IT ISN’T OVER WHEN THE FAT LADY SINGS – THE FIRST RUSSIAN STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT OF THE AUSTRALIA-UK-US (AUKUS) SUBMARINE DEAL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Following last week’s meeting in Washington of Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne (lead image left), the Australian defence minister and their US counterparts, a strategic military and basing agreement was announced between Australia, the UK and US (AUKUS). This is being reinforced with summit  meetings in Washington this week.

The declared target of their war-making preparations is China.

Australian strategy against Russia in the Pacific region follows in lockstep with the US. But for the time being the Russian enemy, and Russian submarine and surface fleet operations in the Indo-Pacific region, are not being discussed by Australian officials in public; at least not to the extent when President Vladimir Putin last visited Australia in November 2014 with a nuclear-powered, nuclear armed naval escort.

Ahead of schemes for strategic warmaking in the Pacific, the US, the UK and Australia are also engaged in proxy war operations. These have accelerated recently in Myanmar, where Russia and China are allied in support of the military government of  General Min Aung Hlaing.  Next, from both sides, state bribery, subversion, putsch-making, and other special operations are likely to accelerate in the Pacific islands from Fiji to Papua-New Guinea.

For the moment, the initial reaction to AUKUS from the Russian Foreign Ministry has been as close to uncritical as the ministry can be. “We noted the plans, announced by Australia,” said spokesman Maria Zakharova last Thursday, “to build nuclear-powered submarines as part of an ‘enhanced trilateral security partnership’ agreed yesterday by the United States, Great Britain and Australia. We proceed from the premise that being a non-nuclear power and fulfilling in good faith the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia will honour its commitments under this document, as well as the IAEA Safeguards Agreements along with its Additional Protocol. We hope that Canberra ensures the necessary level of cooperation with the IAEA in order to rule out any proliferation-related risks.”

The first detailed technical and strategic assessment of the AUKUS scheme has followed this week  in Vzglyad, the leading strategy publication reflecting the Russian General Staff and GRU assessments. A translation from the Russian article by Alexander Timokhin follows.

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THE AUSTRALIAN CHEWING-GUM IS NOW ON THE RUSSIAN SHOE – AUSTRALIAN MINISTER ASKS LAVROV TO SAVE EXPORTS FROM CHINESE SANCTIONS; LAVROV ASKS FOR AUSTRALIAN SUPPORT TO STOP FAKE MH17 EVIDENCE IN DUTCH SHOW TRIAL

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

One day after Australia was defeated at the World Health Assembly in a joint effort with the Trump Administration to attack China, and after Beijing retaliated, calling the Australian Government a US puppet, a joke, and chewing-gum on China’s shoe, Australia has telephoned Moscow for help. In a call initiated by Foreign Minister Marise Payne (lead image, left), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked to boost Russian imports from Australia and send more Russian tourists to the country.

Lavrov replied that Australia should stop fabricating evidence of Russian involvement in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and withdraw from the Dutch show trial which is scheduled to resume hearings in Amsterdam  next month.

Payne has not disclosed the telephone call to Moscow in her twitter stream nor is it revealed in her ministry’s news releases.  No Australian newspaper or television broadcaster —  half of them owned by Rupert Murdoch and equally hostile to both Russia and China —  has reported the Payne-Lavrov conversation.

Payne’s spokesman, David Wroe, refused a request to confirm the conversation, which took place in the early Moscow afternoon of Wednesday. Payne’s ministry in Canberra is also refusing to explain why the minister made the first-ever telephone call to Lavrov on record in the Russian Foreign Ministry’s archive.

“A clumsy move by the Australians,” commented a Moscow source close to the General Staff, “to make it appear  they can balance ‘positive’ relations with Russia against the bad relationship they caused with China. In Mao’s day,  the Australians were called paper tigers and running dogs.  Recently we’ve experienced how much of a US puppet the Australians are; they imposed trade sanctions against us in 2014; they have lied consistently about the MH17 affair and tried against us the same ‘international investigation’ ploy they failed to achieve against the WHO. This telephone call changes nothing except to convince us, and the Chinese of course, that Australian officials are blundering so badly in the world Trump won’t be able to save them.”

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TRUTH VACCINE KILLS AUSTRALIAN-AMERICAN CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHINA IN WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION DEBATE

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

A coordinated attempt by the Australian and US governments to blame China for the corona virus, and to attack the World Health Organisation (WHO) for covering this up at China’s behest,  failed when the World Health Assembly (WHA) voted on Tuesday afternoon.

The terms of the Covid-19 resolution adopted by the 194 member-state assembly declared it is up to the WHO to “initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States, a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms”.

This language, originally sponsored by the European Union (EU) and Russia, repudiated the Australian demand, issued after talks with President Donald Trump (lead image, centre) on April 22,   that an investigation should be conducted independently of the WHO because “the government does not hold faith in the WHO, or its decision-making body the World Health Assembly, to lead a probe into the pandemic”.

The WHO could not be trusted to investigate itself or the origin of the Covid-19 virus, said Foreign Minister Marise Payne (lead image, centre). She does “not believe the WHO should run the inquiry,” the official told a state media organ. “It will need parties, countries to come to the table with a willingness to be transparent and to engage in that process and to ensure that we have a review mechanism in which the international community can have faith.”   The WHO, she added, “strikes me as somewhat poacher and gamekeeper”.

The terms of the resolution adopted on Tuesday also ignored the claim by Australia’s agriculture minister that the Huanan wild animal market in Wuhan was the starting point for the virus to develop in human beings. “We should be damn proud as a nation,” said David Littleproud, “that we led the world, not only on understanding what the WHO has done, but understanding what wildlife wet markets’ role is in these pandemics.”

Apart from claims broadcast by Australian and US officials to the media, there is no trace of an Australian text circulating among the WHO member states since Canberra and Washington started their campaign in April.  WHO spokesman Margaret Harris, speaking in Geneva just after Tuesday’s vote,  said no Australian draft resolution had been submitted to the WHO secretariat.  Harris also said the US had refused to join the final resolution as a sponsor, but did not publicly object when the vote was called.

David Wroe, spokesman for Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, was asked to substantiate the minister’s claims by releasing the “first Australian proposal for the text of the resolution;  the date of first introduction of the Australian text; and the texts with dates of such subsequent Australian text drafts submitted to the WHA.” He refused.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attacked the Australian-American campaign last week. “This is not a time to be crying ‘stop thief!’ and pointing fingers, it’s a time to cooperate and to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. Institutions in Europe, China, Russia, the US and many other countries are working on this… it is at least inappropriate to say that the Chinese were concealing information from the WHO, or that the WHO did not know some things, or that it knew about the coronavirus but held back information. Needless to say, nobody could imagine the developments that led to this pandemic but it’s an unprecedented situation. Doctors were acting under conditions where the experience gained from other pandemics was not enough. This pandemic proved to be much more serious. I think WHO experts must be supported and encouraged in every way rather than accused without grounds. This is especially true since the overwhelming majority of WHO Secretariat employees come from the countries that are the strongest critics of the WHO.”

On Tuesday, following the WHA vote, the Chinese government issued a statement from its embassy in Canberra. It said the terms of the Covid-19 resolution were “totally different from Australia’s proposal of an independent international review…All those who know the consultation process that led to the resolution understand this.  To claim the WHA’s resolution a vindication of Australia’s call is nothing but a joke.”

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MALCOLM TURNBULL’S RUSSIA STORY – EX-PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA TRIES NEW COMEBACK WITH OLD BRAIN

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Malcolm Turnbull is the most intelligent man ever to become Australian prime minister, and to have left office more stupid than he began. Among the governments south of the Equator, this is without precedent. Since Turnbull served as head of government for only three years, 2015 to 2018, when he was 61 to 64 years of age, he has set the medical record for non-traumatic early-onset senescence in the cerebrum; that’s the part of the brain responsible for learning. He didn’t; he can’t.

This week Turnbull has published a book of selections from his life aimed at refreshing his credentials to retake the political power he lost to rivals. His display of the symptoms that caused him to lose it is undiminished.

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AUSTRALIAN TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT – RUSSIA-HATERS FALL OUT AMONG THEMSELVES, PRIME MINISTER REPLACED – NEWS FLASH! MOSCOW DID NOTHING

By John Helmer, Moscow

When the Australian Government was overthrown a few days ago, nothing and nobody Russian was blamed in the local media for interfering.

According to the ousted Liberal (conservative) Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the “insurgency” was a plot by media owned by Rupert Murdoch and a group of conservative MPs led by Peter Dutton, an ex-vice squad policeman who shaves his skull and has run Australia’s secret services with an order to roll down their shirtsleeves to conceal their tattoos. Murdoch and Dutton failed. For the time being, power has been taken by a religious zealot called Scott Morrison. His belief in God speaking in tongues has, so far, not led his own tongue to wag blamefully in Russia’s direction.

The absence of fake news about Russia might have been news in Australia had not the national consensus on Russia-hating been comprehensive, covering all the political parties, factions and ethnic lobbies; all the media, mainstream, alt and social; and all the universities and think-tanks, so there’s no advantage for anyone to repeat the obvious. (more…)

AUSTRALIAN ARMCHAIR GENERAL WEAPONIZES HIMSELF IN WAR AGAINST RUSSIA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Paul Dibb, the former head of two Australian spy organizations and a deputy defence minister, has just published a call for Australian troops to be ready to fight in Europe against “Russia’s refusal to act in ways consistent with international law and standards of behaviour.” Dibb is known in Australia as “the country’s leading Cold War Russia expert.”

The Dibb report appeared on June 29, on the eve of last week’s Australian parliamentary election, when voters repudiated incumbent prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. He had called the snap poll, confident of expanding his majority in the two houses of parliament. He has now suffered a 3% negative swing by the voters; the loss of at least 23 seats; and months of political uncertainty ahead, including the possibility his party will replace him as leader.

Among Turnbull’s last-minute ploys to attract votes, one was the leak last month of Australian cabinet plans for an Australian Army force to fight in eastern Ukraine, alongside Dutch and other NATO units, to destroy the Donetsk and Lugansk rebellion against the regime in Kiev. Turnbull’s leak had suggested that Tony Abbott, the prime minister Turnbull had pushed aside to take the job, dreamed up the plan of Australian war at the Russian frontier by himself. The new report by Dibb now corroborates the idea of an Australian military expedition against Russia, in exchange for improved American commitments to defend Australia from the Chinese closer to home, in the Pacific. “How things work out in Europe,” Dibb claims, “ will affect Washington’s ability to reassure allies and partners everywhere, including those in our region who must contend with increasing coercion by China.” Unless Australia does more fighting with the Americans on the Russian front, he concludes, “China will take advantage of this, and allies and partners of the US in the region—including Australia—would be subject to further uncertainty about American military commitments to Asia.” Combating “Russia’s aggressive military behaviour “is necessary because, otherwise, “both Moscow and Beijing will be seen as getting away with it.”
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PUTIN SUBMARINES SURROUND AUSTRALIA WITHIN RANGE OF US BASES – RAY ATOMIZES AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It is eleven weeks since President Vladimir Putin visited Brisbane, Australia, for a summit meeting of the G20 states. Putin was escorted in the Coral Sea, east of Brisbane, by a Russian Navy flotilla making the longest deployment of the Russian surface fleet ever displayed. Including Russian submarines shadowing the flotilla, this was also the most powerful Russian force ever to practice aiming at targets on the Australian continent operated by the Australian Defence Forces, the US military, or the two at bases they operate together.

Because these bases run in secret, most Australians had no idea what was happening, and what was changing. The Australian media – controlled by three proprietors — Rupert Murdoch; the government; and until February 6 a mining oligarch called Gina Rinehart — didn’t alert them. For the story the Australian and Russian press didn’t report, click.

The Russian Navy off the Australian east coast in November was armed with ballistic and cruise missiles, with nuclear warheads capable of striking every US warfighting base on the Australian continent, plus the Australian cities. Like Putin, the flotilla withdrew northwards to base on November 16. They left behind a death ray which is destroying the local politicians most hostile to receiving Putin at the summit.
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THE BLUE SKY POTENTIAL OF CHUKOTKA — WHY IS STATE MONEY BEING WAGERED ON TIGERS REALM COAL?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Tiger is an unlucky brand-name for Russian investment. The record of Mikhail Prokhorov and Maxim Finsky in trying, and failing three times over to sell shares in White Tiger Gold on the Toronto Stock Exchange explains. So why is the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a state development bank, betting on a small Australian-listed coking coal company in Chukotka called Tigers Realm Coal?

The feareasternmost province of Russia, Chukotka makes a good case for ample underground resources to be mined, so long as costs of digging and shipping to China stay low; and demand recovers. Perish the thought that Tigers Realm Coal is an insider manipulation with the aim of pumping the share price, then dumping the project by several names associated with such scheming in the past.
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NAVAL TIT-FOR-TAT – WHO REALLY WANTS WAR WITH RUSSIA?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

There is no word in the language of Australian soldiers or sailors for tit-for-tat.

American military strategists, the uniform and the armchair types, are much better acquainted. The latter understand exactly why a squadron of the Russian Pacific Fleet has sailed to a position within helicopter (and nuclear-armed missile) range of Brisbane, ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the G20 state summit over the weekend.
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US DECLARES WAR ON RUSSIA — AUSTRALIA THREATENS PRESIDENT PUTIN’S SECURITY AT G-20 SUMMIT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian Government is threatening the personal security of President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit, to be held in November. The state government of Queensland, where the summit meetings will be located, is threatening to attack Putin with public displays of homosexual symbols, including pink sequins.

The calculation is that Russia’s international isolation should be intensified, Putin evicted from the G-20, as he was in March from the G-8; reviled in his absence as justification for violent schemes to overthrow him. If Putin attends the Queensland meeting, the risk of the latter will be high. Fear for himself is what the Australians intend him to have.
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POPEYE PULLS PUTIN PUNCH — TOO LATE TO PREVENT KNOCK-OUT FOR AUSTRALIAN MEAT EXPORTS TO RUSSIA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian Government has decided not to exclude President Vladimir Putin from the summit meeting of the G-20 heads of government scheduled for Brisbane in November. The move to withdraw the entry ban, first declared on March 19, is too late to prevent the restoration of Australia’s $200 million beef export trade to Russia. According to importers in Moscow, the orders for that meat are now going to several South American countries. Imports of pork, veal and turkey from the US, banned by Russia for more than a year, have been revived.
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AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER EATS HORMONES, LOSES $200 MILLION AS MEAT EXPORTS TO RUSSIA BANNED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Australian meat imports to Russia have been banned by an order of the Russian veterinary and phyto-sanitary service, Rosselkhoznadzaor (RSN). The order was issued on March 31, and halts a trade which earned Australian meat exporters almost $200 million last year. The Russian action came twelve days after the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced that President Vladimir Putin may be banned from entering Australia to attend the G20 summit meeting, scheduled in Brisbane in November.

The RSN announced that it has found traces of a growth hormone or steroid called Trenbolone, first in chilled Australian beef, then in beef offal, and now in frozen beef. RSN official Alexei Alexeyenko said the comprehensive ban was imposed after RSN judged that certifications from the Australian government’s veterinary authorities could not be trusted. This followed negotiations between RSN and their Australian counterparts between December and February, and after the Australians had given fresh undertakings. According to Sergei Dankvert, the head of RSN, the Australians had promised to exclude from their exports to Russia meat with trenbolone traces, but this hasn’t happened.
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WHO SAYS GREENPEACE IS A SACRED COW? THE GLOBAL MEDIA, PRINT AND INTERNET, THAT’S WHO

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By John Helmer, Moscow

According to Colin Russell, an Australian who was the radioman on board the Greenpeace vessel, Arctic Sunrise, he’s “a good man”. Arrested by Russian coast guards after barricading himself in the radio room on September 19, he was imprisoned in Murmansk and St. Petersburg, until he was granted bail and released last Thursday, November 28. Russell claimed on his release: “I don’t understand the reasons why I’m being detained. It’s two months’ hard time for nothing. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The initial charges considered against Russell by Russian prosecutors were resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and piracy. The legal case for the piracy charge has been spelled out, not in the Russian courts, but in the federal US District Court and US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which covers the northern Pacific coast states and Alaska. If you want to understand why piracy may be charged against unarmed attackers of a vessel at sea, read this US ruling carefully.
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KANGAROO MEAT BAN TO SAVE DOMESTIC PORK PRODUCERS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The report last week of an abrupt ban on kangaroo imports to Russia, issued on July 25, concluded with the statement by Rosselkhoznadzor (RSN), the government’s veterinary and phytosanitary inspectorate, that there had been no phytosanitary problem with the meat, and that with guarantees RSN will negotiate with the Australian exporter, the ban might be lifted.

The Australian exporter, Macro Meats, has reacted with the hope that negotiations with RSN will achieve this outcome soon.
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RUSSIANS CAN’T TIE THEIR KANGAROO DOWN – VLADIVOSTOK SAUSAGES LOSE THEIR BOUNCE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia, the biggest market in the world for exports of Australian kangaroo meat, has thrown the trade into confusion by announcing that authorization for the exporter, Macro Meats of South Australia, has been suspended. According to a July 25 notice from Rosselkhoznadzor (RSN), the government’s veterinary and phytosanitary inspectorate, a container load of kangaroo meat was stopped when inspection found that it originated from a source other than the one licensed for import by RSN. Although RSN isn’t specific, the port is believed to have been Vladivostok, and the seizure about three weeks ago.

Most of the kangaroo meat landing in Russia goes into sausages fabricated and consumed in the Russian fareast. This has been because domestic beef and pork production in the region has been too small to fill the sausage skins, and kangaroo can be landed from Australia more cheaply than imported American, European or Chinese pork. To the south, in China, Australian kangaroo traders claim that choice, higher-cost fillets of the kangaroo are potentially in high demand.
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THE SNOWDEN DISCLOSURES — HOW THE GCHQ INTERCEPT SYSTEM EXPOSED A RUSSIAN TELEPHONE CALL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It has been known for a long time that the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been intercepting millions of Russian telephone calls, SMS texts and internet traffic, along with the communications of other target nationals, including Americans and the British themselves. Older eavesdropping operations, such as ECHELON, have been documented by European Parliament investigations. More recent operations, such as PRISM and TEMPORA, have been confirmed by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contract agent, Edward Snowden, whose disclosures substantiate the methodology of surveillance, the range of data produced, targeting, sorting, and purported value.

ECHELON snooped on satellite traffic; PRISM on internet data from server companies; and TEMPORA, a telephone surveillance operation, tapped international fibre-optic cables. The signal collection stations are in all sorts of places, including the US, Puerto Rico, Cyprus, Japan, Germany, Canada, UK, and Australia. The Snowden material is up to two years old; the operations he has documented date from about 2007.
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ROMAN ABRAMOVICH TESTS KREMLIN FOREIGN INVESTMENT STRICTURE WITH NEW BILLION-DOLLAR AUSTRALIAN DEAL

By John Helmer, Moscow

Roman Abramovich was recently able to bamboozle a British judge with no experience of Russia, when the credibility standard was set by Boris Berezovsky. But can his winsome personality persuade President Vladimir Putin and energy chief Igor Sechin that Russia badly needs to acquire an Australian company that has adapted Soviet technology for turning coal into gas; should lend Abramovich up to $2 billion to buy the asset; and maybe several hundred more million dollars to flip the asset to Evraz, the Russian steel and coalmining group which Abramovich’s holding, Millhouse, already controls?

Abramovich’s last attempt at spending a Russian dividend stream on foreign assets was aborted when Evraz withdrew its bid to buy Scaw Metals, a South African steelmaker owned by Anglo American. That deal, worth between $500 million and $700 million, didn’t happen at the same time as Victor Rashnikov was extricating Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine from its $560 million commitment to buy Flinders Mining, an Australian iron-ore project.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV ADVERTISES ANOTHER MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR IMPROBABILITY, THIS TIME A $3 BILLION TAKEOVER OF AUSTRALIA’S GRAINCORP

By John Helmer, Moscow

When he was last spotted at his own devices, Ziyavudin Magomedov announced on September 20 that some time in the next decade he and Gazprom intend to build a refinery to convert natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) in bunker form to power a Magomedov fleet of newly designed, newly launched ocean-going ships. Magomedov’s current fleet comprises mostly tugboats with antique power plants, employed for tanker escort at Novorossiysk and Primorsk ports; he has declined to explain where the new fleet would come from, or why. So the announcement appeared to be no more than an advertisement that, in the current scramble for state budget and state bank funds, Magomedov has a powerful ally.

He has now followed with a placement in Bloomberg that he is thinking of making a bid to buy Australia’s GrainCorp, and must beat the takeover bid already on the table from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) for A$2.77 billion (US$2.88 billion).
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THE RUSSIAN STEEL DOCTRINE — MORDASHOV PROMISES NOT DO TO WHAT RASHNIKOV, ABRAMOVICH ATTEMPTED IN AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AFRICA

By John Helmer, Moscow

The shrinking violet of English literature, Jane Austen (image top right), said it best: “Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.”

Alexei Mordashov (image centre) likes to think of the Business System he has introduced at his steel company Severstal as a sign of genius. He even spells the management method with capital BS, which is also the way managers speak of it.

In Severstal’s annual report for last year, the same thing is headlined “Transformational Thinking” (TT). Far from being transformational, the language in the annual report describing the BS is conventional share-price touting: “Among industry players, our Business System is unrivaled in terms of the extent of its integration and EBITDA contribution potential. The system aims to optimise company-wide operations, unify goals, create a strong corporate culture and improve KPIs ranging from profit to efficiency to health and safety targets.”
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SURPRISE TOY! – CHELYABINSK COURT DELAYS FLINDERS MINES CASE UNTIL AUGUST 1

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a closed-door hearing today at the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court, Judge Natalia Bulavintseva again refused to hear argument for and against the proposed half-billion dollar acquisition of an Australian iron-ore miner, Flinders Mines, by Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK). The court secretary Sergei Povalyaev said the judge ordered the hearing postponed for another month, until August 1. The reason, the source said, was to allow a “request for financial and economic expertise, which was filed by one of the parties.” Because of the closed door, he claimed he could not say whether MMK filed the delay-making request, or Flinders Mines, or the purported plaintiff in the action, MMK minority shareholder Elena Egorova.
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THE IRON CURTAIN DROPS ON FLINDERS MINES

By John Helmer, Moscow

Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) announced Thursday it will not agree to extend the time for its agreement to buy Flinders Mines, an Australian iron-ore miner, after the deal deadline or quit date expires tomorrow, June 30. “Magnitogorsk’s decision on its future actions regarding the agreement will be taken only when the results of the court hearings are known,” Kirill Golubkov, a spokesman for MMK, said.
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PENULTIMATE MESSAGE FROM VICTOR RASHNIKOV — WHEN WILL FLINDERS MINES UNDERSTAND?

By John Helmer, Moscow

A three-judge appeals court panel in Chelyabinsk this morning preserved the injunction against Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) completing its takeover of Australian iron-ore miner, Flinders Mines.

Today’s proceedings were a continuation of the May 30 hearing in Appeal Court no. 18 of the Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh Court, when Judge Galina Fedina, accompanied by judges Irina Sokolova and Svetlana Ershova, postponed consideration of parallel appeals submitted by MMK and Flinders Mines. Lawyers for the Australian company submitted additional materials on June 1, according to a notice on the court website.
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CHELYABINSK APPEAL COURT RULES FOR ANOTHER POSTPONEMENT, BUT A NEW RASHNIKOV MYSTERY IS IN THE WORKS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Judge Galina Fedina ruled this morning, after a brief, open hearing, that she is postponing until June 6 her consideration of the injunction against Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK) finalizing its takeover of Flinders Mines. The action was confirmed by the judge’s spokesman at the Chelyabinsk Court of Appeal no. 18, Olga Tige.

The court website reveals that yesterday the phantom shareholder and plaintiff in the case, Elena Egorova, filed two new motions which the judge conceded today she isn’t ready to consider. The website does not allow the motions themselves to be read.
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THE CHELYABINSK SHOWDOWN — RASHNIKOV CIRCUMNAVIGATES, EXITS AUSTRALIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

Captain Matthew Flinders was a late 18th century British Navy captain and one of the greatest explorer navigators of his time. His circumnavigation around the southern continent he called Australia also led to the naming of dozens of places by his name, along with a species of local citrus tree. He spent so much time at sea, and so little at home, he wrote a book about his shipboard companion which he entitled Trim, Being the True Story of a Brave Seafaring Cat.

Understandably, Flinders Mines (FMS) thought their hole in the ground in Western Australia should be named after the captain, though after their six-month brush with the Russians, Trim might have been more apt. Here’s the tale so far.
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FITCH ISSUES NEGATIVE OUTLOOK WARNING FOR MAGNITOGORSK – ANOTHER BLOW TO RASHNIKOV’S DEAL FOR FLINDERS MINES

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Fitch ratings agency today issued a warning that growing debt at Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), owned by Victor Rashnikov, is at a “higher level than previously expected”. With prices for MMK’s products falling, the company’s free cashflow is under pressure, the Fitch report claims, as it downgraded its outlook forecast for MMK from stable to negative. The agency said also that it has made no changes to MMK’s long-term and short-term issuer default ratings, which are BB+ and B, respectively. It may issue a downgrade of those, the agency adds, if the negative cashflow persists.

MMK’s version of the Fitch warning attempts a cosmetic makeover. That is as convincing to investors as French silicone is to breasts.
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RASHNIKOV REBUFFED – CHELYABINSK JUDGE REFUSES TO CLOSE DOOR ON FLINDERS MINES DEAL DETAILS, BUT SHE WON’T OPEN IT EITHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Whoever Elena Egorova may be, she and Victor Rashnikov, owner of Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine (MMK), share exactly the same desire for personal anonymity and business secrecy as the Chelyabinsk court case against MMK’s half-billion dollar purchase of an Australian iron-ore mining project reaches its climax later this month. This is their story so far.

If anyone imagined that MMK is a public shareholding company with conventional accountability and corporate governance standards for spending $9 billion in annual revenues and $16 billion in assets, the action by a purported shareholder, with a name, a share, and nothing else, to halt the offshore acquisition has exposed a total blackout of information by Rashnikov’s company, and the refusal of Rashnikov, with 86% of the company shares, to explain his decision-making to his co-shareholders. But from the court file released this week, it now appears the plaintiff shareholder is as keen as the defendant oligarch to keep the evidence and the proceedings secret.
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TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN — ANOTHER CHELYABINSK PUT-OFF FOR VICTOR RASHNIKOV’S MMK

By John Helmer, Moscow

Judge Natalia Bulavintseva ruled yesterday in Chelyabinsk Arbitrazh court that the hearing she had previously fixed for argument by lawyers on the substance of the case against Magnitogorsk Metallurgical Combine’s (MMK) purchase of Flinders Mines will be delayed for another month. Instead of April 25, this hearing has now been set for May 24.

On April 12, when ruling to dismiss a motion by MMK to lift her injunction against proceeding with the deal, Bulavintseva had written: “The validity of [the plaintiff’s] arguments (abuse of discretion) can be verified in court when considering the merits of the case… the court considers [these] issues that should be ascertained when considering the merits of the case.”
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SHEEP’S BALLS CAN BE DELICIOUS IF YOU ARE NOT A SHEEP – AUSTRALIA AND RUSSIA PUT THE BITE ON FIJI, WHERE OLEG DERIPASKA HAS A TENDER INTEREST

By John Helmer, Moscow

Eating sheep’s balls is an acquired taste, though if you’re from the Caucasus or Azerbaijan, the taste comes with your mother’s milk, so to speak. If you are an Australian politician, complaining in public that someone else is biting yours is an everyday thing.

Australia has always been sensitive below its belt, where the colonial and imperial powers – Great Britain, the United States, Japan (briefly), and China for the next millennium – like to keep a tight grip. The former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has a hands-on relationship with China, too – his brother Greg operates a fortune cookie business in Beijing. That hasn’t inhibited Kevin from promising Washington he is ready to go to war with China if the US Government thinks that’s a good thing.
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BANG! BANG! YOU’RE DEAD – BHP’S LATEST BLOW TO CHINA TO GALVANIZE THE MANGANESE MARKET

By John Helmer, Moscow

BHP Billiton (BHP), the world’s dominant producer of manganese, last week slashed the price of manganese for delivery to China, the world’s dominant consumer, by 14%, arousing the suspicion that the Big Australian is aiming to drive rival producers from the business, and when Chinese steelmaking is expected to revive next year, corner a larger share of the market. Ironically, the price action may also accelerate the exit of the Australian independent Consolidated Minerals from Australia, where costs are now close to the break-even level, towards African operations.
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MICHAEL WILSON BEATS MINE MOONLIGHTERS IN AUSTRALIAN HIGH COURT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Michael Wilson, a Kazakhstan-based lawyer specializing in mining and natural resources, has won a judgement from Australia’s highest court, reinstating a December 2009 award of more than $11 million. The five-year record of litigation has nailed three Australian lawyers — John Emmott, Robert Nicholls, and David Slater – for nicking clients, business, shares and profits from Wilson’s law firm MWP. According to the court rulings, the defendants secretly moonlighted to earn fees and share bonuses for transactions involving several major Kazakh resource projects — Sunkar Resources’s Chilisai phosphate project; Frontier Mining’s Benkala copper project; Roxi Petroleum; Max Petroleum; two other Central Asian mining projects, Urals Gold and Ablai; and four projects tied to these and other operators in the same region — Karamandybas (oil and gas), Ravninnoye (oil), Beibars Munai (oil), Lancaster, and Kangamiut (seafoods).
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

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THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  

With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age,  after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.

After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster  history to be her own joke.

Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself.   This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.  

In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English:  the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.  

The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British.  Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating.   The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin Blue Line (d. 1996).

The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful  Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion),  Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok)  are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences.  The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.

Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money.  “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its  controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.  

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.

The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.

Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first  Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.   

China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years.  The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).

A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester,  he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018,  claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.

Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly   by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”  

Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.  

After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.

The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.” 

Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.   

New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.

Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes,  it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the  evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to  cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.

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