SOCHI SLIPPERY SLOPE, ACCORDING TO NU POGODI — CAN THE WOLF GET AWAY WITH WEARING GAY BOOTS BEFORE THE BEAR ARRESTS HIM? REGIME CHANGE IDEAS FOR THE NEW YEAR

nu_pogodi

By John Helmer, Moscow

Having destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, the next big event for the regime-changers of the western media will be the Downhill at Sochi. If our brave reporters can’t find sexual disorientation and repression, they will provoke it during the Pair Skating. The Canadians will discover the Federal Security Service rigged the rocks in the Curling. The Team Luge winners will unveil Pussy Riot balaclavas under their helmets on the medal podium. The Russian ice-hockey team will be proof of President Vladimir Putin’s macho if they win gold; and of the shemasculinity of western democracy if they lose. Russian security police will be captured on a Youtube clip gone viral when they try clubbing to death images of Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Litvinenko projected by laser on to the slope during the Grand Slalom. The Mossad will issue a robust denial that its agents slipped a virus into the event timing and scoring computer programmes. A Ukrainian flag will be dropped by a stealth drone on to the dignatories box during the Closing Ceremony. The London Times and Fox Television will sum up, following proprietor Rupert Murdoch’s tweet, SOCHI – SUCH IGNOMINY!!! Russian journalists who turn a blind eye to these scoops will be disqualified from applying for Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship.
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IF RUSAL MOVES ONSHORE, AS PRESIDENT PUTIN ORDERED THIS MONTH, IS OLEG DERIPASKA WASHED UP?

so_long_jersey

By John Helmer, Moscow

For as long the Russian tax man can remember, Oleg Deripaska has managed to keep his tax bill far below his Russian peers in the metals business. As national champions go, Deripaska is it for tax minimization. In good years or bad years, whether the London Metal Exchange price for aluminium is high or low, Deripaska’s tax has always gone through the floor. In 2003, a federal Tax Ministry report discovered that Rusal was paying income tax at just 2% of revenues. The percentage rose to 4% in 2006, but it has been diving ever since. In 2007, it was 3.1%; in 2008, 0.4%; 2009, 2.1%; 2010, 1.9%; 2011, 3%. Last year his tax rate was 0.2%. This year, according to Rusal’s interim report for the first nine months, tax is running at 0.97%.

How Deripaska has been able to pull off a trick no other major Russian company has managed has been no secret all these years. Three words do the trick – tolling, transfer pricing, offshorization. On December 12, President Vladimir Putin said enough is enough. His offer – either Deripaska brings Rusal onshore and pays Russian tax on his revenue, or else he loses the state banking credits which have kept Rusal from bankruptcy since November 2008. Either way, Deripaska looks washed up.
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LIBERATION FOR VLADIMIR PUTIN, IGOR SECHIN — WHAT A CAT, WHAT A LOAD OF PIGEONS

khodorkovskiy_putin

By John Helmer, Moscow

So far everything about the metamorphosis of Mikhail Khodorkovsky has gone like the cartoon – surprise launch into the air; flight without turbulence; soft landing among a flock of wellwishers; much cooing.

Just how well those wishers intend towards Khodorkovsky, and he towards them, is now to be tested. That’s a game even more Olympian than the one to be inaugurated in Sochi on February 7; or the one which those who hate President Vladimir Putin have yet to appreciate he’s playing.
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ELENA TIMCHENKO AND KSENIA FRANK SHOW FRIENDSHIP FOR RUSSIA, AND SOMETHING ELSE

popes_nephew

By John Helmer, Moscow

Never let it be said that in Russia deeds done out of the goodness of the heart go unnoticed by the state. Nup. Not even when philanthropies are paid for with cash accumulated in violation of the state’s policy of deoffshorization. Nup, nup. There is even a special award minted by the Kremlin and intended to recognize the good which offshorizers do in friendship for Russia. Called the Order of Friendship, the ribbons are blue and black, colours which appear on no flag of any country in the world, and symbolize thereby the freedom of the blue sky and the black hole in which we are all obliged to dwell beneath.
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PROKHOROV SLIPS THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE A MICKEY FINN, ER, MAKE THAT A MAXIE FINN

maxi_finn

By John Helmer, Moscow

It was a specialty of the Chicago Irish at the turn of the 20th century. A Mickey Finn was a drug that was slipped into your cocktail without your knowing, in order to incapacitate you. When you came to, the only thing you knew was that you were missing your valuables. The eponymous Mickey Finn was a pickpocket who built his capital into a thriving business as the proprietor of the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden on the corner of Dearborn and Harrison Streets. (It’s a Starbucks nowadays. The girls Mickey used as lures now drink skinny lattes.)

Maxie Finn, aka Maxim Finsky (left front), is eponymous too. He is a childhood friend of Mikhail Prokhorov (left back), and he has been employed by him to buy assets on the cheap; consolidate them into special purpose vehicles which the two of them then try to resell. They’ve had one signal success. That was when Prokhorov jointly controlled Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, with Vladimir Potanin. Finsky was employed to spend Norilsk Nickel’s money on buying goldmining assets at premium prices before they were spun off and separately listed as Polyus Gold. Finsky spent foolishly, or worse, read this. But no matter. The rise of the price of gold drove the share price of Polyus Gold ten times and more above the amount paid for its assets. For the ups and downs in that decade-long story, read here.
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EVRAZ STILL UNABLE TO SELL HIGHVELD STEEL; DEAL TIMING APPEARS TIED TO SOUTH AFRICAN REACTOR PURCHASE FROM ROSATOM

highveld_stars

By John Helmer, Moscow

Evraz, the steelmaking group owned by Roman Abramovich (third figure from left) and Alexander Abramov (fourth from left), has just issued a notice to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that it has been unable to complete the proposed sale of its South African unit, Highveld Steel & Vanadium, by a December 31 deadline. First announced on March 27, the heavily indebted Evraz said the terms of sale for its 85% shareholding in Highveld called for the acquiror, a South African company called Nemascore, to pay a purchase price of $320 million. Prior to the deal announcement, the Evraz stake had been valued in the market between $106 million and $135 million. Since March the market value of the stake has failed to reach 50% of the transaction price; it is currently just $138.4 million.

The new announcement acknowledges that closure of the sale has been postponed three times already, and that six cautionary notices have been issued to the Johannesburg market. Neither Evraz nor Nemascore has explained the reasons for the delay, claiming this is prevented by a non-disclosure agreement covering their deal. In its December 19 announcement, Evraz claims that a “due diligence process is still progressing”, and that the “Transaction is expected to be concluded towards the end of Q1 2014.” The story of Nemascore and its ties to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, can be read here.
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OLEG DERIPASKA TRIES SUPER SPY MISSION TO RESCUE IRAN HOSTAGE, PAYS BRIBES FOR FBI, TRADES FOR CIA, BUT IF YOU BELIEVE IT, WINS NO QUANTUM OF SOLACE

deripaska_007

By John Helmer, Moscow

Lights! Camera! Action!
Oleg Deripaska, chief executive of the Russian state aluminium monopoly Rusal (title image), calls his security men to a meeting in a soundproof room he’s decorated with a collection of west African masks on the walls. Clicketty-click the subtitle rolls on to the screen, MOSCOW 2009. “Whaddya know about Levinson?” he barks softly. “Who we know in Tehran? Whad’ll it cost us to spring him? Don’t come back if you’ve got nothing.” Deripaska’s threat fades to inaudibility. That’s the cue for the agents, veterans of the old KGB and GRU, to slip wordlessly away, their faces locked in hatchet grins.

Cut to the bar at the Hilton—clicketty-click: TYSONS CORNER, VIRGINIA, 2009 — suspended glass, flashy steel, gold lighting, cocktail chatter. A woman arrives out of breath, complaining to the man and the woman who are already seated, staring into their short bourbons instead of looking up. “Sorry”, she sputters. “Dolley Madison was backed all the way up.” “What’s this about the Russian?” the man whines. “Awright already”, she says. “We need one to catch one. Deripaska says he can buy Levinson out of Iran. Do we task him?”
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THE PUT-UP PAINT JOB — ANDREI MELNICHENKO SUES FOR ANOTHER COAT ON HIS BOAT

bird_dulux

By John Helmer, Moscow

Andrei Melnichenko has extra reason to be concerned about the sunlight — and we aren’t talking financial transparency. The owner of Eurochem, a large Russian producer of fertilizers, says he has evidence that sunlight on his surfaces reveals rash, blotches, separations, lines, starring and sagging. He says he’s paid to see his face reflected on the surfaces, but because the job has been botched, he can’t. The damage he is estimating at $100 million.

That’s not Melnichenko’s person we are talking about, but the surfaces of his boat, a motor yacht named A, after his wife Alexandra, and owned by the two of them through a succession of offshore companies, starting with Niedes Ltd. of British Virgin Islands, A Yacht Charter Co. of Isle of Man, and currently Bermuda Yachts Ltd of Bermuda.
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INTERPIPE IS IN THE LION’S MOUTH — THAT’S THE RUSSIAN BANKS

interpipe_lion

By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpipe, the heavily indebted Ukrainian pipemaker owned by Victor Pinchuk (centre), owes at least $120 million to Russian banks, led by state-owned Sberbank controlled by former Minister of Economic Development, German Gref (wall picture, left). But the Russian bankers are not represented in any of the loan restructuring negotiations which are currently under way, following Interpipe’s default on $106 million in debts owed to its international lenders on November 1.

The Russian debt and the Russian influence over Interpipe’s financial survival have been disclosed by Interpipe executives at a briefing for Interpipe’s Eurobond holders on December 9. The Russian loan agreements carry standard protective clauses allowing a call for full repayment when Pinchuk and his holding are in default to other lenders, suppliers, or creditors. If the Russians decide to do this, Interpipe’s executives acknowledge they cannot pay. They have less than $90 million in free cash at present, and admit they cannot borrow extra money.
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DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS — ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV LOSES SHIPYARD TO UNITED SHIPBUILDING CORPORATION

cuts

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian Government has decided that state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) may buy control of Novorossiysk Shipyard (NSY) from the Novorossiysk Commercial Seaport Company (NCSP), which is currently in the midst of bitter conflict between state shareholders and Ziyavudin Magomedov (picture, right). The takeover has been promoted by Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister in charge of the military industrial complex, as a solution to the ship repair requirements of the Russian Navy whose operations are growing fast in the Mediterranean, as well as the Black Sea.

The takeover move is also backed by Transneft, the crude oil pipeline company, and Russian Railways, which already control about 41% of NCSP’s shares; and by Rosneft, the state oil exporter, which is bidding to acquire the remaining 20% stake which the state holds in NCSP. A beneficiary of their alliance is Gennady Timchenko; his Gunvor oil trading group controls the new Ust-Luga oil terminal on the Gulf of Finland, to which increasing crude oil volumes have been directed by Transneft, cutting tanker shipments out of Primorsk by more than 20% this year, compared to 2012. Primorsk was merged with Novorossiysk in 2011. Because of the competition from Ust-Luga, Primorsk is now loading tankers at its lowest volume in more than five years.
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LUKOIL WILL SELL THE GRIB DIAMOND PIPE, BUT ALROSA CAN’T AFFORD THE PRICE

lukoil_grib

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time Alrosa, the state-owned diamond miner, has come out in public and said it wants to buy Grib, the only commercially developed Russian diamond mine owned by LUKoil and its chief executive, Vagit Alekperov. Why it should say so now, when earlier announcements by Alrosa have veiled the target and concealed sale and purchase talks with LUKoil a year ago, isn’t clear.

“If the asset proves to be interesting,” said Igor Kulichik, Alrosa’s chief financial officer, “and if we agree on the price then we are prepared to discuss with Lukoil the purchase of this asset.” Kulichik was briefing sector analysts on Alrosa’s third-quarter financial results on December 5. He was explicitly asked about the Grib sale by a VTB analyst. “We know this asset quite well and we follow it. Yes, Lukoil is targeting to commence production and beneficiation early next year and in the next year they are targeting to already sell from there. We discussed with Lukoil a potential sale of that pipe about a year ago. But our geologists find it difficult to assess exactly what raw material is there in that pipe. So we decided not to rush, basically to let Lukoil start production there, see what comes out of that pipe, see how it develops and then to consider the potential purchase of the asset.” Kulichik made his comment on December 5; Alrosa published the transcript five days later.
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WHAT IS THE REAL GOAL IN THIS GAME? OLEG DERIPASKA ACCUSED OF FRAUD IN KALUGA, ACCUSES GOVERNOR ANATOLY ARTAMONOV OF MORAL DAMAGE

kaluga_deripaska

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian justice being what is, it is exceptional when the chief executive of a company owned by Oleg Deripaska (right) is arrested and carried off to prison on charges of fraud.

As the days lengthen through which Deripaska’s man must spend behind bars – 16 as of today — interrogated by the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor, the likelihood grows that it is Deripaska himself who is the real target. Sources familiar with the matter claim this is the preliminary for an event being planned once the Winter Olympic Games conclude in Sochi on February 23. Not the ski jump, though: the sources claim this time it’s Deripaska for the high jump.
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DANIELI IN THE LION’S DEN — VICTOR PINCHUK CHEWS OVER $1.3 BILLION DEBT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Pinchuk, the owner of Interpipe, the Ukrainian steelmaker which defaulted on its debts on November 1, has called his first-ever public business meeting. The date is December 9, and the meeting will be telephonic. Deutsche Bank, which is acting as trustee for Interpipe’s $200 million Eurobond issue, is promising to answer questions about the company’s financial collapse, and provide a copy of the debt repayment agreement Pinchuk has with his banks.

Those attending the meeting will not be able to read Interpipe’s presentation until the start of the conference call. They will then have just 60 minutes to read, ask their questions, and listen to the answers. According to Deutsche Bank, the conference call will “last no more than one hour.”
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THE SWEDISH APPROACH TO MONEY-LAUNDERING — SACK THE LAUNDRY MAIDS, KEEP THE LAUNDRY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Following a fresh investigation of its business practices in the former Soviet Union, TeliaSonera, the Stockholm-based telecommunications company, reported Friday that it has dismissed four senior executives, including the chief financial officer and the head of its mobile telephone division. A company statement claims that the objective of the investigation was “a risk assessment from a business ethics perspective”. The spokesman of the company, Salomon Bekele, says the targets were geographically limited to its “Eurasia division”, and that TeliaSonera’s business in Uzbekistan and Russia were “excepted”.

According to TeliaSonera’s financial report for the first nine months of the year, issued on October 17, Sweden currently accounts for about 36% of the company’s sales, Eurasia about 22%. But the Eurasia division is the group’s main source of growth, generating SEK5.3 billion ($807.6 million), 11.1% more in sales revenues compared to last year counted in local currencies; in Swedish kronor the growth rate was 3.1%. Earnings (Ebitda) from the Eurasian division jumped 9.5% to SEK8 billion ($1.2 billion). By comparison, the company’s consolidated revenues fell by 1.8%, earnings rose by 1.5%.
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WHO SAYS GREENPEACE IS A SACRED COW? THE GLOBAL MEDIA, PRINT AND INTERNET, THAT’S WHO

greenpeace_cow

By John Helmer, Moscow

According to Colin Russell, an Australian who was the radioman on board the Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, he’s “a good man”. Arrested by Russian coast guards after barricading himself in the radio room on September 19, he was imprisoned in Murmansk and St. Petersburg, until he was granted bail and released last Thursday, November 28. Russell claimed on his release: “I don’t understand the reasons why I’m being detained. It’s two months’ hard time for nothing. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The initial charges considered against Russell by Russian prosecutors were resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and piracy. The legal case for the piracy charge has been spelled out, not in the Russian courts, but in the federal US District Court and US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which covers the northern Pacific coast states and Alaska. If you want to understand why piracy may be charged against unarmed attackers of a vessel at sea, read this US ruling carefully.
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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

How little the Germans have changed.

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



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

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

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

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

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

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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