NO ROSATOM REACTOR SALE TO SOUTH AFRICA, NO EVRAZ SALE OF HIGHVELD STEEL, NO COINCIDENCE

sa_rabbit

By John Helmer, Moscow

After almost a year of inconclusive negotiations with a secretive South African group called Nemascore, Evraz, the Russian steelmaker and miner, has announced to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange that negotiations have opened to sell its control stake in Highveld Steel & Vanadium to new buyers. The notice to the exchange last week said Evraz informed the Highveld board that “it is, in addition to Nemascore (Proprietary) Limited, currently engaging with other potential bidders with a view to disposing of its 85.11% stake in the Company. The independent board of the Company has agreed to allow these potential bidders to conduct a due diligence investigation into the affairs of the Company.” The Evraz notice added that the talks are “incomplete, confidential and non-binding, hence there is no certainty that a transaction will take place.”
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CAMELFLAGE — TAJIK PRESIDENT EMOMALI RAHMON AND JAMES FABIANI HIDE EXPENSIVE WASHINGTON LOBBYING SECRETS

camel_rahmon

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not every despotic and corrupt ruler of a former Soviet state is the target of US Government plots to overthrow him, not even those whose taste in interior decoration and jewellery is as awful as Victor Yanukovich’s, the ex-president of Ukraine.

Emomali Rahmon (image), the president of Tajikistan since 1992, has been the target of corruption allegations by the US Government in the past. But for the time being he is protecting himself with a Washington lobbying campaign costing at least $100,000 per month. For his exterior decorator Rahmon has hired James Fabiani, a former congressional staffer turned public relations agent. His eponymous lobbying company employs an Englishman named Alex Botting to arrange meetings with US Government officials, US Congressional staff, and also, according to Botting, Washington-based executives of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
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GHOST ATTACK ON CRIMEA — THE FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTS THREAT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION, BUT FAILS TO DETECT US NAVAL OPERATION

ghost_attack

By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian declaration of war and the despatch of troops to secure the Crimea would be very serious things, if they materialized.

The Financial Times reporter, Kathrin Hille (image), is the only person in the entire world who claims to have been told by “a senior government official”: “If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.” Hille not only keeps the name, rank and authority of this official secret, but she refuses to provide evidence to substantiate that the official exists and said the quoted words with the meaning Hille’s newspaper claimed in its story headline: “Russia rattles sabre over fate of Crimea”. Hille’s claim that a Russian government threat was issued last week to move forces into Crimea appears to be a fabrication.
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LENTA’S SECOND TRY AT IPO — TPG AND DAVID BONDERMAN DO WHAT THEY KNOW BEST, AND HEAD FOR THE EXIT

lenta_exit

By John Helmer, Moscow

Would you buy a used car from David Bonderman (lead image), Dmitry Shvets, and Jan Dunning if you knew they registered their businesses in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, and Bahamas; kept their takings out of their companies and in their pockets; and were more heavily indebted to the state than any of their competitors?

Bonderman is one of the principals of the TPG Group, an equity investment fund in San Francisco; Shvets works for him as the head of TPG’s Moscow office; and Dunning, a Dutchman, is chief executive of Lenta, a Russian supermarket and hypermarket operator. Together, they are trying to sell their shares on Lenta’s second attempt at an initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The story of the failure of their first attempt can be read here. This time, they are more confident of selling about one in five of Lenta’s shares and pocketing about $1 billion for themselves. Unlike most Russian IPOs in the international market, not a penny of this share sale will be invested in the future of Lenta’s business.
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RUSAL ORDERED TO TRIAL WITH NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT OVER SALE OF NIGERIAN ALUMINIUM SMELTER, BUT $2.8 BILLION DAMAGES CLAIM DELAYED

rusal_batman

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly headed by Oleg Deripaska (image right), has won a fresh round in its battle to keep control of its Nigerian aluminium smelter, and ward off claims from a Nigerian-American group whom it defeated in the privatization of the asset almost a decade ago. For the time being, the Nigerian government, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan (left), will neither support Rusal, nor act against it. The indecisive Jonathan lost majority control of the Nigerian House of Representatives in December, and he faces an uncertain presidential election in a year’s time.

In a ruling of Nigerian High Court Justice Jude Okeke, issued in Abuja on January 27, the Nigerian Government’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice were ordered to face trial with Rusal in the corruption and damages claim by BFI Group Divino Corporation (BFIG). Rusal had asked the court to join the government to the case. BFIG opposed, arguing that in a separate proceeding the Nigerian courts had already ruled against the government, and in favour of BFIG. According to BFIG’s lawyer in court, Rusal’s move threatened to “open a floodgate for everyone who seeks to interrupt proceedings.”
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VICTOR PINCHUK KICKS UP DUST — BILL AND HILLARY CLINTON TAKE $13 MILLION BUT PINCHUK ADMITS TO GIVING MILLIONS LESS, AS RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS OPEN INVESTIGATION OF FRAUD

pinchuk_duck

By John Helmer, Moscow

Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, the former and wannabe presidents of the US, say they have accepted more than $13 million from Ukrainian pipemaker Victor Pinchuk since 2006. But Pinchuk says he’s given the Clinton Foundation only $7.6 million.

It won’t help to employ accountants to ask where the missing $5.4 million was originally trousered, if not the Pinchuk Foundation, then which branch of Pinchuk’s business. That’s because the Clinton Foundation’s auditors – an Arkansas firm called BKD – have turned up this much money in revenues, and also in expenditures, which the Foundation’s annual report inexplicably fails to report and regularly understates. The Pinchuk Foundation also refuses to answer questions about discrepancies in its annual accounts, whose auditors are reported by Pinchuk’s organization to be Ernst & Young. Their signature is reproduced in the Pinchuk Foundation annual reports, although no copy of their financial reports and notes has been published.
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US BONKS BLOW — KLITSCHKO AND TYMOSHENKO LOSE GROUND TO PRESIDENT VICTOR YANUKOVICH

us_bonks_blow

By John Helmer, Moscow

The latest independent polling of Ukrainian voters reveals that opposition strategy and political loyalties have been split by US government intervention. As a result, Ukrainian support for Vitali Klitschko, head of the UDAR opposition party, is weakening. UDAR, the acronym, stands for the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform; in Russian the word means “punch”. In English reporting, Klitschko’s organization is called BLOW.

According to new voter polls, instead of the weakening Klitschko (image centre), the opposition candidate the US wants to keep in prison, Yulia Tymoshenko (2nd from left), has been gaining voter support. But the embattled President, Victor Yanukovich (right), is recovering votes at the expense of both of them.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV TO IGOR SECHIN, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? ROTTERDAM OIL TERMINAL TO ROSNEFT FOR THE ASKING

rotterdam_negotiations

By John Helmer, Moscow

If Ziyavudin Magomedov hadn’t persuaded a Moscow business newspaper to report yesterday that he is in negotiations with Rosneft, world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, the news that Vitol, world’s largest oil trader, has abandoned a 3-year old venture to build a new Rotterdam oil terminal with Magomedov would have been bad news indeed. Magomedov has a knack for exaggerated deal releases, though, and the Rotterdam press coverage of the latest episode makes this one look worse for Magomedov than if he had said nothing at all. Who in their right mind broadcasts that he has asked Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, for money until after Sechin has said yes.

In Magomedov’s case, an appeal to Sechin also means that not even the financier of Magomedov’s last resort, David Bonderman of US-based TPG Group, is willing to put up his dime.
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PORK THE EU! RUSSIA BANS EUROPEAN FEVER

pork_the_eu

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to pork sausage. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our profitability.

If Europeans do that, it’s classical from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. If Russians do it, it’s trade war. Oleg Tyagnibok, the Ukrainian oppositionist whom the US Government is promoting into power in Kiev, hasn’t been asked yet what he thinks of the Russian ban on European pork imports. But he’s bound to blame the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” because he’s blamed them before, though not exactly for trying to enforce the kosher code.
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THE QUIET AMERICAN — “FUCK THE EU”, AND OTHER ARRANGEMENTS FOR “MIDWIFING” THE NEW UKRAINE

quiet_american

By John Helmer, Moscow

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, Victoria Nuland (right), was born in 1961. She is too young to have read Graham Greene’s book, The Quiet American, published in 1955 to explain why US attempts to liberate Vietnam by inventing a “Third Force” of locals would end in death and destruction for the Vietnamese; failure for the Americans. The US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (left), born in 1963, is two years younger than Nuland, and that much more innocent of the meaning of The Quiet American.
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NEW YORK TIMES UNCOVERS DOG PLOT AGAINST SOCHI OLYMPICS AND PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN — SHARIK AND OLEG DERIPASKA SAVE RUSSIA’S REPUTATION, BUT NOT IN TIME TO SAVE DERIPASKA FROM VLADIMIR POTANIN

dog_plot

By John Helmer, Moscow

A reporter for the New York Times has scooped the global press in Sochi. Named David Herszenhorn, the newspaper’s specialist on the New York City borough of Queens, the reporter has uncovered a plot to kill a group of stray dogs – by poison darts causing suffocation — in front of the main venues of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The dog death plot, according to Herszenhorm, was intended to “undercut the image of a friendlier, welcoming Russia that President Vladimir V. Putin has sought to cultivate in recent months.”

Herszenhorn (image, centre) also reveals that a counter-plan to save Sochi from televised images of violent canine death is being financed by Oleg Deripaska (image, left), chief executive of United Company Rusal. “Mr Deripaska, an industrialist who largely made his fortune in aluminum, provided $15,000 to get the shelter started on land donated by the local government. He has also pledged about $50,000 a year for operations.”
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HOW TO CHOP WOOD IN UKRAINE — YULIA TYMOSHENKO AS AXEMAN

chop_ua

By John Helmer, Moscow

A new Ukrainian opinion poll of voter intentions – measured across the country between January 17 and 26, and just released — explains why the Ukrainian opposition, the US, and the European Union (EU) have dropped their demand for the release from prison of Yulia Tymoshenko. For the background to that story, read yesterday’s report.
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THREE NAÏVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE OF UKRAINE

timoshenko_kerry

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not since the British started the Δεκεμβριανά in Greece in 1944, and not unless you count Na Trioblóidí in Northern Ireland until 1998, has the possibility of civil war in civilized Europe loomed so gravely. No wonder the mailbox is brimful of questions, for which there are no obvious answers.
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LONDON COURT RULING DISQUALIFIES LAWYERS, VICTOR PINCHUK KNOCKED OUT

pinchuk_box

By John Helmer, Moscow

A UK High Court ruling on Friday has struck a surprise blow against Ukrainian pipemaker Victor Pinchuk (image), as he fights to stave off bankruptcy claims from international Eurobond holders, international and Russian banks, and Ukrainian suppliers. The timing could not be worse for the Ukrainian, who has been paying Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and a group of European politicians to back him in the current Ukrainian political crisis.
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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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