“From now onwards you tell the truth, and that’s it”, Robert Fisk, one of the few British journalists who do, explained recently for a television documentary that this was the credo he learned from his job.
He’s still being published in a London newspaper controlled by the Lebedev family; their capacity for printing lies has not been dissuaded or diminished by Fisk’s example.
Still, it’s the time of the year when you and I wish each other the hope that the future will turn out better than it’s proved to be recently; and when we take time for reflection on the likelihood of this; also the time to gather the energy to cope with the greater unlikelihood.
During President Vladimir Putin’s four-and-a-half hour press conference on Thursday – the second longest on record in Russia; the longest in the rest of the world — he was congratulated several times by the audience for the answers he gave about the running of Russia. This is a regular feature. Putin’s arranger Dmitry Peskov – his “boss” Putin called him at one point — didn’t have to try hard to produce it.
After the conference concluded, the president’s critics attacked him for saying nothing new, repeating himself, evading the point of the question, making promises he doesn’t intend to keep, etc. The critics always say this. It’s their regular feature. This is cyclical, according to one of the Twitter comments. “If there is anyone who wants to watch Putin’s news conference but cannot do it today, don’t worry. Next year you will watch a re-run.”
What was new this time was that in Putin’s performance, he cited 36 sets of state statistics in answer to 55 questions. Subtracting the time taken by the questioners and Peskov’s audience management, Putin produced the numbers, new sets of them, every five minutes.
They covered, in his sequence: climate change; garbage recycling; production capacity; airports; highways; farm exports; mines; doctors’ pay; new medical facilities, vehicles and equipment; heart disease, tuberculosis and child mortality rates; Ukrainian Army tanks; Ukrainian gas prices; Fareast mortgages; housing replacement; political party registrations; inflation; reserve fund outlays; new rolling stock; bilateral foreign trade turnover; China’s GDP; loans to Belarus; sanction losses to the European Union; defence spending; robot vehicle kilometre testing; source of migration figures; historical birth rates; numbers of women of child-bearing age; pharmaceutical exports; life expectancy; environmental technologies; pension growth; and the share capital of Innopraktika, his daughter Yekaterina’s company.
All the data sets were delivered impromptu, unscripted, direct from Putin’s memory.
Simon & Schuster is a New York publisher which is now the property of ViacomCBS, National Amusements Inc., and the part-demented Sumner Redstone (Rothstein). It has long made a business of selling lies about Russia. That’s the non-fiction department.
It’s a harder sell for the fiction department to do the same. Martin Cruz Smith’s newest in his series of Russian detective novels comes up with the idea that President Vladimir Putin has ordered the murder of an oligarch challenging him for the presidency, and nearly gets away with liquidating a well-known investigative journalist at the same time. The dirty deeds done, but the girl safe holding hands with the hero under the Kremlin wall, the book’s last line ends with “the latest coronation. With a fourth term secured, Putin how reigned longer than any ruler since Stalin.”
According to Cruz Smith’s acknowledgement on the next to last page, it was his editor at Simon & Schuster who “came up with excellent ideas for the book and patiently encouraged me to take the time I needed.”
After seven weeks in print, this fabrication hasn’t made it on the New York Times best-seller list yet. It is having to compete with Simon & Schuster’s better selling fiction, seven weeks on the list and going strong at Number 8 — “The Book of Gutsy Women” by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
Sergei Skripal (lead image), the central figure in the British Government’s 21-month old story of an attempted assassination by GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, is alive; not very well; and living in England.
Skripal has revealed himself in three brief telephone calls to his niece Viktoria, living with his mother Yelena in Yaroslavl. The first call took place on April 4 of this year, a year and a month after Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalised in Salisbury, following an alleged poison attack in the centre of the city on March 4, 2018. The second of Sergei’s telephone calls home was on May 9, 2019, when he left a brief recorded message on Viktoria’s telephone; May 9 is celebrated in Russia as Victory Day for the defeat of the enemy in Europe. Skripal’s third call reportedly took place on June 26, following his own and Yulia’s birthdays.
The authenticity of Skripal’s calls, each of them from a different telephone number, has been confirmed by Viktoria. They are the first evidence that he is alive; moreover, that he is well enough to testify about the alleged attack by a nerve agent the British Government has called Novichok.
The evidence of the calls also suggests that Sergei and Yulia Skripal are prevented from communicating freely with their Russian kin, and may be physically under lock and key.
In the great game of who will sell gas to Europe, and in the American game of stopping Russia from doing so, Turkey has now declared its stake in the outcome by erecting a paper barrier across the Mediterranean Sea from the Turkish coast to the Libyan coast, and preparing to move armed forces into position to enforce it. This is both a bluff and a dare.
The paper was signed in Istanbul on November 27 between the Turkish Government and the Government of National Accord (GNA), one of the sides in the Libyan civil war. Read their memorandum of understanding and the new Turkish map of the Mediterranean here.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed this week with two extras. On Monday he said: “Greek Cypriots, Egypt, Greece, and Israel cannot establish a natural gas transmission line without Turkey’s consent.” Then on Tuesday: “If Libya were to make a request, we would send a sufficient number of troops. After the signing of the security agreement, there is no hurdle.”
Never mind that at the moment the GNA is losing the Libyan war. The Turkish bluff will not work against Russia, which is backing the GNA’s more powerful rival, the Libyan National Army (LNA). Nor is Turkey aiming at Russia; both have a common interest in preserving their new export pipeline for gas, TurkStream, to southern Europe through Turkey, and in beating the competition.
The Turkish dare is aimed at the US, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, challenging them to try their own navies and air forces at pushing the Turks back inside their land border; drill for gas on the seabed Turkey is claiming; and run pipelines through the barrier with which the Turks aim to stop them. For the time being, Erdogan is calculating the Americans, Greeks, Cypriots and Egyptians won’t dare to land a punch. So far he’s right.
“We told you so”. In another case of the Russian General Staff telling the Kremlin that arming the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan puts strategic Russian interests at risk, Turkey has signed a plan to extend its control of the seabed southward across the Mediterranean to the Libyan coastline.
The Turkish counterparty, the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj, is also being supplied with Turkish arms, vehicles, drones, and ordnance. Notwithstanding, the GNA doesn’t control much of the shore and even less of the hinterland of Libya. Against the GNA, the Russian military, the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin are backing the rival Libyan faction, the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar. This isn’t new. Right now, Haftar controls much more of Libya, including coastline, than al-Sarraj.
The new Russian problem is that Turkish deployment of the S-400 missile system may be used to enforce the new Turkish territorial claim. This directly threatens Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. The first two have sought and signed agreements to become US protectorates; the third is seeking protection from both the US and Russia, a game which Cairene regimes have been playing unsuccessfully since Gamal Abdel Nasser’s time. The reason for Egypt’s strategic failure is that it is up against Israel, an enemy unlike the Turks. Israel shoots first; the Turks bluff.
Ever since the death of Yevgeny Primakov, the last civilian in Moscow to distinguish publicly in Russian strategy between adversaries who fight and adversaries who bluff, no one dares to call the Turkish bluff. The closest the Russian Foreign Ministry has come was the declaration on November 28 by Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. She said the Turks change their positions “by the hour. What could raise questions in Russia regarding the implementation of agreements signed by Turkey or what could raise questions in Turkey with regard to Russia can change within several hours.”
English plane spotters and bird watchers have discovered the location of the Skripals in Gloucestershire. An hour and a half’s drive north of their well-known home in Salisbury, Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been hidden inside an airbase operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) for long-range B-52 and B-2 bombers armed with nuclear weapons targeted on Russia.
A British Ministry of Defence document, issued on March 12 but unnoticed since then, reports the ministry has searched its files and records of the blood sampling and testing for Novichok in the blood of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, but “failed to locate any information that provides the exact time that the samples were collected.” The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is the parent organization for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), the UK’s chemical warfare centre at Porton Down. Porton Down, as the laboratory is usually known, is the source of British evidence that Novichok was detected in the bloodstreams of the two Skripals.
Two officials of the DSTL laboratory testified on oath in the London Court of Protection in March of 2018, one identifying himself to the court as a “Porton Down Chemical and Biological Analyst” and the other, a “Porton Down Scientific Adviser”. According to the court record published on March 22, 2018, “blood samples from Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were analysed and the findings indicated exposure to a nerve agent or related compound. The samples tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent or closely related agent.” The presiding judge, Justice David Williams, ruled that “tests carried out by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down concluded that they had been exposed to a nerve agent.”
National Health Service (NHS) hospital manuals, English nursing sources and biochemists all say it is impossible for patient blood samples to lack precise date and time data. The Skripal samples with these data are therefore missing, while the samples analyzed by Porton Down aren’t provably from the Skripals at all.
If the Defence Ministry is telling the truth, its admission that it “failed to locate” the required blood specimen logs means there is no legal chain of custody for the evidence the British Government has publicly alleged, identifying a Russian nerve agent called Novichok, and Russian military personnel and the Kremlin as responsible for attacking the Skripals in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. Without this chain of custody, no British court can lawfully admit the prosecution’s evidence to support the government charges in the Skripal case. The Wiltshire coroner’s inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess, also alleged to have resulted from a Russian Novichok attack, will be unable, lawfully, to admit the alleged evidence.
If the ministry is lying in its March 12, 2019, document, this demonstrates the collapse of the British government’s Novichok narrative into evidence of a political frame-up.
The MOD official, who signed the document as Mrs S. Gardiner, head of the ministry’s Information Rights Team, was asked to clarify her report. She has refused to reply.
It was Richard Nixon (lead image, left) who famously connected his election defeat with the notion he had been victimized by other people’s boots, particularly the press. “You don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” Nixon had lost the vote for California governor in November 1962. He was lying then; watch him do it. He went on lying — sore loser was what Nixon remained after winning the presidency twice and then losing it in mid-1974.
Boris Yeltsin (centre) has kicked the bucket, so he can’t improve on his last official speech when he managed, his incapacitation obvious, to make his resignation in favour of Vladimir Putin appear to be unforced. That lie was issued on December 31, 1999. Twenty years later, his son-in-law, Valentin Yumashev (right), is attempting to step into the old man’s shoes in a public interview with Vladimir Pozner, a journalist who has tried to show he is in the winning shoes himself by wearing brightly coloured socks. The interview was staged by the Yeltsin Centre, a state and oligarch-financed entity which Yumashev, with the remainder of the Yeltsin family, also runs.
By a second 20th anniversary coincidence, Pyotr Aven, a Yeltsin-era minister of trade and Alfa Group banker who has left Russia for the UK, has given an equally long interview in which he publicly admits to mistakes during Yeltsin’s rule – the policy mistakes of others, not the personal ones of himself. His interviewer wore sneakers without socks. Between them, fewer lies were re-issued than Yumashev and Pozner attempted. The intentions differ.
Yumashev’s message for Russians – also for the regime-changers in Washington to whom his father-in-law was deeply indebted – is that the Yeltsin family and its old factotum, Anatoly Chubais, aim to run a candidate in the Putin succession race and recover the power they think they deserve. Aven’s message is that he and the Alfa Group won’t pay for it.
But Aven is also implying something more subtle than Yumashev and Pozner disclose. It is that he and Mikhail Fridman of the Alfa Group expect the Putin succession will not be friendly towards either the oligarchs close to the Kremlin, or to the dominant privately owned businesses of the country. To them – whether they wear military, security or other uniforms Aven doesn’t hint — Aven is saying the Alfa Group asks either to be bought out, or if the new Kremlin won’t do that, to be allowed to live and let live.
If the price of crude oil is stable or rising, the money spent on Russian art works at the semi-annual sales of the London art auction houses usually follows suit.
In June, when the last Russian Art Week was held, the price of oil was experiencing a seesaw between $71 and $63 per barrel. Last week the oil price was moving up from $59 to $65. Allowing a lag in the time art buyers need to count the cash flowing into their bank accounts, the latest round of bidding should have come close to the June result. The actual outcome is that last week’s grand total came to £35.36 million; this compares to £35.93 million in June, and to £35.02 million in November of 2018.
US sanctions don’t have a direct impact because the biggest Russian art buyers in the London market aren’t the individuals targeted by the US Treasury. Instead, some are grand larcenists who launder the money they have stolen from their Russian banks and businesses, and who have been given safe haven to decorate their walls, girlfriends, and gardens by the British Government. Click to follow their story.
The domestic Russian art market is also showing resistance to Russia hating abroad. The latest measurement, based on reporting from Russian art dealers, shows the indexes for paintings and graphics bottomed out last year, and have been slowly improving this year.
Diversification of genres for sale is also drawing fresh demand because of the low base effect — the prices are starting in the bargain basement. William MacDougall, co-director of the third-ranked London house, observes: “Our contemporary Russian Art Auction (over $1.3 million) on Monday was the first specialist auction for that sector in a decade (June 2008 was also ours). Its success has raised hopes that that area of the market is finally reviving. In this auction round the middle was stronger than the top. We have also been seeing stronger demand for Contemporary in the last two auctions, albeit from a low base, hence our specialist auction.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 BlueLine (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.
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.
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.