THE MONTENEGRO CRAP-SHOOT — OLEG DERIPASKA, RUSAL, AND THE PODGORICA ALUMINIUM COMBINE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A decade ago, before the Annie-get-your-gun ladies got control of US policy in Ukraine, their Hopalong Cassidy predecessors were in charge. Back then, the menfolk tried an identical combination of bribery and democracy-funding, the point of which was to make sure Serbians lost their right to go to their own beach – that is to say, Montenegro. If the children reading would go to bed immediately, it would be possible to reveal how the unconventional sexual orientation of Annie and Hoppy usually leads to such jolly, if not gay American combinations – bribery, democracy, and beaches.

The war between Moscow, Washington, and Brussels over Montenegro went to the wire on May 21, 2006, when 55.5% of Montenegrin voters approved their secession from Serbia, and applied for recognition, first as an independent state, then as a candidate member of the European Union (EU). Russian policy opposed the breakaway, backed the union with Serbia – rump of the former Yugoslavia – and offered Montenegrins a Russian cash-and-carry alternative to EU grants and conditions. The validity of the super-majority required for the US-EU option to carry was just 0.5% of the 419,236 votes cast – 2,096. In Podgorica, the country’s capital and site of the Podgorica Aluminium Combine (KAP), the US-EU vote came to 53.2%, not enough for the European option to prevail.
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RUSSIAN MILITARY PULLBACK TO LEAVE UKRAINIAN FEAR IN PLACE — NO NATIONAL MAJORITY FOR PRESIDENT, NO CONFIDENCE IN PARLIAMENT, NO CHOICE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Ukrainian voters are now united in only one thing – their fear. Countrywide, two out of three say they are afraid of military conflict with outside forces. One in two say they are more afraid of internal conflict and civil war. Almost that many say their biggest anxieties are non-payment of pensions, loss of jobs and wages.

The latest poll of Ukrainian voters has been a cooperative, nationwide effort by four polling organizations, led by the Centre for Social and Marketing Research (SOCIS) and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS). A sample of 6,200 has been gathered in individual face-to-face interviews, covering all regions except Crimea. The statistical error has been reduced from 2% in the smaller telephone polls of January and February to 0.8% in the new results. The polling was undertaken between March 14 and 19, and thus reflects the first reaction of the majority of Ukrainians to the Crimean referendum and its secession. The results were published in Ukrainian on March 26, and can be read here.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA REVEALS A CASE OF COCQ ENVY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Barack Obama has done something no president of the US has done in public, outside of wartime, for more than a century. He has attempted to issue a personal insult to another country and its president by belittling both.

At the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam on Monday, in front of Rembrandt’s “The Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq”, also known as “The Night Watch”, the White House arranged a photo opportunity. Obama spoke of the painting behind as “the most impressive backdrop I’ve had for a press conference”; claimed he had studied the Dutch Masters in school; thanked the locals for their hospitality, and moved on to a meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister while the media were dispersed. There was no press conference.
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THE FORCE MAJEURE OPTION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A year ago the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) reported that through the statistics collected by its 60 associated central banks, total bank lending to Russia had jumped by $25 billion in the January quarter. That was the largest quarterly increase of Russian lending and borrowing in BIS records. It was also a sign of the growing integration between Russia and the economies of the rest of the world.

This year, the US Government has decided to put a stop to that, and declared war on Russian individuals and Russian corporations. In part, this has been done by issuing transaction ban and asset freeze orders of designated individuals and institutions; in part, by legislating the authority for the US President to attack the economic means of any individual of Russian nationality or association; and in part, by advertising in the Financial Times and The Economist the intention to attack the entire Russian economy until capitulation.
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THE ILLEGALITY OF US SANCTIONS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In 1487, when Edmund Duke of Edinburgh, aka the Black Adder, wanted to strike fear into the English royal court, and also the Spaniards, he called his valet to dress him in his Russian codpiece.

Do I need to tell the young girls and boys in charge of war in Washington, DC, just how big the Russian codpiece was back then? Are they so mesmerized by its size today they believe the law is on their side when they try to strike back? If so, girls and boys, you have an unsavoury surprise coming – and I’m not referring to what will happen if the codpiece comes off.
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COLOUR PETRO IN, COLOUR PETRO DOWN AND OUT — POROSHENKO’S ASSETS AT RISK

petro_in

By John Helmer, Moscow

The assets of Petro Poroshenko, frontrunner in the Ukrainian presidential election called for May 25, are facing growing pressure in Crimea and mainland Russia.

If US and French Government proposals now in discussion in Brussels expand anti-Russian sanctions to strike at the offshore assets of Russian oligarchs, Poroshenko is likely to be targeted for retaliation, and lose the Bogdan auto assembly and sales outlets in Crimea; the Sevmorverf shipyard in Sevastopol; Roshen confectionery plants in Lipetsk; and roughly half the Roshen group’s trading revenues. The Crimean assets are relatively small in value. The Lipetsk assets have been estimated by Roshen to have cost more than $100 million. About $80 million, half the Roshen group’s annual sale revenues, is accounted for by Poroshenko’s exports to Russia.
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THE GAY SANCTION — PRESIDENT OBAMA TAKES REVENGE ON YELENA MIZULINA FOR LAWS TO BAN HOMOSEXUAL PROPAGANDA AND ADOPTION OF RUSSIAN CHILDREN BY SAME-SEX COUPLES

gay_sanction

By John Helmer, Moscow

President Barack Obama issued an order yesterday imposing sanctions against seven Russians whom he and his government blame for the crisis in Ukraine. At the bottom of the Obama list at Number 7 is State Duma Deputy Yelena Mizulina (left), chairman of the Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She and the other six Russians are accused in the White House declaration of responsibility for “the deployment of Russian military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine” and for policies which “undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets.”

The sanctions against Mizulina are explicitly identified in the March 17 order as blocking “all property and interests in property that are in the United States”; barring entry to the US; and banning engagement with US citizens in “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit” of Mizulina.
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IS IT CURTAINS FOR IGOR ZYUZIN? VLADIMIR LISIN AND MIKHAIL FRIDMAN ON THE ATTACK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Alfa Bank, owned by Mikhail Fridman, has issued an unexpected loan repayment demand from Mechel, controlled by Igor Zyuzin (left), for $150 million. That’s chicken-feed in Mechel’s debt pile of almost $10 billion. But with dozens of trade creditors in the arbitrazh courts demanding their invoices be paid; a collapsing share price; and nothing of value left to mortgage or to meet margin calls, Zyuzin is on the edge of bankruptcy. So why has Fridman issued his ultimatum? Since two out of every three dollars Zyuzin owes are under state bank control, Fridman’s notice appears to be a call on the banks, and on the government behind, to get rid of Zyuzin altogether and redistribute Mechel’s steelmaking and coal-mining assets. It isn’t likely Fridman, who abandoned the mining and metal lines of business after the 2008 crisis, is acting alone.

The Alfa Bank demand was issued during a meeting last Thursday, March 13, with government ministers and bankers to discuss Mechel’s financial position. Mechel and Alfa sources confirm that the meeting, chaired by Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, was told that Mechel was in violation of its loan covenants and that Alfa demanded pre-payment within 24 hours.
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LEGAL VACUUM AT THE UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT — HOW FIVE JUDGES WERE DISMISSED, FOUR JUDGES APPOINTED, AND THE REST OF THE BENCH THREATENED WITH CRIMINAL INDICTMENT 36 HOURS BEFORE THE CRIMEAN REFERENDUM

editorial cartoon: mothersday, moederdag

By John Helmer, Moscow

In most legal codes there is no concept of a legal vacuum, since lawyers, judges and experts on jurisprudence everywhere believe that for every act some law or other must apply. In English and American law, for example, it is inconceivable – to lawyers, judges, politicians and policemen – that the law ceases to have application. It is possible, they admit, that there are situations which are so novel in fact, or so unprecedented, the statutes, regulations, and decided case law haven’t caught up with the realities. But catch up the legislators and judges do. These aren’t vacuums, so much as gaps which are invariably plugged.

What happens if a government or a legislature, acting beyond its authority, gets a court to rule in violation of its constitution? That isn’t a vacuum. It is double-barrelled unlawfulness or illegality. But since the fingers on the trigger didn’t have the authority to pull, the outcome is what the lawyers call a legal nullity. It doesn’t require challenge or appeal. It is void from the start. For examples in international law of what the doctrine of nullity means, read on. For an interpretation of a legal vacuum by the Russian Constitutional Court, click here.
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WHEN MONEY CAN’T TALK — THE POLITICAL PARTITION OF UKRAINE HAS ALREADY SPLIT THE MINDS OF VOTERS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Majorities of voters in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine believe there is no candidate running for the presidential election planned for May 25, whom they trust with a vote to represent their interests. With two months still to go, the outcome of the poll is therefore already decided – it will be regarded by southern and eastern Ukrainians as a forced choice; an illegitimate result; and an outcome which cannot be relied on to protect the interests of the southerners and easterners.

According to voter polling by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, there are still large blocs of undecided voters or refuseniks in the south and east who may be persuaded to vote. The appointments of the steelmill oligarchs, Sergei Taruta and Igor Kolomoisky, as governors of the Donetsk and Dniepropetrovsk regions has been interpreted as an attempt by officials in Kiev to achieve this with cash and promises of job and pension benefits. But new poll evidence suggests that no amount of money can buy votes for the US-approved candidates — Vitali Klitschko, Petro Poroshenko, or Oleg Tyagnibok. The same can be said for the Russian-approved candidacy of Yulia Tymoshenko.
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THE CRIMEA EFFECT — WHOEVER CONTROLS CRIMEA CONTROLS HUGE RESERVES OF OFFSHORE GAS, BUT MAYBE THAT WON’T BE EXXONMOBIL OR NATHANIEL ROTHSCHILD

crimea_effect

By John Helmer, Moscow

Georhii Rudko, the chairman of the Ukrainian State Commission for Natural Resources, had nothing to do with the choice of the old British War Office as the venue; nor the timing of his speech, one day before the President of Ukraine and the constitutional order of the country were toppled. But Rudko’s presentation on the future for the oil and gas resources of Ukraine was anything but a sideshow.

Rudko was scheduled to speak at a meeting entitled “Black Sea & Caspian 2014 Conference – Unlocking Full Potential”. The date was February 20. The address was 89 Pall Mall, where the War Office was located between 1858 and 1906, just missing the Crimean War (1853-56), but managing the second Opium War against China; the three Basotho wars in southern Africa; several rebellions in India; and the Boer War in South Africa. As war offices go, the score was a grand slam for the British.
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GLENCORE TAKES A BATH WITH RUSAL — IS IVAN GLASENBERG INCOMPETENT, OR HAVE ERNST & YOUNG MISSED THE OBVIOUS?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Winston Churchill likened his inability to know what happens in Moscow to a case of bulldogs fighting under a rug. Ivan Glasenberg (right), chief executive of GlencoreXstrata, and Oleg Deripaska (left), chief executive of United Company Rusal — secretive though they are — are too fond of each other to fight. What they do under the rug is something else.

So when Glencore announced last week that it is marking its shareholding in United Company Rusal for sale at $394 million, 53% less than the year before, it’s clear that for Glencore the Rusal stake is a pup. Less obvious is it that when Glencore says it is selling Rusal, it means to do what it says.
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MODERN ARTFULNESS — SOUTH AFRICA AGREES TO BUY CHINESE NUCLEAR REACTOR TECHNOLOGY WHICH EITHER BELONGS TO OTHERS OR HASN’T BEEN BUILT & TESTED — WITH FUNDS THE SOUTH AFRICAN FINANCE MINISTRY WON’T ALLOCATE TO THE STATE BUDGET, AND THE GOVERNMENT’S ELECTRICITY PLAN RECOMMENDS AGAINST SPENDING ANY TIME SOON

china_reselling

By John Helmer, Moscow

On March 4 the Chinese and South African governments announced they are preparing an agreement on nuclear cooperation to allow the Chinese to sell $50 billion worth of their nuclear reactor technology for South Africa’s power generation programme.

There are four catches. One is that a South African report from the ministry responsible for energy planning recommends against investing in nuclear reactors for at least two, and possibly ten more years. The second catch is that the South African Ministry of Finance has refused to allow any funds to be put into current or future budgets for nuclear reactors. The third catch is that the Chinese have depended to date on reactor technology they have bought from France, the US, and Russia which cannot be resold in the international market. Nuclear reactor bids from each of these three countries have already been tabled for the South African nuclear programme, and until last month the most likely contender for selection, according to South African President Jacob Zuma and Ben Martins, the Minister of Energy, was Rosatom of Russia.
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THE UKRAINIAN PYRAMID PRESIDENT OBAMA BUILT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The White House record claims that on the afternoon of Friday, February 21, President Barack Obama initiated a telephone call to President Vladimir Putin. But the US version of what was said claims Obama committed himself to supporting the agreement which President Victor Yanukovich had signed early on the same day with leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, and with the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France. “President Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin”, the White House reported, and apparently agreed “to implement quickly the political agreement reached today in Kyiv”.

The transcript hasn’t been released, not yet. But the Kremlin version doesn’t report that Obama agreed to anything. Instead, Putin reportedly warned Obama against “working with the radical opposition, which has taken the confrontation in Ukraine to a very dangerous point.”
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ROBBING PYOTR TO PAY PAVEL — THE VULNERABILITY OF RUSSIAN ASSETS IN UKRAINE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A new type of warfare is being tested in Ukraine. The strategem was first publicly disclosed on February 23, when Zbigniew Brzezinski — the wannabe Secretary of State if the Democratic Party wins the 2016 presidential election — proposed a billion-dollar levy on each of ten Ukrainian oligarchs. Brzezinski didn’t identify them by name, but suggested they were “principal beneficiaries of the country’s stunningly widespread corruption”. Another $10 billion, according to Brzezinski’s scheme, should be “matched” by the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovich, and his family.

Swiss sources reveal that the Swiss government and banks are under pressure right now to extend their freeze of the Yanukovich bank accounts to other Ukrainians on a US Government target list. Brzezinski’s proposal used the term “persuade” for his billion-dollar levy. The US Treasury has conveyed to the Swiss, as well as to banks of the European Union (EU), the targeting of as many Ukrainians as the new government in Kiev wants to threaten, especially if their business is concentrated in the eastern half of the country.
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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.

(more…)
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