SOVCOMFLOT LOSES FINAL APPEAL IN LONDON CASE AGAINST FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA

scarga_vs_frank

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court of appeal, has dismissed an application from Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian shipping group, to appeal against earlier judgements in favour of former chief executive, Dmitry Skarga (right). A three-judge panel issued its ruling on October 29, saying Sovcomflot’s application “does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance…bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.”
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NOT SO JOLLY GIANT — RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR PONDERS GREENLAND GREENPEACE PROSECUTION

green_peace

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Greenland government is about to open court proceedings against Greenpeace for attempts to occupy an offshore oil rig two years ago, the chief police prosecutor in Nuuk, Morten Nielsen, has disclosed. Russian sources say that Gazpromneft or parent Gazprom may be considering a similar move. These legal actions are targeted at Greenpeace as an organization. Until now, only individual members of Greenpeace have been prosecuted – in 2010 and 2011 cases in Greenland, when altogether 24 individuals were arrested, jailed, convicted and fined; and in proceedings now under way in Murmansk for 30 Greenpeace members; they are currently in prison awaiting trial on Russian charges for an attempt to board the Gazpromneft oil platform Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea, on September 18.

Their vessel, the 38-year old motor yacht Arctic Sunrise, registered in The Netherlands, is under arrest in Murmansk port. For details of its position, see here.
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WHY DID RUSSIA ADVERTISE ITS ARMS SALE NEGOTIATIONS WITH LIBYA? OR HOW DMITRY ROGOZIN, SERGEI CHEMEZOV, AND SERGEI LAVROV INVITED THE LIBYANS TO SHOOT UP THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN TRIPOLI

libya_embassy

By John Helmer, Moscow

Private letters from foreign governments to President Vladimir Putin usually go into the Secret box. Applications by foreign governments for large-value arms deals from the Russian state exporter, Rosoboronexport, usually go to the Security Council of the Russian Federation for review, and there they are kept in the Top Secret box. The Council, chaired by Putin, includes his chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov; the heads of the intelligence and security agencies; the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, the Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and others. Nikolai Patrushev has been the secretary of the Council since 2008; before that he headed the Federal Security Service. The Council has a website and office address, but no press spokesman, no email address, and no telephone number.

Exactly why such a silent, professionally cautious group should be so careless as to advertise publicly that they are negotiating a large arms sale to Libya to help the government in Tripoli put down the local opposition is inexplicable – unless they were testing the Libyans to prove they can deliver what the Kremlin wants from that benighted place. Did they fail to anticipate the outcome might be an armed attack on the Russian Embassy in Tripoli, and the forced evacuation of the embassy staff? Read on.
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RUSSIA DOESN’T FORGIVE THEM THEIR TRESPASSES, AND NEITHER DID DENMARK AND GREENLAND WHEN GREENPEACE TRIED THE SAME OIL RIG OCCUPATION TACTIC THREE YEARS AGO — RUSSIA FOLLOWS GREENLAND LEAD

greenpeace_oil_rig

By John Helmer, Moscow

“Greenpeace has broken the safety zone. Greenpeace activists have forced their entry into the drilling rig. This constitutes an obvious illegal act that disregards the democratic rules. It furthermore constitutes a severe violation of the safety regulations put in place to protect human lives and the environment. The Greenpeace action [is] a very grave and illegal attack on constitutional rights. It is highly disturbing that Greenpeace in its chase for media attention with all measures breaks the safety regulations put in place to protect people and the environment.”

If that sounds like a statement issued by the Murmansk prosecutor, the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor, Gazpromneft, or the Kremlin, you’d be mistaken. In fact it’s a statement by Kuupik Kleist, premier of Greenland, after his police had arrested a Greenpeace group which had attempted to occupy an oil drilling rig off the coast of Greenland. The date was more than three years ago, on August 31, 2010. The Greenland prosecutor also arrested a helicopter Greenpeace had hired to drop its members on to the rig, which was operated by Cairn Energy.
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RUSSIA EXITS LIBYA, AND OTHER LESSONS ON WHY ANGLO-AMERICAN WARFIGHTING IS A WICKED MISTAKE

jack_moon

By John Helmer, Moscow

Once in a blue moon it is crystal clear – McChrystal clear, for reason shortly to be explained — why Anglo-American warmaking is bound to fail, and why Russian resistance to it – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Chechnya, Georgia, Libya, Syria – is the model the rest of the world should be following. As if dropped from the sky, spilled from the satchel of the Supreme Allied Commander, or hacked from the computers of the NSA and GCHQ, a book of warmaking advice has appeared, saluted by allied commanders as a work of genius in the Clausewitz mould. (That’s as if Germans, living or dead, have the right to teach the methods of aggressive war without earning another round of defeats on the battlefield and in the war crimes tribunal.)

Emile Simpson was in the British Army’s Royal Gurka Rifles from 2006 to 2012 where he was a platoon commander, spoke Nepalese, and served three combat tours in Afghanistan. Over the past two years he was paid to swap his sword for pen, writing a book called War from the Ground Up; this is sponsored by an outfit at Cambridge University called the Centre for Rising Powers, and published by Hurst & Company, a small London publisher which has turned out four books on Russia over 45 years, none too bad.
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RUSAL WISHING-WELL PAYS OFF — KOROS TRADING LLP RE-REGISTERS IN LONDON WITH ACCOUNTS REVEALING MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR BLACK HOLE

black_hole

By John Helmer, Moscow

A mystery company in London, doing millions of dollars’ worth of mystery business for United Company Rusal, has reappeared after being struck off the UK Companies Register in June for failure to report its annual accounts. Except that now the company auditor says he can’t explain the revenue and cost claims, debts, loans, investment outlay and losses, and administrative expenses of $2.4 million for a company with zero employees and two empty shell companies as “members”. The auditor, a one-man, three-year old business with no telephone number, has also pulled a fast one, telling UK Companies House he has lodged accounts for the years to October 31, 2011, and the following year 2012; in fact there is just one set of accounts for 2012, filed twice, while the file for 2011 is missing.
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FAT WHITE TRUFFLES, SLIM WHITE THIGHS — THE RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS’ HIDDEN ASSETS

7_sins

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oligarchy versus democracy is a very old game, and so are the seven deadly sins. Why exactly men like Vladimir Potanin, Mikhail Prokhorov, Alisher Usmanov, Andrei Melnichenko et al. should calculate that advertising their standard of living should help them keep it is difficult to say. Maybe their pockets are under better control than their appetites. Maybe they believe that advertising profligacy will boost the accounting of their net worth and stave off margin calls.

That’s the point the ancient Athenians grasped with conviction. It’s the point of many of Plato’s and Socrates’s dialogues; of the comedies of Aristophanes; and of the records of the Athens law courts which have come down to us. To those Greeks, if a man displayed an excess of money, or what he did with it – by eating, drinking, betting, having sex, bejewelling his body, house, slaves, children, wives — he was by that very fact to be suspected of a crime against the democracy. The Athenian judgement was both retrospective and prospective: spending money intemperately was evidence that it had been too easily (dishonestly) earned. It was also evidence that state policy (investment, tax, war) would be corruptly influenced to serve such oligarchs’ material and personal interests, to the loss of everyone else.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV HAS MET HIS MATCH AT NOVOROSSIYSK PORT COMPANY, BUT WHO REALLY WINS?

match_nmtp

By John Helmer, Moscow

The conflict between state pipeline company Transneft and Summa Capital over which of them will control the Novorossiysk Seaport Company is almost over, and the winner is — the Russian state. But wait – who is at the sharp end of the state, and who has got hold of the handle?

Transneft now owns the 10% shareholding which had been bought from the free-floating pool of shares in the market during September by Moscow-based Uralsib Bank, Transneft sources have revealed in Moscow this week. Transneft chief executive Nikolai Tokarev had said on October 1 that the size of the shareholding bought by Uralsib Bank had been 9%, not 5%, as had been reported publicly in September. But Tokarev didn’t say at the time whom Uralsib had been acting for.
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MORE FROM FIBBER — EVRAZ INCREASES PRODUCTION AT CLAYMONT STEEL; EVRAZ CLOSES CLAYMONT STEEL: IS THIS A PLOY TO STOP UKRAINIAN EXPORTS TO THE US?

fibber_evraz

By John Helmer, Moscow

Struggling with a rising debt burden of more than $8.2 billion, the Evraz group, owned by Roman Abramovich (left), Alexander Abramov (centre) and Alexander Frolov (right), has suspended production at its Claymont steelmill in Delaware. The production halt is indefinite. A company announcement from Moscow on Monday says that “due to subdued market demand and the high volume of imports, it will suspend operations at its steel mill in Claymont, Delaware. Over the next two months, about 375 employees will complete processing and shipping of existing products and prepare the mill for idling. EVRAZ will consider restarting the operations as soon as the market conditions improve. Evraz doesn’t expect any adverse financial effect on its operations in North America as a result of this action, and customers of the Claymont mill will be served by other EVRAZ facilities in Portland, Oregon, and Regina, Saskatchewan.”

Dated October 14, this was a big surprise. If what Evraz says now is believable, why did the company say publicly on August 29 that it was planning to increase production at Claymont Steel? Less than seven weeks ago, in the Evraz half-yearly financial report this is what the company claimed: “The key focus of the flat product group, in the period, was enhancing capacity utilisation. To this end, EVRAZ North America is currently finalising works to increase the rolling speed at EVRAZ Claymont which should improve productivity and provide capacity for higher output levels when the order book is strong.” (page 17).
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RUSAL PLAYS FOR TIME — NEW TACTICS TO STOP NIGERIAN SMELTER JUDGEMENT BEFORE BANKS INTERVENE, BEFORE CHINA STOPS THE CLOCK

rusal_plays

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week, on October 7, United Company Rusal – the state aluminium monoply managed by Oleg Deripaska (right) — was due in the Nigerian High Court at Abuja to start trial on the claim by a Nigerian-American group, BFIG, for the handover of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria (Alscon). BFIG has been in the Nigerian courts since a ruling by a US federal judge eight years ago that the jurisdiction for its claims is in Nigeria, not in the US. In July of last year Nigeria’s highest court ruled that the government’s Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) had unlawfully privatized the smelter in Rusal’s favour, rigging the share sale and the price corruptly for Rusal’s benefit.

The American government had already agreed. A US Embassy cable from Abuja, dated August 2004 and published by Wikileaks in 2011, told the State Department the Nigerian government’s action towards Rusal had reflected “a lack of transparency in the bidding process, and perhaps some corruption as well.” BFIG’s lawsuit claims $2.8 billion from Rusal in lost or unrealized profits, damages, and costs.
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FIBBER ABRAMOVICH — EVRAZ TELLS TALL TALES ON COST-CUTTING, BUT DEBTS KEEP GROWING

whisper

By John Helmer, Moscow

Fibber McGee was one of the first situation comedy serials on American radio; from 1935 to 1959, it was also one of the longest running. The situation joke was that Fibber would tell tall tales which his wife Molly would expose. Fibber (left image-1) stood (and fell) for hare-brained schemes; Molly, his wife on stage and off (left image-2), stood for commonsense.

Evraz is one of Russia’s largest steel and mining companies employing about 110,000 people worldwide. In Russia the group operates three steelmills in two regions; ten coalmines in two other regions, five iron-ore mines, and two vanadium refineries near Moscow. It is controlled by Roman Abramovich (right image-1), whose way of telling tales managed to persuade the UK High Court judge Dame Elizabeth Gloster, in the well-known case brought by the late Boris Berezovsky. But no Molly, Gloster. She decided that to protect her judgement from the Court of Appeal, she believed one of the two claimants rather than dismissing both of them for lying their heads off. A good part of Russia was wise to what was true, what was false. Gloster did something else. “I bethcha!”, one of Molly’s famous lines, turned out to be Gloster’s in the end. Or, as the Greek character used to refer to their names in the radio show, it was a case of “Fizzer and Kewpie”.
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IGOR SECHIN WANTS THE TIGER IN YOUR TANK TO BE HIS — NOONE ELSE’S

tiger_in_tank

By John Helmer, Moscow

As a presidential assistant and a first deputy prime minister for many years, Igor Sechin grew accustomed to the illusion to which high officials in all states are prone – that the fault in efficient administration lies in the weakness of command-and-control systems, sociologically speaking. Or to speak psychologically of humankind, the reluctance of subordinates to do what they are told. As a government official Sechin tried to compensate for these sociological and psychological faults with the Russian combination of force and fear known as “administrative measures”. He’s also tried the old standby, money.

Now that he’s in charge of Rosneft, the publicly listed oil and gas company, Sechin is simultaneously accountable to the market and in the number-2 spot in Russian administration where only one accountability counts. Between the two, between the differently coloured telephones the chief executive can pick up on his desk, the rules aren’t quite the same. Indeed, paradoxical as this may seem to him, Sechin’s rules can be against the law. For a candidate to become the prime minister or more in Russia one day, such little paradoxes can have large and instructive consequences. Take, for example, the Rosneft business of putting fuel into ships’ tanks to drive their engines.
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NIGERIAN COURT DROPS ALL CHARGES, RELEASES MYRE SEADIVER CREW AND VESSEL TO RETURN TO RUSSIA

myre_seadiver_brush

By John Helmer, Moscow

A court in Lagos, Nigeria, today dismissed all charges of arms smuggling and illegal entry for the crew of the Russian security tender, Myre Seadiver. Seven crewmen, who have remained on bail at the Russian Embassy in Lagos since the last hearing in July, will be free to leave Nigeria and return home, after the court order is issued tomorrow. The Myre Seadiver and its original 15-man crew were arrested almost a year ago, on October 20, in the Lagos port roads, as the vessel prepared to leave after a month’s refuelling and repairs, and a change of crew. That story can be read here.
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GENERAL GIAP, DESTROYER OF THE FORCE MULTIPLIER, VICTOR OVER TWO EMPIRES

giap

By John Helmer, Moscow

General Vo Nguyen Giap has died in Hanoi, aged 102.

There has been no general of his quality and achievement in modern times. He defeated the French and the Americans, and in two separate wars drove them as decisively out of Vietnam as Kutuzov drove Napoleon out of Russia. Giap, his army and people withstood more conventional bomb weight than was dropped on Germany, Italy and Japan, combined, during World War II. They survived the most massive chemical warfare campaign ever inflicted on earth – that’s the American one. They emerged victors from explosive force “100 times the combined impact of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.”
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THE HISTORY OF UKRAINIAN BLACK BUSINESS, UKRAINIAN SEX TOO, REVEALED THIS WEEK IN THE UK HIGH COURT

black_business

By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Pinchuk (right top) is the Ukrainian oligarch who last month hosted Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and other political wannabes or has-beens, to promote himself as the champion of Ukrainian independence. This week he stands in the UK High Court charged by two other Ukrainian oligarchs with bribery, corruption, theft of state assets, election-rigging, racketeering, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, conspiracy, and perjury, compounded by nepotism and sex with the only child of ex-President Leonid Kuchma (left). Holy Moly!

Russia is the frying pan from which the Ukraine is now trying to escape, Pinchuk and his celebrity guests agreed last month. But the fire into which Pinchuk is now committing his country is so flaming hot, it’s a wonder men with impulse-control problems like Clinton and Strauss-Kahn would wish publicly to endorse it, let alone a presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton trying to raise money for her race to succeed Barack Obama. For campaign reasons the two Clintons have been dissociating themselves from Kuchma’s record for years. But they have been taking Pinchuk’s money, and he is insisting it’s payback time.
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SECOND FIDDLE OUT OF TUNE — ALEXEI NAVALNY’S VOTE IS HURTING DMITRY MEDVEDEV

fiddler_medvedev

By John Helmer, Moscow

All the punditry since September 8, when Alexei Navalny won 27% of the Moscow mayoral vote, with a 32% turnout, has missed three unusual poll indicators measured by the Levada Centre. The first is that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s approval rating has been in steady decline for a year, but it is now at an all-time low — far lower than Medvedev suffered as president during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. The downward trend line may be accelerating for Medvedev. By contrast, the second indicator shows that President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating for the past two years is stable despite the economic downturn, and may now be rising.

The third indicator is the remarkable one. This shows that the correlation between the President’s and Prime Minister’s ratings is evaporating, and the gap between them is now growing. Public approval gains for Putin but dwindles for Medvedev.
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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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