WHAT DO RUSAL’S INTERNATIONAL BANKERS KNOW THAT OLEG DERIPASKA HAS GONE TO COURT TO GAG?

rusal_bankers

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal has admitted that one large international bank is refusing to accept the restructuring terms the company has offered for loans totaling $5.15 billion which fall due for repayment by July 7. Until now, there has been speculation that state-owned Chinese banks had been pressing for repayment in cash, rather than accept extension of the loan maturity date and other terms. On Friday, the holdout banks were identified by Rusal sources as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which is majority-owned by the UK Government; and the German bank WestLB, which has been in a form of bankruptcy management since June 2012. Today, Portligon, which has taken over WestLB, reportedly changed its mind, and accepted Rusal’s offer of terms.

The latest Rusal disclosures also provide for an international court to oblige the last holdout to accept another four to five months of negotiating time, thereby preventing it from pitching Rusal into default and bankruptcy next Monday.
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SWISS TO INVESTIGATE IGOR KOLOMOISKY’S PERMIT TO LIVE IN GENEVA

kolomoisky

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Swiss Federal Police and the Federal Office for Migration will shortly decide whether the residency permit issued to Igor Kolomoisky to live in Geneva will be extended beyond the current expiry date. Kolomoisky’s permit comes up for renewal in October, and four months of investigation may be required by the Swiss authorities to authorize his stay.

Regular reviews of foreign residency permits in Switzerland are required every one or two years, according to government sources referring to Swiss law and regulations. But in Kolomoisky’s case, the Swiss authorities are obliged to determine whether Kolomoisky’s activities since March as the governor of the eastern Ukraine region of Dniepropetrovsk, and a recent Russian indictment of Kolomoisky for war crimes, represent a violation of the rules and disallow him for residency.
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SEVERSTAL SETTLES US LITIGATION WITH RG STEEL — ALEXEI MORDASHOV DEMONSTRATES PARACHUTE TECHNIQUE TO SHAREHOLDERS

severstal_us

By John Helmer, Moscow

Three years of litigation in New York and Delaware between Severstal and US steelmaker RG Steel over a failed Maryland steelmill, for which Alexei Mordashov paid $810 million, will be finalized at a US court hearing on July 15. Moscow and US sources report that lawyers for the two sides are expected to present for the judge’s approval an agreement for RG Steel to receive $30 million in cash from Severstal, and in exchange, Severstal will acquire RG Steel’s 50% stake in their joint coke venture, Mountain State Carbon (MSC).

At most, this outcome for Severstal is worth $70 million – one-eleventh of what Mordashov originally paid in March 2008, announcing at the time: “We believe in the long-term promise of the U.S. market.”
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STRESS TEST FOR IMF IN UKRAINE — IGOR KOLOMOISKY’S PRIVATBANK IS THE BIGGEST BENEFICIARY OF THE IMF’S EMERGENCY LIQUIDITY ASSISTANCE (ELA)

shlapak_ela

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Ukrainian revolution has been very bad for business in the country. But for Igor Kolomoisky’s Privatbank there has been compensation of almost a billion dollars in state funds: publicly, rival Ukrainian commercial banks call that favouritism; privately, Ukrainian business as usual.

Privatbank is Ukraine’s largest commercial bank. Since the replacement of the Ukrainian Government in February, and the start of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) financial aid programme in April, Privatbank has been the largest beneficiary of what the IMF and the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance are calling Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to the country’s banks. Published measurements of Privatbank’s share of ELA range from 36% to more than 40% of the additional financing which has flowed out of Ukrainian state funds into the commercial banks. Just how much Kolomoisky benefits, along with related companies to which Privatbank lends much of its loan book, is one of the control operations being performed this week, as the IMF’s Ukraine mission starts its first inspection since the IMF transferred $3.2 billion to the National Bank of Ukraine on May 7.
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POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER RADOSLAW SIKORSKI ATTACKS THE US WITH SEXUAL AND RACIAL EXPLETIVES — FINANCIAL TIMES, ECONOMIST TRY TO BLAME ‘EMBARRASSMENT’ ON RUSSIAN OPERATION

sikorski_applebaum

By John Helmer, Moscow

In March, when he thought it was safe to speak his mind at the Amber Restaurant in Warsaw, Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw (Radek) Sikorski (lead image, left) used a racial expletive to refer to the Polish relationship with the US government, which is so unpleasant, noone outside Poland has been willing to translate it into English. That was on top of an expletive describing what Sikorski said Poland’s metaphorical mouth has been doing with the US government’s metaphorical sexual organ.

Sikorski was talking with Jacek Rostowski; like Sikorski, Rostowski is a British-educated, British national, and a recent finance minister in Donald Tusk’s current Polish government. They were dining just after Crimea had voted to join the Russian Federation, and as the US government announced the first round of sanctions. The tape-recording, which has begun to be published by the Polish weekly Wprost, also reproduces jokes Sikorski told Rostowski, including one about a man with multiple sclerosis who over-exerts himself at a brothel.
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ROSNEFT INTRODUCES FORCE MAJEURE — HOW TO SHOOT DOWN STEALTH SANCTIONS WITH A PAPER DART

rosneft_force_majeure

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the New York and London markets brokers and bankers explain that they are being discreetly called by US Treasury officials with this message: buying Russian equity or debt paper is legal, but in the event there is a new round of sanctions, it will be illegal to re-sell them, so there can be no profit in Russian assets. The market is calling this campaign “stealth sanctions”. It is an attack on the international market for Russian corporations, and on the international currency and security clearance systems on which the market depends.

According to the highest UK and European courts — reported here on March 25 — the type of formal sanctions which the US and the EU have already introduced are likely to be found illegal, if they are challenged in court. Stealth sanctions are more difficult to substantiate in court -– and also financially much more damaging. Until now, there has been no Russian retaliation for the sanctions, and no litigation.
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IN THE MARKET FOR HATRED OF RUSSIA, RUSSIAN ART TRUMPS

russian_art

By John Helmer, Moscow

Putting money where the mouth is, the value of Russian artworks has reached a record high this month at auctions of Christie’s, Sotheby’s and MacDougall’s. Bad mouthing by the US State Department daily briefer is cheaper, as the US Government endorses Ukrainian government hate speech in referring to Russians in general as “subhuman”, and the president in particular as a “dickhead”. But for the heads of the Russian art departments at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, neither US sanctions nor the Russophobia of the London press have made any impact on cultural sentiment.

If anything, Russian art buyers are bidding against each other to recover and return to Russia works which have been on the walls of American and European collectors who acquired them before the revolution, or in the fire sales just after. Not exactly for patriotic reasons, Russian art buyers are doing this because they are confident the London market is securing new asset value, ensuring that even in the short run, Russian art will enjoy a lucrative resale price.
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TWIXT CUP AND LIP — SOUTH AFRICAN REGULATOR CHANGES ROSATOM’S CHANCES TO WIN REACTOR BID

sa_cup

By John Helmer, Moscow

Two months after South Africa’s (SA) President Jacob Zuma appeared to drop Russia in favour of a Chinese-American combination for the country’s $50 billion nuclear reactor programme, the head of the SA National Nuclear Regulator, Bismark Tyobeka, appeared in Moscow last week to be favouring the Russian bid over the competition.

Tyobeka, who was attending a nuclear industry convention, AtomExpo-2014, was reported in the Russian press as saying that now that South Africa’s May 7 parliamentary elections are out of the way, Zuma intends to announce his choice for the first two reactors from among the competing bids of China, Russia, South Korea, and France. Tyobeka reportedly was negative towards the Chinese bid, which is coordinated with Westinghouse of the US. “All these countries also have a chance to become the contractor, but the main thing is whether they have sufficient experience of building nuclear power plants abroad. In that sense Russia has the best experience, and its chances [for the procurement award] are very high.”
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VICTOR BOYARKIN RETURNS TO RUSAL FOR A NEW TOP-SECRET ALPHA MISSION

alpha_mission

By John Helmer, Moscow

Victor Boyarkin, the former lieutenant-colonel of Russian military intelligence and special operations chief for United Company Rusal, returned to the company on Monday after an absence of fifteen months. In Conakry, the capital of Guinea, his arrival is anticipated shortly for a fresh attempt by Oleg Deripaska, Rusal’s chief executive, to relieve new pressure on Rusal to reopen the Friguia (Fria) alumina refinery and bauxite mine, and spend several hundred million dollars committed earlier to investment in Guinea.

The Guinean President, Alpha Conde (image, right foreground), has started to prepare his presidential election campaign for the poll, which is due in less than a year’s time. In Friguia, where Rusal is the principal source of employment, the alumina refinery has been closed since 2012, and according to local sources, the city is “dead. People are starving, and only a heavy military presence can keep things quiet. Conde has nothing to show for his presidency, and unless he can persuade Rusal to reopen the refinery, he must persuade the Russians to make a large compensation to help the city.”
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THE BIG CHEESE WHOSE HOLES ARE SHOWING — SWISS PRESIDENT DIDIER BURKHALTER TAKES THE NEUTRALITY TEST IN UKRAINE, AND FAILS

big_cheese

By John Helmer, Moscow

The holes in Emmental cheese are so characteristic of the Swiss brand, their diameters are officially fixed by the US Food and Drug Administration. The reason for the holes is that in fabrication of the cheese, the addition of the Propionibacterium shermani causes the release of carbon dioxide. When the wheels of emmental are broken, the bubbles burst, leaving behind the holes. The Swiss call it the jolly bacterium (P. freudenreichii).

Didier Burkhalter, President of Switzerland, and also Chairperson-in-Office (CiO) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), hasn’t been feeling so freudenreich lately with these two titles, whose tenures run out, both of them, on December 31.
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TO CELEBRATE RUSSIA DAY, THE ONE THOUSAND AND FIVE HUNDREDTH DANCE WITH BEARS

1500th

By John Helmer, Moscow

Backstage at the Theatre du Chatelet on May 9, 1909, the curtain had come down on Vatslav Nijinsky’s performance of the Polovtsian Dances, an adaptation to Alexander Borodin’s music of the Tatar warrior dance. The Tatars flaunt their prowess, and their alluring slave girls, before their captive, the defeated Prince Igor. He’s in a low-libido Slavic mood, dismissing the Khan’s offer of his choice of the girls, or boys. The last words the chorus sings to Igor are: “There is more freedom for you there, song…And so, fly away!”

Nijinsky was asked by a visitor if it was difficult to stay in the air during his stage jumps. “No, no. Not difficult,” he answered. “You just have to go up and then pause a little up there.”

STEPAN KUBIV, GOVERNOR OF THE NATIONAL BANK OF UKRAINE — CHRISTINE LAGARDE’S ACHILLES HEEL IN UKRAINE, OR IS THAT BARACK OBAMA’S FLAT FOOT?

achilles_heel

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund’s senior officials have known that Stepan Kubiv, Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, was removed six years ago for his involvement in a massive bank loss and loan diversion, when Kubiv was in charge of Kredobank, a west Ukrainian bank owned by PKO Bank Polski, the leading bank of Poland. The affair cost Bank Polski at least $350 million in 2008 and 2009. Another $144 million was provided by Bank Polski to save Kredobank from insolvency. At the time, Kubiv’s management performance led to his replacement by the chief executive of Bank Polski, Jerzy Pruski. The bank scandal was discussed officially, Bank Polski has reported, with the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and with the Central Bank of Poland.

The Kubiv dossier resurfaced in Warsaw after February 24, when Kubiv was named by the new Ukrainian Government to head the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). In that role, Kubiv has been identified by the head of the IMF Ukraine Mission, Nikolay Gueorguiev, as the key Ukrainian official, under President Petro Poroshenko, who will decide what audits will be conducted of Ukraine’s commercial banks, and how much IMF money will be requested to bail them out.
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KREMLIN LOSES FEAR OF REGIONAL DEMONSTRATIONS — THE STEEL OLIGARCHS ISSUE PINK “PRODUCTION RELEASE” SLIPS

russian_steel

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last year Russia’s six major steelmakers cut 33,500 jobs from their payrolls, because, they explain, they are struggling to reduce losses and cut bank debt. That amounted to a loss of almost one in ten jobs in the Russian steel sector. At the end of 2013, the headcount of steelworkers was 355,900, down 9.4% from 2012.

Government officials and sector analysts acknowledge that five years ago during the collapse in steel trade in the last months of 2008 and first half of 2009, such a job cull would have been impossible because the Kremlin warned the mill proprietors against mass layoffs. Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) announced it was reducing its steel output by 15% in October 2009 after earlier claiming the cutback would be 25%. Alexander Mastruev, head of personnel at MMK, said at the time: “It is not necessary to dramatise the situation, and to panic.” MMK was considering a furlough of employees, not dismissal and job cuts, he added. At Mechel, it was claimed at the time there was no plan to review production plans “for now” but the length of the working day might be cut. According to Mechel, “we are making all effort to save all working places and our employees.”
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DNIEPROPETROVSK GOVERNOR IGOR KOLOMOISKY TO GET IMF BAILOUT FOR PRIVATBANK

dnieper_rider

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is preparing to release Privatbank, the largest commercial bank in Ukraine, from independent tests of its solvency and capital adequacy, and allow a bailout of the bank with Ukrainian public funds, backed by the IMF. The Ukraine mission of the IMF has also revealed this week that it is allowing Igor Kolomoisky (image above), the control shareholder of Privatbank, to direct his own audit and stress test of the bank. This is despite independent evidence of large related-party lending in which the bank has been engaged; and despite judgements recently issued in the UK courts that Kolomoisky presents evidence that is “false or materially incorrect.”

The bank, headquartered in the Dniepropetrovsk region of eastern Ukraine, is rated E, according to Moody’s Investors Service, the worst of its ratings for “Ownership and Organizational Complexity, Key Man Risk [and] Insider and Related-Party Risks”. Kolomoisky has been the governor of the Dniepropetrovsk region since March 2, when he was appointed by the new government in Kiev. The record of his attacks on Russia, and on President Vladimir Putin, can be read here.
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NUDELMAN’S WAR FOR THE UKRAINE — CLINTON’S WAR FOR THE PRESIDENCY

nudelman

By John Helmer, Moscow

Nudelman is the real name of Victoria Nuland, co-author of the February 21 coup d’etat in Kiev; and author of the four-letter expletive by which she disposed, almost, of Germany’s objections to the war against Russia which has followed.

In Yiddish, Nudelman is generally thought to refer to the culinary trade of making “lokshen”, the Yiddish form that’s closer to the Russian лапша than to the German “nudel”. It’s also related to the verb “nudyen”, which means to whine, nag, or push. The Yiddish “nudzh”, Polish “nudzik”, and the pseudo-Russian “nudnik” are related too. They mean a pestering bore — or a boring pesterer, depending on what she whines about. In the history of the Nudelman family, the name change was initiated by Shepsel Ber Nudelman (Sherwin B. Nuland, Victoria’s father), before he got to study at Yale University. Sherwin’s autobiography reveals his father, Victoria’s grandfather, to have been a “nudzh” with syphilitic symptoms. That autobiography also introduces the Nudelman habit of saying “Fuck you” at moments of disagreement with others. When Sherwin reports saying it on page 8 of his life, “my sea of troubles had receded”. When his daughter said it this past February, the sea of troubles became a tsunami. That is, if you are Ukrainian, Russian, European.
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CHEERS FROM THE FRONT! RUSSIAN WINE KEEPS ITS FIZZ

sparkling_wine

By John Helmer, Moscow

Stealth warfare against the Russian economy may be encouraging capital outflows, but for Russians on the home front, glasses are still being raised with a growing volume of sparkling wine or champagne going down the hatch. Abrau-Durso, the only Russian winemaker listed on a public stock exchange, is also going up, and like the bubbles, defying threats from Washington.

Even if falling consumer incomes and worsening economic prospects threaten the rate of growth in Russian consumption, Russia is “still the most promising country in the world for the consumption of wine products,” declares Vadim Drobiz, director of the Centre for Research on Federal and Regional Markets for Alcohol (TsIFRRA) in Moscow. “This remains the fact even if the entire world is tired of wine, and economic crisis is pushing down on consumption. Seventy years ago, in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, and Chile annual wine consumption was between 120 and 150 litres per capita. Now they drink 40 litres. In principle, this decline will continue, as wine is replaced by beer and strong alcohol. In 1985 in Russia, we consumed 21 litres, but now 4.5. We’ve declined by almost five times over the 25 years. Although the figures have been even lower: in 1995 the consumption was 3 litres of wine per capita. So we are improving since then.”
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US NAVY’S BLACK SEA ALLY-REASSURANCE OPERATION RUNS OUT OF STEAM ONCE A WEEK

us_navy_vella_gulf

By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Navy’s current Russia containment tactic in the Black Sea has been unable to negotiate refuelling from naval or civilian fuel tankers while under way at sea, and requires port calls for fuel every seven days. The Navy has announced that its missile cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, put into the Bulgarian port of Varna on May 30. The vessel entered the Black Sea, 180 nautical miles to the south, on May 23. The illustration from the bridge of the Vella Gulf as it approached Varna is a US Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Edward Guttierrez III For the delay of the Vella Gulf in reaching the Black Sea, click.

According to the US Navy press release, Vella Gulf’s presence in Bulgaria reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners, while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region. While in Bulgaria, the Navy says the Vella Gulf crew will participate “in community relations events at the Bulgarian Naval Academy and a local orphanage, visit the Bulgarian Naval Museum and tour the historic city of Varna.”
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

How little the Germans have changed.

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



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

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

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

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

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

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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