By John Helmer in Moscow
Ronald Knox’s “ten commandments” that summarize all stories in the detective genre were published in 1929. Here they are:
1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.
2. All supernatural or praeternatural phenomena are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective himself must not commit the crime.
8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Seventy years later, Knox’s No. 3 and 6 remain the recommended guide to understanding the Russian business news of the day. Take these three breaking stories, for example:
1. Gazprom’s major new supply route for natural gas to western Europe, the Nord Stream pipeline from Vyborg, at St. Petersburg, to Lubmin, Germany, has been given the go-ahead by Sweden yesterday, which announced approval for laying a 506-km section in Sweden’s Baltic Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Denmark issued its EEZ approval last month, and Finland has done so with a condition to be met shortly. Sweden was one of the last countries to have taken a tough stance on environmental safeguards for the project, which is planned to deliver 28 billion cubic metres of gas lifted at Arctic fields to a hub in Germany, and from there to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Gazprom has reported that the South Russkoye field, the supply base for Nord Stream, has recently reached peak production of 25 bcm per year, well ahead of schedule.
2. Deputy Prime Prime Minister Igor Sechin, a critic of Gazprom’s management practices, has cast the deciding vote as chairman of the board of the state electricity utility, Inter RAO, to prefer Novatek, the domestic rival to Gazprom, for supplies of gas for Russia’s domestic power stations between 2010 and 2015. Novatek’s shareholding is controlled by Gennady Timchenko and Leonid Mikhelson. Novatek sources explain that because Gazprom is also a stakeholder in Novatek, and thus a related party, Novatek’s charter and bylaws require that the shareholders vote on whether to approve or reject the new contract. If the Novatek shareholders accept the board proposal in balloting due to conclude at a board meeting on November 24, Novatek will supply 65 bcm over the contract period, 13 bcm per annum; Gazprom, none. The proposed volume of gas represents more than 40% of Novatek’s annual production at the current rate. For Gazprom, it represents about 5% of last year’s production. Because the present Gazprom contract period runs to 2012, and the new one starts next year, Inter RAO has reportedly sent a notice of early contract termination to Gazprom. Gazprom headquarters declined to comment, and referred to the affiliated company, Mezhregiongaz, which asked for a written request, and then said it refuses to comment. Inter RAO’s spokesman Boris Zverev refused to say whether the selection of Novatek, and the cancellation of the Gazprom contract, have been cleared by President Dmitry Medvedev’s staff. Before he became president, Medvedev was chairman of the Gazprom board.
3. A squad of armed and masked riot police accompanied Ministry of Interior investigators on to the premises of the Bulgarian Industry Centre in Moscow on Thursday, according to Russian press reports, which have been confirmed by Bulgarian government sources. The police operation began at 8 in the morning, Thursday, when the police squad announced they were investigating the Bulgarian company, Millennium 2001, and its Bulgarian chief executive, Nikolai Nikolov, on suspicion of manufacture of counterfeit CDs, and illegal distribution and sale. Diplomats from the Bulgarian embassy were called, and they requested a delay until Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, was notified in Sofia. Borisov then issued permission for the Russian search, which took place at 5 pm. Bulgarian government officials deny the investigators’ claim that the search of the premises had been sanctioned by the Russian Foreign Ministry on the ground that commercial premises cannot enjoy extraterritorial coverage by the Bulgarian government, nor diplomatic immunity. The Bulgarian sources acknowledge there has been a sharp deterioration in their relationship with the Russian government over policy disputes, oil and gas contracts, and a nuclear reactor supply tender over recent weeks. The two governments are scheduled to meet at the prime minister’s level in a month’s time. Bulgarian sources say Borisov had agreed that if there were grounds for investigating criminal activity by Nikolov, the Russian investigation was warranted. However, sources speaking for the prime minister say there was, nonetheless, a Russian infringement of Bulgaria’s territorial status; and that the police seach violated the diplomatic immunity of the offices searched, and the persons present.
Note: The double in the photograph from 1936 complies with Knox No. 10, because they don’t last for long. With Stalin in the photograph from 1936, was Georgi Dimitrov, the Bulgarian Communist leader. Dimitrov died suddenly at a Moscow sanitorium in 1949. Although poisoning has been suspected, Knox’s No. 4 applies.