WHEN CORRUPTION IS STATE STRATEGY IN RUSSIA’S NEAR-ABROAD, THE US LEADS, RUSSIA PLAYS CATCH-UP

By John Helmer, Moscow

Paying bribes to your enemies to switch sides and become your friends is as old as monkeys and men (and women).  As gang and warfighting strategies have evolved, corruption with money was always to be preferred to force with arms because corruption is much cheaper, and the results more predictable, at least in the short run.

A new book on corruption in the former Soviet states of Central Asia provides a handy reckoner of the colossal sums of money which have been exchanged to sustain the ruling regimes, or to change them.  Alexander Cooley’s  and John Heathershaw’s “Dictators Without Borders, Power and Money  in Central Asia”, just published  by Yale University Press, is also an encyclopedia of palaces owned in the UK, France and the US by the rulers of the Central Asian states and their hangers-on; the names and fates of the principal opposition leaders in exile from those states; a dossier of renditions, arrests, and assassinations carried out by the Uzbek and Tajik security services abroad; and case studies of the billion-dollar larcenies of the Kazakh and Kyrgyz bankers, Mukhtar Ablyazov and Maxim Bakiyev;  of the Uzbek heiress Gulnara Karimova; and of the Tajikistan Aluminium Company (Talco) controlled by the Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

The new book is also a valuable balancer on the side of independent research and antidote for the propaganda to be found from US and UK Government-funded think-tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment,   Brookings Institution, Freedom House, and Chatham House. (more…)

THE US WAR HAS BEEN GOOD FOR PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, AND THE RUSSIAN ECONOMY LOOKS STABLE THROUGH THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. SO IF YOU ARE A US WARFIGHTER, WHAT IS THE REGIME CHANGE OPPORTUNITY NOW?

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian economic recovery went sharply into reverse in February, according to the latest report from Rosstat, the federal state statistics service.  But voter approval for President Vladimir Putin remains super-stable at a level unknown in Europe or the rest the world.

So if you are bent on fighting Russia, as the generals now in charge of US policy in Washington say and do, what opportunity is there for toppling Putin before the presidential election due in March 2018? One veteran of high-level Russian policy in Europe predicts: “The trouble for Putin will come when the World Cup starts in June of next year. But that’s after he is elected in March.  Noone realizes, not yet, how much trouble the football competition will cause, with thousands of visa-free foreign agitators in the country calling themselves fans, and half a billion people watching on TV.” (more…)

GOD’S WAYS ARE NO LONGER MYSTERIOUS – HE TOLD REX TILLERSON TO TAKE THE JOB OF US SECRETARY OF STATE; HE TOLD ME TO INVESTIGATE LYING BY FOREIGN MINISTER OF CANADA CHRYSTIA FREELAND; HE TOLD YOU TO READ AND BE AMAZED AT WHAT TRUE BELIEVERS CAN ACHIEVE THESE DAYS, IF NOT TRUTH

By John Helmer, Moscow

On Tuesday December 6, Rex Tillerson, then chief executive of ExxonMobil oil company, met then President-elect Donald Trump in New York, and was offered the post of US Secretary of State. God was watching on high and acted faster than Tillerson could. (more…)

FIONA HILL TO TAKE OVER PRESIDENT TRUMP’S RUSSIA DESK

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is a Fiona Hill on each side of the Atlantic.

One is joint chief of staff for Prime Minister Theresa May in London. The other Fiona Hill (lead image, right) is also British. She was appointed this month to be senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington. Between 2006 and 2009 Hill was the Russia desk officer on the National Intelligence Council under President George Bush, then President Barack Obama.  

The White House announced Hill’s appointment by an anonymous leak to Foreign Policy magazine on March 2. The leaker claimed Hill had been selected at least a fortnight earlier by the NSC’s chief of staff Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant-general,   before Michael Flynn was forced to resign as the National Security Advisor on February 13;  and before Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster was put in Flynn’s place on February 17.  The announcement of Hill sandbagged her position, but Hill was nervous about confirming it.  “Hill did not immediately respond to a request for comment,” Foreign Policy reported.  (more…)

RUSSIA LIE DETECTOR CATCHES AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER, CANADIAN FOREIGN MINISTER – WHICH COUNTRY’S MEDIA CONCEAL THE LIE MACHINE?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Optimists believe that in time the truth always wins out.  Skeptics believe men and women are liars by nature, so machines are necessary to catch them out. Pessimists believe that by the time that happens  it will be too late to make a practical difference. Politics, the pessimists add, is about gain, not about truth. So is journalism.

Here are two stories about the difference between Australia and Canada in the way in which lying by ministers of state has been caught out recently on the subject of the civil war in Ukraine.  Australia and Canada are former British colonies, whose head of state is still the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. They are also parliamentary democracies, and members of US treaty alliances which encourage them to fight in US wars in exchange for US protection if they are attacked. That’s the political practice, if not quite the truth. (more…)

THE CANADIAN ESTABLISHMENT AND PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU AIM AT OUSTING FOREIGN MINISTER CHRYSTIA FREELAND

By John Helmer, Moscow

Since Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s version, expressed mortal surprise that his best friend Brutus would put in the knife, there have been no end of political surprises at whose hand turns out to be on the assassin’s knife.  In the case of the hit in January on then-Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, it is clear to the Canadian foreign policy establishment, members acknowledge, that it was Chrystia Freeland’s hand. Before, she was a junior trade minister; after, she took Dion’s portfolio as foreign minister.

Eight weeks later, it’s becoming clear to Canadian sources that the hand on the knife that is now sticking in Freeland is not the Russian one she is reporting to the Canadian press. That is sticking into her full frontally, and it is less than mortal. Her screams for help have brought a great many screamers to her side.

It’s the knife in Freeland’s back that is more lethal. That, it is now revealed in Ottawa, is coming from a quiet group of foreign policy advisors around Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They aren’t motivated by revenge on Dion’s behalf as much as concern for their Canada — the policy-making and money-making apparatus on which their future livelihoods depend. In that Canada they don’t want Freeland to remain foreign minister or become prime minister. For one thing, they say, she’s a liar and cannot be trusted by anyone. (more…)

ANDREI GURIEV IS RUSSIA’S ROBIN HOOD – HE TAKES PHOSAGRO SHARES FROM THE RICH AND GIVES THEM TO HIMSELF

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Russian fertilizer oligarch Andrei Guriev (lead image) lives in less than seclusion in London in the largest house of that city except for the Queen’s residence at Buckingham Palace. In 2015 the running costs of Guriev’s establishment were large but stable. But it occurred to him that the prospects of war between Russia and the US were so serious, he ought to take more cash out of his London-listed Russian phosphate producer Phosagro, which had been running at a loss the year before. So Guriev arranged for a dividend payout of 80% of the 2015 profit of Rb36.4 billion – that was Rb29 billion (about $470 million).  The percentage grab was a Russian oligarch record.

Guriev runs  a family business. He is deputy chairman of the 8-man board; his son Andrei Junior is chief executive; his wife Yevgenia Gurieva holds a 4.82% shareholding in her own name; and through Cyprus companies the Gurievs own another 45.5%. Or they did until recently, when Guriev arranged the sale of 4.5% of his shares for the purpose, he declared to the stock market, of buying 2.7% from another shareholder.

Noone in Russia or the London market knows why Guriev did such a thing, or why it made commercial sense to do so – unless Guriev was doing what a market source says he has always done. “Maybe he’s the trustee and nominee shareholder for someone else, and selling for that shareholder, not for himself.”   Guriev’s supporters in the market claim the deal was intended to improve the liquidity and share value of the company. But the result was the opposite — in the time Guriev took for his back-to-back deal between January and March, the Phosagro share price fell 15%. (more…)

IN THE CANADIAN CARTOON DUDLEY DO-RIGHT CAN DO NO WRONG, SNIDELY WHIPLASH NO GOOD. IN REAL LIFE CAN ROBERT FIFE, DAVID WALMSLEY, TERRY GLAVIN, ALAN FREEMAN AND SCOTT GILMORE SAVE THE GALICIA GANG?

 

By John Helmer, Moscow

This is not a story about the past, nor about blaming the crimes of the fathers and grandfathers on their sons and daughters, or granddaughters.  

This is a story of the moment when the crimes of the past and the criminal intent today turn out to be  the same thing: Russian-hating today is a race crime, just as Jew-hating and Pole-hating were crimes,  and still are. No Canadian foreign minister or member of parliament, no Canadian Mountie, no Dudley Do-Right should be culpable of such crimes. (more…)

AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER DRAGS FOOT, TRIPS UP UKRAINIAN COURT CLAIM OF MH17 TERRORISM

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian Government refuses to declare the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 a terrorist act, and is withholding state payments of $75,000 to each of the families of the 38 Australian nationals or residents killed when the plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

The Australian Attorney-General, George Brandis, has written to advise Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (lead image, left; right image, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko) there is insufficient evidence of what and who caused the MH17 crash to meet the Australian statutory test of a terrorist act.  Because the Attorney-General’s legal opinion flatly contradicts Turnbull’s public opinions, Brandis’s advice is top-secret; he refuses to answer questions about the analysis of the MH17 incident which he and his subordinates, along with Australian intelligence agencies and the Australian Federal Police,  have been conducting for more than two years.

In public Turnbull said on Monday:  “Vladimir Putin’s Russia is subject to international sanctions, to which Australia is a part, because of his conduct in shooting down the MH17 airliner in which 38 Australians were killed. Let’s not forget that. That was a shocking international crime.”

On Wednesday Turnbull was asked to explain why, after so long, the Prime Minister, on the advice of the Attorney-General, refuses to designate the MH17 incident as criminal terrorism according to the provisions of the Supporting Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas Act. Turnbull replied through a spokesman that he is still investigating. “The criminal investigation of MH17 is ongoing. The outcomes of this investigation could be relevant in determining whether this incident should be declared for the purposes of the Australian Victims of Terrorism Overseas Payment scheme.” (more…)

AFTER PRIVATIZATION, ALROSA INTRODUCES PIRATIZATION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alrosa, the largest diamond miner in the world, and a public shareholding company listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange, has replaced its chief executive, Andrei Zharkov (lead image, left) , twelve months before his contract was due to expire.  On Monday the company refused to announce the change, or explain the reason. It refused even to disclose that Zharkov’s contract, which commenced on April 23, 2015, is for a three-year term ending in 2018. Nor has the company confirmed that Zharkov’s replacement is Sergei Ivanov Junior (right side, 1st) the 37-year old son of former Kremlin chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov (right side, 3rd).  

The official announcement of the switch was made by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, when he called Ivanov Junior into his office on Monday afternoon. Medvedev told Ivanov “the Alrosa company is the world’s largest [in diamond mining] and has backbone value for our country, in particular for development of the Far East. Therefore, I would ask you to concentrate on this.  It is necessary to work actively according to all production and economic programs with the [federal] Government, with the Ministry of Finance, to build up a fully fledged relationship with the regional authorities because the company has unconditional value for the Republic of Sakha-Yakutia. You should put all these factors into the set of your priorities as the company’s chief executive.”

Even after the ceremony at the prime ministry and the signing of the government’s appointment paper for Ivanov, Alrosa management was in denial. By the next day the company website had not removed Zharkov from the chief executive’s page; there was no mention of Ivanov. According to Alrosa spokesman Andrei Ryabinnikov, speaking on Monday afternoon: “we do not comment on the details of the employment agreement with Mr. Zharkov. We report all new appointments in the company in special press releases.”

Sources close to Alrosa in Moscow and in diamond trade centres abroad believe Zharkov’s abrupt ouster was the outcome of a power play between former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, an economic advisor to the Kremlin, and Yury Trutnev, the deputy prime minister in charge of the Russian Far East.  For many years the dominant state official on the Alrosa board, Kudrin was defeated.  Trutnev, victorious, leaked first word of Zharkov’s replacement by Ivanov on February 27.

The sources also reveal that Zharkov, a long-time protégé of Kudrin and subordinate of the current finance minister Anton Siluanov (lead image, right centre) was removed for pushing too hard the share sell-off and cash collection schemes of the Finance Ministry, also touted by Kudrin.  The Sakha republic, where most of Alrosa’s mines are based, and which holds 25% of the company’s shares, opposed Zharkov, and got Trutnev to agree. Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin then decided that the man they could trust to satisfy the locals, but remain under their thumb, was Ivanov Junior.

 “This is piratization by the state,” explains a London source. “It makes nonsense of the privatization of Alrosa shares, of the 34% free float, of the governance rules of the company. It is simply state companies reverting to form – that’s Soviet form but with less control than in the Soviet days.  It’s now a gang of men wearing state uniforms feathering their nests.”   State piratization is so sensitive that noone inside Alrosa, and almost noone in the Russian diamond industry, will admit what is happening. (more…)

TREADING ON THE TRUTH, DANCING AROUND IT — FOR MARCH 8, DANCE WITH BROWN BEAR, BUT DON’T TEAR HIS SOLE APART

By John Helmer, Moscow

There are large departments at the Pentagon and NATO headquarters for fabricating lies and faking news. They create the threats against which military forces are the defence. The more threats there are in circulation, the more it costs to produce them, and also to defend against them.  So President Donald Trump is bound to be asking much more in military budget, and insisting at the same time that the NATO allies do more to contribute their share – that’s to say, to the departments of fabricated lies and faked news. Naturally, these are top-secret. Their true costs go unreported to the US Congress and other parliaments which approve the outlays; these are several magnitudes greater than the state budgets for telling the truth. (more…)

SERGEI FRANK ARRANGES PHANTOM PRIVATIZATION FOR STATE SHIPPING COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot, the wholly state owned shipping company, is to be privatized by the sale of 25% less one share on the Moscow stock exchange, the Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said at the Sochi investment forum this week. The announcement, decided last month in the government’s privatization plan for 2017,  was made in an aside to reporters,  and Oreshkin allowed no questions.

After fifteen years of attempts to sell and list Sovcomflot shares on international stock exchanges, the reversion to Moscow is an immediate blow to the government’s plans, and to the management role of Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image, lower left). In the longer term, Russian shipping insiders believe, it is a potential opportunity for a personal takeover by Kremlin favourite and the dominant oil transportation oligarch, Gennady Timchenko (lower right). According to Moscow newspaper reports,  Oreshkin’s ministry has decided to sell another 50% stake in Sovcomflot by the year 2019, retaining for the state just 25% plus one share. Frank himself has been attempting a state-financed management buyout, and the state controlled oil company Surgutneftegas is also a contender. Read more

The company, whose Soviet-era name means “Modern Commercial Fleet”, has failed to secure western underwriters and approval from stock market regulators in London, New York, and elsewhere, for an open-market listing. Instead, the Russian state treasury is to collect the privatization cash target of Rb24 billion (currently $414 million) from a scheme financed by the Central Bank and state banks, Sberbank and VTB. “This is fake news,” commented a Moscow shipping insider.” Just like last year’s Rosneft share sale.”  (more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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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