THE ST. ISAAC’S CATHEDRAL AFFAIR – RUSSIA’S CONSTITUTIONAL COURT APPROVES STATE OF LAWLESSNESS, AS JUDGE YURY DANILOV STANDS ALONE IN DEFENCE OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AGAINST STATE AND CHURCH

By John Helmer, Moscow

In a ruling of Russia’s Constitutional Court, issued on July 18, fifteen out of sixteen judges ruled that a state of lawlessness now prevails in the country, in which the constitutional rights of citizens to have courts adjudicate government decisions, with evidence and reasoning, have been abolished. 

The court ruling came in the dismissal of an appeal by 20 members of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly and citizen organizations against the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from state property to the Russian Orthodox Church.  Led by the court chairman Judge Valery Zorkin,   the court has ruled “the complaint does not meet the acceptance criteria applicable to such appeals to the Constitutional Court”. There was no elaboration of the criteria or legal reasoning.   

Just one judge dissented. In a lengthy opinion, Judge Yury Danilov called the actions of the Church, the city government, and district courts in St. Petersburg unconstitutional and unlawful because they failed to produce and review evidence of how the cathedral transfer had been decided.  Danilov also attacked Zorkin and the other judges for violating the court’s own statutory rules because he said they had considered no evidence; evaluated no legal arguments; and given no reasons for their decision. The lower courts had acted prejudicially, Danilov wrote. The majority of the Constitutional Court had acted “prematurely”.

The ruling by Russia’s highest court cannot be appealed. It follows by six months the disclosure by President Vladimir Putin that he operates a special telephone line to Zorkin in which the court’s opinions are discussed in advance. According to Putin:  “As Mr Zorkin can tell you… I call him maybe not every day but fairly often to ask what he thinks about some regulation that is going to be adopted by legislators or the Government.”

This week,  a Kremlin spokesman was asked to say if the president had spoken to Zorkin about the St. Isaac’s Cathedral case. The spokesman replied he has “no information about that.”    

Zorkin met Putin on December 16, and then again on March 14.  Zorkin’s spokesman at the court, Marina Mavrina, refuses to say if the two of them have discussed the St. Isaacs case. (more…)

JAMES THURBER’S LESSON FOR POWER-TALKING TO AMERICANS WHICH PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN HASN’T LEARNED, YET

By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin doesn’t know how to talk to Americans. He thinks forbearance is the trick.

The advisors Putin listens to, like Dmitry Peskov the mouthpiece and Alexei Kudrin the wannabe premier, know even less. Peskov thinks giving large sums of money to a Hollywood hack is the trick. Kudrin thinks taking big promissory notes from oligarchs is the trick.

None of them has read the greatest American comic writer of the 20th century, James Thurber. His tale, “The Tiger Who Would Be King” (lead image), first appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1927,   and turns 90 years old in September. Not knowing it is a handicap Putin shares.  The military junta now in charge in Washington – click for more about them — also haven’t read the tale. That’s because they lack the sangfroid and irony required by Thurber’s sense of humour.  The reason President Donald Trump hasn’t is because he can’t — he is witless.

Thurber’s moral is: “You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.” (more…)

DIXY’S CUP DOESN’T RUNNETH OVER — WHAT IS GOING WRONG AT IGOR KESAEV’S GROCERY CHAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Dixy is the Russian supermarket chain which is proving that the secret to selling groceries across the country at an annual loss of billions of roubles is, er, TOP SECRET.  

This makes Dixy unusual because it is the only one of Russia’s top supermarket chains losing money. It is also the only one  whose shares are traded daily on the stock market with the legal duty to explain to shareholders why it is operating in the red.  

Dixy is controlled by the cigarette oligarch Igor Kesaev, who is chairman of Dixy’s board of directors.  He and his men have presided over loss-making at Dixy at the same time as the rival foreign and Russian-owned supermarkets are all reporting fresh profits for the half-year just ended, and profit growth for last year, too.  Kesaev has also been purging his senior management, as if they, not he, are to blame.  

Kesaev’s riches – Forbes puts him down this month as worth $2.4 billion – have produced a reputation for succeeding in business, not failing. His reputation is  controversial because it is widely reported that he has benefitted from the administrative resources and personal backing of high-ranking officers of the former KGB, the present FSB, and the Russian Orthodox Church.   Whether this is true, exaggerated, or untrue,  the secretiveness of Dixy’s financial reports doesn’t help to clarify.  

Bank and stock brokerage analysts, who follow Dixy’s rivals carefully and promote their shares, are fearful enough of Kesaev and his friends not to ask questions about his 10-year record in the company.  TOP SECRET inside Dixy has turned, accordingly, into a plummeting share price – down by 55% since March 2015. Kesaev’s stake in Dixy has lost Rb147 billion ($2.5 billion). This is the minimum estimated loss of his stock value, because the full size of Kesaev’s shareholding in Dixy is also, er, TOP SECRET. (more…)

JARED KUSHNER’S TESTIMONIAL TO STUPIDITY AND UNFITNESS – AMERICAN AND RUSSIAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Jared Kushner’s title is Director of the Office of American Innovation at the White House, a new function for the old one of overseeing everything in the US Government for the benefit of the incumbent president. He’s also ranked Senior Advisor to the President, and by marriage he is son-in-law to President Donald Trump. 

Stupidity isn’t a crime; it’s a life sentence. Not so for power. Supposing everything Kushner has written in his presentation to the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday is true, then one conclusion from a half-dozen bits of evidence he testifies to is obvious – Kushner is unfit to rule, and so are the Russians whom he mentions. (more…)

WHAT HAS IGOR ZYUZIN, COAL AND STEEL OLIGARCH & NEW YORK TIMES HERO, DONE TO DESERVE PROSECUTION FOR BEING THE DIRTIEST OLD MAN IN THE URALS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Igor Zyuzin (lead image) is the first Russian oligarch to face prosecution for polluting the air around his factories. The announcement of criminal charges last week comes as Chelyabinsk regional and city officials escalate a war against lobbying by well-known names around President Vladimir Putin to save Mechel, Zyuzin’s coal and steel group,  from the multibillion rouble cost of installing the clean-air controls required by Russian law.  

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IMF DELAYS FUND DECISION ON BOTSWANA BECAUSE OF $277 MILLION RUSSIAN CONTRACT DEFAULT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is delaying a decision on Botswana by the Fund’s executive board and shareholders as IMF staff are discreetly encouraging the Botswana Government to reject a breach of contract claim by Norilsk Nickel.

The leading Russian mining company, and the world’s largest nickel producer, is suing in London, Botswana and South Africa after the Botswana government put its state mine holding BCL into bankruptcy last October,  halting payment of $277.2 million which Botswana, BCL Investments (BCLI) and the BCL Ltd. holding company  agreed to pay since their first contract of sale and purchase was signed with the Russians in 2014. The Norilsk Nickel default claim is one of the largest liabilities facing the Botswana state budget. The default is also casting a shadow over future foreign investment in the country, and the government’s credit rating for foreign loans.

An IMF team was in Gaborone, the Botswana capital, in May for a fact-finding mission and consultation with government officials, the first the IMF has held in the country since December 2015.  The IMF requested and received briefings on the Norilsk Nickel case from government officials and also from the provisional liquidator, Nigel Dixon-Warren of the KPMG accounting firm. He was appointed last October by the Gaborone High Court to supervise liquidation, sale of assets, and debt recovery from the bankrupt BCL group of companies. 

On June 15, the court ordered a six-month extension of time for negotiations — BCL went into final windup, while BCLI and Tati Nickel were kept in provisional liquidation for the dealmakers.  According to a courtroom source, the extra time is for the government “to determine whether we can deal with those companies at the shareholding and creditor compromise level”. In short, for Dixon-Warren to strike a price for the nickel and copper reserves and mining assets which BCL owns in order to satisfy BCL’s creditors and cover BCL’s liabilities.

Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf, who supervises Botswana at IMF headquarters in Washington,   said after the IMF staff returned from Gaborone on May 16, that she was planning to finalize the Botswana report and submit it to the board for decisions planned for June. Gulde-Wolf was asked what the IMF was doing in the dispute between Botswana and Russia. “I have asked the mission chief for Botswana, Mr. Enrique Gelbard to look into the matter,” she replied. “He will be in touch should there be anything we can share. “

Asked to clarify why no report was submitted to the IMF board during last month and no decisions voted on IMF policy towards Botswana, Gulde-Wolf, Gelbard, and the IMF spokesman for Africa,  Lucie Mboto Fouda, now refuse to say.

In Moscow, a source close to Norilsk Nickel said the company “has welcomed a statement by the Botswana government that it plans to resolve the issue with Norilsk Nickel. We look forward to the arrangements the government intends to make.” To date, the IMF had made no contact with the company either in Gaborone in May, or since then. (more…)

THE IMPROPER ASSOCIATION (MAYBE CRIME) OF VICTOR PINCHUK WITH HILLARY, BILL AND CHELSEA CLINTON, COVERED UP BY THE US MEDIA, US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, AND THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

By John Helmer, Moscow

Never in the field of American conflict with Russia has so much wool pulled over the eyes been owed to so few sheep.  That was during the losing presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Now, in the investigations of President Donald Trump and his family, it’s a case of so many sheep producing so little wool. (more…)

CYPRUS AND GREECE PROVE TURKISH DEATH WARRANT PROMOTED BY THE UN, THE US, AND THE BRITISH CAN BE DEFEATED

By John Helmer, Moscow

“In war”, Thucydides lectured the Hellenes 2,400 years ago, “opportunity waits for no man.”

Last Thursday evening, when President Donald Trump was prepping for negotiations with President Vladimir Putin, the Hellenes gave the two of them an object lesson in how the weak may defeat an attack of apparently overwhelming force. Their opportunity was to say Οχι – that’s Greek for no.

That took Recep Tayyip Erdogan (lead image, right), the omnipotent  ruler of Turkey,  the US and British governments, and Espen Barth Eide (left),  the United Nations (UN) negotiator representing their alliance, by surprise.  The deceit of his schemes exposed, Eide’s name is dishonoured, his career is kaput. (more…)

THE SOUND AND THE FURY – THE SEQUEL WILLIAM FAULKNER COULDN’T WRITE, STARRING THE MAD GOLFER, HIS WIFE, THE WAR TO TOPPLE THE BIG RUSSIAN, FINNS, GERMANS, AND THE PESKOV BLACKOUT

Podcast with John Helmer, hosted by Tom O’Brien and broadcast on From Alpha To Omega

Click to listen.    

If you missed William Faulkner’s original story, and want to understand the Trump double entendres, click to open the plot notes.   Better, read the book. To those who complain this stuff is unreadable even after two or three tries, Faulkner’s advice was: “Read it four times.”

MELANIA TRUMP AND SIGABA ALLOW PUTIN TO DECODE TRUMP = TRUMP TOO DEFECTIVE AND IMPOTENT TO MAKE OR KEEP AGREEMENTS, STATE DEPARTMENT WORKING GROUPS ARE LAST HOPE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Thousands of years after spies were invented, and thirty years before the digital computer, there was SIGABA (lead image), an electric motor-powered mechanical apparatus for ciphering and protecting one’s communications from being intercepted or overheard by one’s enemies.

Invented by two employees of the US National Security Agency, secretly patented in 1944 but not declassified until 2001, its name was assigned by the US Army which used it throughout World War II. The Germans called it the American Big Machine, but they couldn’t break its rotor system for coding . The Germans had their own version of the electric-motor cipher machine called Enigma,  but it was broken by the Poles and British. Whether the Soviets had broken SIGABA or Enigma  isn’t known for sure; probably not. What is certain is that they were more successful at using spies instead of machines.

So it comes as a surprise that last week in Germany, President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump agreed, in front of their respective foreign ministers, to form a working group of their subordinates to devise a scheme for protecting them both from the most modern machines for cracking ciphers. That’s to say, machines operated by their enemies. The working group won’t be allowed to share details of the machines they currently use on each other.

How pointless the working-group agreement will be was revealed unexpectedly for the Russians,  halfway  into their talks, when the president’s wife, Melania Trump, knocked on the meeting-room door, and came in to make sure her husband hadn’t been cracked by Putin. She suggested it was time for Trump to leave.

This break-in is unprecedented in the history of more than two centuries of American-Russian state negotiations.  Unreported by most US media, but corroborated by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Melania Trump cracked her husband’s code in front of America’s enemies.  This is what Putin meant when he told the press that at the meeting with Trump, he had discovered “Mr Trump’s television image is very different from the real person.” (more…)

HOW THE RUSSIAN ECONOMY LOOKS IF YOU AREN’T WEARING NATO NIGHT-FIGHTING GOGGLES

By John Helmer, Moscow

If your enemy is waging economic war on you, it’s prudent to camouflage how well your farms and factories are doing. Better the attacker thinks you’re on your last legs, and are too exhausted to fight back.  A new report on the Russian economy, published by Jon Hellevig, reveals the folly in the enemy’s calculation.  

Who is the audience for this message? US and NATO warfighters against Russia can summon up more will if they think Russia is in retreat than if they must calculate the cost in their own blood and treasure if the Russians strike back.  That’s Russian policy on the Syrian front, where professional soldiers are in charge.   On the home front, where the civilians call the shots,  Hellevig’s message looks like an encouragement for fight-back – the economic policymaker’s equivalent of a no-fly zone for the US and European Union.  It’s also a challenge to the Kremlin policy of appeasement. (more…)

US SENATE STRIKES FOR RUSSIAN EQUALITY – THE OLIGARCHS TARGETED IN NEW SANCTIONS BILL

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not since the German government arranged for Vladimir Lenin to return to Russia, crossing German territory in a sealed train on April 16, 1917, has a foreign state at war with Russia done something as revolutionary as the US Senate did on June 15, 2017.  That is when, by a vote of 98 to 2, the senators  began the process of attacking the Russian oligarchs. They are the men who have dominated the Russian economy for more than twenty years, concentrating more national wealth in their  hands than can be found in any other major state in the world today. 

Unremarked by the senators themselves;  unreported by the American press;  and unnoticed, almost, in Russia, the new measure —  if adopted by the full Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump —  will target the oligarchs’ lines of credit to international banks; the brokers,  repositories and clearinghouses of  their shares and bonds; their trade with the US and Europe; their US companies, bank accounts, boats on the high seas and homes abroad. If targeting the oligarchs is followed by formal sanctions, the aim will be to destroy their power at home and abroad. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation hasn’t contemplated this much. (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.  

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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.

(more…)
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