THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE – PRESIDENT PUTIN HAS NOT MET ALISHER USMANOV, EVER

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the research for its profile on Alisher Usmanov, BBC Radio-4 was told by its sources in Russia that claims Usmanov is close to the Kremlin have been invented; and that Usmanov has never been granted a personal audience with President (Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin.

The BBC programme was broadcast on April 28. For the story and the soundtrack, click here.

The BBC researchers were unable in time to verify that Usmanov has never met Putin in a one-on-one session. So that part of the interview material was omitted from the broadcast. The day after, Usmanov’s spokesman Yulia Mazanova has responded: “Regarding meetings of AB Usmanov with Russian President Vladimir Putin, I can report that Mr Usmanov as a member of the Board of RSPP [Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists] regularly participates in the meetings of the President of Russia Mr. Putin and the Russian business community.”
(more…)

BBC PROFILE OF ALISHER USMANOV – LORD MYNERS LETS THE BANK OUT OF THE BAG

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alisher Usmanov’s fortune began with a business of making plastic bags when they were in short supply in Moscow in the last days of the USSR. At least, that’s the asset in the self-start, self-made fortune story which reporters for global rich lists have been persuaded to believe about Usmanov. How much capital he accumulated in plastic bags and how this recommended him as a debt collector for Rem Vyakhirev and others in the early Gazprom leadership – Usmanov’s next step up the fortune ladder — have yet to be clarified.

Last autumn there was also much the UK Financial Services Authority (now renamed Financial Conduct Authority) and the UK Listing Authority wanted to be clarified, because the UK regulators refused to allow Usmanov’s telecommunications company Megafon to make its initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange. Earlier UK refusals to allow Usmanov to sell shares in his iron-ore mines and steelmills through the Metalloinvest holding weighed on that judgement. The story of how the “clarifications” were added to the prospectus, and the Megafon share sale allowed, has been told here and here.
(more…)

THE HISTORY OF PENIS ENVY IN RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

At the freedom-flush Moscow parties of the 1990s, I was never sure whether Alexander Venediktov (2) was real, or a Vladimir Mamyshev-Monroe (1) impersonation. Mamyshev-Monroe died last month in what is described as a shallow swimming pool in Indonesia. Venediktov is alive, and like Mamyshev-Monroe does his radio turns on Ekho-Moskvy as performance art. At least those two are/were genuine Russians. There’s a pseudo-Russian in London, calling himself Peter Pomerantsev (3), who claims to have been exiled from Russia at the age of 11 months. He lionizes all that’s bad about Russia for the delectation of the English intelligentsia reading literary papers. He can’t be a Mamyshev-Monroe impersonation; he could be Masha Gessen (4), who does a similar turn for the American intelligentsia, in drag.

Pomerantsev has produced a diary for the current issue of the London Review of Books in which, after a potted version of the last quarter-century of Russian history, he concludes that Mamyshev-Monore and Boris Berezovsky “defined post-Soviet Russia”. By that he means the faker Mamyshev-Monroe (aka performance artiste) was more real than targets like Vladimir Putin whom he mocked. “What place”, Pommy concludes rhetorically, “could he have in a Russia where to watch a grotesque piece of performance art you just had to switch on the news?”
(more…)

THE MAN IN THE MOON – MIKHAIL PROKHOROV’S INTERGEO FAILS IN TORONTO FOR THE SECOND TIME

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a physicists’ teaparty, Albert Einstein once asked Niels Bohr whether the two of them should accept that “the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.” Bohr’s reply was that, hard as Einstein might try, so long as the moon was accompanied by noone, Einstein’s proof would be hard to come by.

As a businessman selling off visible assets for cash in the bank, Mikhail Prokhorov is rapidly becoming just such an unprovable moon. So Einstein to Bohr, he’s agreed with his trusted friend and manager, Dmitry Razumov, managing director of the Onexim holding in Moscow, to issue a public strategy statement and give the former’s lunacy more credibility. According to Razumov, the two of them speak once every two or three weeks, depending on Prokhorov’s phases. “He is completely away from the daily management of work items. He did not meet with the management; he isn’t included in the [Onexim] board of directors. However, he is still the main beneficiary. We are meeting relatively regularly to discuss politics and the economy.” Based on paper values, and before counting the impact of commodity price falls, Razumov says Onexim is worth between $13 billion and $15 billion. Here is the April 24 interview.
(more…)

LIFEBUOY MEASURES AT ALROSA – DID FYODOR ANDREYEV BEG NICKY OPPENHEIMER TO INFLATE HIS SHARE PRICE?

By John Helmer, Moscow

If necessity is generally judged to be the mother of invention, crude invention – the fake that is exposed swiftly – is generally the product of desperate mothers. The idea that the Oppenheimer family is keen to buy Alrosa shares, reported by one Moscow business newspaper yesterday and reinforced by another, was regarded as ludicrous by miners and diamantaires who know the circumstances in which Nicky Oppenheimer (image centre) and De Beers were ousted from their last Russian venture in 2008. But a little checking by the Moscow reporters should have turned up the evidence that such a deal, even the faintest interest in it, is also impossible until at least August 15, 2014. So who in Moscow is so desperate as to promote an impossible sale of Alrosa shares? And what does a display of desperation do to the future share price?

The Oppenheimers were pushed out of Russia in 2008 in circumstances which have never been publicly admitted. LUKoil’s controlling shareholder, Vagit Alekperov, the De Beers joint-venture partner initially approved by then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, had a hand in it. So did Alrosa, then ruled by Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin. Between the three of them, the formal approval by the government’s Control Commission to authorize the mining of the Grib pipe in Arkhangelsk, was privately reversed, first by delay, then on a technicality, and finally by the writing on the wall. Since the same cast of characters is still running the same business in the same way – expect Kudrin’s return shortly – the Oppenheimers can be certain there is noone in Russia whose word could reliably safeguard their investment.
(more…)

US COURT RULES RUSAL’S RTI IS A PHANTOM, NOT A FRIENDLY GHOST

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal has been defeated in a brief but powerful ruling by the US Court of Appeals in New York last week. The order by three judges, issued on April 15, quashes a lower-level US court order for discovery of bank and other evidence against shipping companies Rusal used to transport its bauxite and alumina cargoes a decade ago. That was when Andrei Raikov, former friend of chief executive Oleg Deripaska, headed the company’s procurement division, and Dmitry Osipov ran the shipping companies.

In a blow against Rusal’s offshore structure on the English Channel island of Jersey, the court ruled that RTI (aka Rusal Trading International) fails the legal and statutory tests to qualify on Rusal’s behalf in litigation in the US courts. “We conclude that the present factual record does not support a finding that RTI is an ‘interested person’ with respect to the relevant foreign proceedings,” says the order signed by Judges Robert Katzmann, Barrington Parker, and Miriam Cedarbaum. “We further reject RTI’s argument that it qualifies as an interested person because, by virtue of its corporate relationships, it now oversees the business operations at issue in the foreign proceedings.”
(more…)

IGOR ZYUZIN’S SUBTERFUGE – WHY MECHEL SHAREHOLDERS DON’T REALIZE THE COMPANY HAS BEEN NATIONALIZED

By John Helmer, Moscow

Igor Zyuzin (right) is almost entirely dependent on the Russian government for the solvency of his Mechel steelmaking and coalmining group. With between $9 billion and $10 billion in debt, Zyuzin, who owns 65.49% of Mechel’s shares and controls the company as chairman of its board, is now the steel and coal sector’s most heavily indebted proprietor. If not for a series of cash loans, bond purchases and guarantees from state-controlled banks – Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), and Transcreditbank – he would be bankrupt.

That is, Mechel, with a bottom-line loss last year of $1.7 billion, would be as bankrupt as the Estar group of steelmills, which Zyuzin took over in 2009, when Estar’s proprietor Vadim Varshavsky went bankrupt. Varshavsky was consigned by state officials and the state banks to go belly up for debts of about $3 billion. Zyuzin has been preserved in his place for three times that debt. He has also been permitted to buy Varshavsky’s old assets at a fraction of their value, using tolling schemes which may be considered asset stripping, a form of larceny, outside Russia — if their terms were known. In other words, Varshavsky’s insolvent steelmills appear to be paying Zyuzin to take them over for Mechel.
(more…)

EVRAZ REPORTS WEAKENING SUPPORT FOR HIGHVELD SALE IN SOUTH AFRICA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Announcing its sale of the South African asset, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, to Nemascore, a company created just weeks before, Evraz issued the following announcement: “EVRAZ announces intention to sell its South African steel mill. EVRAZ plc…announces the signing of a non-binding term sheet in respect of the proposed sale of its 85% stake in EVRAZ Highveld Steel and Vanadium Limited (“EVRAZ Highveld”) to Nemascore (Pty) Ltd, black economic empowerment consortium, for an indicative cash consideration of approximately US$320 million (the “Transaction”). EVRAZ will utilise the sale proceeds for general corporate purposes.” That was on March 27.

Yesterday, April 18, the company referred in a quarterly report of its production results to the following “recent development”: “In March 2013 Evraz executed a non-binding term sheet for potential sale of Evraz Highveld.”
(more…)

KPMG AUDIT REPORT ON RUSAL’S NIGERIAN SMELTER REVEALS ASSET STRIPPING

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal appears to have been stripping assets from the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon) at the same time as it was creating large loan obligations which the loss-making smelter has little chance of repaying.

Public protests got under way at Alscon, which is located at Ikot Abasi, in the southernmost corner of the country, after Rusal announced on March 26 it was sacking most of Alscon’s workforce. On April 14, Bassey Udo, a leading investigative journalist in Nigeria and business editor for The Premium Times in Abuja, reported details of the annual Alscon company report for 2011. This is the most recent annual report from Alscon on file. The details have been retrieved from the records of Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission. KPMG, which is the designated auditor for Rusal’s consolidated financial reports, refuses to confirm that it provided a qualified report and notes to the Alscon filing. Udo reports he obtained the filing on application to CAC. Read Udo’s full report here.
(more…)

THE INNER CIRCLE AT RUSAL — OLEG DERIPASKA’S SCHEME TO FAVOUR HIS TRUST SHAREHOLDERS AT THE EXPENSE OF EVERYONE ELSE

By John Helmer, Moscow

When Oleg Mukhamedshin, head of investment strategy for United Company Rusal, was in London recently, he complained the stock market isn’t giving Rusal’s share price a fair valuation, taking into account how much profit the non-aluminium line of business – that’s the dividend to be paid to Rusal by Norilsk Nickel — is likely to generate this year for Rusal’s loss-making bottom line. What Mukhamedshin didn’t mention is that the market suspects Oleg Deripaska, chief executive and manager of the controlling shareholders’ trust, of operating a scheme to protect asset value and income for an inner circle of Rusal shareholders, and let all other shareholders suffer the worst.

Initial evidence of the inner circle scheme was first uncovered in the records of RTI Limited (aka Rusal International Trading), a Jersey Island-registered entity which appears to be the next to highest control entity in Rusal’s corporate organization. Registered on October 27, 2006, one day after the parent company was incorporated in Jersey, RTI’s carefully worded articles of association contain a code which provides privileged treatment for one class of Rusal shares at the expense of the founding shareholders; the latter include Mikhail Prokhorov, Victor Vekselberg, Len Blavatnik, and Glencore; and the shareholders who “anchored” Rusal’s Hong Kong Stock market listing in January of 2010, including the Russian state banks.
(more…)

SOUTH AFRICA’S CAPTAIN NEMO TO GUARANTEE EVRAZ SALE OF HIGHVELD STEEL, VTB LOAN REPAYMENT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Nemascore, the South African buyer of Evraz Highveld, the loss-making steel and vanadium producer, is run by a part-time lawyer, a part-time entrepreneur, and the part-time executive of Fire Check, a Durban-based company specializing for the past twenty years in installing home and office fire alarms around that east coast city.

One of this trio has acknowledged that to find $320 million — the price Nemascore has agreed to pay Evraz for the loss-making Highveld — it is negotiating with the South African government’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to guarantee repayment of a loan for the transaction amount. That loan, according to other SA sources, is to be issued by Russia’s state-controlled bank, VTB. Why everything else is secret about a deal which (apparently) repatriates to South African ownership a well-known steelmaking company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, is a deep-six mystery. Read the story so far here.
(more…)

INVIDIOUS CHOICE – THE INDIAN, THE CHINAMAN, OR THE WHITE MAN (IGOR ZYUZIN)

By John Helmer, Moscow

Igor Zyuzin’s desperately indebted steel and coal-mining group Mechel is negotiating the sale of a 25% shareholding stake in Mechel Mining, his coal division, for $1.25 billion. That’s a fraction – maybe half — of what it was worth two years ago.

Would such a loss of capital value, and the still uncounted costs of Mechel’s unfinished, non-operational ElgaUgol coalmine in the Sakha republic have materialized if, instead of Zyuzin (left), the Kremlin had decided in October 2007 to award the project concession to the high bidder at the time, Lakshmi Mittal (centre)? Does anyone in the Kremlin believe today that the discount for ElgaUgol which Baosteel, China’s leading steelmaker, is about to extract from Zyuzin has been worth the six-year wait? Will President Vladimir Putin, who has been in charge of the milestones of wealth accumulation and loss marking Zyuzin’s career so far, instruct the government’s Control Commission to vote in favour of this strategic resource acquisition by the Chinese? And if the Chinese are acceptable as coalmining partners now, why weren’t the Indians in 2007?
(more…)

THE BABY KILLERS – PAVLIK MOROZOV RETURNS WITH A VENGEANCE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Pavel (Pavlik) Morozov, aged 14, was murdered on September 3, 1932, along with his 9-year old brother, Fyodor. They were stabbed to death. Four people were convicted of the crimes – their grandfather Sergei and cousin Danila did the stabbing; uncle Arseny plotted the crime beforehand; grandmother Kseniya covered it up afterwards. The four were executed on April 7, 1933. Retrospectively, the forensic evidence in the case was too weak to substantiate premeditated murder, but of hatred, manslaughter, and criminal concealment there is no doubt the four accused were guilty.

Of the importance of what Pavlik Morozov’s death stood for at the time and for the all-Russia, all-Soviet generation to follow there is also no doubt. He was, as his British biographer has documented, the Soviet revolution’s boy martyr. That’s because Pavlik Morozov was reported to have been killed because he had informed on his father, Trofim, chairman of his village soviet, as well as on others in the village, whom he accused of hoarding grain from the harvest, hiding a gun and a horse harness, plotting against the new collective property rules. When his murderers were brought to trial, the charge against them wasn’t conventional homicide, but anti-state terrorism. Thus, Pavlik’s death came to symbolize far more than could possibly have been true.
(more…)

CROCODILE TEARS, CROCODILE SMILES – THE CASE OF IGOR SHUVALOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

Though their meaning and intent are identical, crocodiles are better known for their tears than for their smiles. So are Russian officials. Take Igor Shuvalov, the first deputy prime minister, for example.

When the chief executive of one of the largest mining companies in the world came to Moscow, a member of his entourage recalls, the senior government official he was scheduled to meet was Shuvalov. But the latter kept him waiting in the anteroom to his office. When Shuvalov finally appeared, the source remembers, “he apologized for keeping us waiting. He smiled.” Nothing concrete or valuable materialized at the meeting, nor since. But Shuvalov is remembered for smiling. The reason is that the chief executive of one of the largest mining companies in the world believes Russian officials never smile.
(more…)

OUT OF AFRICA, BACK TO AFRICA — ALROSA RESUMES OFFSHORE MONEYSPINNERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa is reopening its African business but there is no song and dance yet. The chief executive, Fyodor Andreyev, is in Angola this week, the company has confirmed, and is discussing with state diamond company Endiama the formation of joint ventures to explore for diamonds on the Angolan-Congolese border. Similar exploration ventures are being planned with Botswana Diamonds Plc and an unidentified company in Zimbabwe. Andreyev’s negotiations are the result of a still secret shift in Alrosa’s policy towards capital expenditure outside the republic of Sakha.

According to the company announcement on April 2, “in the near future, ALROSA’s geologists will conduct preliminary work to assess the areas most promising in terms of potential discovery of a primary diamond deposit.”
(more…)

EVRAZ SELLS LOSS-MAKING SOUTH AFRICAN HIGHVELD STEEL, BUT THE PRICE IS CAUSING SPECULATION, MAKE THAT SUSPICION

By John Helmer, Moscow

If 85% of something was worth $320 million on March 27, then full value would be about $377 million. And if that something is identified as Highveld Steel & Vanadium Ltd. — a major South African producer of flat steel products and vanadium with which to harden steel — then how come that two days before, on March 25, the thing was valued on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange at just $140 million?

That Russians should want to sell at a 269% premium is plain. But if the evidence on the South African buyer’s side seems to defy commercial sense, two obvious questions follow — who in South Africa would agree to pay over the top for the asset, and why? The answer to the first adds mystery to the second – noone appears to know who the South African buyer really is.
(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)
Categories
Archives

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Education Template