Reports from the Moscow headquarters of United Company Rusal, indicated last week that in an arrangement with Glencore Xstrata, large volumes of unsold metal are being stocked off the market in Estonia and other locations, and are not counted in the worldwide stockpile count of the London Metal Exchange (LME). The reports began here; the impact of last week’s US investigations was reported here.
In trading of Rusal shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange over the month of July, the share price has slipped almost 16%, and is now below HK$2.70 for the first time ever. The company’s market capitalization is now $5.2 billion – that is half the total of the loans and borrowings Rusal reports as owing on March 31. (more…)
Russia, the biggest market in the world for exports of Australian kangaroo meat, has thrown the trade into confusion by announcing that authorization for the exporter, Macro Meats of South Australia, has been suspended. According to a July 25 notice from Rosselkhoznadzor (RSN), the government’s veterinary and phytosanitary inspectorate, a container load of kangaroo meat was stopped when inspection found that it originated from a source other than the one licensed for import by RSN. Although RSN isn’t specific, the port is believed to have been Vladivostok, and the seizure about three weeks ago.
Most of the kangaroo meat landing in Russia goes into sausages fabricated and consumed in the Russian fareast. This has been because domestic beef and pork production in the region has been too small to fill the sausage skins, and kangaroo can be landed from Australia more cheaply than imported American, European or Chinese pork. To the south, in China, Australian kangaroo traders claim that choice, higher-cost fillets of the kangaroo are potentially in high demand. (more…)
There are at least five million tonnes of aluminium in storage at the moment hidden from count in order to prevent the price of the metal from collapsing. Much , if not most of that aluminium comes from the Russian aluminium monopoly, United Company Rusal. Investigators for the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington, and members and staff of the Senate Banking Committee, under pressure from constituents who want to lower the aluminium price, are beginning to take an interest in market rigging schemes by Rusal and its principal trader, Glencore Xstrata. First to feel the impact is Rusal’s share price, which slipped this week to HK$2.89, with a market capitalization now of less than $6 billion.
So dependent are Rusal’s revenue and profit lines on keeping its metal out of sight, a recent call by Rusal for greater transparency and accuracy in the disclosure of trader and storage operations was unusual. In remarks to Bloomberg in May, Oleg Mukhamedshin, Rusal’s deputy chief executive, said “the market is not as transparent as it could be. We are asked by our investors what’s going on, and we are just not able to address those questions.” Rusal insiders, who can address those questions with the missing numbers, say they are “terrified” of company sanctions if they do. “Despite the fact that financial investors have such a significant impact on LME prices, we cannot have a proper analysis in terms of open interest and stocks,” Mukhamedshin added in his Bloomberg interview. “The whole world is trying to get more transparent. There are clear benchmarks. Why shouldn’t LME follow best benchmarks?” He was kidding. (more…)
It’s been three years almost to the day since Vladimir Putin (left), then Russian Prime Minister, visited the Gremyachinskoye potash mine in southwestern Volgograd region.
The mine, the newest in construction in Russia, with one of the country’s largest potash reserves, and one of the most costly ever to be built, is owned by Eurochem. This nitrogen, phosphorus and potash fertilizer company is already, the company’s website proclaims, number-1 in Russia, number-3 in Europe, and number-10 in the world. According to its owner, Eurochem aims to be number-5 in the world once Gremyachinskoye starts operating. Eurochem is 92.2% owned by Andrei Melnichenko (right), who is also chairman of the company board. But Melnichenko was nowhere to be seen when Putin visited his property. Instead, Putin was hosted by Eurochem’s chief executive Dmitry Strezhnev. He is Melnichenko’s placeman. Strezhnev owns 7.8% of the Eurochem shares through an offshore equity and trade proceeds scheme which Melnichenko controls in Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, and Switzerland. (more…)
Moe (Moses Horwitz) of Three Stooges fame stuck his fingers so often in Curly’s (Jerome Horwitz) eyes, it was Curly the audiences loved — until he died of too much drinking and eating. No chance that if Russia’s President Vladimir Putin keeps giving French President Francois Hollande the two-fingered, two-eyed poke, the audiences will fall for the latter, or that Hollande’s fate will be as ignominious as Curly’s. This time the audiences prefer the Moe character. But what exactly has Hollande done, and keeps doing, that he deserves Putin’s eyeball treatment?
The first of Putin’s pokes at Hollande was the award in January of this year of a Russian passport and an apartment on One Democracy Street, Saransk, for Gerard Depardieu. This was followed in February by Hollande’s first visit to Moscow when he and Putin pretended to be businesslike, and Hollande dropped his regime-change talk, at least his earlier support for the overthrow of Putin himself. It’s quite clear that Hollande has struck the Russians as a duplicitous hypocrite. But it’s just as clear that he is so feeble domestically that it’s the French who are giving him the double-eyed poke. His approval rating (Ifop measurement) was 26% in June; last week it was 27%. No French president has proved to be so deeply and widely unpopular so quickly. (more…)
Following last week’s report on the stockpiling of aluminium belonging to United Company Rusal, a source close to the London Metal Exchange has written to say he recalls a similar scheme for storing Russian aluminium in Estonia a decade ago. He reports that the warehouse used was located in Tallinn and had been known as Albatros Warehousing. By the start of 2000 Albatros Warehousing was in trouble with the LME and in the UK High Court. “During the late 1990s-early 2000, Albatross was a private company in Tallinn. It seems to have disappeared (perhaps acquired) in the early 2000s. They used bright orange in their logo, and it was very recognisable.” By May of 2000, the LME delisted Albatros and ordered its aluminium transferred to other warehouses.
A decision this week by the Kremlin to raise duties on imported pipes from the Ukraine will hit Interpipe, the heavily indebted pipemaker owned by Victor Pinchuk (left), particularly hard as it faces debt default negotiations with the Ukrainian government, headed by Victor Yanukovich (right), and with a syndicate of European banks. The Fitch ratings agency has warned that if Interpipe’s export revenues fail to meet Pinchuk’s projections as a result of the curtailment of the Russian trade, the company faces a downgrade, and the cost of its debt service will rise sharply.
Following a meeting with Russian steelmakers on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev revealed that as a stimulus measure for local producers of steel strip and pipes, the government has decided to raise import duties and restrict the inflow of imported Ukrainian pipes. “I have decided not to extend the quotas for the supply of Ukrainian pipe products in the last six months”, Medvedev said, endorsing the view of the domestic pipemakers that Ukrainian pipemakers are unfairly undercutting the price of pipes on the Russian market. (more…)
The share price of United Company Rusal, the Russian state aluminium monopoly, has again dropped below the three-dollar (Hong Kong) level, and is heading towards oblivion – that’s the Citi Bank forecast of HK$1.80. In London and Moscow the market calculation is that, despite the company’s announced cuts to production of aluminium, Rusal’s second-quarter sales, revenues, costs, profit and loss to be released shortly, will reveal a worsening picture.
Just how much worse the share price can get Rusal insiders realize at Moscow headquarters. That’s because they say that a very large volume of metal Rusal has produced, reported as exported and sold, is stocked in a warehouse beside the Baltic Sea. Only this aluminium hasn’t really been sold – it has been hidden by Rusal and its chief trader, Glencore. A company source said the number is so secret that only chief executive Oleg Deripaska (image right), Glencore chief executive and Rusal board member Ivan Glasenberg (left), and a handful of others know it. (more…)
An attempt by Siberian Anthracite, a little known Russian coal producer, to list and sell its shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) collapsed today, just hours after Reuters reported the sale was going ahead. According to the report from the Reuters Moscow Bureau, the initial public offering “has been subscribed by more than 50 percent, two market sources said on Thursday. Sibanthracite set a price range earlier in July of between $7.00 and $9.50 per global depositary receipt (GDR) for the share issue. The order book is expected to be closed later on Thursday, with final pricing announced on Friday.” No reporter byline was published with the despatch.
The Reuters claim intimated that the Russian company would start with a market capitalization on the LSE of about $850 million. Four banks were the promoters — JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Raiffeisen Bank International, and Sberbank. (more…)
According to the announcement issued yesterday in Moscow, Ahmad Mohamed Al-Sayed (centre), head of the Qatar emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, was appointed by Kirill Dimitriev (bottom right), head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), to join the RDIF international advisory board. An application by Dmitriev for several billion dollars of Qatari money is being discussed with Al-Sayed. The text of the official announcement can be read here.
In his preparation for al-Sayed’s appointment, Dimitriev was asked to clarify what account he took of Qatar’s financing the overthrow of the Syrian Government and the military threats facing Russian ground and naval forces in that country; whether Dmitriev believes Qatar to be at war with Russia in Syria; and what conditions Dmitriev has discussed with the Russian General Staff in order to collect the Qatari money Dmitriev has asked for. Maria Medvedeva, once a CNN television producer and now Dmitirev’s spokesman, replied: “I was slightly surprised by the question, because we are an investment fund and have nothing to do with politics.”
When you are between the hammer of the Nigerian Navy and the anvil of the Nigerian Government, what is a Nigerian judge to do, if not make a very public show of doing nothing?
In a new hearing in a Lagos court yesterday, Nigerian judge James Tsoho (centre) repeated the pattern of his predecessor, Judge Okechukwu Okeke, and again postponed the trial of the crewmen of Russian security tender, Myre Seadiver, this time for another three months. The judge is caught between Nigerian government officials embarrassed but too weak to drop their charges of illegal port entry and arms smuggling, and Nigerian Navy officers strong enough to arrange the arrests of the crewmen and vessel on trumped-up charges, and protective of the Navy’s sideline business of selling vessel security service in Nigerian waters. Pirates in uniform are what this story has been about from the beginning, as one click will illustrate. (more…)
Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian fleet operator, intends to sell a 25% bloc of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), according to a leak to Moscow business newspaper Vedomosti this week. However, the source identified as “close to the board of directors” does not know for how long the intention will be delayed by government ministers and chief arranger, Deutsche Bank.
Former Sovcomflot board chairman and currently First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, announced his backing for the NYSE listing on a visit to the exchange last December. But Kremlin rules require privatization of state-owned shares to be launched also on MICEX, the Moscow stock exchange. (more…)
What is a bonus worth if it’s a promissory note for a value that is sinking towards zero in the short term, and cannot be converted to cash or dividends for years? How much loyalty would a zero-value note be expected to attract?
On July 4, Rusal disclosed to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that it has devised a plan to give shares to company employees for the purpose, the company release claims, “of increasing the employees’ commitment to achievement of the Group’s strategic goals in implementing of the production system.” The plan is for Rusal to buy 0.05% of the 15.2 billion Rusal shares outstanding; that’s 76 million. As Rusal’s share price slips below the HK$3 level, and its market capitalization falls below US$6 billion, it would cost the company US$29 million in cash to fill the employee stock fund to its maximum authorized number. But Rusal says Oleg Deripaska, the chief executive, is going to start the fund off himself at something less than the maximum “The Company currently intends to finance the Plan by applying the internal funding which is available after the CEO voluntarily declined his bonus for the year 2012.” According to Rusal’s financial report for 2012 (page 42), Deripaska’s salary, allowances, benefits in kind, and “discretionary bonuses” came to US$5.536 million. The financial report doesn’t indicate precisely how much of this was in the form of cash, how much in airplane flights to non-business destinations, and how much in bonus cash. The report does claim that Deripaska received 417,266 bonus shares worth at vesting (November 21, 2012) just $274,000. (more…)
Swiss and French financial police have searched offices or homes in France as part of what the spokesman for the Swiss Attorney-General calls “our Uzbek case”. According to Jeannette Balmer, “perquisitions [searches] have been made in France on our request.” She declines to say when the searches were conducted, the addresses of the premises searched, or the names of the Uzbek targets. A report by Ola Westerberg of the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyra first revealed the French operation on July 2.
According to Westerberg, searches by the Brigade de Recherche et d’Investigation Financière were conducted simultaneously at different French addresses on June 18. The targets, according to Westerberg, were all connected to Takilant, a Gibraltar front company allegedly used to take bribes from TeliaSonera, the Swedish telecommunications group, in return for operating concessions and mobile telephone licences in Uzbekistan. Behind Takilant is alleged to be Gulnara Karimova, the front-running candidate to succeed the current President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, her father. For the runup to the June 18 operation in France, read the archive here. (more…)
The attempt by the Evraz steel group, owned by Roman Abramovich and others, to sell its South African steelmaking asset, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, for double its market value appears to have failed. The deadline Evraz had earlier announced for closing the deal with a South African front company called Nemascore expired on June 30. On July 2, Tatiana Drachuk, the Evraz spokesman, added: “The market will be informed if any decision is taken.”
In March Evraz said it had accepted an offer of $320 million for its 85.12% stake in Highveld. At the time the market value of this bloc of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was the equivalent of $112 million. The offer triggered a sharp rise in Highveld’s share price, but it has since fallen by several degrees. The current market capitalization of the company is $180.3 million; the Evraz stake, $153.4 million. (more…)
A spate of advertisements for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares, accompanying several rouble bond issues, makes the Lenta hypermarket chain of St. Petersburg appear to be diversifying its investor base with promises of strong growth and a wager on rising Russian consumer spending. In fact, Lenta’s largest shareholder, the US investment fund TPG, is quietly attempting to sell out of the company with the pitch that if a new stakeholder doesn’t hurry with his cash to the negotiating table, the price will be much higher later on.
The ploy, already recognized by investment banking sources in London and Moscow, is a new twist on Russian corporate attempts at placing shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It has the advantages of concealing the company’s financials before they are expected to worsen; and of avoiding the accountability and governance rules demanded by the UK Listing Authority. There’s one catch, though – Lenta and TPG wouldn’t be playing this game unless they have something to hide, and no genuine buyer for their shares. (more…)
A three-judge panel of the UK Court of Appeal has unanimously dismissed a claim by the Sovcomflot subsidiaries, Intrigue Shipping and Novorossiysk Shipping Company (Novoship), for court and legal costs against former fleet charterer Yury Nikitin (second image). Endorsing the earlier judgements of High Court Justice Andrew Smith, the new ruling says the dishonesty of Sovcomflot and its chief executive, Sergei Frank (third image), in making their case against Nikitin balances Nikitin’s dishonesty in conducting his business with the group. For that reason, the Court of Appeal has decided the fair outcome must be that each side should pay its own legal expenses. In addition, for the cost of reaching this conclusion all over again, Nikitin — says his lawyer — has won the appeal court’s order that Sovcomflot should pay his lawyers’ charges.
Sovcomflot has yet to issue an official response to the new judgement, which was decided early in the month and released publicly in London last week. Until now Sovcomflot’s financial reports have been claiming “it is possible that further assets may be recognised in the future in relation to the outcome of the Intrigue [Novoship] costs appeal.” (more…)
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 BlueLine (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.
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.
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.