SENATOR MIKHAIL MARGELOV’S LOYALTY CARD REACHES EXPIRATION DATE

margelov_card

By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s in the nature of arbitrage transactions that if you are buying an asset cheap, you try to avoid the risk of failing to find someone to buy dear. Naturally, noone really enjoys gambling if the risk can be avoided. The knack of Russian arbitrage is to cover that risk by arranging for a state bank loan to finance your buyer, and for you, your asset buyer, and your banker to rig the valuation and share the spread. Arranging with a friend at a state enterprise to do the buying with budget money comes to the same thing. Nice hedge; a trifle wrong.

Political arbitrage is much rarer because it’s riskier, and it’s harder to rig the spread in advance. It happens when a politician leaves one job before he’s sure he will be elected (or appointed) to a more powerful one. When a politician suddenly announces to his voters that he’s resigning, but doesn’t tell them why, it’s regarded as a case of disloyalty, at least in democracies. Also, it’s usually not supposed that the resigning politician would run the risk of unemployment — unless something worse than that was in the offing for him.
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LORDS ON BOARDS: WILL THE BRITISH DIRECTORS KEEP THEIR RUSSIAN SEATS? THE AMERICANS TOO?

lords_seats

By John Helmer, Moscow

The sanctions programme adopted against Russia to date aims, according to this week’s declaration by US President Barack Obama, at curtailing the capabilities of the Russian government to field men and arms on or across Russian borders; and to penalize individuals and corporations for sustaining the Russian economy while the war in eastern Ukraine continues.

For the first time, US officials have declared that every sector of the Russian economy, including investment and financing for industry, urban development, farm production and food supply, are targets.
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INTERPIPE PRESENTS ITS FINANCIALS — VICTOR PINCHUK PLAYS KING CANUTE

pnchk_results

By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpipe, the steel and pipemaking group owned by Victor Pinchuk (lead image, centre) and based in Dniepropetrovsk, is high and dry, according to the latest financial report signed by the auditors on June 30, 2014. That is despite having suffered a 14% downturn of sales revenues for the year to $1.5 billion; a 5% increase in the bottom-line loss to $73.4 million; and its default on borrowings which now total $1.03 billion. Just $34.5 million in cash is on hand. With additional current liabilities of $343.2 million, Ernst & Young, Interpipe’s auditors calculate that , “the Group’s current liabilities exceed its current assets by $649.1 million.” That’s ground, the auditors warn, “of a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt about the Group’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Excerpts of the report were issued to creditors and bondholders two weeks ago. The full report can be read here. The company’s website has yet to publish the 55-page document.
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GEORGE SOROS TAKES AIM AT RUSAL — GERALD GROUP PROPOSES OUSTER OF RUSAL FROM GUINEA BAUXITE, ALUMINA CONCESSION

soros_rusal

By John Helmer, Moscow

A combination of American and British commodity traders, aided by George Soros (lead image, left), is planning to oust United Company Rusal, the Russian aluminium monopoly, from its Friguia bauxite and alumina concession in the west African Republic of Guinea. The plan, according to sources in London and Conakry, the Guinean capital, calls for the Guinean President Alpha Conde to revoke Rusal’s production agreement, according to the recommendations of an inter-ministerial group of officials known as the Comité Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers (Technical Committee of Review of Mining Titles and Concessions). Conde is being urged by Soros to replace the Russians led by Rusal chief executive, Oleg Deripaska (lead image, right).

The Gerald Group, according to a London source, has a double-barreled target, aiming also at Rusal’s control of the Nikolaev Alumina Refinery (NGZ) in eastern Ukraine. Defending Rusal from the attack, says a source close to Rusal, is Glencore, the Switzerland-based global commodity trader, which is a minority stakeholder in Rusal and the financier of much of its aluminium and alumina trade.
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES ANOTHER UK COURT APPEAL, LOSES COSTS

scf_loses

By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Court of Appeal has issued a ruling to deny the Sovcomflot group and its Novoship subsidiary the right to appeal a corruption judgement to the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts. The judgement puts an end to nine years of attempts by Sovcomflot group chief executive Sergei Frank and Russian government officials to have the British courts convict Yury Nikitin, their former chartering partner, of bribery and corrupt profiteering in the business of shipping oil.
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O! WHAT A LUCRATIVE WAR IN EASTERN UKRAINE RINAT AKHMETOV IS HAVING, SO FAR

akhmetov_war

By John Helmer, Moscow

Rinat Akhmetov (lead image, above left and right) is still the Ukraine’s richest man. If you believe the financial reports just issued by his Metinvest group, Ukraine’s largest steel, iron-ore, coal and coke maker, it’s a case of his singing all the way to the bank in Switzerland — without the irony of the musical, “O! What A Lovely War!”

A new ratings report issued by Moodys claims that Metinvest is benefitting from “the company’s ability to generate positive cash flows even in times of a severe downturn as observed in 2009 and more recently; (2) low leverage; (3) high degree of vertical integration; (4) large iron ore reserves; and (5) the geographically advantageous location of some of its major assets.” Exactly what advantage the geography of eastern Ukraine is conferring on Akhmetov’s business Moody’s analysts don’t say.
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IF PRESIDENTS PUTIN, POROSHENKO AND OBAMA ARE ALL TELLING THE TRUTH, THEN THIS IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

buk_radar

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian and US intelligence versions of what preceded the destruction of Malaysian Airlines MH17 on July 17 have come close to agreement on the same set of facts. Their disagreements and conflicts of evidence are much smaller, by comparison.

The Russians and Americans concur that a Buk-M1 missile battery (lead image, interior operator panel) fired an SA-11 missile which detonated in front of the Boeing, and brought her down. The US Government now says it lacks the evidence to say who fired the missile. It also claims that “Ukraine had no antiaircraft missile system within range of the Malaysian flight at the time it was struck”.
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THE HEARTFELT HISTORY OF PARTISAN PHOTOJOURNALISTS AND FAKE PHOTO JOURNALISM — FOR VERACITY, LET’S HEAR IT FOR DRONES AND SATELLITES

fake_photo

By John Helmer, Moscow

In a few days’ time, on August 1, Gerda Taro would have turned 104. The encomiums would have been bound to describe her as the oldest, possibly the first, woman photojournalist. But Taro hasn’t made it. Instead, on July 26, 1937, she died after being crushed by a Spanish Republican tank while the car she was riding on was strafed by an aircraft of the Condor Legion . She was just 27. At her funeral in Paris, the encomiums described her as a brave comrade in arms on the Republican side of Spain’s civil war. She was the first woman photojournalist to die in combat. The kaddish her father said at her coffin during the funeral was omitted from the coverage arranged by the French Photographers’ Union. Robert Capa, her lover who stole much of the credit for her work in the years to follow, wept buckets and stopped eating for a while.
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INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND DELAYS NEW UKRAINE MONEY FOR WEEKS — CHANGES ITS MIND IN HOURS

gueorguiev

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided on Thursday, July 17, that the Ukrainian government should not receive a new transfer of $1.4 billion, as previously scheduled on July 25. Instead, the IMF agreed with officials in the government of President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk that they should spend several more weeks improving on their accounting of how they have spent the first $3.2 billion of the IMF’s Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, paid out on May 6. Measures were required, the IMF warned Poroshenko and Yatseniuk, to halt the haemorrhaging of IMF cash out of the Ukrainian budget — and of capital from Ukrainian banks and corporations out of the country.

According to Reuters, “IMF sees decision on $1.4 billion tranche to Ukraine in weeks.” Nikolay Gueorguiev (lead image), head of the IMF’s Ukraine team, told Reuters his team “has reached an understanding with the Ukrainian authorities on the policies necessary for the completion of the first review under the standby agreement… We expect this process to be completed within [a] few weeks.”
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RUSAL NEGOTIATIONS FAIL IN GUINEA — ONCE AGAIN CONAKRY’S BILL IS MORE THAN $1 BILLION

rusal_guinea

By John Helmer, Moscow

United Company Rusal, the state aluminium monopoly controlled by Oleg Deripaska (right), has failed in a bid to ward off billion-dollar sanctions from Alpha Conde (centre), the President of Guinea, with an offer to start a cheap, new bauxite mine three years from now.

Sources in Conakry, the capital of the West African republic, have confirmed that an inter-ministerial committee, which has been reviewing the contract records for more than a decade of mineral resource concessions and mining agreements signed by earlier Guinean governments, has found Rusal to have under-paid and under-performed at its Friguia bauxite mine and alumina refinery. Word that the Technical Committee for Review of Mining Titles and Agreements (Comite Technique de Revue des Titres et Conventions Miniers, CTRTCM) was about to rule Rusal in violation and propose major financial penalties led Deripaska to despatch Victor Boyarkin to Conakry for talks to head off the committee’s recommendations.
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VICTOR PINCHUK KEEPS CREDITORS AND BONDHOLDERS AT BAY, AS THE IMF CLOSES IN (CLOSES EYES, COVERS MOUTH, STOPS EARS)

pinchuk_imf

By John Helmer, Moscow

In a decision announced last week, the US Department of Commerce did Victor Pinchuk, owner of Interpipe, the Ukraine’s leading pipemaker and exporter, a favour worth between $6 million and $9 million per annum for the next three years.

At the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has ordered the government in Kiev to end the delay in collecting $38 million from Interpipe in overdue debt for deliveries of gas by the state gas supplier Naftogaz; and raise the price of this year’s gas deliveries to Interpipe by roughly two-thirds over last year’s subsidized price. Based on an unaudited estimate of energy costs which Interpipe paid in 2013, the IMF rescue will cost Interpipe the difference between $173 million for 2013 and $259 million estimated for this year; that’s $86 million. Add the Naftogaz debt; subtract the value of the US government benefit from the IMF obligation; and Pinchuk’s Interpipe will be poorer by about $100 million.
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WHY CAN’T A MAN (RADOSŁAW SIKORSKI) BE MORE LIKE A WOMAN (ANNE APPLEBAUM)? SIKORSKI FAILS TO BE ELECTED FOREIGN MINISTER OF EUROPE

sikorski_man

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the Broadway musical, My Fair Lady, elocution professor Henry Higgins fools an East European expert on spotting impostors. But believing he’s been fooled himself by his protégée, Eliza Doolittle, Higgins sings this lament to himself: “Men are so honest, so thoroughly square; Eternally noble, historically fair; Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat. Why can’t a woman be like that?”

In the case of Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, right), the onetime British citizen who is currently Foreign Minister of Poland, the outcome of his campaign to be elected High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has failed. This week in Warsaw, Sikorski’s reason is the Higgins song – he is too much of a honest man in a race where there are too many devious women.
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LEONID LEBEDEV — IS THE KREMLIN TARGETING RUSSIANS CLOSE TO THE US FOR REVERSE SANCTIONS?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it comes to Trojan horses, who better than the Government of Greece to judge.

The Trojan Horse that’s meant is Leonid Lebedev (lead image), the three-term, 12-year Federation Council senator representing the Republic of Chuvashia. Lebedev claims to be a billionaire with control of a conglomerate called Sintez. Its cash generation is reported to come from oil production in Khantiy-Mansiisk; oil trading; the TGK-2 electricity-generating utility; and proceeds from the sale of a number of smaller businesses. According to investigations last year by the Government of Greece, Lebedev’s claims to represent Gazprom and powerful figures in President Vladimir Putin’s circle lacked credibility, and more importantly, money. Sintez was disallowed the right to bid for the privatization of Greece’s state-owned gas purchase and distribution companies, DEPA and DESFA.
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WASHDAY BLUES — ANDREI GONCHARENKO’S £43 MILLION DEAL SURFACES AT LONDON TAX TRIBUNAL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If Andrei Goncharenko paid £43 million for an asset worth no more than half as much, he has set something of a Russian record for business acumen. And he might well have kept that acumen secret, if not for a group of squabbling Englishmen wanting commissions for arranging the deal, and one in particular, who wanted to keep about £20,000 in value-added tax on his commission, to which the Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs thought they were entitled instead.

Goncharenko is the deputy chief executive of a Gazprom subsidiary called GazpromInvest Yug (South). The company was created in 2002 as a contractor for construction projects decided on by its parent. The company website claims it does things like the “organization of construction and reconstruction of gas processing plants, the main gas pipelines, compressor stations, underground gas storage, gas distribution stations. In addition, the company is organizing the construction of energy, communications, infrastructure (boilers, wastewater treatment plants)…reconstruction of complex engineering and technical security systems, and anti-terrorist protection of objects.”
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DUTCH COURT SINKS ANDREI MELNICHENKO, REVIVES SHAFT SINKERS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A court in The Netherlands has dismissed a fraud claim for more than $800 million by Andrei Melnichenko against Alexander Mashkevich and the two other Kazakh owners of International Mineral Resources for lack of evidence. The 11-page judgement was issued by the District Court of Amsterdam on June 25. Three judges, A.W.H. Vink, K.M. van Hassel, and R. Raat, signed the unanimous ruling.

International Mineral Resources (IMR) is registered in Amsterdam, and is owned by Mashkevich, Patokh Chodiev, and Alijan Ibragmiov, the controlling shareholders of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC). The trio also hold a 48% stake in Shaft Sinkers (ShS), a South Africa-based, London-listed mine engineering company which specializes in building mine shafts. The lawsuit was initiated on March 25, 2013, by Melnichenko’s Volgograd-region potash mining subsidiary, EuroChem Volga-Kaliy LLC. This escalated the conflict between Melnichenko and Mashkevich, after they had failed in direct and indirect meetings to agree on compensation for the failure of Shaft Sinkers technology for one of the mineshafts at Eurochem’s newest potash mine, Gremyachinskoye, in the Volgograd region.
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UK COURT OF APPEAL SPRINGS SURPRISE ON SERGEI FRANK IN THE SOVCOMFLOT SAGA — YURY NIKITIN KEEPS $169.4 MILLION IN PROFITS, PURSUES $180 MILLION COUNTER CLAIM

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a unanimous three-judge ruling issued on Friday, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected a claim from Novoship, the state shipping company which is part of the Sovcomflot group, for recovery of more than $243 million in profits and interest. Novoship had claimed the money was earned corruptly by vessel charterer, Yury Nikitin. The court upheld Nikitin’s appeal, overruling a High Court judgement of December 2012, and decided that Nikitin’s profits had been earned honestly.

In a judgement written for the appellate court by Lord Justice Sir Andrew Longmore, the court upheld an order for Nikitin to pay $410,304.39. That amount, Nikitin’s lawyers say, had been offered at the start of the court case, but refused. According to Mike Lax, Nikitin’s solicitor, “as soon as Novoship alleged that the money was tainted, Mr Nikitin offered to repay it, even though he did know the background. We made a Part 36 offer to this effect at the commencement of the litigation which was not accepted by Novoship. Since Novoship have done no better than the offer we made from the outset, it is likely that Novoship will also have to pay most of our costs and their own costs of the litigation.”
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THE COW ISN’T LAUGHING — RUSSIAN DAIRY PRODUCERS FILE TO BAR VEGETABLE-FAT IMPORTS FROM UKRAINE

unfunny_cow

By John Helmer, Moscow

Russian dairy producers have filed for protection from pseudo-cheese exported in growing volumes from Ukraine through customs checkpoints in the Belgorod region. According to Soyuzmoloko, the Russian dairy producers’ association, Ukrainian exporters have been cutting their cheese shipments across the border, and more than doubling the volume of the substitutes, camouflaging the switch with identical packaging and false labelling.

Conventional customs inspection cannot distinguish between cheese manufactured from dairy fats and fakes made out of vegetable oil. So Soyuzmoloko has applied to the Kremlin to install specialized testing units at border checkpoints, and to introduce a new labelling regulation to identify the vegetable oil substitution. An application to the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) – the rule-making executive of the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan — was filed on June 25 to impose protective duties against all Ukrainian cheese, pseudo-cheese, and other dairy product imports ranging from 25% to 35%.
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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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