RUSSIA CAN, THE UNITED STATES CAN’T CUT THE ICE

By Alexei Anpilogov, Moscow*
  @bears_with

A unique icebreaker will create a new geopolitical reality for Russia.
Russia has large-scale plans in the Arctic – and the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreakers will ensure Russia’s presence in this crucial region. Three icebreakers of the LK-120YA Leader project will be built according to the strategy for the development of the Arctic zone until 2035 approved by the President of the Russian Federation. What is unique about this ship and what tasks will it solve?

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SERGEI FRANK LOSES HIS FOOTING AT STATE TANKER COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Sergei Frank (lead image, right) is being removed from control of Sovcomflot, the Russian state tanker company and one of the largest oil and gas transporters in the world.  Frank is the only senior Russian state official to have been judged by the British courts to be dishonest and vindictive in litigation; to have perjured himself in courtroom testimony; and to have obstructed justice by a scheme of evidence fabrication against former Sovcomflot executives and partners.

Frank’s removal has yet to be confirmed officially; Sovcomflot is making no comments. The chief executive who has dominated the company for almost fifteen years appeared to be fully in charge at the July 24 board meeting. (more…)

SANCTION FOR SERGEI FRANK – UK APPEALS COURT APPROVES $75 MILLION PENALTY FOR FAILURE OF 12-YEAR VENDETTA LAWSUIT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Frank, a former federal transport minister and chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot since 2004, is unique among Russian state officials. He is the only one to have been adjudicated by a series of UK judges to have lied, been dishonest in evidence-gathering, and vindictive in his use of the courts against business rivals. 

This week in London, in a unanimous ruling by three judges of the Court of Appeal, Frank has been judged to have foolishly postponed the day of reckoning by unjustified criticism of his judges, and ordered to pay $75 million to a UK-based Russian shipowner. This puts an end to the 12-year vendetta which Frank has waged over allegations which this week’s ruling says were properly “dismissed because the transactions were not dishonest or in breach of trust”.

Frank is also unique among Russian state officials. Despite all the judgements against him, and the millions of dollars of penalties for his misjudgements which Sovcomflot has had to pay, he hasn’t been sacked. Not yet. (more…)

SERGEI FRANK ARRANGES PHANTOM PRIVATIZATION FOR STATE SHIPPING COMPANY SOVCOMFLOT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sovcomflot, the wholly state owned shipping company, is to be privatized by the sale of 25% less one share on the Moscow stock exchange, the Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said at the Sochi investment forum this week. The announcement, decided last month in the government’s privatization plan for 2017,  was made in an aside to reporters,  and Oreshkin allowed no questions.

After fifteen years of attempts to sell and list Sovcomflot shares on international stock exchanges, the reversion to Moscow is an immediate blow to the government’s plans, and to the management role of Sovcomflot’s chief executive, Sergei Frank (lead image, lower left). In the longer term, Russian shipping insiders believe, it is a potential opportunity for a personal takeover by Kremlin favourite and the dominant oil transportation oligarch, Gennady Timchenko (lower right). According to Moscow newspaper reports,  Oreshkin’s ministry has decided to sell another 50% stake in Sovcomflot by the year 2019, retaining for the state just 25% plus one share. Frank himself has been attempting a state-financed management buyout, and the state controlled oil company Surgutneftegas is also a contender. Read more

The company, whose Soviet-era name means “Modern Commercial Fleet”, has failed to secure western underwriters and approval from stock market regulators in London, New York, and elsewhere, for an open-market listing. Instead, the Russian state treasury is to collect the privatization cash target of Rb24 billion (currently $414 million) from a scheme financed by the Central Bank and state banks, Sberbank and VTB. “This is fake news,” commented a Moscow shipping insider.” Just like last year’s Rosneft share sale.”  (more…)

BLACK SEA BUZZ – THE US NAVY WAITS FOUR DAYS, THEN SENDS SOS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

By John Helmer, Moscow

The US nuclear-armed missile destroyer, USS Porter, was steaming full-speed across the Black Sea in the direction of the Russian coastline, its Tomahawk firing radars activated, when a Russian airborne signals reconnaissance aircraft and three SU-24 fighter-bombers arrived in three waves. The US European Command headquarters in Stuttgart announced that the incidents had occurred on Tuesday, February 14, calling the Russian flights “unsafe and unprofessional”, putting the vessel and the militaries of the US and Russia at risk of “accident or miscalculation.”  The Pentagon repeated the exact words after daylight broke on the same day in Washington. But that was four days after the incidents had  actually taken place on Friday, February 10. The Russian Defense Ministry replied in the Moscow evening of February 14 that there “were no incidents”.

The release this week of news, or no news, or fake news has occurred on the eve of Thursday’s  meeting between the US and Russian chiefs of the General Staffs, General Joseph Dunford and General Valery Gerasimov.  Dunford, a Marine Corps officer, was appointed to the Pentagon post, the most senior ranking uniform officer under  Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump, by former President Barack Obama on October 1, 2015. Dunford’s 2-year term runs out in eight months’ time.  A statement from Dunford’s office, issued yesterday,  claims the meeting, to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, “will discuss a variety of issues, including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations and the importance of consistent and clear military-to-military communication to prevent miscalculation and potential crises.”

Moscow sources in a position to know believe the US military was either exaggerating, or faking, last week’s incidents around the USS Porter – Destroyer Designated Guided, DDG-78 is its fleet number — in order to put pressure on President Trump’s readiness to relax the US policy of all-fronts confrontation with the Kremlin. (more…)

FINALE OF THE SOVCOMPLOT – UK JUDGE DISMISSES APPEAL AGAINST $72 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS; REJECTS RUSSIAN BANK SURETY; ORDERS IMMEDIATE CASH DOWN-PAYMENT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

 It’s the job of the Dorchester doorman to know his hotel guests’ sins; cater to them discreetly; but  keep them under his top-hat, forever secret.

During more than a decade of Sergei Frank’s trips to London to direct High Court litigations against the men he succeeded at Sovcomflot, the Russian state shipping company, he could count on the discretion of the hotel doorman.  After the final ruling came down on Thursday, Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot (lead image, right), can’t be sure that his humiliation by more than a dozen British judges will not now make him a laughingstock.

In a new 4-page judgement , Frank’s appeal against $72 million in compensation and costs to be paid to Sovcomflot’s ex-shipping partner, Yury Nikitin, has been dismissed, and he has been ordered to start paying immediately, with a down-payment of £1 million.

“There is no doubt,” ruled Sir Stephen Males, the presiding judge, “that, overall, the defendants [Nikitin’s companies] were the successful party. They obtained a judgment for US $59.8 million on the inquiry.” More than that, according to Males, the award of the costs of litigating should be paid to Nikitin, plus interest on further delays the shipping company takes. Not to do so, according to the judgement, “would fail to recognise the overall success which the defendants achieved.” (more…)

US LIFTS KREMLIN CAPITAL BLOCKADE — SOVCOMFLOT FLOATS $750 MILLION BOND, US BANKS SUBMERGE TIMCHENKO TAKEOVER RISK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian state bond for $750 million is such an obvious target, European bankers are asking why didn’t US government warfighters against Russia shoot down last month’s Sovcomflot issue. This followed by just four weeks the campaign by the US Treasury to stop US investment banks and the international security clearance companies, Euroclear and Clearstream, from trading the bond issued in May by Russian state bank, VTB.

Sovcomflot, Russia’s state-owned shipping company and one of the world largest oil tanker groups, successfully placed $750 million in 7-year bonds at 5.375% on June 23 . VTB and Sberbank were the Russian underwriters, J P Morgan and Citigroup were the American bank underwriters. Sovcomflot’s prospectus confirms its bond has been cleared to trade with all three global clearance agencies — Depository Trust Company (DTC) of New York, Euroclear of Brussels, and Clearstream of Luxemburg. Says a London bond trader: “The DTC is dominated by Citi, Morgan Stanley and J P Morgan. Euroclear is owned by J P Morgan. These Americans can hardly be sanctions busters unless the US Treasury has all of sudden decided to go soft on the Russian oil and gas business, and on Russians who have been on the sanctions lists for two years. Is the war petering out, like the Obama Administration?”
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RUSSIA FIRES MOON SHOT OVER THE BOSPHORUS – TURKS THREATEN WAR

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It isn’t exactly certain what the Turkish military saw on a foredeck deck of the Russian Navy’s landing ship, Caesar Kunikov, as it passed through the Bosphorus Strait last Sunday. What is certain is that the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared the Russians had launched “a pure provocation” at Turkey, and that the Turks would react with matching force. “The necessary answer will be given in situations deemed to be a threat,” announced Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has been foreign minister for 12 days.

Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, identified the source of its photograph as the Twitter account of “photographer Emre Dağdeviren”. The photograph has disappeared from that source, if it ever was there.

The London media also went on the attack. The Guardian published a photograph, but the caption, “Photograph: None”, failed to identify the source or the authenticity. The Financial Times reported its Istanbul correspondent as saying it was “a particularly chilling incident.” With more caution, Reuters claimed that the Turkish television channel NTV “broadcast photographs that it said showed a serviceman brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck”. Reuters wasn’t sure what had happened, or whether the photographs had been fabricated; but the Reuters headline declared “Turkey [was] angered by by rocket-brandishing on Russian naval ship passing Istanbul.”
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OLD MASTERS — YURY TRUTNEV OFFERS RUSSIAN ART COLLECTORS SAFE HARBOUR IN VLADIVOSTOK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Yury Trutnev, the Kremlin’s special representative for the Russian Fareast, has come up with a scheme, starting this month, for storing the world’s most valuable art works in Vladivostok, one of the world’s smallest art markets, with the personal backing of President Vladimir Putin; and on the advice of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the art-collecting oligarch exiled to Switzerland and Monaco, who is charging Yves Bouvier, the French operator of comparable art storage schemes in Europe, with multimillion dollar art fraud.

This tale was published in Mediapart, a French internet publication, on October 11. It was translated into Russian and published two days later. Not a shred of evidence has since been found to substantiate it. Desperation measures then, but for whose benefit?
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CYPRUS IS MORE IMPORTANT TO RUSSIA THAN GREECE, BUT NOT THIS IMPORTANT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades agreed last week with President Vladimir Putin on what is reported in London and Washington to be a military basing agreement with Russia for Russia’s naval and air forces in the Mediterranean. In the aftermath, Putin did all the talking to the press, making it clear, if not explicit, that in current Russian strategy, Cyprus is far more important than Greece.

Returning home to Cyprus on the weekend, Anastasiades has disclosed no papers with his signature, assuring his party supporters – among them, the anti-Russian voter bloc on the island – that so far as military terms are concerned, he has signed nothing new. The Cyprus Mail, an anti-Russian newspaper, called Anastasiades’s trip to the Kremlin a “fizzle”. A source close to the Cyprus presidency comments that the idea of a Russian base agreement in Cyprus “is agitprop. It’s all a lot of bull.”
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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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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES ANOTHER UK COURT APPEAL, LOSES COSTS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Court of Appeal has issued a ruling to deny the Sovcomflot group and its Novoship subsidiary the right to appeal a corruption judgement to the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts. The judgement puts an end to nine years of attempts by Sovcomflot group chief executive Sergei Frank and Russian government officials to have the British courts convict Yury Nikitin, their former chartering partner, of bribery and corrupt profiteering in the business of shipping oil.
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UK COURT OF APPEAL SPRINGS SURPRISE ON SERGEI FRANK IN THE SOVCOMFLOT SAGA — YURY NIKITIN KEEPS $169.4 MILLION IN PROFITS, PURSUES $180 MILLION COUNTER CLAIM

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a unanimous three-judge ruling issued on Friday, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected a claim from Novoship, the state shipping company which is part of the Sovcomflot group, for recovery of more than $243 million in profits and interest. Novoship had claimed the money was earned corruptly by vessel charterer, Yury Nikitin. The court upheld Nikitin’s appeal, overruling a High Court judgement of December 2012, and decided that Nikitin’s profits had been earned honestly.

In a judgement written for the appellate court by Lord Justice Sir Andrew Longmore, the court upheld an order for Nikitin to pay $410,304.39. That amount, Nikitin’s lawyers say, had been offered at the start of the court case, but refused. According to Mike Lax, Nikitin’s solicitor, “as soon as Novoship alleged that the money was tainted, Mr Nikitin offered to repay it, even though he did know the background. We made a Part 36 offer to this effect at the commencement of the litigation which was not accepted by Novoship. Since Novoship have done no better than the offer we made from the outset, it is likely that Novoship will also have to pay most of our costs and their own costs of the litigation.”
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US NAVY’S BLACK SEA ALLY-REASSURANCE OPERATION RUNS OUT OF STEAM ONCE A WEEK

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Navy’s current Russia containment tactic in the Black Sea has been unable to negotiate refuelling from naval or civilian fuel tankers while under way at sea, and requires port calls for fuel every seven days. The Navy has announced that its missile cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, put into the Bulgarian port of Varna on May 30. The vessel entered the Black Sea, 180 nautical miles to the south, on May 23. The illustration from the bridge of the Vella Gulf as it approached Varna is a US Navy photograph by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Edward Guttierrez III For the delay of the Vella Gulf in reaching the Black Sea, click.

According to the US Navy press release, Vella Gulf’s presence in Bulgaria reaffirms the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners, while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region. While in Bulgaria, the Navy says the Vella Gulf crew will participate “in community relations events at the Bulgarian Naval Academy and a local orphanage, visit the Bulgarian Naval Museum and tour the historic city of Varna.”
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FOOTNOTE: USS VELLA GULF IS OVERDUE AT THE BLACK SEA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The USS Vella Gulf is the latest US Navy warship to be deployed in what Washington is calling its “mission to reassure NATO allies and Black Sea partners of America’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working towards mutual goals in the region… It demonstrates our commitment to our … allies to enhance security, readiness and capabilities.”
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US NAVY IN BLACK SEA ENGAGEMENTS FOR AS LONG AS FUEL HOLDS OUT — MAYBE RUSSIAN FUEL

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The latest but one in the US Navy deployments to the Black Sea ended on Monday when the frigate, USS Taylor, sailed south through the Bosphorus Straits. Three days before on May 9 the cruiser, USS Vella Gulf, had been reported as due to steam north through the straits and into the Black Sea. According to the US Navy spokesman in Washington on May 13, it is now under way in the eastern Mediterranean, destination undisclosed.

For its return voyage to the Mediterranean the Taylor had stopped at the Georgian port of Batumi, and was refuelled there. According to the bunker supplier, Marine Supply & Service, “generally, physical bunker supply by tankers is not available in Georgian ports since beginning of 2013. Vessels arriving to Georgian ports are supplied with MGO (Marine Gasoil) by tank trucks, while IFO (Fuel oil) delivery still does not exist.”
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US SENDS USS TAYLOR ON REASSURANCE CRUISE AGAINST RUSSIA — DOWN-GUNNED, NEW PROPELLER, INTERIM CAPTAIN

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The US Navy has announced that it has called back its frigate, USS Taylor, from the Souda Bay repair dock in Crete, and ordered her into the Black Sea from April 22. The Navy announcement says the mission is a routine one “consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law. Taylor’s mission is to reassure NATO allies of the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen and improve interoperability while working toward mutual goals in the region.”
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GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY, ROUND-2 — USS DONALD COOK GIVES ODESSA A MISS, SAILS SOUTHEAST

gunboat_duck

By John Helmer, Moscow

On Thursday President Vladimir Putin described NATO missile batteries aimed at Russia’s Black Sea coastline as threatening the nuclear defences of southwestern Russia. It was the first time the president or Russian defence officials have put Crimea into Russian strategic survival doctrine. US Navy deployment in the Black Sea of ships armed with Aegis missiles is one of the concrete threats Putin was referring to. This has made the current Black Sea cruise of the USS Donald Cook, an Aegis-armed destroyer, of special importance. It is the reason a Russian military aircraft buzzed the Cook as it steamed towards Constanta port, in Romania.

It is also the reason why, as Putin was speaking in Moscow, the Cook pulled away from the Constanta dock, setting a course to the southeast from Constanta towards Georgia and Turkey, and not a northward course towards Odessa. In that Ukrainian port, public demonstrations against a port call by the Cook have been under way for several days.
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FIVE STEPS TO UNCOVER CORRUPTION AT UNITED SHIPBUILDING WHEN ROMAN TROTSENKO WAS IN CHARGE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

From the affairs of the state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), once chaired by Igor Sechin and run by his protégé Roman Trotsenko, much of significance flows, if not a great many new ships. And if it weren’t for the significance of those two names, not much would follow from the case of Ilya Novoselsky, until recently chief lawyer for USC, and now under arrest in St. Petersburg on charges of abuse of authority and fraud.

For the time being and for that reason, he is incommunicado. So too is Trotsenko (image below). Rosneft, which Sechin has headed since 2011, confirms that “at the moment Trotsenko leads Rosneft Overseas SA.” This entity is registered in Switzerland and maintains an office in Geneva. Trotsenko and a Swiss lawyer named Daniel Richard are the signatories; Richard’s daytime job is at the Geneva law firm of Python & Peter.
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GHOST ATTACK ON CRIMEA — THE FINANCIAL TIMES REPORTS THREAT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY INTERVENTION, BUT FAILS TO DETECT US NAVAL OPERATION

ghost_attack

By John Helmer, Moscow

A Russian declaration of war and the despatch of troops to secure the Crimea would be very serious things, if they materialized.

The Financial Times reporter, Kathrin Hille (image), is the only person in the entire world who claims to have been told by “a senior government official”: “If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war. They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.” Hille not only keeps the name, rank and authority of this official secret, but she refuses to provide evidence to substantiate that the official exists and said the quoted words with the meaning Hille’s newspaper claimed in its story headline: “Russia rattles sabre over fate of Crimea”. Hille’s claim that a Russian government threat was issued last week to move forces into Crimea appears to be a fabrication.
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ZIYAVUDIN MAGOMEDOV TO IGOR SECHIN, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? ROTTERDAM OIL TERMINAL TO ROSNEFT FOR THE ASKING

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If Ziyavudin Magomedov hadn’t persuaded a Moscow business newspaper to report yesterday that he is in negotiations with Rosneft, world’s largest publicly traded oil producer, the news that Vitol, world’s largest oil trader, has abandoned a 3-year old venture to build a new Rotterdam oil terminal with Magomedov would have been bad news indeed. Magomedov has a knack for exaggerated deal releases, though, and the Rotterdam press coverage of the latest episode makes this one look worse for Magomedov than if he had said nothing at all. Who in their right mind broadcasts that he has asked Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, for money until after Sechin has said yes.

In Magomedov’s case, an appeal to Sechin also means that not even the financier of Magomedov’s last resort, David Bonderman of US-based TPG Group, is willing to put up his dime.
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VICTOR PINCHUK’S INTERPIPE DEFAULTS AGAIN — IT’S A WRAP!

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Interpipe, the heavily indebted Ukrainian pipemaker owned by Victor Pinchuk (left foreground), has defaulted on its pledge to list its Eurobonds on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange by December 27, a notice from Deutsche Bank, the bond trustee, has revealed. This is Pinchuk’s second default in two months. On November 1, Interpipe announced it was unable to pay its international banks $106 million due on at least half a billion dollars in loans.

According to the latest disclosure, Deutsche Bank now has the authority to call for repayment of the face value of the Interpipe bonds plus interest. Interpipe’s last financial report indicates that as of December 31, 2012, the sum owing would be more than $198 million. A repayment call would also trigger repayment demands from Interpipe’s international banks and the Italian export agency SACE. The banks, led by ING of the Netherlands, Commerzbank of Germany, and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), are owed more than $543 million; SACE, $156 million.
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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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THE SNOWBALL EFFECT — GREENPEACE DEFEATED AT HAMBURG TRIBUNAL, DISSENTING JUDGEMENTS AND US COURT ORDERS SUPPRESSED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

By releasing on bail all but one of thirty Greenpeace protesters charged for an attack on the offshore Russian oil platform Prirazlomnaya in September, Russian prosecutors and a St. Petersburg court have pre-empted and defeated Greenpeace and the Dutch Government.

Greenpeace and the Dutch had applied for “provisional measures” from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg. Their demand was for the release from arrest and prison, and for permission to leave Russia altogether, for the 30 protesters, including three of them who are Russian citizens. The demand also included the release of the Arctic Sunrise, the converted icebreaker which Greenpeace has been operating this year in the Barents Sea and Pechora Sea, above the Arctic Circle. The Russian government has preempted the vessel release by issuing guarantees of the state icebreaker fleet company which owns the berth at which the Arctic Sunrise is moored; and of the Coast Guard division of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is guarding it.
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SOVCOMFLOT STILL IN THE RED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia’s state-owned tanker company Sovcomflot has reported third-quarter and nine-month financial results showing that it continues to lose fleet operating revenues and run at a loss. In the nine months to September 30, the company says its time-charter equivalent (TCE) revenues were $657.2 million, down 1.6% on the same period of last year. Fleet operating costs were up by 7% to $284 million, primarily because of a jump in charter hire payments. On the bottom line, Sovcomflot says it ran a 9-month loss of $8.6 million; a year ago it was in the black at $42.5 million.
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RUSSIA’S PIRACY POLICY — CATCH, MAROON, SAIL AWAY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

While the Greenpeace organization has been drawing worldwide attention to pending charges of a pirate attack against the Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea, Russian prosecutors and the Russian Navy reveal they have abandoned the prosecution of piracy threatening Russian vessels in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa.

Article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code defines piracy as an “assault on a seagoing ship or a river boat with the aim of capturing other people’s property, committed with the use of violence or with the threat of its use”. The penalty for a conviction on one count is prison for between five and ten years. Repeated acts of the same type “with the use of arms or objects used as arms”, according to section 2, draws a penalty of 8 to 12 years. If pirate acts are organized by groups the sentence grows from 10 to 15 years.
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LEAKED LETTER REVEALS SOVCOMFLOT DROPPED ITS CASE AGAINST CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA IN MOSCOW IN 2011, BUT KEPT ATTACKING HIM IN THE LONDON COURTS FOR THREE MORE YEARS — AND KEEPS ATTACKING IN MOSCOW

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By John Helmer, Moscow

New evidence has surfaced from the Russian state shipping company Sovcomflot showing that the current chief executive Sergei Frank ordered the company’s lawyers to continue their attempts to prosecute his predecessor Dmitry Skarga in the London and Moscow courts, while telling the General Prosecutor in Moscow they were dropping their case against him.

Last week Frank’s eight-year campaign against Skarga came to an end when the Supreme Court, the highest of the English courts, dismissed Sovcomflot’s application to appeal against two High Court judgements and one Court of Appeal judgement, all exonerating Skarga of Sovcomflot’s allegations, and requiring Sovcomflot to pay more than £8 million ($13 million) in compensation of his costs. The latest episode of that story was reported here.
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES FINAL APPEAL IN LONDON CASE AGAINST FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE DMITRY SKARGA

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court of appeal, has dismissed an application from Sovcomflot, the state-owned Russian shipping group, to appeal against earlier judgements in favour of former chief executive, Dmitry Skarga (right). A three-judge panel issued its ruling on October 29, saying Sovcomflot’s application “does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance…bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal.”
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NOT SO JOLLY GIANT — RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR PONDERS GREENLAND GREENPEACE PROSECUTION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Greenland government is about to open court proceedings against Greenpeace for attempts to occupy an offshore oil rig two years ago, the chief police prosecutor in Nuuk, Morten Nielsen, has disclosed. Russian sources say that Gazpromneft or parent Gazprom may be considering a similar move. These legal actions are targeted at Greenpeace as an organization. Until now, only individual members of Greenpeace have been prosecuted – in 2010 and 2011 cases in Greenland, when altogether 24 individuals were arrested, jailed, convicted and fined; and in proceedings now under way in Murmansk for 30 Greenpeace members; they are currently in prison awaiting trial on Russian charges for an attempt to board the Gazpromneft oil platform Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea, on September 18.

Their vessel, the 38-year old motor yacht Arctic Sunrise, registered in The Netherlands, is under arrest in Murmansk port. For details of its position, see here.
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RUSSIA DOESN’T FORGIVE THEM THEIR TRESPASSES, AND NEITHER DID DENMARK AND GREENLAND WHEN GREENPEACE TRIED THE SAME OIL RIG OCCUPATION TACTIC THREE YEARS AGO — RUSSIA FOLLOWS GREENLAND LEAD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

“Greenpeace has broken the safety zone. Greenpeace activists have forced their entry into the drilling rig. This constitutes an obvious illegal act that disregards the democratic rules. It furthermore constitutes a severe violation of the safety regulations put in place to protect human lives and the environment. The Greenpeace action [is] a very grave and illegal attack on constitutional rights. It is highly disturbing that Greenpeace in its chase for media attention with all measures breaks the safety regulations put in place to protect people and the environment.”

If that sounds like a statement issued by the Murmansk prosecutor, the Investigative Committee of the General Prosecutor, Gazpromneft, or the Kremlin, you’d be mistaken. In fact it’s a statement by Kuupik Kleist, premier of Greenland, after his police had arrested a Greenpeace group which had attempted to occupy an oil drilling rig off the coast of Greenland. The date was more than three years ago, on August 31, 2010. The Greenland prosecutor also arrested a helicopter Greenpeace had hired to drop its members on to the rig, which was operated by Cairn Energy.
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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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KILLING IS CHEAPER — THE US ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND WEAPONIZES TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, TELEGRAM

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.

The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory.  The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.

“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”

“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”

The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image).   McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.

Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.

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MARIA YUDINA OUT OF THE DARK – THE RUSSIAN CLASSICAL PIANIST PLAYS AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.

In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.

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