DANCE INTO THE NEW YEAR, TREADING ON TOES FOR THE GREATER RUSSIAN GOOD

By John Helmer, Moscow

“I can promise to say nothing that is untrue”, wrote Giuseppe di Lampedusa, the Sicilian prince, the Italian writer, when introducing a chapter of his brief memoirs. “But I shall not want to say all; and I reserve the right to lie by omission. Unless I change my mind.”

If somebody wants it badly enough, the Russian government can still be induced to ban writers, exile them, or allow them to be beaten up or killed without recourse. So there are things that cannot be written, because the risk and the threat are too great. For that reason, no differently from the Soviet period, there remains much that must be understood by omission, between the lines. This past year wasn’t different in this respect from the previous one, and on the present signs, it isn’t likely the new year will see much change.
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RUSSIAN CHRISTMAS PUZZLE — IF VALENTIN YUMASHEV IS SNEGOUROCHKA, CAN YOU BELIEVE WHO IS DYED MOROZ?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russians have an uninhibited good humour at this time of year, but Alisher Usmanov aims to be the spoiler, holding his nose over all the treats. According to Usmanov, the transaction “has the smell of the 90s and oligarch conspiracies. It’s not acceptable for us.”

Usmanov is referring to the transaction, confirmed on December 11, by which Roman Abramovich’s Millhouse holding acquired control of 25.87% of Norilsk Nickel’s shares for the price of 5.87%; Vladimir Strzhalkovsky received $100 million in cash; and Oleg Deripaska as the trustee with the control stake in United Company Rusal will receive a 48.13% share of Rusal’s 27.8% share of $10.9 billion in dividends to be paid out of the Norilsk Nickel treasury over the next three years – that’s $1.46 billion.
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CALLING A SPADE – PRESIDENT PUTIN ATTACKS ACCOUNTING CHAMBER AND SERGEI STEPASHIN, STEPASHIN RETALIATES

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Stepashin (right) was the prime minister of Russia for three months before Vladimir Putin (left) was appointed to the job in August 1999. Before that, Stepashin was the head of the Federal Security Service, Minister of Justice, and Minister of Interior. He also has a doctorate; a professor’s rank in civvies; and in the military the rank of Colonel-General. For a while in 2005 he was Boris Yeltsin’s preferred candidate to succeed him as president. He is now in his third term as the head of the Accounting Chamber, having been nominated by the Kremlin and accepted by the State Duma in 2000, 2005, and 2010.

The chamber’s job is to scrutinize the spending of public funds and where possible uncover and expose abuses and corruption. It’s the Russian equivalent, in constitutional duty at least, of the Government Accountability Office in Washington, or the National Audit Office in London. Unless he jumps or is pushed, Stepashin is in office until the end of 2017. By the standard of officials of the post-communist period, Stepashin has the right stuff.
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ON SYRIA, RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY LEADS, PUTIN AND THE NAVY FOLLOW

By John Helmer, Moscow

Along the eastern Mediterranean shore, between Tyre, Lebanon, and Tartous, Syria, it’s 191 kilometres as the crow flies – make that as the drone flies. Tyre was the site of one of the great tests of military technology, tactics, and nerve when the Greek, Alexander the Great, besieged the then Phoenician city in 332 BC, breaching the defences after seven months, killing about a fifth of the population, and despatching the rest into slavery.

The Americans, Turks, French, and British claim they have a better idea for the Syrians. Alexandrine crucifixions no – looting and slavery maybe.
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FANTASY IN WHITE – POLYMETAL DREAMS OF THE MOTHER LODE, AND OLEG KISELEV MAKES A BLAST FROM THE PAST

By John Helmer, Moscow

When precious metal geologists kiss their wives good night, and go to sleep, they dream of pushing upstream from river-borne, alluvial or placer deposits of platinum, to strike the mother lode. In geological theory, this is the El Dorado of the platinum business – a bedrock of high-grade platinum ore, not too far underground, easy and cheap to excavate, in much larger volumes than can be extracted from panning or dredging downstream, where millions of years of erosion have washed the metal in grains or tiny nuggets. Unlike their wives or gold, geologists prefer platinum because its value is relatively stable.

This year, for example, look at the moving line and compare the volatility of the gold price (left chart) compared with platinum’s (right):
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ALEXEI MORDASHOV TAKES HIGH RIVER GOLD BECAUSE THE ODOUR OF MONEY IS SWEETER THAN NORD GOLD SHARES

By John Helmer, Moscow

It has taken Alexei Mordashov (image lower right) three and a half years to persuade shareholders of Toronto-listed High River Gold (HRG) to accept his takeover of the company. That’s the longest foreign defence against a Russian takeover in the oligarch record-book. But when the count was completed on December 11, Mordashov’s victory was still a close-run thing. What has happened is that most of the holdout shareholders opted to take cash for their shares, and abandon the business, rather than accept a swap of their HRG shares for shares of Mordashov’s larger goldmine holding, London-listed Nord Gold.

Mordashov has the company he wanted, but not with a vote of confidence in his or his goldmining future. In the process, not a single Canadian court, Canadian stock market regulator, nor even a Canadian newspaper reporter took the side of the minority shareholders. They have included Sprott Asset Management, one of Canada’s leading independent fund managers; according to its latest performance sheet, its investments in gold and precious metals stocks have been bleeding red for the year to date, the full year, and indeed for the past three years.
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NOVOSHIP WINS DAMNING UK HIGH COURT VERDICT AGAINST YURY NIKITIN, JUDGEMENT OF CORRUPTION FORCES DISGORGEMENT OF $169 MILLION IN PROFITS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The UK High Court ruled today that Yury Nikitin, a London-based Russian shipping entrepreneur, had engaged in corruption and “dishonest assistance” in order to secure profitable charters from Novoship UK (NOUK). At the time, Novoship was an independent Russian shipping company; since 2007 it has been a subsidiary of the state-owned Sovcomflot.

The 157-page judgement by Justice Christopher Clarke found that bribes had been paid to Nikitin by Vladimir Mikhaylyuk, when the latter was general manager for Novoship in London between 2002 and 2005. Nikitin’s defence that this was not corruption on his part was dismissed by the judge as unconvincing and implausible on the facts. Justice Clarke also condemned Nikitin to repay all charter profits he had made where there were findings of corruption.
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AT THE RASHOMON GATE OR THE SPASSKY – THIS IS HOW SULEIMAN KERIMOV, MIKHAIL PROKHOROV AND STEPHEN JENNINGS HAD THEIR FALLING-OUT, IF THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s a cliché about greed.

Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon allows four witnesses to an affair of lust, robbery and murder to tell their own versions of what had happened. There is one corpse, and several versions of how it got that way – at the hand of the wife, the bandit, or by suicide. The film originated in two earlier short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Japanese audiences haven’t been as moved as western ones by either. From the Japanese point of view, dressing up dead samurais, violated ladies, grumpy bandits, and humble woodcutters doesn’t make the lesson of the story fresher than it can be. Who doesn’t know that people do what they do, see what they see, remember what they remember out of their own self-interest?

A debt of $650 million, and accumulating losses of more than $100 million are the interest of this little Russian tale. The characters are Stephen Jennings (image, upper right), founder of the Renaissance Capital (RenCap) group; Suleiman Kerimov (lower right), an investor for himself and others who prefer to hide in the forest; and Mikhail Prokhorov, part-owner of RenCap since 2008 and thus Jennings’s Russian partner. There is no lady, no sex act, and death is avoided, at least so far.
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OLEG DERIPASKA GOES BANKRUPT FOR THE FIRST TIME

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (image centre) is not having a good week. It started more or less out of harm’s way with a report in a London magazine, Private Eye. This claims that at least two Caribbean companies and one UK entity, which Deripaska uses to channel sales revenues from United Company Rusal to beneficiaries and places other than the shareholder income line on the company’s audited balance-sheet, “have been identified by economic crime specialists as fronts for extensive laundering – of proceeds for illicit arms exports, drugs, counterfeiting, corrupt public contracts, and much else.”

Then there was the collapse of the first Deripaska company to fall into official bankruptcy – Kuban Airlines – largely, aviation industry sources say, on account of lack of capital on the part of the owner to raise the operating margin of aircraft, and the risk of continuing to fly unsafe aircraft on domestic routes when they are banned internationally.
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GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT – MAYOR BLOOMBERG NEGOTIATES TO BUY THE FINANCIAL TIMES IN VIOLATION OF THE LUZHKOV RULE

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is rule on corruption which everyone in public office in every corner of the world knows – you mustn’t use your office to advance your private profit. When he was Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov was not supposed to put lucrative city business in the way of himself or his wife, Yelena Baturina. So in 2009, when she was accused in a London newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch – then in a billion-dollar conflict himself with the Moscow city administration — of using up to £100 million to buy a London palace in which to live with the Mayor and their children; and when Luzhkov was accused by innuendo of failing to disclose the deal, Baturina sued in the UK High Court for libel. Six months after this story ran, the newspaper and its proprietor News International, settled out of court, apologizing to Baturina, retracting the claims, and paying her costs and damages.
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COMIC-STRIP JUSTICE FOR RUPERT MURDOCH – LORD JUSTICE LEVESON DELEGATES PRESS JOB TO TONTO

By John Helmer, Moscow

There are 7,018 pages in the four-volume paper print of Lord Leveson’s report on the ethics and practices of the British press. But just three references to Russia. One of them is a reflection on press freedom in primitive Russia and Ethiopia, compared with civilized UK by Alexander Lebedev, owner of the London dailies, The Evening Standard and The Independent (both currently for sale).

The report is modestly titled with an indefinite article: “An Enquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press, Report.” The byline belongs to Sir Brian Leveson (image left), a specialist criminal lawyer, then an appellate court judge. According to one of Lebedev’s papers, Leveson is in the running for promotion to the job of Lord Chief Justice, as the principal position in the British judiciary is called. That’s to say, he was in the running before his report was composed and despatched to Prime Minister David Cameron.
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HOW TO MAKE SHARK FIN SOUP – ASK GENNADY TIMCHENKO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Negotiations are under way between Pacific Andes of Hong Kong, and its Singapore subsidiary China Fishery Group, with Russian Sea, the leading Russian fishing fleet operator, to resolve longstanding conflict between Chinese and Russians over access to waters in Russia’s exclusive economic zone, and to fish catch quotas. Under Russian law, the fisheries are strategic sectors and foreign investment in the industry is allowed only with the approval of the government’s Control Commission for Foreign Investment.
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STICKY BACKS – HOW THE BRITISH GO ON FOOLING THE RUSSIANS

By John Helmer, Moscow

If you believe that in July 1941, a few days after the start of the German invasion, Lavrenty Beria was telling Josef Stalin that one of their NKVD agents had gotten her information “from the horse’s mouth, as the peasants say”, this book is for you. Actually, the expression is American slang from early 20th century horse-racing tracks in New York and New Jersey. In Beria’s mouth, in Stalin’s presence, it is one of dozens of improbabilities about Russians by an American, whose latest novel claims to be a surprise version of the early years and later loyalties of H.A.R. Kim Philby (image left).

Robert Littell, the author, claims in an end-note to have gotten his idea from a well-known Israeli at a meeting in Jerusalem in the year 2000, before the Israeli went to his Maker. The source reportedly claimed that during the Mossad phase of his career, he had warned the CIA that Philby was a double agent, a British spy who was in fact a Soviet plant. However, because Philby repeatedly escaped the official consequences of his superiors realizing this, and managed to live out his days in Moscow scot free, with local honour and in comfort, Littell deduces that Philby must have been a triple agent. That is, a plant on the Soviets from the very beginning by His Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, in a ruse which one or two CIA officials were let in on (although not the FBI).
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A NEW TYPE OF FLATULENCE – GAZPROM TO CHALLENGE US FOR GLOBAL HELIUM BUBBLE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Blimps long ago lost their value as a means of cargo transportation, military reconnaissance, or anti-aircraft defence; whilst the helium that fills them – more safely than the combustible hydrogen gas which brought down the Hindenburg in 1937 – is sharply increasing its value in other applications. But the US, which is currently producing most of the world’s helium, is short of fresh supplies and low on stocks. This is because the government-set price is rising too slowly to cover the combination of rising demand, delivery and distribution costs, and spot-price speculation. To fix this in the short term, the US Congress is considering a new bill, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2012, but no vote is likely on that until next year. Much of the recent reporting of a helium shortage, and threat to helium-supplied operation of medical scanning machines, has been stimulated by lobbying for the enactment of this bill by the commercial interests; naturally, they want to see the US government lid on helium prices lifted.
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SERGEI FRANK’S HOT POTATO — SOVCOMFLOT TO AVOID LONDON FOR SHARE SALE ATTEMPT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The state-owned tanker company Sovcomflot is to avoid the London Stock Exchange (LSE) for its initial public offering (IPO). Instead, it is reviving a decade-old plan of former chief executive Dmitry Skarga and will attempt to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). A source in a position to know said the NYSE choice had been made a couple of months ago. The move to New York by Sovcomflot follows High Court rulings in London which have judged Sovocomflot’s management to have acted dishonestly in its pursuit of fraud and bribery litigation against Skarga, another former chief executive, and a former chartering partner.

The proposed move also comes after the Fitch ratings agency has issued a downgrade for Sovcomflot, claiming the failure of the company to sell shares — deferred until next year after several earlier postponements — is weakening its ability to cover its debts, as revenues remain under pressure from poor freight rates. Last week Sovcomflot reported it was loss-making in the September quarter – the first loss the company has reported since it began issuing audited reports according to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

How little the Germans have changed.

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



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

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

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

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

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

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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