ACCOUNTING CHAMBER POSTPONES JUDGEMENT ON OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is a famous old anecdote in which Zmei Gorinich, the three-headed Russian dragon, sits hungrily down to table, and proceeds to stuff each of his mouths with food presented to him by villagers too terrified to do otherwise. At night, however, the dragon’s stomach rumbles, then swells, and finally explodes. With his death, the villagers celebrate their liberation. The moral of the story: don’t eat through three mouths if you’ve got only one arse.

So far as is known, Oleg Deripaska has only one arse. But a recent investigation of the feeding and digestion habits of United Company Rusal, the aluminium monopoly which Deripaska controls, was intended to count the dozens of throats through which sale revenues of the company’s production units are passed, before the earnings disappear abroad.
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ALROSA CONFIRMS TIFFANY DIAMOND CONTRACT, PREFERENTIAL ASSORTMENT SUSPECTED BY RUSSIAN DIAMOND CUTTERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, the Russian diamond miner, signed an agreement on Wednesday [November 28] to supply selected rough diamonds to Tiffany of New York. Signing with Alrosa chief executive Fyodor Andreyev was Andrew Hart, president of Laurelton Diamonds, a Belgian subsidiary of Tiffany, as well as executive vice president of Tiffany Corporation in New York. The Alrosa press release reports that there had been single-lot supply deals on spot market terms between the two in the past, but this is the first long-term agreement between them. According to Andreyev, it “will make our partnership permanent and serve to increase the supply of diamonds to Tiffany.”

This is the second time in a month when Alrosa has publicized diamond supply contracts. On November 13 Alrosa announced it had signed a two-year contract with Conroy Cheng, executive director of Chow Tai Fook, the Chinese diamond-cutter and jewellery manufacturer of China.
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SMOKESCREEN FOR CONCEALED RUSSIAN ASSETS – WHAT DAVID LEIGH AND GERARD RYLE ARE HIDING IN THEIR INVESTIGATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Reporters can hardly call themselves investigative journalists if their object is to report the obvious in plain sight — that people keep their purposes and their assets to themselves. But when reporters hide their own purposes and fortunes as assiduously as those they investigate, the purpose of the chase has been compromised, and the outcome isn’t so much an exposé as a cliché.

For the Guardian newspaper of London, there may be no cliché about Russia that isn’t worth repeating and reporting again, and again. But when the paper’s team of investigative reporters discovered this week that according to the headline, “Russians profit from Britain’s offshore secrecy”, was this an investigation of the wealthiest Russians living and working in London – Roman Abramovich and Oleg Deripaska? Was it an expose of how Alisher Usmanov managed to sell almost $1.7 billion worth of shares in his Megafon company on the London Stock Exchange before the price plummeted? Not at all.
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SPINACH FOR FLOTATION — TO SAVE THE SHIP, MEGAFON IPO FINDS ANCHOR INVESTORS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not even the two people usually familiar with the matter were able to convince Bloomberg that there has been genuine demand in the London market for Megafon shares at Alisher Usmanov’s asking price. Instead, as the company and its underwriters tried to sign buyers before the subscription book closed this afternoon, brokerage sources claimed the initial public offering (IPO) was anchored by an order for $170 million. That’s 10% of the shares on offer – if the company is following its undertaking to sell 15% at a base valuation of $11 billion.

While speculation of the identity of the “anchor investor” focused on major investment funds, a source really familiar with the matter claimed that she “wouldn’t be surprised if it is ‘friends and family’. That seems to be the tactic these days.”
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US TRADE SANCTION TO COST LESS THAN $200 MILLION — SEVERSTAL MINIMIZES IMPACT OF NEW IMPORT PRICE CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce has revealed that the new reference prices it set early this month for imports to the US of Russian-made rolled steel products will rise by 47% over the prevailing regime. However, the US evidence suggests the impact on Russian exporters will be slight.

According to Mara Lee, a spokesman for ITA, through September 30 just 257,445 tonnes of Russian hot-rolled steel subject to the reference pricing were imported, at a value of $168 million. That represents an average landed price of $652.55 per tonne. The spokesman said her agency will not speculate on what impact the hike in the reference prices will have on the volume of Russian shipments after the new price controls take effect on November 15. But depending on the category of the steel product and the US demand, there remains enough margin in the new pricing to allow some Russian exports to squeak through. At the same time, most of the surge of Russian steel sales to the US over the past two years has come in the form of semi-finished products, and they aren’t affected at all by the price controls.
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ISKANDER MAKHMUDOV IS LOCOMAN – GREAT PHILANTHROPIST OR GIANT LOSSMAKER?

By John Helmer, Moscow

For a country of Russia’s physical size, trains are an obvious strategic necessity. So it’s peculiar that there is a monopoly for pulling and pushing those trains from place to place, and that this monopoly for building locomotives should be held by a single man, who, with Kremlin approval, has buried his interest in a secretive private company in The Netherlands. That company is called Breakers Investments. The man who controls it is Iskander Makhmudov (image), otherwise known as the heir to Mikhail Chernoy’s (Cherney) copper and coal businesses.

Through the procurement of locomotives by state-owned Russian Railways (RZhD), money is moved from state-regulated transport tariffs collected by the rail operating units and from the state-subsidized RZhD investment budget through the Transmash group of companies; then in the form of dividends from Transmash’s profits it is paid into Breakers Investments. What remains a mystery is how the large profits declared by Transmash disappear when the balance-sheets of Breakers Investments show a loss.
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THANKSGIVING FOR THE TURKEYS – IF MITT ROMNEY HAD WON, WOULD MATT ROMNEY’S VISIT TO MOSCOW HAVE VIOLATED THE FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Corruption is a global problem.

That’s one of the opening lines in the US Department of Justice’s guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the law enacted in Washington in 1977 to prohibit US individuals and companies from offering inducements of value to the officials of foreign governments. “Corruption impedes economic growth,” says the guide, “by diverting public resources from important priorities such as health, education, and infrastructure. It undermines democratic values and public accountability and weakens the rule of law… International corruption also undercuts good governance and impedes U.S. efforts to promote freedom and democracy, end poverty, and combat crime and terrorism across the globe. Corruption is also bad for business.”

When the US Congress was defining the corruption the statute was meant to prevent, it sought “to make clear that the offer, payment, promise, or gift, must be intended to induce the recipient to misuse his official position; for example, wrongfully to direct business to the payor or his client, to obtain preferential legislation or regulations, or to induce a foreign official to fail to perform an official function.”
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YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE… ALEXEI MORDASHOV’S TAKEOVER OF HIGH RIVER GOLD STOPS SHORT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The deadline for Canadian shareholders to accept or reject Alexei Mordashov’s takeover terms for High River Gold (HRG) is fixed for next Tuesday, November 27. The latest count to be released to the market suggests he will fail because the holdout shareholders are convinced the offer price is too low. The price point isn’t news. The shareholder count may be.

According to Chris Charlwood, one of the coordinators of the HRG minorities, “we have collected confirmations from shareholders with approximately 90.2 million shares (10.73% of total HRG shares and 43% of the minorities rremaining) that they will not tender to Nord Gold’s offer. This includes shares owned in funds managed by Eric Sprott (HRG’s largest minority shareholder). Nord Gold would have needed 90% of minority to tender to the current offer in order to squeeze the rest out. With 43% of the minority indicating they will not tender, this should prevent this from happening on the Nov. 27th expiry date.”
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TURNING THE SCREWS ON THE RUSSIAN JET SET

By John Helmer, Moscow

Going or coming, Russian users of private jet aircraft think they are screwed.

If they fly on foreign-made planes which are registered in Russia, they are obliged under the current tax regulations to pay 18% value-added tax (VAT) on the customs-declared value of the aircraft, plus 2.2% annual property tax. If they try to avoid the VAT, and fly foreign-owned, foreign-registered aircraft, and if they are individuals, then their right to fly in style is subject to special permits issued by Rosaviatsia, the Russian aviation authority. Its rules require that the use of the aircraft is private, not commercial, and this is defined in government decrees as meaning that the flier isn’t aiming to derive income from his use of the aircraft. In addition, Russian Customs, which must issue permits for these aircraft to fly into Russian airports and pick up or drop passengers, requires that individual aircraft don’t operate inside Russia for more than 30 consecutive days; don’t accumulate more than 180 days of operation in a calendar year; and don’t carry more than 19 passengers at a time.

So what’s a Russian oligarch, or individual wealthy enough to prefer private jetting to regularly scheduled commercial airlines, to do?
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MAGNITOGORSK CAN’T MAKE UP ITS MIND IF MIDDLE EASTERN WAR IS GOOD FOR ITS STEEL BUSINESS

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you are a steelmill owner working at safe distance when the bombs, rockets and body-packs explode in your market, the more destruction the better for demand, sales, and profit margins, especially at this point in the current cycle of the steel trade. Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), the Russian steelmaker owned by Victor Rashnikov (right), has a near front-seat on the battlefield now extending from Iraq to Iran and Syria, because it is the sole owner of MMK-Metalurji (aka Atakas), a 2.3-million tonne capacity steel complex, in Turkey. In addition to losing revenues from direct sales to Iran because of US and European sanctions, MMK has been losing money hand over fist at Metalurji. In response, MMK’s management has been issuing contradictory signals of what it aims to do next.

This week MMK suspended crude steel production at MMK-Metalurji, leaving the rolling lines to continue working with stockpiled semi-finished steel. But the company doesn’t want to admit it. There has been no public announcement on the MMK website. Polina Rudyaeva, a spokesman for MMK headquarters in Moscow, said the company isn’t commenting on the issue for the time being.
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ALISHER USMANOV’S MEGAFON SHARES REMAINDERED TO CLEAR – THE SWEDES AGREE TO HOLD THEIR SHARES FOR SIX MONTHS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The November 15 announcement by Megafon, the telephone property of Alisher Usmanov and Andrei Skoch, reveals a discount on last month’s valuation targets of up to 20%, depending on how the assets for sale are counted. To attract buyers for shares at bargain-basement prices, the company is promising to pay out more than 50% of its net profit in dividends, a temptation which wasn’t enough in last month’s offer to convince investors to buy into Megafon at the bottom of the valuation range of $11 billion. So uncertain is the future that the minority Swedish shareholder, TeliaSonera, confirms that it has agreed to retain its Megafon shares for no longer than next May, and may then sell out entirely.

Megafon says it has commenced a roadshow of presentations to investors today, and plans to start selling shares and General Depositary Receipts (GDRs) on the London Stock Exchange on November 28. The company has issued an Intention to List (ITL) document, but it is refusing to release the prospectus, or provide details of what it claims in that document about the risks the company faces, and what it reveals of the business practices and litigation record of Usmanov and Skoch.
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THE LATVIAN EXPRESS — OLEG DERIPASKA’S TRADING COMPANIES UNDER INVESTIGATION TO FIND WHERE RUSAL REVENUES FLY

By John Helmer, Moscow

The rising cost line in the latest loss-making financial report of United Company Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, is under investigation as Rusal’s Latvian bank operations are probed, as well as tax payments in Cyprus. The evidence is being gathered in Cyprus; and by lawyers in London and New York, where Rusal and its chief executive Oleg Deripaska have been accused in court papers of violations of the company’s shareholder charter and management violations.

Deripaska denies the claims, while the company reports that as of September 30, it is counting provisions for possible lawsuit awards of $203 million.

In its report for the September quarter, released on November 12, Rusal says its revenues dropped to $2.5 billion, a decline of 19% compared to the second quarter. Cost of sales came to $2.3 billion, almost unchanged on the quarter. Over the 9-month period, revenues are down 13% to $8.3 billion, while cost of sales has grown 7% to $7 billion. The bottom-line for the latest quarter is an operating loss of $27 million, and an after-tax loss of $118 million. Rusal has now moved from profit-making at the half-way mark of the year into the red. A statement by chief executive Deripaska, posted on the company website, explains the company was “seriously hit by the bottomed LME aluminium price as a result of investor sentiment. The period under review has seen RUSAL continue to focus on cost controls as well as increase production of value added products.”
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TOM WOLFE STUBS FOOT AND OTHER ORGANS ON RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS – INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM TURNS INTO FARCE AND ETHNO-PORN

By John Helmer, Moscow

The value difference and profit opportunity between a genuine piece of art and a fake are so large, there’s no deterring entrepreneurial forgers. Until now, the cleverest schemes have, ethnically speaking, been the specialty of Englishmen, Americans, and well-known art auction houses, museum curators and experts in connoisseurship. That last term is upper-class slang for hucksterism.

But when American Tom Wolfe (centre, right), exponent of what was called the New Journalism fifty years ago, exposes a Russian oligarch for a plot to make hundreds of millions of dollars in fakes through donating some to a Miami art museum, and selling others on the side, he has created a 700-page scapegoat for many things, including the loss of Wolfe’s talent.
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FITCH CUTS RATING OF RUSSIAN TANKER COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT ON IPO UNCERTAINTY AND MOUNTING DEBTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Fitch ratings agency has issued a downgrade for Sovcomflot, the state-owned tanker group, claiming the failure of the company to privatize and sell shares, planned for this year, is weakening its ability to cover its current debts, as revenues remain under pressure from poor freight rates. But the debt picture is worsening as more than another billion dollars in bills for the new fleet commissioned by chief executive Sergei Frank (image second from right) come due next year, and in 2014.

Sovcomflot has reported that as of June 30 it must repay short-term loans of $253.3 million over the next twelve months, and is carrying longer-term debts of $2.3 billion; the latter figure is up 8% compared to the debt level on June 30, 2011. In its financial report for the first half of this year, Sovcomflot says its Time Charter Equivalent revenues came to $500.5 million, a year-on-year gain of 4%, but net profit fell 21% to $50.9 million.
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NOVOLIPETSK DOES SOMETHING NO RUSSIAN STEELMAKER DOES IN RUSSIA – NEGOTIATES COST, JOB CUTS AND CRISIS MEASURES WITH UNIONS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Novolipetsk Metallurgical Combine (NLMK), owned by Vladimir Lisin, has done something that no Russian steelmaker is on record as doing in the current downturn for steel production, sales, and profits; nor in the downturns which have preceded – 1991-93, 1998-99 and 2008-09. It is negotiating with steelworkers and their unions before deciding on how to cut costs. There’s a catch — that’s happening in Belgium, not in Russia.

For months there have been public demonstrations in the traditional steelmaking Wallonia (Walloon) region of Belgium, between Liege and La Louviere, 112 kilometres to the southeast. Unions, regional government, political parties of the right and left, and consultancy studies have recommended a variety of options for reviving the steelmills and keeping steelworkers employed in the region; none would cost less than €300 million. There is also sharp local argument over whether the region would be better off in the long run doing without the steelmills.
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ROMAN ABRAMOVICH TESTS KREMLIN FOREIGN INVESTMENT STRICTURE WITH NEW BILLION-DOLLAR AUSTRALIAN DEAL

By John Helmer, Moscow

Roman Abramovich was recently able to bamboozle a British judge with no experience of Russia, when the credibility standard was set by Boris Berezovsky. But can his winsome personality persuade President Vladimir Putin and energy chief Igor Sechin that Russia badly needs to acquire an Australian company that has adapted Soviet technology for turning coal into gas; should lend Abramovich up to $2 billion to buy the asset; and maybe several hundred more million dollars to flip the asset to Evraz, the Russian steel and coalmining group which Abramovich’s holding, Millhouse, already controls?

Abramovich’s last attempt at spending a Russian dividend stream on foreign assets was aborted when Evraz withdrew its bid to buy Scaw Metals, a South African steelmaker owned by Anglo American. That deal, worth between $500 million and $700 million, didn’t happen at the same time as Victor Rashnikov was extricating Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine from its $560 million commitment to buy Flinders Mining, an Australian iron-ore project.
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THE VAMOOSE EFFECT ON US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The result of the US presidential election, giving Barack Obama victory in both the popular vote and an even bigger one in the Electoral College vote by state, shows that one traditional rule of thumb still applies — incumbents must be down by a 5% margin in the polls at the end of the party conventions for the challenger to be likely to win on Election Day. This is because far more voters have decided their vote well in advance than they admit to the pollsters, and because they can be shaken from their intention only by October surprises or obvious mishaps. Accordingly, Mitt Romney was bound to fail.
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IGOR SECHIN DEFEATED BY NORILSK NICKEL – RUSSIAN PLATINUM OUSTED FROM VITAL ASSET

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s more serious than a case of when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Arguments over Igor Sechin’s appointment to run the country delayed the announcement of Dmitry Medvedev’s government for several weeks in May. Now that Sechin’s at Rosneft in charge of constructing the most powerful energy-producing and trading platform in the world, he hasn’t had the time to supervise the Russian mining and minerals sector, as he used to do during President Putin’s second term and his prime ministry. In allocating Sechin’s time cost-effectively, there’s no comparison between running Rosneft and sorting out the problems of Norilsk Nickel, Rusal, Urals Mining and Metals, and Metalloinvest.
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A SONG FOR NATIONAL UNITY DAY, NOVEMBER 4 — PUT AND CALL ON THE RITZ

By John Helmer, Moscow

It happened at the same time in February, when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was rehearsing members of the Pussy Riot group, recording voice-over of a script against then presidential candidate Vladimir Putin , and fabricating a performance in Christ the Saviour Cathedral for which two members of the group are serving 2-year prison terms, and one is on probation. The BBC has acknowledged “errors” were made by their Moscow correspondent Steven Rosenberg in his compilations and broadcasts about the incident, the prequels and sequels.

This YouTube version of the February 21 incident has recorded 75,110 views. The BBC rehearsal version, posted on February 20, has so far drawn 84,336 views. An extra English-language version has recorded just 3,132 views. And this is the YouTube clip posted by Pussy Riot itself. The views total 2,364,707.
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GENNADY TIMCHENKO ASKS LONDON MARKET TO INVEST IN HIS FUTURE WHEN IGOR SECHIN IS SAYING THERE MAY NOT BE ONE

By John Helmer, Moscow

If Russia’s leading oil trader Gunvor can lose its allocations of crude oil from Rosneft and Surgutneftegas in a flash, and Novatek almost a third of its domestic gas sales in another instant, then Gennady Timchenko, a control shareholder of both companies, has some explaining to do in public. That is, if he intends investors on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to buy shares in another company he controls in the Russian oil and gas business, IG Seismic Services (IGSS).

The answer to that question also helps answer the last question Timchenko was reluctant to answer – is he running away from trouble in Geneva, or running towards trouble in Moscow? Or both?
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DOES LAKSHMI MITTAL LOVE ALEXEI MORDASHOV, AGAIN? SEVERSTAL UNDECIDED ABOUT FLORANGE JOINT VENTURE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Severstal reconfirmed this week that the control shareholder and executive chairman, Alexei Mordashov, has ruled out buying brownfield projects or loss-making steelmills. The company is not saying, however, whether it will agree to buy from ArcelorMittal parts of the Florange steelmill in northeastern France. Two blast furnaces at the struggling site have been shut down for the past fourteen months, but operations have continued at the downstream hot and cold rolling mills and coating lines, as well as at the upstream coke plant. Full capacity production at Lorange is 2.5 million tonnes per annum.

On October 1, ArcelorMittal announced it intended “to permanently close the liquid phase [blast furnace production of steel at Lorange] and concentrate efforts and investment on the high-quality finishing operation, which employs more than 2,000 employees.” It claimed that 629 jobs would be lost in total. This triggered local demonstrations. ArcelorMittal is also claiming that it will continue to operate part of the Florange complex. “The company is proposing that in the future, slab for the Florange site will continue to be transported from Dunkerque, a world class site, thereby maintaining the industrial chain in France. ArcelorMittal will then focus on enhancing Florange’s position as a centre of excellence for developing high-quality value-added products for its customers, most notably in the automotive industry.”
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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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