SEQUEL – HOW THE DUTCH FLOWER SYNDICATE PREVENTS DIRECT FLOWER TRADE WITH RUSSIA

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Comment by GB, London

We used to fly the Zimbabwe roses (and some Zambian) to the Dutch auctions; about 100 tonnes a week on Boeing 747s. Ours were cut, trimmed and boxed, and we delivered them to Amsterdam very early in the morning so that they could make the auction at the flower market in Aalsmeer that morning.

The Dutch control the flower producers in Africa as well. We spoke with some friends in Russia who wanted to import the roses directly into Russia, avoiding the Dutch middlemen. They were incensed that the price the Zimbabwean growers earned from the roses was less than a quarter of the delivered price to Russia – an important flower consumer; especially on Women’s Day.
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TULIP SANCTIONS — RUSSIA BUSTS THE DUTCH FLOWER TRUST, ALMOST

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Dutch auction, as it’s called in the wholesale flower trade of Europe, is a clever scheme which simulates competitive bidding while it hides premiums in the prices Dutch growers and traders rig for their flowers. To cut the cost of flowers you have to deadhead the Dutch. And that’s exactly what Russia is threatening to do this week.

The Dutch are crying foul. That’s what monopolists usually do when the game is up. In Dutch history going back to the time when the Amsterdam merchants held a monopoly on the world supply of nutmeg – a prophylactic against bubonic plague , it was believed at the time — they organized slavery, torture, and other atrocities to protect their nutmeg trading scheme. Before you jump to condemn the Russian phytosanitary authority for issuing a warning against Dutch flower exports, remember the Amboyna Massacre of March 9, 1623.*
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LEONID LEBEDEV LEFT HIGH AND DRY, AS CASHFLOW SINKS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It’s midsummer. Time for the oligarchs, even the insolvent ones, to go aboard their yachts, and set sail for the resorts of the Mediterranean. Oleg Deripaska’s Queen K is this week cruising in the eastern Aegean between the Greek islands and the Turkish coast. Andrei Melnichenko’s A is in the Gulf of St. Tropez, while Victor Pinchuk’s Oneness has made its way from Monaco to Sardinia. Suleiman Kerimov’s financial indisposition cost him his Ice, which is in Gibraltar flying someone else’s flag; his relief boat Air is currently at anchor at Cala di Volpe, on the east coast of Sardinia.

Last week Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy was sailing off the Tuscan coast. But Lebedev (lead image, left) himself is washed up – onshore, that is.
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RADEXIT AND APPOPLEXIT – RADOSLAW SIKORSKI AND ANNE APPLEBAUM ARE BOOTED OUT OF POLAND

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By John Helmer, Moscow

With three tweets Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, right), the leading Russia-hater of Poland, and his wife, Anne Applebaum (left), a member of a Russia-hating think-tank in London called Legatum, acknowledged on Monday that they have been ousted from the very frontiers they claim to be threatened with Russian invasion; dismissed by the very people they claim to have been representing; and discredited by the very souls they have been saving from devils they have been conjuring up for years. If you are in the propaganda and disinformation business, this is a bitter dose of something Poles no longer trust Sikorski or Applebaum to speak – the truth.
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RUSSIA’S SUGAR DADDY – IGOR KHUDOKORMOV AND PRODIMEX FACE PRICE RIGGING, TOLLING, AND MANY OTHER QUESTIONS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s misfortunes aren’t exactly sweet for the country’s leading sugar producers, but they can’t complain. On the back of sharply rising sugar prices in January, first-quarter earnings and profits have jumped at the listed sugar producers, and the trend is expected to continue through the second quarter. Prodimex, the leading sugar producer in Russia, isn’t saying so because it’s a private corporation controlled by Igor Khudokormov (lead image, left). He isn’t complaining. In fact, while his sugar business and holdings of farmland grow larger and richer, Russia’s sugar daddy is almost invisible.
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FREE TRADE FOR THE BIRDS — HOW THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT FORCES UKRAINE TO REPAY $400 MILLION IN LOANS, PRIME MINISTER HARPER COLLECTS UKRAINIAN VOTES, AND UKRAINIAN-CANADIANS GET RICH AT THEIR COUNTRYMEN’S EXPENSE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Canada – bless its maple-leaf heart – has given Ukraine C$400 million in cash since last September to help the Kiev government finance its civil war and debts. This week in Ottawa, with the signing of a free trade agreement between the two governments, the Canadians aim to claw back the cash by obliging Kiev to allow a surge of imports of Canadian cereals, meat, timber and other products. Until now Ukrainian producers of these goods have resisted, blocking the Canadian imports for fear they will damage the Ukrainian market and domestic earnings.

Canadian officials acknowledge that for Ukrainian steel, which is currently barred from entering the Canadian market at dumping prices, there will be no change, and the new agreement will make no difference.

“Harper is saving the Ukraine by damaging its farmers,” a Toronto source says, “and keeping Canada’s steelmills protected from one of the few exports the eastern Ukraine can still turn out. If that’s not cynical politics for gullible voters, I don’t know what is.” According to another Canadian analyst of the Ukrainian conflict, “this is money-making for a small circle of Ukrainian-Canadian business figures, their friends in Ottawa, and the ultra-nationalists in Ukraine.”
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NEW DECLARATION OF SANCTIONS WAR BY US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE – MTS AND VIMPELCOM CHARGED WITH BRIBING [NAME CONCEALED] – US BANKS NAMED IN THE CONSPIRACY ARE IN THE CLEAR

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Last Friday a US federal court judge named Andrew L.Carter Junior issued a warrant for the US Government to seize $300 million in bank cash and investment accounts in Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg. The proceeding conceals the name of the owner of the targeted bank accounts, and of the mastermind in what court documents call “an international conspiracy to launder corrupt payments made to GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL A, a relative of the President of Uzbekistan and a government official at all times relevant to the facts alleged.”

The court claim by the US Department of Justice names Russian telecommunications companies MTS and Vimpelcom for having “made more than $500 million in corrupt payments”. But the US Government court papers are selective. The Russian companies weren’t the only ones in the alleged conspiracy between 2004 and 2011, Justice acknowledged in court. The other telecommunication company names concealed in the court papers included TeliaSonera, owned by the Swedish and Finnish governments, and the International Communications Group (ICG), which is given the protective code “U.S.Company-1”, and whose method of buying its entry into Uzbekistan was unrecorded.
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TRYING TO FOLLOW THE BEACH BOYS – MIKHAIL FRIDMAN AND ALEXEI REZNIKOVICH MEET GREGORY SHENKMAN FOR CALIFORNIA DREAMING, OR IS THIS WIPEOUT?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Fridman (lead image, centre) and Alexei Reznikovich (left) have a telephone problem, and it’s got a name, Gregory Shenkman (right).

It’s not that Vimpelcom, the global mobile telephone company they control through LetterOne (L1), Fridman’s offshore holding, isn’t a lucrative business. In market capitalization Vimpelcom is currently worth $8.7 billion; it dropped from $18 billion in 2010 to $3 billion at the start of this year, and is now up almost threefold. Volatility like this indicates the market sentiment that conventional telephone companies have hit the limit of their value. To grow richer, the telephone companies must do new things. And for the technology to do that, Fridman and Reznikovich admit they must find assets which Russia isn’t producing at present.

For Russian nationals, that’s easier said than done right now. For Vimpelcom to grow, LetterOne is thinking of buying the wherewithal in Silicon Valley, California. That may be the heartland of the technology Fridman and Reznikovich want. It’s also the belly of the beast, so far as the Kremlin and Russian security forces believe, because of the Ukraine sanctions campaign; NATO’s military reinforcements along Russia’s frontiers, and the US Government’s effort to force regime change in Moscow. Trading with the American enemy is an increasing concern at Vimpelcom, because the Kremlin insists; and because the US Government is preparing to strike at Vimpelcom for alleged bribery in pursuit of its international business. So what have Fridman and Reznikovich engaged Shenkman for?
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FIGHTING WORDS, FIGHTING SILENCE – WHAT MAKES MORE MONEY AT INFO-WAR AGAINST RUSSIA, GREECE?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Long before David Cornwell (aka John Le Carré) retreaded an insignificant career gathering facts at MI5 and MI6 into lucrative fiction about espionage, Eric Ambler created the genre from an insignificant career telling lies at an advertising agency. In the Le Carré business model, characters of several nationalities close to ourselves lie, double-cross, and moralize their heads off, but noone gets to keep the big money, except for Le Carré.

In his most artful work, The Intercom Conspiracy, Ambler told the story of two NATO-country officers devising the business of publishing secrets for the purpose of making a fortune from getting paid to stop. Ambler’s breakthrough was to realize the warfighting agencies of Washington, Brussels, London, and Moscow will pay bigger money for silence than for lies.

When it comes to today’s info-war against Russia — Greece too — Ambler’s business model ought to be more profitable than Le Carré’s. So why is all the American, NATO, university and foundation money being spent on see-through fabrications and B-grade liars? Answer – in war, truth has no operational value unless it’s secret; and no asset valuation until the war’s over and the truth-tellers have won. If you lose the war, as Greeks are now discovering, the truth has no market value. You are too poor to pay for it.
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VLADIMIR POTANIN’S NEW AMOUR, OLEG DERIPASKA – WILL THE AFFAIR SURVIVE THE COLLAPSE OF RUSAL’S SHARE PRICE AND THE SECOND-QUARTER RESULTS?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Potanin (right), control shareholder of Norilsk Nickel, loves Oleg Deripaska (left), control shareholder of Russian Aluminium (Rusal).

Potanin made his inamorata official on Monday. He even quoted Vladimir Lenin’s version of withdrawing before ejaculation, announcing that with Deripaska it has been necessary to “disconnect before combining…Time has shown that it was necessary to plunge into some negative, and only then move on to the positive. However, all this is in the past. The situation in comparison with 2012 has changed dramatically. There is not just a good, but a very high level of trust…” They call each other by their first names, and by the intimate you (“по имени и на ты”).

Let noone imagine, therefore, that Potanin’s former wife, Natalia Potanina, who is suing in courts all over the world for half of Potanin’s wealth, including his 30% of Norilsk Nickel shareholding, is Deripaska’s agent in a hostile takeover scheme.
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NUDELMAN’S NEW WAR, NULAND’S NEMESIS – WILL GREECE, OR WON’T GREECE BE DESTROYED TO SAVE HER FROM RUSSIA, LIKE UKRAINE?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A putsch in Athens to save allied Greece from enemy Russia is in preparation by the US and Germany, with backing from the non-taxpayers of Greece – the Greek oligarchs, Anglo-Greek shipowners, and the Greek Church. At the highest and lowest level of Greek government, and from Thessaloniki to Milvorni, all Greeks understand what is happening. Yesterday they voted overwhelmingly to resist. According to a high political figure in Athens, a 40-year veteran, “what is actually happening is a slow process of regime change.”

Until Sunday afternoon it was a close-run thing. The Yes and No votes were equally balanced, and the margin between them razor thin. At the start of the morning, Rupert Murdoch’s London Times claimed “Greek security forces have drawn up a secret plan to deploy the army alongside special riot police to contain possible civil unrest after today’s referendum on the country’s future in Europe. Codenamed Nemesis, it makes provision for troops to patrol large cities if there is widespread and prolonged public disorder. Details of the plan emerged as polls showed the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps neck and neck.” Greek officers don’t speak to the Murdoch press; British and US government agents do.

“It was neck to neck until 3 pm,” reports the political veteran in Athens, “then the young started voting. “
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WALKING ON WATER – OUSTED FROM THE RUSSIAN SENATE, LEONID LEBEDEV RISKS SINKING HIS BILLION-DOLLAR US LAWSUIT, AND MORE BESIDES

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Leonid Lebedev (lead image) has been ousted from the Federation Council, the Russian senate, after serving twelve years as a senator representing the Volga region of Chuvashia. This follows a Council investigation exposing earnings from offshore entities which Lebedev had failed to disclose in his official income and asset reports to the Council. Lebedev claims he has resigned his senate post voluntarily.

By exposing Lebedev’s money trail in Switzerland and Cyprus, the Russian investigation now threatens to unravel Lebedev’s year-long lawsuit in an American court for payments he claims he didn’t receive from Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg, and which he claims are still owed by them. Blavatnik and Vekselberg have asked the New York State Supreme Court to reject Lebedev’s claim because he is asking to be paid a second time for a 15% shareholding in the TNK oil company Lebedev sold to them in 2003, when they incorporated the stake in the TNK-BP combination with British Petroleum. Lebedev is asking the New York court to award him a share of the proceeds of Blavatnik’s and Vekselberg’s sale of their share in TNK-BP to Rosneft in 2013, ten years after Lebedev had sold out. Lebedev’s court papers make several calculations of shareholding value from $200 million to $2 billion.

Blavatnik and Vekselberg accuse Lebedev of hiding the decade-old deal and concealing the $600 million they paid him through a chain of offshore entities registered in Ireland and Switzerland, and ending up in Cyprus. According to Lebedev’s lawyers in the public court file, at a court hearing on April 9 Judge Saliann Scarpulla agreed to decide shortly on dismissing Lebedev’s claim.
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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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