as they made their way across the Caribbean. Who can blame the Danes for not trusting the Russians in what has been announced this week as the biggest delivery of treasure by a foreigner, the A.P. Moller-Maersk group, ever unloaded in Russia’s seagoing business.

Are the terms of the complicated shareholding arrangement a scheme for the Russians to take as much cash for themselves before their container business loses its growth prospects, and profit margins shrink under domestic competition from Vladimir Yakunin (Russian Railways), Ziyavudin Magomedov (Summa Capital), and Vladimir Lisin (Universal Cargo Logistics Holding, UCLH), not to mention Vladimir Putin, Igor Sechin, Arkady Dvorkovich, and Dmitry Medvedev? Is the postponement of shareholding control for the enterprise a hedge by the Danes against the possibility that it will prove impossible to take practical operating control of the assets they are now acquiring as a minority stakeholder?
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PRIVALOV PLEADS GUILTY — SOVCOMFLOT LAWYERS REJECT UK HIGH COURT EVIDENCE, RETRY ALLEGATIONS DISMISSED IN LONDON

By John Helmer, Moscow

The second day of Yury Privalov’s trial in Moscow for embezzling funds from Sovcomflot ended Monday evening without a ruling from Judge Natalia Morozova. The state shipping group, represented by lawyers from Sovcomflot, one of its offshore subsidiaries, and Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship), have requested leniency and Privalov’s discharge. The state prosecution has asked for a sentence of six years in prison, less the two years Privalov has already served, and a fine of Rb1 million ($30,000). The judge reserved her decision, and promised to issue her judgement in a week’s time on September 17.
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SERGEI FRANK’S STOOL PIGEON GETS THE BIRD – YURY PRIVALOV IN MOSCOW COURT

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is no literal Russian language version for stool pigeon, as the term is understood in English — someone who acts as a decoy to trap others into committing a crime, and then gives evidence against them for a payoff. The nearest Russian term is стукач. The meaning is the same – whatever the stoolie or стукачёк says is as likely to be fabricated as true.

On Friday, in the Dorogomilovsky regional court of Moscow, Judge Natalia Morozova heard lawyers for the Sovcomflot group, the state-owned tanker company, commend the pigeon, I mean the accused, Yury Privalov (image left), for his expertise and cooperation in recovering $150 million in money he had helped embezzle when Privalov was in charge of the London operations of Sovcomflot’s UK affiliated company, Fiona.
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FISHING FOR RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM IN THE WRONG PLACE CAN GET YOU KILLED – IN NOVELS

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the wasted human life department, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom are currently the front-runners. With one down (Libya) and three and a half wars on the go – Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran – how can the scoring be in doubt?

So it’s always surprising when out of some active-measures file in a Cold War closet, someone depicts the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as the more recklessly murderous. In Geoffrey Sambrook’s fresh novel, not only does an FSB agent kidnap an Austrian aluminium trader from a leading restaurant in Hamburg, but then shoots him in the head and dumps his body off the parapet of the Adolphusbrucke (image), wearing made-in-Russia handcuffs. That’s the thing about the old active-measures files, they always portray the Russian side as fatally careless. And that’s the problem with the novel, Czar Rising: Money and politics in the new Russia, by Geoffrey Sambrook.
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THE RUSSIAN STEEL DOCTRINE — MORDASHOV PROMISES NOT DO TO WHAT RASHNIKOV, ABRAMOVICH ATTEMPTED IN AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AFRICA

By John Helmer, Moscow

The shrinking violet of English literature, Jane Austen (image top right), said it best: “Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

Alexei Mordashov (image centre) likes to think of the Business System he has introduced at his steel company Severstal as a sign of genius. He even spells the management method with capital BS, which is also the way managers speak of it.

In Severstal’s annual report for last year, the same thing is headlined “Transformational Thinking” (TT). Far from being transformational, the language in the annual report describing the BS is conventional share-price touting: “Among industry players, our Business System is unrivaled in terms of the extent of its integration and EBITDA contribution potential. The system aims to optimise company-wide operations, unify goals, create a strong corporate culture and improve KPIs ranging from profit to efficiency to health and safety targets.”
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BELLING THE CAT — THE BBC ROLE IN FABRICATING THE PUSSY RIOT AFFAIR

By John Helmer, Moscow

A British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) correspondent in Moscow named Steven Rosenberg staged and filmed a rehearsal of what he claims Pussy Riot told him they were planning at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral at least a day, possibly several days before February 21. That is the day when three of the group members committed the acts for which they were convicted in a Moscow court on August 17, and sentenced to prison for two years.

The BBC’s role in encouraging these acts, coaching them in rehearsal in front of a camera, and then acting as an international megaphone for their songs and claims, was not called in evidence during the court proceedings, nor mentioned in the judgement. But the BBC is now refusing to answer questions about what they have done to promote Pussy Riot in media that have been circulating worldwide since February.
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THE MOUSE THAT ROARED – WHAT TRUTHS HAVE BEEN DECIDED IF BORIS BEREZOVSKY IS JUDGED A LIAR?

By John Helmer, Moscow

That Boris Berezovsky (image upper right) is a self-delusional liar is no news, particularly not in Moscow.

That Justice Dame Elizabeth Gloster (image lower right) should have made this point the crux of her August 31 judgement, dismissing Berezovsky’s claims against Roman Abramovich (lower left), should come as a surprise only to those who for a decade have promoted and protected Berezovsky’s claims to political power in Russia, business acumen, wealth, and superior intelligence; that is, a succession of British prime ministers starting with Tony Blair, and the Anglo-American media, led by the Guardian of London.
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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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