By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time since the execution of Richard Sorge in Sugamo prison, Tokyo, on November 7, 1944, the highest representative of the Red Army and of the Russian Defence Ministry has made an official visit of tribute at his grave. 

Sergei Shoigu (lead picture, right), General of the Army and Minister of Defence, visited Sorge’s grave (left) on Wednesday, May 29.  Also taking the salute were senior Russian military officers and Russia’s Ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galuzin. Shoigu was on an official visit to Tokyo this week for meetings with the Japanese Defence Minister, Takeshi Iwaya, and for a session with the foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Taro Kono.

Not before in Japan has Sorge, one of the greatest agents of the Soviet military intelligence services, been honoured in this fashion by his country.  (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Army’s general staff has paid the RAND think-tank in California to devise a brand new plan of attack against Russia. The plan was released a month ago, on April 24.  The new idea is Operation SWARM – that means throwing everything the US can think of at Russia.

SWARM (lead image) isn’t exactly new. He started in 1977 when Spider-Man discovered SWARM was a German scientist who had survived Hitler’s defeat and escaped to South America. He wasn’t doing too well until he was irradiated by a super-collider at RAND. SWARM  moved to the East Coast of the US,  and then to Syria.  He hasn’t been doing too well against Spider-Man anyplace.

One of the reasons for the new plan is that the Pentagon generals don’t take seriously RAND’s public declaration that it’s “a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous.” The US Army, like RAND, has a narrower view of whose prosperity they aim to help, starting with themselves.

Another of the reasons is that retired State Department official James Dobbins, the lead author of the new attack-Russia plan, needs money to replace his past employment at the State Department and White House where he worked on US wars in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan.   Equally in need of cash are his co-authors, several of whom are retirees from the intelligence and armed services. 

And finally the third reason,  as RAND concedes in several charts, is that none of the things the US Government has been throwing at Russia for the past five years has been working as intended, while the risks of BBB have been growing; that’s backfires, boomerangs and bloodshed. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Journalism is war by other means. If you don’t understand this you are either an enlisted soldier or a  casualty with a serious head-wound.  On the ground covered by journalism it’s impossible to hide;  innocent civilians are inevitably caught in the cross-fire.

Most Russians have known this since the start of the nineteenth century.

After Anton Chekhov’s reports from Sakhalin were published between 1891 and 1893, Russian  journalism didn’t recover to his standard for fifty years. It began again at the German invasion on June 22, 1941. But it lasted for just four years – until the Red Army victory in Berlin and the capitulation of the Germans in May 1945.

Vasily Grossman (lead image) was one of the very best of the Russian reporters on the front in that brief period. He far excelled his English-writing peers on other fronts, particularly American fakers like Ernest Hemingway. 

A new biography of Grossman, published in the US, reveals in Grossman’s own words why he is still a model of the genre in Russian. It also explains how and why he was silenced on orders of Josef Stalin, and his major book, combining his battlefield notes and interviews, banned from 1961 until 1988.  

“Evil is overthrown”, Grossman reportedly said to another Russian correspondent on the roof of the Reichstag on May 2, 1945. Just for the time being, he acknowledged later on.

There can be no irony, just dismay that Grossman’s biography demonstrates that the biographer, Alexandra Popoff, a Russian turned Canadian, and her publisher, the Yale University Press, have no comprehension of what Grossman meant, nor of his lesson for journalism the world over – that evil isn’t overthrown.  That today, as you read this, it’s alive and well in Canada and at Yale University, not to mention Berlin (again), Paris, London, Washington, and not to forget, Moscow (again). Grossman the Russian soldier is on the opposite side from Popoff the American soldier. (more…)


By Andrei Maximov, Moscow*

The oil company of the ex-owner of Yugra Bank, now under arrest, managed to embezzle not less than 20 billion rubles from the state budget.

Gasoline prices in Russia have become the subject of almost daily meetings of the government, as well as jokes and internet memes. Social networks are full of impressive price comparison charts: for example, in 2008, when oil cost $130 per barrel, drivers at petrol stations paid 23.5 rubles for a litre of 95-octane, and in 2018, with an average oil price of $70, they paid almost 45 rubles. The state puts the blame for these rising prices on the oilmen, who strive to sell most of their raw materials abroad. They, in turn, don’t get tired of reminding everyone how much of a share in the rising price is taken by taxes and excise duties.  Beyond this endless discussion (at least in the public part of it) there is only corruption and theft to explain the price. These two factors, meanwhile, play a significant role in the price of the final product and in the amount of taxes collected, as the example of the oil company Dulisma shows.

Joint Stock Company Dulisma has become one of the frequently identified enterprises in the background of media coverage of the arrest of Alexei Khotin (lead image, right), the former owner of Yugra Bank, which was stripped of its license by the Central Bank in July 2017.  (more…)


By Paul Robinson, Ottawa*

Helmer is an equal opportunity critic. And in the current political climate that is unacceptable. One is either with us or against us. Any signs of whataboutism, or any criticisms of the prevailing Western narrative which indicate that you’re not 100% on our side, are proof positive that is that you must be a fully paid up Kremlin agent. It is, of course, absurd, but alas it seems that that’s the way it is.


By John Helmer, Moscow

By the European standard of destructiveness in war — civil war and invasion — only one country exceeds Russia in the frequency of violence over the past two centuries and in casualties per head of population: this  is Greece. In Europe of today, no country has been as damaged by the serial attacks of the Turks, Germans, British, Americans, and also by the Greeks themselves, as Greece. No European suffers today from more impoverished future prospects than the Greek.

This is the dismal lesson of a new history, just published by a British academic and philhellene, as foreign lovers of Greece have been called since Lord Byron and Victor Hugo.   The history is also a valuable record of the dozens of times   Greeks appealed for Russian aid, and when Russians, having promised to help, turned out to be double-crossers. Indeed, starting from Catherine II in 1770 until Vladimir Putin today, this mistake Greeks (including Cypriots) and Russians make towards each other has been repeated. Re-reading the history may help stop the vicious cycle. So may the extended range of Russian air and sea missiles. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (lead image, right), the Russian aluminium oligarch, saw red when Gennady Zyuganov (left), the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), declared in parliament that Deripaska was a swindler.

Deripaska, charged Zyuganov on January 9, had stolen the aluminium plants comprising United Company Rusal from their Russian owners and employees, and is now handing the company over to the US to save his profits from US sanctions. “The ambition of the Russian oligarchs for their profit looks more and more intransigent,” Zyuganov added, making the very first public attack by the Communist Party on the aluminium oligarch in twenty years.  

Deripaska sued Zyuganov in a Moscow city court for insulting his reputation and demanded Rb1 million ($15,380) in compensation.  The case commenced in Tverskoy district court on January 16, but was adjourned in February when lawyers for both sides asked for more time to prepare for trial in front of Judge Tatyana Melitina.  She withdrew from the case in March, and a new judge, Alexei Stekliev,  postponed the trial again to give himself more time to read the papers. He had withdrawn from the case this week when Judge Melitina returned.  

On Tuesday, Zyuganov’s lawyer, Dmitry Agranovsky, told Melitina that Zyuganov had assured  Deripaska there were no personal hard feelings,  signing an agreement to settle the case before trial. Deripaska let Zyuganov off having to pay the penalty. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

The Swedish Government’s decision that there is “still probable cause” for Julian Assange to be tried for a sexual offence committed against a sleeping woman nine years ago is a political gift to the British Government. London lawyers specializing in extradition cases say it is now up to Home Secretary Sajid Javid,  the British justice minister,  to decide whether the Swedish charge against Assange is more serious than the US charge of conspiracy to commit computer hacking, filed against Assange in London on April 11. That’s a political decision Prime Minister Theresa May will make, if she remains in power. It’s a move she is believed to have negotiated with the Swedes to avoid a judgement by British judges that American prosecutors are too prejudiced for Assange to get a fair trial in the US.    

 “When there are competing requests the Secretary of State [Javid] decides which request takes priority,” the source said. “There are various mandatory, though not exhaustive statutory considerations including when requests are received and the gravity of the allegations. Given the respective allegations, the potential time limitation issues in Sweden and the history of the matter I would anticipate that would be a strong factor weighing in favour of the Swedish request.”

Other sources believe extradition to Sweden offers Assange a better than even chance of acquittal on the Swedish charge. The sources also believe that resistance by the Swedish courts to US political pressure for extradition will be greater than Prime Minister May or the British courts want to show. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Not with a bang; almost without a whimper.

This is how the oil, real estate and banking empire of Yury Khotin (lead image, left) and his son Alexei Khotin (right) has ended. One of the two men — dubbed in 2015 the Тайнолигархи, the secret oligarchs because they kept their photographs out of public circulation and refused to answer press questions —  is now under house arrest in Moscow; their Yugra Bank is closed with capital deficiencies and liabilities of up to $4 billion; their principal oil company, Exillon Energy, has been suspended by the London Stock Exchange  since May 1.

A veteran state banker sees in this end for the Khotins a signal success of Central Bank regulators at warding off pressure from state officials for whom the Khotins have served as deposit-takers and money launderers. “The business of Yugra Bank was built on the pocket bank model to which the overwhelming majority of Russia’s privately-owned banks have adhered,” the source said. “Whatever resources become available are committed to related-party lending; that’s to say, the financing of the owners’  non-banking ventures in real estate, manufacturing, mining, etc. Nothing new — hundreds of banks have been organized that way.”

“The case of Yugra Bank once again illustrates how the institution of deposit insurance was misused and abused by unscrupulous bankers and depositors, alike. The bankers were attracting household deposits by high interest rates which they could not afford (they knew it), and probably did not intend paying. The depositors were eager to enjoy those unsustainably high interest rates because within the deposit insurance coverage limits (currently Rb 1.4 million [$21,000]) they could confidently expect a bailout by the state. The ability to raise huge amounts of private savings created a kind of ‘too big to fail’ situation.   At first the regulator did not want to sort it out simply because it lacked the capability to resolve all similar sized problem banks at once. But I doubt the Khotins, the former owners of Yugra, will be able to get away unscathed. The Deposit Insurance Agency has, over time, learned how to go after the assets of fugitive Russian bank scammers even in the world’s Number-1 Den of Thieves — by which I mean London.” (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

The British author of a new biography of Richard Sorge (lead image, left), the Soviet spy hanged by the Japanese on November 7, 1944, disqualifies himself from being believed on the very first page of his book, and on the last.  

Sorge, reads the first line, “was a bad man who became a great spy.” On the last  page,  “Sorge was a flawed individual but an impeccable spy – brave,  brilliant, relentless. It was Sorge’s tragedy that his masters were venal cowards who placed their own careers before the vital interests  of the country that he laid down his life to serve.”

Owen Matthews (Russian family name Bibikov) reveals that after studying at Oxford University he worked as a journalist for The Moscow Times, the London Times, and The Economist. They are the well-known covers for US and British secret service employment in information warfare, as well as espionage. They aren’t credentials for understanding the history of Soviet intelligence before, during, or after World War II. Still, when a journalist like this one toes his proprietor’s and his secret service’s line, there is much that is revealing — about Matthews’ toes, and the Achilles Heel he and his masters display in this book. (more…)


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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