The Russian potato is a hot potato politically for President Vladimir Putin. Much hotter than Alexei Navalny, and for a genuine, homegrown reason.
The Russian potato harvest suffered its worst fall last year since 2010. And the political chips will fall just as they did before – the public approval rating for the president, as well for government ministers, is falling. The outcome in the State Duma election of 2011 was a swing against United Russia, the government party, of 15%; the swings in favour of the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party were 8% and 12% apiece. That was the worst electoral rebuff Putin has suffered since he started in the year 2000.
Russian voters are like everyone else the world over. They blame hoarders and speculators when the price of staples starts to jump, and then government corruption for failing to stop them. In January, compared to a year ago, the wholesale price of potatoes was up 75%. And it is getting worse. By April, the wholesale price is expected to grow by another 20%. Between now and next September, when the parliamentary election will be held, Putin must solve the potato problem.
On the subject of oligarchy and the treasure storehouses which oligarchs build for themselves, Alexei Navalny reveals that he’s following a US and NATO script: this takes no account of how President Vladimir Putin rules Russia, or the choice most Russians believe is the preferred alternative to Putin – that’s rule by a combination of officers and civilians acceptable to the military. In the past, the name for that was the Stavka.
Most Russians believe the Army abhors the oligarchs and will eliminate them, along with their corruption, unless Putin can be persuaded to do so himself. For more than twenty years now he has been reluctant; but there is still time. In this effort Navalny’s films are a useful tool – a Russian one, but not one contrived with the assistance and operated for the benefit of Navalny’s foreign supporters.
US Government officials are protecting some of the largest Russian fraudsters and bank robbers on condition they invest their ill-gotten gains in US real estate, bank accounts, and businesses paying US tax; and also publicly attack the Putin administration for “victimising” them. The latest of these oligarch-sized accused, Vadim Belyaev (lead image), is facing trial in the New York State Supreme Court.
Belyaev is being sued by the state-owned Moscow banks, National Bank Trust and Otkritie Bank, for the return of about $1.2 billion in fake loans, fraudulent bond and debt-pyramid transactions he is alleged to have arranged for his own benefit, when he controlled the two banks and more than 150 offshore front companies through which he directed the cash to himself. His subordinates at the time are facing prosecution in Moscow for criminal fraud. The banks, which went bankrupt as a result of the asset stripping, remain under the administration of the Central Bank and the state Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA). The Central Bank is the 98% shareholder of Trust Bank and 100% shareholder of Otkritie.
Belyaev, say the banks, “exercised close control over Otkritie Holding and its subsidiaries, and repeatedly used his control to misuse assets of entities owned by Otkritie Holding, and often to siphon off those assets for personal use and the use of his associates.”
Among the homes he purchased in the US, one in Westchester county of New York state accommodates his ex-wife and children. Another, a ski chalet, in Aspen, Colorado, he recently sold for $12.5 million. Another of his homes has been identified in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. The town house in New York City where Belyaev and his current wife live, is palatial; Belyaev is paying rent of $80,000 per month.
Belyaev has yet to file a full statement of his defence in the New York court; that is due on February 5. He is asking the court to throw the case out on several grounds. One is that he has been victimised by the Central Bank’s bankruptcy procedures which he calls illegal “nationalization” of the banks. His second claim is that there is no proof that he controlled the banks or that fraud was committed in the alleged loan schemes. The third of Belyaev’s defences is that the court in New York has no jurisdiction over him, even though he lives a 10-minute walk from the courthouse.
The US Government is protecting Belyaev so far by granting him and his wife residency papers, together with Social Security and tax status. His name was omitted by the US Treasury when it published its list of Russian oligarchs on January 31, 2018; read that list here. Several Russian bankers were listed, including three on the run in Cyprus and London; their banks were not as large as Trust and Otkritie when Belyaev ran them, nor are their crimes as expensive as Belyaev’s.
The New York court is due to rule on dismissal on February 22. If the court allows Belyaev to continue living in the US, but protected from being pursued there for his crimes in Russia, it will amount to a declaration that oligarchs who steal but pay tribute in the US will be safe. By contrast, oligarchs who stay in Moscow but pay tribute to the Kremlin will be targeted by US sanctions.
This is also the catchcry of Alexei Navalny (lead image, 2nd from right) who has called for the US and European Union to “be very clear dividing two things: Russian people who must be welcomed and treated very warmly from European Union from my perspective, and Russian state [oligarchs who] must be treated like a bunch of criminals.”
Abdullah Bozkurt, the leading investigative journalist reporting on Turkey, has been threatened with assassination in Stockholm, Sweden, where he has been living since the July 2016 coup attempt in Istanbul. Bozkurt directs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network, and publishes the Nordic Monitor.
The threat to kill was issued on CNN’s television network in Turkey on January 15. “Turkish national intelligence will find him, I’ll tell you that,” declared Mesut Hakkı Caşın, “I don’t know whether MIT [National Intelligence Organisation] will feed him to the fish or the sharks, but traitors always get their punishment some day.” Caşın is a member of the powerful Security and Foreign Policy Committee which was created in July 2018 by a decree of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (lead image, centre) giving the committee members the role of “proposing new policies, oversee implementation of policies and take macro decisions”.
Caşın, 65, also lectures at Turkish universities. His television remarks have been reported this week in Stockholm in the Nordic Monitor.
In addition to reporting from official Turkish military and police files on Erdogan’s corrupt involvement in the Syrian war, Bozkurt and the Nordic Monitor have published investigations of Erdogan’s involvement in schemes to kill Russians. These include the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov, shot in Ankara on December 19, 2016; and the ambush of the Russian Sukhoi-24 by Turkish F-16 fighters on the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24, 2015. Erdogan and Hulusi Akar, then chief of the Turkish General Staff, planned the attack on the Sukhoi; Akar then personally congratulated the Turkish pilot who had shot down the Russian aircraft.
A ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal in Stockholm last week to keep the biochemical contents of Alexei Navalny’s blood secret has created new evidence for Russian prosecutors in Moscow that Navalny has actively collaborated with foreign governments to fabricate the allegation that President Vladimir Putin attempted to kill him with a Novichok nerve agent.
Responding to a request by Mats Nilsson, a Stockholm lawyer, the appeal court ruled that a multi-page report on Navalny’s blood sampling and testing by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and communications interpreting Navalny’s blood contents between Swedish analysts, the German Defence Ministry, and other NATO officials, are state secrets. They cannot be released publicly, the court wrote Nilsson on January 14, because declassification and publication “will damage Sweden’s relationships with a foreign power”.
The Stockholm appeal court did not identify the foreign power; it is clear from a public statement by the Swedish laboratory official in charge of the testing, Åsa Scott, that it is definitely not Russia. Scott is head of FOI’s department for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection and security.
The Stockholm court also rejected Nilsson’s request for release of all Scott’s emails between August 20, the date of Navalny’s collapse on a flight between Tomsk and Moscow, and September 15.
On September 15, Scott issued a press release announcing: “FOI confirms German results on Novichok”. According to Scott, “I can confirm that we at FOI in Umeå have conducted an analysis on behalf of our German partners. Our analysis confirms the earlier German results. The blood sample from Mr. Navalny did unequivocally contain a nerve agent from the Novichok group.”
What the Swedish government officials did not anticipate at the time was that on December 22, a group of German doctors who had been treating Navalny at the Charité hospital in Berlin, would release their own biochemical analysis of Navalny’s blood, tested by the Germans on September 5; that was the same day the Swedes have reported taking their blood samples from Navalny in Berlin. The German testing, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, on December 22, revealed that Navalny’s blood on September 5 showed a level of butyryl cholinesterase so close to normal it would have been impossible for the Swedish laboratory to substantiate Scott’s press announcement.
The Swedish secret, which last week’s Stockholm court ruling has attempted to make lawful, is that there was insufficient evidence of Novichok as the cause of the cholinesterase inhibition effect which Navalny has called a Kremlin assassination attempt.
Independent toxicology and biochemistry experts believe the comparison of Navalny’s blood testing by the Germans on September 5 and by the Swedes on the same day proves there was no discoverable trace of Novichok in his blood that day. They also believe that by the time the Swedes began their analysis of the blood, there would also have been no trace of the lithium, benzodiazepamines and other drugs in Navalny’s blood, which, two weeks earlier, may have caused the sharp drop in his cholinesterase scores and triggered his collapse.
The Swedish black-out is of a black hole — the state secret is that the Swedish laboratory found no evidence of Novichok.
But now, for Navalny to continue making his allegation is exposed by the Swedish court judgement to show he is providing “assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation”. This is the wording in the Russian Criminal Code Article 275 for the crime of treason. If convicted, Navalny faces a prison term of 12 to 20 years.
How they are hanging is not a question usually asked of the President of the United States in the Oval Office, unless you are an intimate friend of his, or an interior decorator on the make.
There are far fewer of the former than of the latter, so whenever a president changes, the decorators make sure their changes are displayed too.
Some presidents like their office décor to show they have balls. The gold lamé curtains hung by Donald Trump behind the Resolute desk mesmerized the editor of the Financial Times and his staff when they were granted their first interview with Trump in April 2017; the president issued a threat to attack North Korea.
Alexei Navalny would have suffered from dramatic cholinesterase inhibition effects from the combination of drugs he took before his collapse and hospitalisation in Omsk on August 20, and before these drugs were detected in his blood and urine on his admission to the Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin on August 22.
European medical sources report the lithium found by the Berlin doctors in Navalny’s blood is commonly used to treat bipolar disorders. It is known to depress the butyryl cholinesterase which Navalny’s laboratory testing also revealed in the German hospital.
According to a leading medical psychiatrist treating patients for depression and bipolar disorder, if Navalny was also being treated to stabilise his insulin level with the well-known Metformin, that drug is known to be a cholinesterase inhibitor.
When Navalny appears in a Moscow court, his full medical records, including the laboratory tests recorded at Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 before he left for Germany, are likely to be produced in evidence. His previous medical history, including reported episodes of acute pancreatitis and diabetes, which Navalny’s spokesmen have denied, is also likely to be revealed.
At stake is a courtroom test of Navalny’s allegation that he was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent by men of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Also at stake is a forensic test of the medical evidence of Russian, German and other doctors that Navalny “collapsed because of the drugs he was taking”, as the expert source on the use and abuse of benzodiazepines says he suspects.
The western government case is that Navalny was the target of the crime of attempted murder, and that a Russian-made Novichok was the weapon used. The Russian government case is that the medical evidence is of a metabolic crisis caused by the combination of alcohol, lithium, and benzos taken by Navalny himself.
If the Russian prosecutors also charge Navalny with assisting the German intelligence agency BND, the CIA, MI6, and the Bellingcat propaganda unit to fabricate the Novichok story, Navalny will face Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code. That’s the crime of treason – “assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation.”
“Wherefore, by their fruits”, according to the Gospel writer’s version of the well-known warning, “ye shall know them”. In the attack on the website which occurred over last evening, it is wherefore by their pigeon fruit that we have worked out who the birds were, and what they intended.
Alexei Navalny believes he is throwing down a gauntlet for the Kremlin either to arrest him when he returns to Moscow from Berlin on Sunday, or to allow him to walk freely out of the airport. Either way, from behind bars as a political prisoner or from his Moscow film studio as an opposition candidate for regime change, Navalny and his supporters will announce they have shown strength, the President of Russia weakness. The one outcome Navalny hasn’t counted on is that Russians will be laughing at him.
This is the strategy of Vzglyad, the Moscow online newspaper which publishes sophisticated and accurate analysis of military, intelligence and security issues unmatched by the English-language media. It is almost unnoticed in the west, except for those services who believe it reflects the thinking of key figures, past and present, in the presidential administration. Because the Russian figures don’t think the way the western services or their media organs depict them, Vzglyad hasn’t drawn the attention of foreign reporters as do state media like RT, Sputnik, the Strategic Culture Foundation, and the Valdai Club.
On October 2, 2018, Vzglyad introduced an author whose pen name was reported as Nesh Van Drake (Нэш Ван Дрейк). These words are meaningless in English except that, spelled in Cyrillic, the first of the words evokes the Russian word Nash (Наш) meaning “our”. This was also the name of the black cat (lead image, 3rd from left) which lived with Sergei Skripal in his Salisbury house, until Skripal was attacked on March 4, 2018, and the cat was then put to death by the British. “To alleviate its suffering” was the reason of state announced at the time.
“Skripal’s cat” (Кот Скрипаля) is also the name on the byline for seventeen articles Vzglyad has published by this creature over the past two years. The other names are meant to sound both Dutch and English; to some ears they may be a reminder of Rip Van Winkle. He was the Dutch-American character invented by Washington Irving in a story he published in 1819. In that tale, van Winkle drinks a mystery liquor given to him by Dutchmen, causing him to fall asleep. When he wakes up again, it is twenty years later, and the American revolution has passed. Van Winkle’s first name is the abbreviation for Rest in Peace; Irving’s tale makes fun of people who have made themselves obsolete.
The German laboratory test results for Alexei Navalny, published by a group of doctors at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin last month, reveal a surprising number of medical symptoms, but they are not those of Novichok nerve agent poisoning as Navalny and his supporters in western governments have alleged.
Clinical doctors, toxicologists, and pharmacology experts outside Germany believe the test results which the Charité group released on December 22 reveal symptoms of acute pancreatitis, diabetes, liver failure, severe dehydration, muscular rigidity, as well as a serious bacterial infection, and a possible heart attack associated with his kidney problems. According to the experts, these are not recognisable symptoms of a nerve agent attack.
The German medical publication reports Navalny’s “laboratory values on admission”, and toxicology and pharmacology results “in blood and urine samples obtained on arrival of the patient of the patient at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (day 3)”. Accordingly, the newly available data are evidence of the condition Navalny was in during his two-day treatment in Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 in Russia; and of the treatment he received there, as well as during his six-hour flight on a German medical evacuation aircraft from Omsk to Berlin.
The German doctors have also released a tabulation of their laboratory test results for Navalny during 33 days of his stay in the Charité hospital, and a subsequent visit to the hospital as an outpatient. The four data tables are described by the Germans as following “the supposed poisoning of the patient”. The doctors don’t wish to sign their names to this “supposing”.
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.