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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Fridman (lead image, left) and Pyotr (Peter) Aven (right) have launched an effort to persuade high Russian and American government officials that they are in the process of selling their Russian bank,  and also that they are not doing anything of the kind.  

Uncharacteristically clumsy of them is the assessment of Russian sources. “Fridman has been trying to sell Alfa Bank for a long time,” one source says, “but can’t get his price. He has gone public this time after Alfa Bank officials got the message that someone important in Moscow is offended that he was not involved in the deal.”

“It’s quite risky to signal that a bank is up for sale,” comments another Russian source, a veteran of the Central Bank of Russia.  “Even for a strong name this can shatter confidence and trigger an outflow of deposits as a result. Depositors and other customers would ask themselves — why is the owner willing to sell? Maybe, bank customers will ask, the owner knows something about the bank others do not?  For a bank owner, such a risk may not be worth taking just for the sake of demonstrating something to somebody.”

A US source says that Fridman has been advertising “for a long time that he is Lviv-born, Ukrainian and Jewish by culture, and shouldn’t be sanctioned for Russian business he’s trying to get rid of. The latest press leaks were addressed to Washington to combat the bad press and sanctions threats Fridman is afraid of.”

“In light of recent media reports alleging some negotiations on the sale of Alfa Group’s banking assets,” an Alfa Bank press notice announced on Wednesday in Moscow: “this information bears no relation to reality. We categorically deny these rumors and the fact of any negotiations. No discussions of the kind have been or are being conducted with the market players.”

The Russian and US sources believe the phrases “no relation to reality” and “the fact of any negotiations” are untrue. The discussions already held have been with Russian state banks, so the phrase “market players” is misleading. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

One of the leading war strategists in London, professor to general staff officers and warfighters on both sides of the Atlantic, has lost his brain to an advanced cyber technology designed by the American and British military to win wars by frightening their adversaries into capitulation for fear of being destroyed. The new weapon appears to have backfired because it has destroyed the British strategist’s capability to take seriously what his enemy is thinking. The calculation required for fighting has been lost because the strategist has self-destructed.

Sir Lawrence Freedman (lead images) is the victim of this warp weapon; the evidence is the new book he published a few weeks ago. It’s called The Future of War, A History,  “In his new book,” according to a British intelligence veteran, “Freedman repeated everything we and the Americans, especially the Americans, have given him over the years.  But the outcome is what we might call an overdose of Novischlock.” (more…)

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By Christopher Black, Toronto

“It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

So read an editorial in the Global Times of China on December 6, the day after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei was taken hostage by the Canadian and American governments on December 1. The daughter of the founder of China’s largest telecommunications company was arbitrarily arrested and detained by Canadian police in Vancouver in transit between planes on December 1 on the pretext of a US extradition request.

The arrest has shocked and angered China while in Canada the large Chinese population must wonder how safe they are.

The background to the arrest is fairly simple. Huawei has become a global competitor in the global telephone market and their 5G phones are cutting-edge technology and so not welcomed by competing phone companies in the US, Japan, South Korea, France, and Sweden; they are so afraid of the competition that they and their governments have spread stories that the phones are loaded with spyware and are “a danger to national security.” The company has even been threatened by the US and allied governments with criminal charges in America’s increasingly hostile economic war against China,  alongside its increasing military pressure, provocations and insults. It’s one way to control the market. But now, acting as a mafia they have kidnapped, detained, and hold hostage a Chinese woman whose simple crime is going to work every day. The lack of outcry from women’s rights groups in the west is,  not surprisingly, deafening. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Please recognize, if not in yourselves then in others, that there is pleasure in hating.

“The pleasure of hating”,  William Hazlitt, an English writer  of two hundred years ago*, compared this to what the British Prime Minister of today calls a novichok – “a poisonous mineral, [which] eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others.”

If not stopped in politics,   this pleasure of hating leads with certainty to violence and war.  The pleasure of hating Russia and Russians is what today is driving the United States to putting all of Europe in war. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

One side of a well-used coin is the maxim that truth is the first casualty of war. The other side of the coin is that lying is the first weapon of war. According to the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, that’s because all warfare is based on deception. He meant that lying – propaganda, camouflage, false flags, disinformation, infowar, cyber war — is a precondition for winning battles at least, if not wars. As the US military learned since Vietnam, lying is no guarantee of winning.

In this valuable compendium of research on how the US war on Ukraine started in 2014, and why, Kees van der Pijl, a Dutch professor who has taught in England since 2000, spells out his case that the destruction of Ukraine, like the shooting-down of MH17, is the means to a bigger strategic end. “Just as Gorbachev was forced to sign the act of capitulation in 1991,” van der Pijl argues, “the current Western campaign against’Putin’ aims at a complete surrender of Russia; that is, pro-Western regime change in Moscow – a process which the Trump presidency has effectively been compelled to continue.”

Even if that’s a war the US can’t win or will lose, van der Pijl’s conclusion is there’s no stopping the war now. Certainly, truth-telling won’t do the trick because “there are no instances of the United States withdrawing from a warlike posture.”

The first remarkable thing about the book is that it has been published at all. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The semi-annual sale of Russian art works in London last week produced signs of stable demand without pessimism for the future. Compared to the estimated valuations in the auction house catalogues, unusually high prices were realized in the bidding for objets d’art, such as miniatures of 18th century Russian court notables; porcelain vases, plates and kovshs (ladles); and icons.

London art market experts expressed surprise there was more profit in objects than paintings, but unsure who the buyers were. “The bigger lots were bought on the telephone,” reported one dealer in the auction room.  According to an auction house source, “supply is limited, as many sellers are waiting for higher prices.  And that means auction houses have to take what they are given, rather than trying to build a balanced sale.  It’s also why the total on sale was down.  Still, better works did sell and sell quite well.”

William MacDougall commented for his house: “the Russian art market continues to overcome the difficulties of low oil prices and sanctions.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It will be thirty years later this month since a bomb exploded on board Pan American Flight PA 103 (lead image, left), en route from London to New York. The false narrative of the British and US governments, contrived at the time to blame Libya and warrant the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, required  falsification of evidence and the conviction in a rigged court proceeding of the wrong man. It has also required spying to disrupt the efforts of the families of those killed to uncover the truth.

The extent of that operation was exposed last week in a partial release of British Government documents from the UK’s National Archives. Among the spy operations revealed were telephone taps, hacking into computers, and interference with emails. 

The archive disclosures also show that the same modus operandi has been under way since 2014 to fabricate blame for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (lead image, right) over Ukraine, and justify global sanctions against Russia, plus operations to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

But thirty years of state secrets to warrant state lying aren’t long enough to hold those responsible for the lies to account, or for the truth to prevail against them. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Toward foreign enemies, for the first time in a generation, Russian officials have suspended talk of warnings, serious consequences, gravest consequences, red lines, cross-hairs,  and proportionate response;  they have allowed force to speak instead.    

This supersedes the evidence of position, manoeuvre, prior communication, and international law, details of which are still being debated over the incidents of last Sunday off the Crimean coast between Russian and Ukrainian forces. The message of the Russian armed forces command – Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the General Staff, the Defence Ministry, the Border Force of the Federal Security Service (FSB); in short, the Stavka – is clear and unequivocal:  anyone approaching Russian territory with hostile intent will be shot. There is an important corollary: the Russian side reserves the right to decide unilaterally what is hostile intent.

President Vladimir Putin kept silent for three days. There had been an “invasion”, Putin told a  Moscow conference on Wednesday,  of “Russian territorial waters”. It had been contrived by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to boost his presidential election prospects with domestic voters, and “to sell anti-Russian sentiments” to the US and European Union. “If [the Ukrainians] want babies for breakfast, they’ll probably get babies too.”

Russia’s enemies in the western media have personalized Russian policy in the figure of Putin for so long, the significance of his reticence this time is being missed. “As we’ve seen repeatedly before, from the Crimea incidents of March 2014 to the Il-20 downing in September,” a Moscow source in the position to know comments, “the force of circumstances has overwhelmed Putin’s reluctance. He’s not speaking here of ‘understanding’, as he did recently of the Israeli Air Force. When Russian force talks, it’s no longer Putin.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

With a recently reported circulation of almost 300,000, Private Eye of London is the largest-selling serious affairs magazine in the United Kingdom; it is also the last investigative publication in the country in which truth is the standard.  Its editor, Ian Hislop, is paid to clown on British Broadcasting Corporation radio and television; he also pays investigators to bite the hand which feeds him.

He and his predecessor editors have employed a columnist, pen-named Slicker (real name Michael Gillard),  who is the only investigative journalist in the UK publishing regularly and forensically on the frauds, larcenies, and other crimes and lies ignored or covered up by the mainstream financial media, starting with the Financial Times.

There has been just one topic about which Private Eye, Hislop and Slicker have dropped all pretence at investigation, let alone truth.  Private Eye is as Russia-hating as the rest of  its British bedfellows. That explains why it has resurrected the case of Vladimir Chernukhin v. Oleg Deripaska, as if it has only recently discovered the two-year old High Court records, and is ignorant of the Russian media investigations of Chernukhin stretching back for more than a decade.  What Private Eye has failed to investigate is how Chernukhin has been able to import and invest a fortune in the UK, with the imprimatur of the British Government, financial regulators, and banks – a fortune whose origin when he was a state official in Moscow Chernukhin declines to explain.  (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

With a recently reported circulation of almost 300,000, Private Eye of London is the largest-selling serious affairs magazine in the United Kingdom; it is also the last investigative publication in the country in which truth is the standard.  Its editor, Ian Hislop, is paid to clown on British Broadcasting Corporation radio and television; he also pays investigators to bite the hand which feeds him.

He and his predecessor editors have employed a columnist, pen-named Slicker (real name Michael Gillard),  who is the only investigative journalist in the UK publishing regularly and forensically on the frauds, larcenies, and other crimes and lies ignored or covered up by the mainstream financial media, starting with the Financial Times.

There has been just one topic about which Private Eye, Hislop and Slicker have dropped all pretence at investigation, let alone truth.  Private Eye is as Russia-hating as the rest of  its British bedfellows. That explains why it has resurrected the case of Vladimir Chernukhin v. Oleg Deripaska, as if it has only recently discovered the two-year old High Court records, and is ignorant of the Russian media investigations of Chernukhin stretching back for more than a decade.  What Private Eye has failed to investigate is how Chernukhin has been able to import and invest a fortune in the UK, with the imprimatur of the British Government, financial regulators, and banks – a fortune whose origin when he was a state official in Moscow Chernukhin declines to explain.  (more…)