CONCERT-PARTY TAKEOVER OF POLYUS GOLD AND POLYMETAL – THE MORE SILENT ZELIMKHAN MUTSOEV AND GAVRIIL YUSHVAEV REMAIN ON THE PURCHASE PRICE, THE MORE OBVIOUS THEY ARE IN LEAGUE WITH SULEIMAN KERIMOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

Do snaps of businessmen playing cards, or dancing the lezginka together, prove they are in a concert-party relationship which is an unauthorized way of making money, according to Rule 9 of the Takeover Code for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange — if they keep it secret from other shareholders?

Zelimkhan Mutsoev (left and centre, upper and lower images), Gavriil Yushvaev (right, right) and Suleiman Kerimov (centre, left) were all born in the Caucasus within a decade of each other. As grown-ups they have taken different career paths, and they have made large sums of money independently. Two of them, Mutsoev and Kerimov, have also acted together to take over Russia’s second potash producer Silvinit, merge it with the leader Uralkali, and create a Russian potash monopoly. The Federal Antimonopoly Service found no infraction of Russian rules in that. But if they are now trying the same thing to acquire Mikhail Prokhorov’s 38% stake in Polyus Gold, Russia’s leading goldminer, and then merge it with Polymetal, the UK rules apply because both Polyus Gold and Polymetal are premium listings on the LSE.
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OLEG DERIPASKA TRIES ANOTHER STICK-UP, THIS TIME AGAINST THE NEW OWNERS OF NIGERIA’S ALUMINIUM SMELTER (ALSCON)

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s state aluminium monopoly, United Company Rusal, has requested the help of the federal US court in Los Angeles in an attempt to delay or prevent the Nigerian courts and Nigerian government returning the country’s sole aluminium smelter to the Nigerian-American company which originally won the privatization auction of the asset in 2004, before losing it to Rusal.

Scheduled for hearing on February 12, the Rusal move may backfire, as similar legal tactics have already gone against Rusal last year in New York. Whether the Los Angeles court rules in favour of or against Rusal, it is likely to trigger parallel applications throughout the US for evidence disclosure orders by the US courts in support of other international lawsuits against Rusal companies, bank accounts, and Oleg Deripaska, the Kremlin’s trustee for the shareholder trust which controls the group.
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THE GREAT EXAGGERATOR – CAN ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV DELIVER THE CRUDE OIL HE HAS PROMISED FOR HIS NEW ROTTERDAM PORT TERMINAL? IF HE CAN’T, WILL PRIME MINISTER MEDVEDEV ORDER IT?

By John Helmer, Moscow

You don’t have to be a commercial rival of Ziyavudin Magomedov to notice that the billion-dollar business ventures he promises to deliver often fail to materialize. There was his claim, for example, that with his control stake of the United Grain Company (OZK is the Russian acronym), he intended to bid for control of an Australian grain company GrainCorp. There was the promise of coal and grain terminals on Russia’s fareastern coast. Then there was the fleet of tankers to carry oil between Russia’s northern ports and Rotterdam, powered by the latest liquefied natural gas technology. Not one of those claims has materialized.

What then of Magomedov’s promise to the Rotterdam port authority, reported by Dutch sources, that if he was granted permission to build a new oil terminal, he would fill it with an extra 30,000 tonnes per year (600,000 barrels per day)? The port authority has done what it said it would do – Magomedov has his terminal permit and a deadline of two years in which to start stocking and transhipping oil. But can he deliver? Where will the extra Russian crude supplies come from, especially since the Russian oil majors, like Rosneft, LUKoil, Surgutneftegaz, Gazpromneft, and Bashneft, have their own Rotterdam plans, and no interest in sharing their profit with Magomedov? A leading European oil shipment expert says: “In my understanding, Mr Magomedov is a bubble blower.”
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RIDING THE TIGER — RUSSIA’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CONGO PRESIDENT SASSOU NGUESSO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia employs a special representative to Africa, Mikhail Margelov (rear window), whose best known statement of the policy he represents is: “Russia has returned to Africa, and Africa to Russia.” Margelov doesn’t answer questions about what this means. He was scarcely more explicit when he was the Russian negotiator for Muammar Qaddafi’s exit from Libya – “the most delicate topic” he called it in June 2011. Four months later Qaddafi was shot dead trying to escape.

Libya had been the largest debtor in Africa owing money to Russia; in 2008 then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (centre window, right) announced that Russia was writing off $4.5 billion, all of the debt accepted by both sides, on condition that the Libyans agreed to offset the write-off with contracts to buy arms, railways, power plants, and gas production ventures worth roughly twice that amount.
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LUKOIL PLANS LAUNCH OF GRIB MINE IN ARKHANGELSK IN SEPTEMBER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian oil company LUKoil plans to launch commercial production of diamonds at its Grib diamond mine in September, the company confirms. It is the first diamond mine to be opened in Russia since Alrosa, the state diamond miner, commissioned the Nyurba mine in Sakha in 2003. Alrosa’s Lomonosov diamond mine, less than 50 kilometres from the Grib site, has been in development since 2005, and the first stripping for the Botyubinskaya mine in Yakutia commenced last month.

On LUKoil’s and Alrosa’s current estimates, the Grib mine with 98 million carats holds roughly twice the volume of mineable diamonds compared to Lomonosov next door. Grib ranks fourth in size of reserves on the table of Russia’s diamond mines, after Udachny, Jubilee, and Mir, all being worked by Alrosa in Sakha.
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OLEG DERIPASKA FAVOURS OPENNESS IN THE US FINANCIAL SECTOR, BUT NOT THIS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Noone at Davos this week owes as much money to as many banks, and has escaped as many default notices, as Oleg Deripaska, the Kremlin’s trustee for the state aluminium monopoly United Company Rusal. No surprise then that as he flew into Zurich enroute for this week’s World Economic Forum, the Sky television network broadcast an interview in which Deripaska attacked the UK Financial Services Authority for being “too conservative”; claimed London-based financial institutions are “not so attractive” as their US counterparts for raising new loans; and advised the British government to “listen better to City [of London] bankers.”

Playing the US government off against the British, Deripaska said he prefers the “great opportunity” in the US, “the cheapest cost of capital”, and an attitude towards him which is “very open”.

Deripaska wasn’t referring to the recent opening in New York of his own secret financial records. The Sky reporter didn’t know to ask about them. Deripaska’s collocutors in Davos ought to be better informed.
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RUSSIA POSES NO RISKS TO THE WORLD – LATEST EURASIA ASSESSMENT – SO WHO WANTS TO PAY THE ALGERIAN PREMIUM FOR GAS?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Most American geopolitical risk analysts live in a row of northeastern towns far from the tornado belt. So they don’t understand what sowing the wind, reaping the whirlwind means. The Anglo-American strategists who thought it clever strategy to launch a little war in Libya, kill Muammar Qaddafi, and help themselves to the new regime’s oil and gas concessions are slow to follow that the whirlwind there is now blowing south and westward. Last year in Mali, last week in Algeria, soon (again) in Nigeria. Attacks on the wellhead, refinery or pipeline – gas or oil – will soon enough reveal how counter-productive are Francois Hollande’s bombers and paras; and by contrast, how fulsome and stable Russian gas supplies, natural or liquefied, will prove to be, when the whirlwind really starts blowing across the Sahara towards central Africa’s energy exporters.

Business risk analysts do better at wind detection — time to go short on energy companies with west and north African exposure; go long on Gazprom, Novatek, Rosneft. Alexei Miller, Leonid Mikhelson, Gennady Timchenko and Igor Sechin are crying all the way to the bank.
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CONTAINING CHINA – HOW THE PENTAGON THINKS OF RUSSIA IN THE BIG GAME

By John Helmer, Moscow

At your peril, the one thing you must never say to a ranking Israeli intelligence officer, even one in mufti or retirement, is that he is suffering from a superiority complex. For the clinical symptoms of the affliction include conceptual deafness, ideological blindness. These stem from the frontal-lobe idea that the victim earned victory over his adversaries by his own wits; that those wits are unbeatable; and that accordingly he can never be bested or made to look stupid or act the fool.

In strategy, this leads to the first law of Barnum (of American circus fame) – there is a sucker born every minute. The second Barnum law is that the first starts with yourself.
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THE NEW OLIGARCH PLAYPEN — ISKANDER MAKHMUDOV BUILDS A NEW MONOPOLY, THIS TIME OF MOSCOW PASSENGER RAIL TRANSPORTATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

The old oligarchs, and several new aspirants, have a new playground in the Russian transportation sector, where their profits are guaranteed by the state budget. Carrying cargo from mine and wellhead to plant and port, and back again from port to market, is already profitable in conventional terms, and so the state assets, once part of the state railways monopoly, are the target of active lobbying for special favour. Carrying passengers around the biggest conurbation in the country – Moscow – is another target. But because passenger fares are regulated and subsidized by the state, the profitability of transporting them is more restricted than cargo transportation. It is also better hidden. Still, the game rules for privatization are the same as they were in the natural resource, energy and mining sectors – buy cheap (corruptly), sell dear (offshore).

In general, purchasing assets from the state on the cheap means the acquiescence of state officials in low-ball privatizations, or non-competitive “strategic placements”, paid with state bank loans on soft securization terms, subsidized interest rates, non-market repayment guarantees: everyone knows these are administrative measures requiring extras.
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PRESIDENT PUTIN SIGNALS THUMBS DOWN FOR OLEG DERIPASKA’S WASHINGTON CLAIM

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last month Oleg Deripaska authorized a Washington lobbyist he employs to submit to the US Department of Justice the claim that Deripaska meets with American “businesspeople to assess economic development in the United States in connection with his role as an economic advisor to the President of the Russian Federation.”

The lobbyist Adam Waldman is paid $40,000 per month, plus expenses, from the offshore revenues of United Company Rusal to make this claim part of a case Deripaska has advanced in Washington for several years, trying to overturn the US Government ban on his receiving a regular visa for entry to the country.
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IS PUTIN OFFERING KUTUZOV’S GOLDEN BRIDGE TO RUSSIA’S ADVERSARIES, OR IS HE TRYING TO CROSS IT HIMSELF?

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian tactic of giving an adversary an exit through which to escape was coined by Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov (left) during the war against Napoleon. He called it the “pont d’or” (golden bridge). The meaning was that Napoleon and his army should be allowed to retreat out of Russia, harassed, starved, diminished, but not annihilated. Kutuzov’s reasoning was strategic. It was not worth the risk and cost to the Russian army of a struggle to the death with the French. Worse, Kutuzov thought, if Napoleon were totally destroyed, there would be nothing to stop the British from emerging to threaten Russia more powerfully than the French had been capable of.

“You don’t realize,” Kutuzov talking to a subordinate in November 1812, as Napoleon and his stragglers crossed the Dnieper river, “that circumstances will in and of themselves achieve more than our troops.And we ourselves must not arrive on our borders as emaciated tramps.” And in a put-down of Sir Robert Wilson, a known English spy at the tsar’s field headquarters: “I am by no means sure that the total destruction of the Emperor Napoleon and his army would be of such benefit to the world; his succession would not fall to Russia or any other continental power, but to that which commands the sea, and whose domination would then be intolerable.”

Is the golden bridge still a doctrine of Russian strategy, and if so, who will express it?
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DID SERGEI LAVROV GIVE MONEY TO THE OBAMA ELECTION CAMPAIGN? THE FOREIGN MINISTER HAS ADDED THE SECRET SHAREHOLDERS OF RUSAL TO HIS JOB REPRESENTING THE RUSSIAN NATIONAL INTEREST

By John Helmer, Moscow

A donation of $2,500 to the “Obama Victory Fund”, the US president’s election campaign fund, was made on October 12, 2012, by an American lobbyist engaged by Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. This is according to a filing last month by the US agent acting for Lavrov named Adam Waldman. He reported the payment to the Foreign Agents Registration Act Unit, a branch of the National Security Division of the US Department of Justice on December 19. Direct or indirect political donations by foreign nationals are illegal under US election financing law and its regulations.

The money trail which linked Lavrov to Barack Obama’s campaign treasury goes through a company registered on the Channel Island of Jersey. That in turn conceals secret shareholders of United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly controlled by Oleg Deripaska. At least one of those shareholders may be another Russian government official of higher rank than Lavrov’s.
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HOLIDAY READER ON RUSSIA HATING — HOW BRITISH HERO, PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR, LEARNED HIS STUFF IN THE BED OF A ROMANIAN PRINCESS, LAIR OF A CRETAN BANDIT, CHASING FOXES, ETC.

By John Helmer, Moscow

Patrick Leigh Fermor (d. June 11, 2011) was to travelogues what Christopher Hitchens (d. December 15, 2011) was to journalism – a race to show off. Veracity was always a scratching if verisimilitude would run better – and if serious money was at stake. Heiresses made the best mounts, and once in the saddle, Leigh Fermor’s grip, compared to Hitchens’s, was the firmer; though their prolix charm had the same finishing line. Leigh Fermor, according to Somerset Maugham, was “a middle class gigolo for upper class women”.

Between the legs of princesses there may not be much a British hero can learn that he can’t acquire by galloping his horse and discharging his weapon at common or garden beasts – pheasants, rabbits, foxes, and Transylvanian crayfishes. Leigh Fermor did all of that. But in spite, or perhaps because of, his entire five-year war against the Germans, he fired only once, killing Yannis Tsangarakis, a Cretan member of the partisan unit Leigh Fermor, a junior officer in the Special Operations Executive (SOE), was supposed to be leading. The shooting is now accepted as an accident.
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WE ARE BACK! IN GLUPOV!

By John Helmer, Moscow

When it comes to laughing at satire and caricature, tastes change. Laughable drunkenness in one generation is as hilarious as the comedians Yury Nikulin, Georgiy Vitsin, and Yevgeny Morgunov were on the Soviet screen together. Nowadays the display of alcoholism is sad – take the Russian movie actor Gerard Depardieu, for example. Likewise, it hasn’t encouraged the current generation of book readers that Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin used to make Vladimir Lenin laugh; and that when they were students, Lenin’s brother Alexander and sister Anna used to visit the writer in his old age at home in Tver. Russian interpreters these days warn against reading the old man because the social conditions he made fun of have long ceased to exist.
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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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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