By John Helmer, Moscow

Sir Max Hastings, author of a new book claiming to be the first to compare the secret intelligence performances of the British, Americans, Germans, Japanese and Russians in World War II, has posted a picture of himself on the dust-jacket as a weasel.

“The best single volume written on the subject” is the blurb on the dust-jacket as the opinion of the Sunday Times, whose proprietor Rupert Murdoch, is also Hastings’s paymaster as owner of the book’s publisher, William Collins. Everything about the history of Russian spying offends Hastings almost as much as everything Russian offends Murdoch. This isn’t so much a history as it’s a textbook in info-warfare – and the antithesis of the conclusion Hastings suggests we should all come to. This is that in war force wins, not words – and that secret intelligence and propaganda are largely a waste of money and lives. “Allied intelligence contributed almost nothing to winning the war, ”Hastings quotes an American friend and expert, demurring that “this seems too extreme a verdict”, while adding his own: “official secrecy does more to protect intelligence agencies from domestic accountability for their own follies.” The exception proving both rules, according to Hastings, is the record of British intelligence compared to German, and to Russian.

Deception, that’s another story – unless The Secret War is an example of how Hastings has fooled himself. On this score, Hastings’s 612 pages are an unprecedented achievement in decoding his own text, and warning his readers off it. Murdoch and his media have been duped by Hastings out of the truth, though not out of the profit.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The conflict between Romeo’s Montagues and Juliet’s Capulets went deeper than the scent or the name of flowers, and we know it ended badly for the two of them. That’s to say with white lilies, not roses.

In the Russian market for cut flowers – until recently, the fastest growing in Europe — the war has cut imports by a third in value last year, compared to 2014. The deepest cut of all for exporters was suffered by The Netherlands, whose government has been outspoken in support of European Union sanctions; NATO military movements towards the Russian frontier; and support of the Kiev regime in the investigation of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 disaster.

But wait! is that a Montague and a Capulet bloom, an Italian rose, which has appeared on the Russian market in recent months? Yes, in the December quarter of 2015 the Italians jumped to fourth place in the table of top-5 exporters of cut flowers to Russia with shipments of 66 tonnes, at a value totalling $563,200. They replaced the Dutch. In the comparable quarter of 2014, The Netherlands had ranked number-4 with 560 tonnes worth $4.8 million; at the same time Italy delivered almost no flowers at all to Russia. The explanation, according to Moscow market sources, is that the Italian growers have found a way to avoid the Dutch flower auctions, and ship directly to Moscow.

The aggregate numbers speak for themselves with another meaning. In 2015 the total value of Russian imports of flowers from the top-5 sources came to $215 million. That was a 31% reduction compared to 2014. Imports over the full year from The Netherlands fell by 65% — from $29.7 million to $10.4 million.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Gennady Bogolyubov, Victor Pinchuk, and Igor Kolomoisky (lead image, left to right), the three Ukrainian oligarchs who settled their business differences last Friday, were afraid to risk their bank credit lines if a High Court trial, scheduled to commence this week, went ahead. Sources close to the three men say it proved easier for them to agree on a secret money deal between themselves than to trust a British judge to assess their deal-making record in public.

“MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction – that was the outcome if the three oligarchs went into court against each other”, says one source. The sources confirm a report circulating in Kiev and another in Davos that Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov have agreed to pay Pinchuk $500 million in instalments over several years. The money may come from assets jointly owned by Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov; these include Privat Bank, the Nikopol ferroalloy refinery, or the Krivoy Rog iron-ore combine, which has been the focus of the most recent dispute. Pinchuk’s public relations agent in London, William Clutterbuck, released the settlement announcement in a brief email. Lawyers and associates of Kolomoisky and Bogolyubov refuse to speak.

“The fact that this was settled at all,” comments one of Pinchuk’s creditors, “suggests Pinchuk’s case had some merit after all; that he was not about to run out of funding for his legal fees; and the defendants found the allegations about to be aired [in court] unduly embarrassing. This was a fist-fight in the ballroom of a sinking Titanic. Both sides have finally agreed to abandon their primary pursuit and head for the rescue vessels instead. They might even be sharing one.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, last Wednesday, January 20, with US Secretary of State, John Kerry. The meeting-room and press opportunity were set up by State Department officials. One of the Kerry delegation was Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. She is one of several Washington officials directing the war against Russia on the Ukraine front. In her arsenal, Nuland’s mouth has been used to attack European governments reluctant to join her war, as her “Fuck the EU” remark to US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, revealed at the start of 2014, before President Victor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev.

The sequence of stills showing Lavrov greeting the US delegation for the press, ahead of the Zurich talks, has been extracted from a videotape recorded by a Russian press camera crew. Lavrov’s hand shakes every US official introduced by Kerry (1), except for Nuland. Her hand was extended (2), then slipped, or slapped past, as Lavrov turned to his left to greet each of the junior US officials lining the wall. As he did so, Lavrov presented Nuland with his right shoulder. Nuland’s mouth fell open (3); the microphones recorded that nothing came out.



By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Court of Human Rights is refusing to act on a year-old case from the daughter of a Dutch passenger killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014. Denise Kenke, daughter of Willem Grootscholten, accuses the Ukraine Government of failing its legal duty to prevent civilian aircraft from flying into the airspace Ukrainian officials knew to be dangerous. Her court papers say the claim is also founded on the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board, reported last October, that the government in Kiev had been negligent in failing to act on “sufficient reason for closing the airspace above the eastern part of Ukraine”.

Although the 11-page application was filed on November 17, 2014, the Court has imposed a secrecy blackout on all details of the case, preventing website access. After Kenke’s lawyer, Elmar Giemulla of Berlin, a leading German aviation law specialist, filed additional argument, legal precedents, and evidence from the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), the Court refused to acknowledge receipt or to reply. Tracey Turner-Tretz, spokesman for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and its registrar, Roderick Liddell, a British national, said this week: “the application in question was granted confidentiality.”

Giemulla for the Grootscholten family said he had not applied for confidentiality, and was not informed by the court that it had been imposed. “I do not know anything about ‘grant of confidentiality’ . I do not even know whether the court has ever dealt with my complaint apart from internal administrative procedures.” When Liddell and his spokesman Turner-Tretz were asked what communication the Court has been having on the Kenke case with Ukraine government representatives, and whether Kiev had requested confidentiality, they refused to reply. A US attorney with a US and Ukraine practice says “it’s not possible for a US court to seal a case from public disclosure without argument in court by lawyers from both sides, and without a recorded ruling.” From Berlin, Giemulla said this morning: “Someone, I don’t know who, has decided that this case is confidential — from the plaintiff!”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Former President Boris Yeltsin’s passion for killing moose (boar, duck, hare, bear, deer) to feed his appetite for their small body parts, cooked or pickled, has been repeatedly attested in the memoirs of his staff . But the state-financed Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre, run by deputy executive director Vladimir Shevchenko, Yeltsin’s former chief of protocol, refuses to say that he ate moose lips even once.

“What are your goals in asking these questions?” Shevchenko telephoned to say, after the Centre had been requested to confirm that moose lips had been on the menu of a luncheon Yeltsin hosted for US President Bill Clinton January 13, 1994. Clinton referred to the dish of moose lips, and also pig’s ears, in a telephone conversation he had with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in a record declassified and released publicly earlier this month. Shevchenko said he is concerned by the moose lips question because of the presidential election campaign now under way in the US. Perhaps it can affect [Hillary] Clinton, he mused aloud. He wanted to know whether the question was being asked to strike at Clinton’s campaign. “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” Shevchenko asked – without divulging whether moose lips had been served 22 years ago last Tuesday.

The full story of Clinton’s secret conversations with Blair about Yeltsin was published yesterday. After the Yeltsin Centre refused requests to confirm the moose lips reference, and Shevchenko replied with his Clinton campaign question, he was asked to say what the presidential centre records show of how many moose Yeltsin had shot, and whether he had done so with the same hunting arrangements as characterized the famous hunter of the Soviet epoch, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev.

“I am not going to tell you anything,” he replied. It was “provocative”, he added, to compare Yeltsin’s hunting and eating habits to former Soviet leader Brezhnev. “If you use Clinton sources, and search for your information there, I have the right to refute this.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

In the time of President Boris Yeltsin, there was no difference between loose lips and moose lips.

According to newly released records of President Bill Clinton’s secret conversations with Prime Minister Tony Blair, at a luncheon on January 13, 1994, Yeltsin served Clinton “roast pig and told me real men hack off the ears and eat them. And once he served 24 courses, including moose lips.” But Clinton and Blair didn’t think Yeltsin was a real man. They thought he was an ingratiating stooge, whom they could rely on to agree with them so long as his health held. When it didn’t, they were happy to see him out of the way by staging, as they discussed in the planning, his succession by Victor Chernomyrdin.

There’s many a slip between the cup of national interest and the lip of its betrayal. According to the Clinton records, Yeltsin tried them all. In secret he agreed to the US expanding NATO to include former East European and Balkan allies of Moscow. He dismissed the Russian opposition to that move as “a lot of old ladies out in the country”. He went along with the US war on Serbia and on Iraq, so long as Clinton fabricated a self-defence justification to keep it from a United Nations Security Council vote. He begged Clinton for money. Immediately after the financial crash and government default of August 1998 he asked Clinton to come to Moscow to reassure the world Yeltsin wasn’t culpable, and was still in charge. Clinton told Blair: “My relationship [with Yeltsin]… is such that all [Kremlin] hardliners believe I could talk to [him] and get him to sell the oil wells for three dollars and a half, but that’s not true. He’s just more far-sighted and progressive than they are.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Every autumn, as regularly as trees change their colour, Alexei Kudrin (lead image), the one-time finance minister of Russia, attempts a putsch. And as regularly as leaves fall to the ground, he fails to seize the high office he thinks he deserves.

Counting the number of self-advertisements he has issued, Kudrin is the longest loser in Russian politics. Compared to other proteges of Anatoly Chubais – men like Mikhail Abyzov, Leonid Melamed, Valentin Zavadnikov, Alfred Kokh, Vladimir Kogan — Kudrin has managed to accumulate a relatively small fortune. He is also the only minister of state whom President Vladimir Putin has publicly diagnosed as having had an “emotional breakdown”. What Putin meant is that a Russian apparatchik who keeps failing to grab power and wealth, both, when opportunity knocks, must be psycho.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash defeated a US government attempt last year to extradite him to the US for trial on corruption allegations. But now, encouraged by the US Government and by Ukrainian government officials in Kiev, a new group of US investors, led by Stephen Lynch (lead image) and the law firm Firestone Duncan, are targeting Firtash for a takeover of Misen Energy, an eastern Ukrainian gas producer which Firtash is believed to control. “We are slowly consolidating our position at Misen,” Lynch says, “and may move forward.”


By John Helmer, Moscow

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?”



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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), (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.  



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

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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