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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with

About the Russiagate operation that continues in the US, Richard Sakwa (lead image), a professor at the University of Kent, has gotten one thing right and one thing wrong. The wrong turns out to be the same thing as the right.

Russiagate, he says, defining that as the narrative of Russian interference in US politics in support of Donald Trump, “is one of the most mystifying yet consequential events of our time.” At the same time, Russiagate is a propaganda and deception operation aimed at achieving the political interests of the Democratic Party, their candidates and supporters. “What if Russian actions during the 2016 were minimal and defensive, and there was no grand plot”, Sakwa asks rhetorically, not quite agreeing to answer for himself. “In that case the endless years of the Russiagate scandal, in which every scrap of evidence was portrayed as the ‘smoking gun’ before being  discredited” turn out to be “deception.. defined as the deliberate attempt on the part of leaders to mislead the public about the thrust of official thinking…  Such deceptions are now routine in US politics.”

A deception cannot be either mystifying or consequential if it’s routine. But if the Russiagate operation is routine, then the truth of the  narrative doesn’t stop the repetition, and the falsehood doesn’t matter to the public. Accordingly, the New York Times insists it will continue reporting under its headline of last week: “Why the Discredited Dossier Does Not Undercut the Russia Investigation?”.

The newspaper knows this is a successful money-making formula; indeed, it admits it is making more revenue than ever, and more profit too. “This was our best third-quarter performance in both News and total net subscription additions since the launch of the digital pay model more than a decade ago,” the company’s chief executive announced on November 1;  “and, outside of 2020, our best quarter ever for digital subscription additions.”  With 90% of the New York Times’ subscriptions now digital, the management is convinced that fake news is profitable – that clickbait works.  New York Times reporters won’t retract or apologize for lying when the lies generate bigger dividends for the shareholders, bigger bonuses for management and reporters.

Nothing new about this. What is  new is the behaviour of the alternative  media in marketing their truth of the Russiagate story.  Sakwa has made his book out of balancing what the mainstream media fakers have reported and what the alt-media reporters have to report of the truth. The audience measures, subscription numbers, and balance-sheets of the alt-media are more secret than publicly owned media companies but the marketing tactics are the same – they report the truths which make the mainstream media out to be liars; they repeat this over and over for clickbait effect.

Sakwa hasn’t interviewed a direct source for anything in his book. He appears not to know US government officials or Russian government officials, lawyers or detectives.  He acknowledges his limitation with this excuse — “the fundamental methodological problem [is] that we still do not know what really happened. Much of the relevant material remains classified.” So his book is composed of secondary-source quotes from one side or another – from liars and truth-tellers carefully balanced.

But what’s the point of Sakwa’s balance?  Do lies get less false by balancing them against the truth? Does the truth get weaker or stronger by balancing them with lies? Is the reader to be persuaded arithmetically – by the number of secondary views cited on one side or the other of the veracity line?

The answer, yes or no, to these questions is so obvious, it should be reckoned silly to ask them. But why is Sakwa selling his 555-page book for the premium price of $120; or to be less capitalistic, why should a reader pay? That’s a rhetorical question.

So why read on? To see the paradox Sakwa seems not to have spotted.  

On the one hand, as Sakwa did notice in passing, American voters don’t think the Russiagate story, or in fact anything to do with Russia, is of any importance to the way they have recently voted or will vote at presidential or congressional elections.    On the other hand, as the balance-sheet of the New York Times proves every quarter, the voters who read such newspapers will keep paying to be persuaded or deceived – and then disregard the Russian material when they vote.

Put these two parts of the paradox together, et voila! the conclusion is that Russiagate has proved to be a commercially profitable plot of the media, alt-media no less than mainstream media,  which has satisfied no one and stopped nothing from being repeated over and over.   

That’s also definition of the money shot in pornography. By that standard, Russiagate turns out to be the longest wank in American history (Sakwa’s too).

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By John Helmer, Moscow   @bears_with Once upon a time, before the Blin-Noodle gang had been born; when their grandparents were still Ukrainians; and before the gang was pushing its protégés to make war on Russia from behind a shield of civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk, there was an American humourist named James Thurber. He was the 20th century successor to the other American humourist Mark Twain. There is no one to succeed those two Americans in our time. Thurber told a story about provocations, false warnings, and what these days is called the RED LINE. Thurber’s moral was: “Get it right or let it alone. The conclusion you jump to may be your own.” (more…)

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By Liane Theuerkauf, Munich
  @bears_with

Igor Tarakanov is a Russian soldier.  

He first appeared publicly two weeks ago, on November 17, to say he had escorted a battery of Russian Army BUK missiles from Russia into Ukraine early in the month of July 2014; that was days before Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was downed and destroyed on July 17, 2014.

Tarakanov’s claim contradicts everything known for seven years and made public by the US National Intelligence Council, State Department and White House;  the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security  Service (MIVD);  the Russian Defence Ministry;  the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) headed by Dutch police; Dutch prosecutors at the murder trial which opened in Schiphol in March 2020; the presiding judge at the trial Hendrik Steenhuis, and his secret investigating judges; the Dutch lawyers defending the  Russian Army officer in the dock;  and the agency in charge of all evidence  in the prosecution’s case file,  the Ukrainian Security Service SBU.

Tarakanov is an unusual name Russians aren’t keen to have. It means cockroach. As insects go, these are very ancient – about 350 million years – very hardy, very numerous.  There is no evidence that soldier Igor Tarakanov exists – except for a publication in English by the Bellingcat group two weeks ago, and in Russian at the same time by a related publication,  The Insider.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
 @bears_with

A High Court judge in London has ruled sharply against Catherine Belton and Rupert Murdoch’s book publisher HarperCollins dismissing their principal lines of defence against a multi-million pound case for libel by Roman Abramovich and the Russian state oil company Rosneft.

Yesterday, in two detailed examinations of Belton’s allegations of a corrupt conspiracy masterminded by President Vladimir Putin and implemented by Abramovich, Rosneft and others,   Justice Amanda Tipples (lead image) dismissed the publisher’s case that Belton had been justified in reporting opinions from named or anonymous sources.  The judge’s rulings cast doubt on the credibility of Belton’s sources, requiring lawyers for the defence to show in trial next year that Belton’s reporting proves the truth of her “statements of fact”.  This sets the stage for one of the largest and most expensive court tests of truth and faking in the Anglo-American war against Russia.

Worse for Belton and HarperCollins, Tipples ruled that their allegation that Rosneft had created a fake transaction to bribe Putin with $300 million is a statement of fact which Belton is unlikely to be able to prove in the witness box on oath and under cross-examination. Tipples dismissed Belton’s method of using sources whose “denials do not provide any antidote to the information provided by Mr Kondaurov or the anonymous source.”

“This is a big blow to the anti-Russian propaganda that’s the basis for the US and European sanctions war”, a New York attorney with multinational clients comments. “It will have a bigger impact than the recent Justice Department Russiagate indictments exposing sources connected to the secret services whose lies to the media and FBI are going to land them in jail.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Evgeny Dobrenko (lead image, left) is a letter-perfect demonstration of several things he appears, despite years of learning at universities from Odessa to Durham (North Carolina) and Sheffield (Yorkshire), not to have heard of.  

In the academic world, like any other business, it’s the money which does the talking, pays the piper, calls the tune.  Upward mobility it is called less musically by sociologists. That means ambition fulfilled – promotion up the professorial ranks,  rising wages,  bonuses, and holiday trips which require conformity and usually a kindly attitude towards the world in return for more of its rewards.  

Downward mobility is the reverse – ambition blocked, wages declining, unkindliness toward  those individuals, institutions and states which are blamed for the individual’s fate and resented for his obscurity.   Evgeny Dobrenko blames Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin.

Starting with a surname from the Russian word meaning kind,  Dobrenko has suffered grievously from them.  He started well enough, upward for a Jewish boy from  provincial Odessa   to the Russian State University of the Humanities in Moscow,  a creation of the first flush of Boris Yeltsin’s administration and of Americans arriving to dismantle the Soviet state, army, banking system, and culture. Born a decade after Stalin’s death, Dobrenko managed only two years in Moscow before moving to Durham, where the university called Duke is situated. The years flew by with fellowships promising promotion and employment at more prestigious places that didn’t materialise. Dobrenko got his taste for the feast, but not a tenured seat at the table.  As he dropped professionally  downward, he took jobs at Nottingham, then Sheffield university. It was from there Dobrenko, a US citizen, has been watching Putin from afar. Between Stalin and Putin Dobrenko has detected no difference at all.

The explanation for this is also Dobrenko’s apology for himself. “The Soviet state”, he concludes, “magnified the flaws of the Russian Middle Ages… after a short pause [Yeltsin] Russia returned with such irrevocable readiness to the same fantasies of imperial grandeur and phantom pains… The country created by Stalin did not escape this past which has remained as its present. Putin’s Russia returned… in a natural fashion to late – but still not bygone – Stalinism”.

The “phantom pains”, Dobrenko explains, include “anti-liberalism, anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Semitism… inflicted on the country, just as any autocrat transforms his personal complexes into a national agenda (such a link can be easily traced in Putin’s Russia)”.

This is conventional Russia hating and war propaganda except for an unusual twist —    Dobrenko is the director at the University of Sheffield  of the Prokhorov Centre for the Study of Central and Eastern European Intellectual and Cultural History. Named by the Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov and created with money from Prokhorov’s Moscow foundation in 2014, the University of Sheffield didn’t announce the philanthropy then or since. University officials refused this week to disclose how much money Prokhorov paid seven years ago and continues to pay today. According to the Centre website, its “strategic priority” is to address “the ideological bases for conflict and barriers to cooperation and the bridges that have been built, and could be built, towards greater understanding and collaboration.”  

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Remember the ten plagues of Pharaonic Egypt – the Israelites capitalised and made their getaway to a happy ending. The story has turned into several blockbuster movies and tons of popcorn have been consumed watching them.   

There have been two plagues on the Russian film industry, but one is permanent, and there is no escape, no happy ending, no popcorn. This is the story of how the plague of money – from the state budget, oligarch groups, and state banks – is saving the film studios and cinemas from death by coronavirus pandemic. It’s also the story of scandal and corruption around the state financing system that is killing Russian audience demand. This is a blockbuster no Russian director, studio producer, cinema operator, or even film critic dares to present in public.

There is another scandal no one in the industry acknowledges.  This is the role of the state-directed Gazprom group which acts as import agent and cinema distributor for the Hollywood studios. Counting all films which have taken more than $5 million at the Russian box office over the past fifteen years, the US hits out-number the Russian, 532 to 172. That’s a ratio of three to one.

For the time being, the state banks now shielding the cinema chains from bankruptcy see the marketing of Hollywood films as their guarantee of getting their money back with profit.    

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Russian poets are hardly the only ones to think they are irresistible on account of what comes out of their mouths.

The two I’ve known best, Yevgeny Yevtushenko (lead image, right) of Irkutsk and Ted Hughes of Yorkshire, were irrepressible on the point, which helps account for some of the fatuities in their poems.

It’s well-known that of the ancient Latin greats, Ovid had a laughably large nose. I suppose Catullus must have been just as ugly for his inamorata, Clodia Metelli, not to fall for his compositions. So it seems the more beautiful the poetry, the uglier the poet. Byron thought himself the exception, but wasn’t. Cavafy didn’t think so, but was.

Yevtushenko, the Russian poet who was more popular in his day than any other before or since, was quite sensitive about his nose.

When he was a teenager he “discovered in my nose if not ugliness at least some obvious duckliness. For a while I almost stopped writing poetry and wasted a huge amount of time manipulating no less than two mirrors investigating the configuration of my nose with the fragile hope that this, not the best part of my face, would improve as I asked in my prayers. But, my nose tragically refused. Having lost all hope for it I began step by step to try to adjust to my own profile. It was an additional waste of time. Only when someone’s shy lips whispered three magic words to me — and you can guess what they were — did I finally forget about this nasal problem. Until this moment I live in the pleasant illusion that I am not so ugly as to have to commit suicide.”

By the time he said that in 1994, Yevtushenko, who of course had read Gogol’s story of the man whose nose ran away from him, was kidding. Yevtushenko knew very well how he attracted women. He also knew that by then it wasn’t the poems that did the trick. Also, by then he had come to the realisation there was no place for him, nose or poetry, in the Russia which had succeeded the Soviet Union. So he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is where he was when he died aged 84 on April 1, 2017.

He was taken to Moscow for burial. Representing the state at the funeral was Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the most powerful figure in the country after the President Vladimir Putin. What Yevtushenko would have resented about that was that Putin didn’t appear in person.

For his burial Yevtushenko scored another career goal. His grave is beside Boris Pasternak’s, a writer and poet Yevtushenko thought, and said publicly, was an inferior and a mediocrity.    In the end, Russian politics has reduced the two of them to the same level in the ground – except that as he went down,  Yevtushenko demonstrated he understood Russian politics much better, and the discreditable role the Russian intelligentsia usually plays —  before the Revolution, during Stalin, during Yeltsin, nowadays.  Yevtushenko said so; Pasternak didn’t dare.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On November 7-8, this website published a report on what the indictment of Igor Danchenko by the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Special Counsel John Durham didn’t mean, and what consequences it was unlikely to have.  The title was: Does the US Government really intend to make lying about Russia a crime?  The question was more than rhetorical, it was ironical.

In the days following, more evidence has been published which fills out the blanks in that report, also heaping irony upon irony.  This work provides fresh evidence about individuals;  organisations; a trail of urine from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Moscow; money trails and plots which the Danchenko indictment masks with anonymous tags, overlooks,  or conceals deliberately.

Research and detective work by Liane Theuerkauf in Munich, Stephen McIntyre and his ClimateAudit website in Canada,  Marcy Wheeler and her EmptyWheel blog in Houston,  Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller in Washington, DC, and others deserve to be expanded here and followed up. They are instructive; Aaron Maté and his Grayzone colleagues,  Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald, and Jimmy Dore ignore or misrepresent this research while trying to sell you false scoops they attribute to themselves.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

British government officials. state prosecutors,  and police have lied repeatedly in announcements over the past three years that they have issued European Arrest Warrants charging three Russian military officers with attempted murder using the Novichok chemical weapon against targets in England.

The three Russians have been named in official British press releases as Alexander Petrov (also known as Alexander Mishkin); Ruslan Boshirov (Anatoly Chepiga); and Denis Sergeyev (Sergei Fedotov – lead image).

This week a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in London declared: “I can confirm that European Arrest Warrants have been issued for all three suspects.” Asked for proof, a senior CPS official refused, announcing: “We have nothing further to add.”

In The Hague, the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) administers the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) scheme and maintains the database of all EAWs requested by the UK and issued for circulation to the European states. The Eurojust spokesman, Ton van Lierop, was asked this week to confirm details of the EAWs which the British claim to have obtained for the three Russians. Van Lierop replied:  “we have not found any records of the cases mentioned.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There are two kinds of lies about Russia.

Not white or black; neither the Big Lie nor the small one. Those are differences between what’s true and what’s false.

In our war-fighting world the real difference between lies is whom you tell your Russia lie to. This is according to the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the indictments they have composed against Michael Sussmann (lead image, left) and Igor Danchenko (centre).  

Their lies were told in aid of, and in hope of reward from Hillary Clinton. Among the rewards which one Russian, their Russian sub-source number 1,  told them in exchange for his lies were Clinton’s autograph and a promise “to take me off to the State Department [to handle] issues of the former USSR and then we’ll see who is looking good and who is not.”

Five years after their lies started, it is now the official position of the US Government that these conmen invented the story of Donald Trump’s Golden Showers on the bed in the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow.  In the interval, the gullibility of the government and lawlessness of the liars they engaged have demonstrated for all to see who is looking good now and who is not.

Alternatively, the five-year interval and the indictments of Sussmann and Danchenko demonstrate nothing of the sort. This is because much bigger lies about Russia remain the official policy of the US Government. They are on trial in the High Court of London where the liars are Catherine Belton (right) and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing outlet, HarperCollins.  

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When David Cornwell (aka John Le Carré) died after a bathroom fall last December, the current chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6), Richard Moore, announced by tweet that Cornwell had been “a giant of literature who left his mark on MI6 through his evocative and brilliant novels”.  By mark, Moore didn’t mean blot.

On October 21, the last of the Le Carré novels was published. Called “Silverview”, it starts with a whopping mistake on the first line. It continues making mistakes until the last page where the final words Le Carré wrote were: “and that’s the last secret I’ll keep from you”. The publisher has followed with twelve blank pages. No mistaking them – they are Le Carré’s evocation of the state of mind inside the Service from Moore down.  

Not a secret he can keep from you. Nor a mistake by Le Carré.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This is the story of how Vladimir Putin changed his mind on who should own Russia’s most important asset sailing the seven seas. Or did he really?

This is also the story of the privatisation of Sovcomflot, the state-owned shipping company and one of the largest fleets of oil and gas tankers in the world. Or is that what really happened?

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Russia bunker-buster information bomb, Catherine Belton’s (lead image) Putin’s People, proved to be a dud at a London ceremony last week.  In its award for the best non-fiction book about Russia for 2020, Pushkin House announced the winner was a retiring Oxford don whose “long and distinguished career” had displayed  “wisdom and insight.”  

Despite lobbying by Belton’s supporters and the publisher, Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins, Belton’s book was relegated.  Pushkin House doesn’t have a prize for fiction about Russia.

Sources familiar with the book prize review believe that HarperCollins’s recent acknowledgement of fabrication and unprofessional conduct by Belton in an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit by Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven,  and ongoing lawsuits from Roman Abramovich and Rosneft in London’s High Court,  cast  doubt on the veracity of the book and of the author. After accepting a donation from Alexei Navalny in 2018, and a sharp fall in investment income last year, Pushkin House’s trustees and donors decided they could not afford to risk fresh political controversy.

The High Court case against Belton and HarperCollins is continuing. If it proceeds to a full hearing of witnesses and evidence, with appeals, London lawyers estimate it will cost all sides about £100 million. The risk of penalty damages and cost indemnity judgement against HarperCollins doubles the potential cost to a figure roughly equal to last year’s accumulated earnings for the publishing company, $303 million (£220 million).   

But last week, in a fresh signal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is concerned at the financial losses British exporters and investors are paying for Whitehall’s information war against the Kremlin, he told President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call “the UK’s current relationship with Russia is not the one we want.”  In the matching Kremlin communiqué, Putin said he and Johnson “expressed the shared opinion that, despite obvious problems, it is necessary to establish cooperation between Moscow and London in a number of areas.”  

The “obvious problem”, both understand, is the faction of British government, military and secret service officials who are running the information war, continuing their engagement in the Skripal and Navalny Novichok operations.  But official support for Belton’s book is waning, sources close to the High Court case believe.  It is likely to weaken further as new evidence and witnesses appear, and as defence lawyers worry that Belton will be unable to withstand cross-examination in court.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Russian intelligentsia, their hangers-on, oligarchs, and Navalnyites have always suffered from a cultural cringe. The grass is greener on the other side of the Russian border, they think, and for obvious reasons – though they aren’t the same for each of the cringing elites.  

So when the political tide goes out and leaves Russia stranded and isolated – as happened after the Revolution of 1917, the German invasion of 1941, and the NATO sanctions war since 2014 – the market in cultural nostalgia revives. For those trapped by history or money outside, the demand is for interior decoration with paintings of Russia as they like to imagine it. For those inside, they demand views of France – particularly the streets of Paris, the watering holes of Provence, and French ladies en déshabillé.

And so it came about that at the start of this month, MacDougall’s, the leading international auction house for Russian paintings, held its first-ever auction of Franco-Russian nostalgia entitled “École de Paris and Russian Artists in France”. MacDougall’s was the first house to organise a dedicated sale of works by Russian émigré artists in London; that was in 2004, just after the Russian Finance Ministry lifted the 30% tax on art imported to Russia; well before the US started the war in Ukraine in 2014.

On this new occasion, the paintings to be sold – 206 lots in all — had been part of the collection of a single European collector living in Monaco. Russian Art+Culture,  reports that  “over several decades, the collector managed to acquire almost a complete anthology of the Ecole de Paris.”

The outcome of the October 6 sale was total proceeds of £524,512, and the sale of 87 of the works on offer – 42%.

This clearance rate is well behind the 54% MacDougall’s managed at its midsummer Russian art auction.  The clearance rate for nudes, always a sensitive measure of Russian taste, was much lower. A total of 34 full-frontals were auctioned; all but one of them female; one canvas in six on the block. But just 7 were bought – 21%. In the midsummer Russian art week in London, the nude stocks cleared with less inhibition.

However, “Reclining nude” by Boris Chaliapin (lead image*) set close to the show record for beating the house estimate. MacDougall’s had marked the painting down for a maximum of £9,000, but it sold for £21,250 – more than double.

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By Stanislas Balcerac, Warsaw, and John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When Radosław Sikorski was a Polish government minister, he was obliged to make an annual report to the parliament (Sejm) and a public record of his income and assets.

For Polish  voters to learn whether his wife was being rewarded for influencing her husband in his official duties, and vice versa, the annual disclosure was required to include a line for her takings. Sikorski’s wife, an American named Anne Applebaum, is paid to give public lectures and publish commentaries on foreign policy topics in which Sikorski has played an official role in the Polish government’s decision-making.

The pair are among the most vocal Russia-haters, sanction-boosters, and NATO-promoters in eastern Europe. The New York Times recently reported that Sikorski “managed…secret missions with the United States.”

For a time also, Sikorski campaigned to be Secretary-General of NATO, and High Representative for foreign affairs of the European Commission. But he was rejected by the European members of NATO and by the European Union.

“I’m honest”, Sikorski announced.  “I am not into plotting and don’t steal. I am a double victim.”

Investigation of their financial disclosures by Polish officials, he and Applebaum have tweeted,    “stinks of Russian infowar tactic”. Publication in Warsaw of tape recordings of Sikorski’s political and business scheming was called “info-attacks on West” by his supporters. The Polish prime minister didn’t see it that way and pushed Sikorski out of domestic politics.   Follow the Sicklebaum rise and fall in the comic book just published.  

Even newer, but not so comic, is the report this week in Warsaw of new investigations of Sikorski’s money-making activities while taking the salary of a member of the European Parliament (MEP). According to this report of Stanislas Balcerac,     Sikorski is accepting a large amount of money on the side – and it’s unclear who is paying, what he is doing for the payoff, and what  secret missions Sikorski is running for the US.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When the German Army invaded Europe in the 1940s, they applied the doctrine of collective guilt against the civilian populations behind the Resistance and the partisans attacking their troops. After the Germans were defeated, the doctrine and the murderous result of it were judged to be a war crime. The London Charter of 1945, creating the legal basis for the Nuremberg prosecutions, introduced a special provision, Article 9, to turn individual associations of Germans into “criminal organisations”.

Collective guilt and guilt by association are hoary old doctrines, and when they reappear these days against blacks, Jews and muslims, for example, they are judged to be crimes of race hatred or hate crimes.

But when the doctrine is advocated in media reports and books about Russia and the Russians running the country since 2000, the doctrine isn’t a hate crime. It’s a war weapon whose detonators are being primed every day. The second handbook for demonstrating how to clean, load, and fire this weapon against Russia was published last year by Catherine Belton (lead image, right). She and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing house HarperCollins call their Russia war-fighting manual Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia, and Then Took on the West.  Belton, HarperCollins and the book are now on trial for lying and libel in the High Court in London.

In operational terms for the Russia war-fighters, Belton’s book was Fat Man, nickname for the US atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. Little Boy, the US bomb dropped on Hiroshima, came first. Before Belton, that was Karen Dawisha’s (left) book called Putin’s Kleptocracy, Who Owns Russia, published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster. Belton doesn’t mention Dawisha’s name or give her the credit for publishing the first manual in the info-war series.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, the most famous English portraitist of the 18th century, have almost nothing to do with Russia at war today.

Almost, but not quite nothing.

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By Marios Evriviades, Cyprus, translated from Greek by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

From time to time we read that Russia will recognize the separatist faits accomplis of Turkey’s occupation in Cyprus, in exchange for Turkey’s recognition of the accession of Crimea to the Russian Federation. And each time the Russian government categorically refutes the existence of such a dubious oriental bargain. The most recent statement of Maria Zakharova, the spokesman of the Russian Foreign Minister. was that this claim is “fake information” being spread by the “Greek and Turkish media”.  

Zakharova went further: “The Republic of Crimea is an integral part, one of the most dynamically developing regions of the Russian Federation. The territory of our country has never been and will not be the subject of bargaining. Stating the opposite is close to provocation. Finding analogies between Russian Crimea and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is incorrect and I would say, unsafe, even dangerous. Such insinuations confuse international audiences, undermine trust, and generate negative emotions, also with regard to the Cyprus settlement.”

To be clear, there is not one iota of truth in what is reported. The dubiousness that is alleged between Moscow and Ankara and focused supposedly on Cyprus is no more than targeted Turkish propaganda. Its goal is to roil the waters in the Eastern Mediterranean and create among the Cypriots confusion as to what other “mistake” the Cyprus government may be making with Russia that will end up with another calamity for Cyprus.  

Unfortunately, this obvious Turkish propaganda is being reproduced uncritically in Cyprus and Greece. At the same time, however, it is also a good example of the calculating way in which one Turkish regime after another promote their interests over time. And they do this with absolutely no effective response and counter-propaganda from Cyprus. Successive Cyprus governments have been lying prostrate, allowing Ankara to roll over them with their conquest narrative. Against a backward, bullying neighbour what causes this paralysis is beyond any logic.

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by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Computer programmes used in universities to detect student plagiarism, along with semantic, style, and cognitive tests, reveal that Putin’s People, a book published by HarperCollins and bylined Catherine Belton, has another author or authors.

Comparison testing of the vocabulary of Belton’s book and of transcripts of podcasts when Belton has been interviewed by Russia experts show that her vocabulary shrinks by more than half – 56.2% — when she is asked to explain her story to the experts. The testing also reveals that when requested for evidence and examples from her book, she hesitates, filling the gap with three  phrases repeated many times over — “sort of”, “kind of”, “you know”.  

The machine testing also reveals that Belton fails to pronounce  the name of Mikhail Khodorkovsky,  the Russian oligarch Belton met, interviewed and reported more than any other during her fourteen years in Moscow, with a linguistic consistency which the transcription programme  recognised in more than 24% of her mentions. For three-quarters of the time Belton’s pronunciation of Khodorkovsky  is transcribed by the programme as “Otto Karski”, “Photo Kowski”, and several other variants.

Lawsuits are currently underway in London’s High Court; these charge Belton and her book publisher, Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins, with fabricating facts and libelling the Russian oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Igor Sechin, and the Rosneft oil company, which Sechin runs.

The court filings, and now the new evidence, have added to the controversy at the Pushkin House organisation in London. There Belton’s book has been a contender for the annual prize for best non-fiction book on Russia. The faking alleged in the current  lawsuits and admitted by HarperCollins in an out of court settlement with Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven of Alfa Bank,   has already upset some members of the book prize panel, triggering repeated postponements of the book prize short list and the final award decision.  Discovery of the role of Alexei Navalny in giving large sums of money to Pushkin House for promotion of his political campaigns has upset others connected to Pushkin House

According to Russians who heard Belton in a Pushkin House presentation of her book on October 11, “she was continually mispronouncing” the name of Sergei Pugachev, the name of the most frequently cited Russian source for the book’s allegations against President Vladimir Putin. Pugachev has been adjudicated in the British courts to be a serial liar and he is on the run from a British jail sentence. Belton identifies Pugachev 599 times in the 873-page book.

Asked this month at Pushkin House to say why she had relied on such “unreliable narrators”, Belton claimed she had “documentary material” not in the book. “I can’t go into detail of what some of that documentary material,” she claimed, “because we have pending litigation about that.”

Evidence of cribbing and ghosting is now likely to trigger fresh controversy on the prize panel, which has scheduled its announcement of the book winner at a London ceremony on October 28.  

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Translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In official testimony to the European Parliament last week, the European Union Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, attacked Russia for “exacerbating the tight [supply] balance” and thus causing “the rising prices”.

Responding to allegations against Gazprom, Simson promised an investigation. “We are looking into this claim, through our competition angles…. Better response to any type of speculation and market manipulations is another area where I believe we should assess our options for action.”

Simson is an Estonian politician who has made a public career of drawing votes from Russian-speaking Estonians. She has failed in efforts to replace her party’s leader and former prime minister, Edgar Savisaar.

Simson is a wealthy politician. The current report to the European Union (EU) of Simson’s financial interests,  dated this past January, is a near-total blank,  except for three apartments she owns  in Tallinn, plus a garage, in which she and her family do not live themselves; they live elsewhere, but not with her former husband,  Priit Simson. He is a journalist at an Estonian daily newspaper; he specializes in the study of what he calls “extremist movements in the Russian-speaking population in Estonia.”   

For an expert Russian response to Simson’s report to the EU, Vzglyad, the online Moscow analytical newspaper, published this piece by Olga Samofalova yesterday. Read on.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On the subject of Russia and the Russians, American exceptionalism pops up in the most unexpected places.

Take the case of a new book from the Russia-warfighting publisher Random House of New York fetchingly sub-titled “In which four Russians give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life”. The Guardian, lead Russia-warfighter in London, managed to review the book as “a delight”, but it avoided mentioning the word “Russia” even once.  The New York Times, perpetrator of every propaganda line the Russiagate plotters and Kremlin regime changers want to see in print, managed  the word “Russian” three times in its review of the new book,  but consigned it to the 19th century, safely locked up by reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s “classic lectures on Russian literature, first delivered at Cornell.”

Now forest rangers may refer to the particular tree in the wood on which their dogs choose to urinate.  But in the history of modern Russian literature the place in upstate New York where Nabokov was paid to deliver himself of his opinions before he fled to Switzerland for life is quite unexceptional — except to the New York Times. In the upstate New York forest, Nabokov’s Cornell tree is just one hour’s driving south of the tree at Syracuse where the author George Saunders (lead image) has produced his book on the four Russian guides to life. No dog, no tree in Saunders’ title, but plenty of relieving liquid – “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”.

What makes Saunders the master in the “master class” is spelled out in the reviews. His lectures to undergraduates on creative fiction are “top-ranked”; another book of his won a Pulitzer prize for fiction; also a Booker prize; he’s been on a best-seller list; there is a “rack of National Magazine Awards”; and he has been given a “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation. In short, this is a master situated squarely in the American marketplace, and advantageously at that. Russia is his latest selling-point, a barker’s come-on.  

About that place and its people far away, Saunders claims on page 6 to know nothing – “I’m not a critic or a literary historian or an expert on Russian literature or any of that.” At the same time – actually two pages earlier, on page 4 – Saunders had already declared he knows quite enough. The lessons from Russia he selected for his story-telling are “resistance literature, written by progressive reformers in a repressive culture under constant threat of censorship, in a time when a writer’s politics could lead to exile, imprisonment, and execution”.

Phew! That relieves Saunders of the Russian pain in his pants as he approached his exceptional upstate New York tree.  But he’s gotten too close — too many dogs, too much liquid in the roots, a gust of wind, and the tree is keeling over. Look out! Timberrr! Exceptionalist American fiction writer has been topped by log of Russian truth.  

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

A stitch in time saves nine. That’s what police and prosecutors used to say when they were in hot pursuit of criminals. Hot pursuit used to mean no waiting.  

However, the Metropolitan Police (lead image, left) took three years before announcing that Denis Sergeyev (alias Sergei Fedotov), a Russian military intelligence officer (right), is the third suspect in the alleged Novichok attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. That took place on March 4, 2018, allegedly. Six months later, the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally announced their indictments of two men, Alexander Petrov (Alexander Mishkin)  and Ruslan Boshirov (Anatoly Chepiga), on September 5,  2018. The police acted simultaneously with the prosecutors; their timing also coincided with the announcement to parliament by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The police evidence, declared May, “has enabled the independent Crown Prosecution Service to conclude they have a sufficient basis on which to bring charges against these two men for the attack in Salisbury.”  

“We have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and will shortly issue an Interpol red notice,” May added in her speech to the House of Commons.

Sue Hemming, head of the CPS, announced at the same time: “A realistic prospect of conviction means the CPS is satisfied on an objective assessment that the evidence can be used in court and that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury hearing the case, properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict these two individuals of the charges… We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals… We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations.”

Hemming said nothing about an Interpol Red Notice; Interpol confirms none was issued for either Russian.   

Fast forward – no, wait, make that slow-motion forward, until September 21, 2021, when Dean Haydon, a deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, announced he is charging Sergeyev (Fedotov) with the same attempted murder by Novichok.  The police had delayed for three years. The CPS for longer. In fact, as the CPS has now officially admitted, it hasn’t charged the third man with anything, yet.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

German clinical evidence of Alexei Navalny’s chronic use of lithium and benzodiazepine drugs before his sensational collapse last year is being withheld and covered up by the Berlin doctors who obtained the evidence from testing a sample of Navalny’s hair.

The significance of the hair testing was identified this month by an expert toxicologist employed by the British government.  “[It] would be interesting,” he said, requesting his name not be released, “to see the hair test as this will reflect only the drugs given up to six days and more earlier in Russia.”

Dr Kai-Uwe Eckardt, the head of the team of German doctors treating Navalny in Berlin’s Charité University Hospital, reported publicly last December that “a hair sample obtained on day 4 confirmed the presence of several of the compounds detected in blood and urine.” Day-4 in Berlin meant August 24, four days after Navalny alleges he was poisoned in Tomsk by Novichok on orders of the Kremlin. Navalny’s allegation was endorsed by the German, British and US governments on the evidence, they said at the time, of Navalny’s tests in Germany.

This allegation was repeated last week at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.  According to an October 5 statement by a group of OPCW member governments,  “it is now more than a year since Mr Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent whilst travelling in Russia. The OPCW Technical Secretariat confirmed, following a Technical Assistance Visit to Germany, that Mr Navalny was exposed to a nerve agent from the Novichok group. This is a matter of grave concern.”

Led by Germany, the UK and US, the governments also charged that “the Russian Federation has not yet provided a credible explanation of the incident that took place on its soil.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry responded two days later, on October 7,  charging the accusers of “inconsistencies, contradictions, misinformation, shady developments that have yet to be clarified, insinuations at the highest political level and outright lies professed by the West… a provocation, crudely planned and coarsely executed by the special services of some Western countries.” 

The significance of the hair sample testing by the German doctors  is that the results corroborate lithium and benzodiazepine drug use in Navalny’s blood and urine found on his arrival in Berlin.

An independent British toxicologist adds that the levels of the drugs in the hair testing would also confirm Navalny’s dependence on these drugs in Russia, well before he arrived in Tomsk and long before the Novichok “incident” alleged at OPCW last week. “Without seeing the actual hair analysis report, we are guessing which specific drugs and compounds were common to the blood and urine and hair. The hair ones are all pre-attack compounds. If ‘several’ drugs were in the hair, as the Berlin report says, then Navalny would be described as a chronic abuser. That,  plus his multiple bacterial infections the Berlin report also identifies,  would make the trained professional clinician looking at the data believe that the patient was a down-at-heel street person with a serious drug problem and mental health issues.”

Medical psychiatrists and toxicologists acknowledge that the “cocktail” combination of drugs Navalny had been taking before he collapsed on August 20 may explain his subsequent symptoms and the cause of his collapse. Lithium, according to the British government  toxicologist reporting last week, “would not be detected by normal drug screening and must have been indicated for some reason to cause them [the Charité hospital doctors] to carry out as a special, targeted test. It would be interesting to know why it was tested for and the blood concentration – were the Russians treating [Navalny] for a bipolar disorder?”

Eckardt was asked to explain his reason for testing Navalny for  lithium and benzodiazepines. He was also asked what specific compounds were detected in the Day-4 hair sample testing he directed. Eckardt refused to answer, or to provide what OPCW called last week “a credible explanation”.

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By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, Boston*
  @bears_with

George Bernard Shaw once said if you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh otherwise they’ll kill you.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When it came to ingratiating American presidents, no Russian leader tried harder than Mikhail Gorbachev followed by Boris Yeltsin. Vladimir Putin did his best to match their examples with Bill Clinton.   Putin was slow to learn, slower to anger. That began in 2008 when Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, broke a promise after taking a bribe to allow the Kremlin to buy the Opel car division in Germany from General Motors.  

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Investigations by US government officials, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), of Christopher Steele’s (lead image, right) Russiagate dossier have identified Catherine Belton (left) as one of the targets for his fabrications. Belton was herself investigated as one of the journalists Steele recruited to plant his allegations of Russian interference days before the 2016 presidential election.

In her book Putin’s People, Belton repeats many of Steele’s allegations but she does not cite him or his consulting company Orbis as her source. Belton adds at the end of the book: “I’ll always be grateful to Chris [Steele] for his moral support.” After Belton’s book appeared in April 2020, Steele admitted to lawyers engaged in a London High Court lawsuit against him that Belton is “a friend, yes, she’s a friend”.

Fresh evidence revealed in the indictment issued by the US Department of Justice on September 16, shows that the FBI has concluded Steele was lying when he and  his American accomplices  planted false allegations of Russian election interference through several named intermediaries, including a Russian bank and Russian émigrés in the US,. The New York Times and The Atlantic were identified in last month’s US court papers as willing outlets for the fabrications. Earlier litigation by the Alfa Bank group in the US has identified five New York Times reporters and David Corn of Mother Jones as collaborators in the scheme.

Belton’s name, tagged with the note “London meeting”, has also surfaced in meeting notes taken at the State Department on October 11, 2016, when Steele met with Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland and a deputy, Kathleen Kavalec.  Kavalec’s meeting notes, partially declassified, reveal that Steele’s allegations of Russian election interference followed a briefing of the same allegations at the FBI a month earlier, on September 19, 2016,  by Michael Sussmann, a lawyer working in secret for the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  Sussmann is now charged with lying then to the FBI.

The Justice Department’s indictment says Sussmann was one of the plotters with Steele and others, including journalists, university academics, and IT experts in publishing false stories of Russian election interference; their plot aimed at hurting the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, by making it appear he was in cahoots with the Kremlin to hurt the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

“In or about late October 2016 – approximately one week before the 2016 U.S. Presidential election – multiple media outlets reported that U.S. government authorities had received and were investigating allegations concerning a purported secret channel of communications between the Trump Organization, owned by Donald J. Trump, and a particular Russian bank (‘Russian Bank-I’).”

The Kavalec notebook also reveals that Steele claimed there were “3 distinct channels” for this Russian operation “run by Kremlin, not FSB, Ivanov, Peskov, Putin.”  In addition to accusing Alfa Bank as the first channel “Alfa-Trump-Kremlin-comms”, Steele told Nuland that Serge Millian, a Russian émigré businessman in the US, was the second; Carter Page, a wannabe Trump campaign adviser, was the third.

In the sequence of Kavalec’s notes. Steele told Nuland there were “hackers out of R[ussia] – acting in US – [payments out of the state] pension fund Miami consulate payments – implants. Operations Paige [sic], Millian (émigrés?), Manafort.”  Steele then mentioned the London meeting with Belton whom he identified as “FT [Financial Times]”.  

Reporting by Belton in the Financial Times followed days after her meeting was mentioned by Steele to Nuland.  In  Belton’s published report, she named Serge Millian as the channel Steele had alleged at State and the FBI. “Now, “ Belton claimed on November 1, one week before Election Day,  “the US administration has formally accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the US electoral process through the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s email servers, Mr Millian’s activities — and his ties to the Republican presidential nominee — are coming under increasing scrutiny.” Belton did not identify her sources for her allegations against Millian. She implied, however, that they were US intelligence agents and the FBI.  “Mr Millian came on to the FBI’s radar”, Belton reported. “The FBI probe was part of a wake-up call for US intelligence over suspicions that Russia was activating networks long thought defunct after the end of the cold war.”

Millian avoided Belton for an interview and she reported. “He declined repeated requests for an interview and left the US for Asia on a business trip in early October.” Two weeks before, Steele had told Nuland, according to Kavalec’s transcript, Millian was “now in China.”

According to Belton, Millian had been a real estate broker for Trump, selling Trump organisation properties to Russians. Steele had told Nuland “real estate entities used for massive set of purchases by Russians. Set up espionage network in FL[orida] – to buy a lot of properties for POTUS [Trump’s] businesses through a R[ussian] brokage. 100’s of real estate transactions.”

Two months ago, on July 28, Belton was exposed as a liar and fabricator of her source material by her British publisher, HarperCollins.  Settling the High Court case brought against them both by Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven of Alfa Bank, the publisher said there was “no significant evidence” for Belton’s allegations of KGB connections in the early careers of Fridman and Aven; and that she had failed to check her claims with Fridman and Aven before publishing them. The publisher agreed to delete Belton’s allegations from the book.

The terms of that settlement, and the ongoing High Court case in London, have stopped Macmillan, the US publisher of the book, from issuing the paperback edition, according to industry sources.

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By Liane Theuerkauf, Munich, with introduction & illustrations by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On September 22, 2021, Dame Heather Hallett, the coroner appointed by the British government to conduct an inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess, held a second hearing in court in London.  Sturgess died in Salisbury District Hospital on July 8, 2018, from what Hallett has already announced to be Novichok poisoning from a Russian military attack.

The full transcript of what Hallett said can be read here.  Analysis of the proceedings recommended skepticism towards the veracity and intentions of Hallett and the lawyers testifying in court. Read for more detail.   

Hallett has proposed putting an end to the proceeding under the Coroners and Justice Act of 2009 and the British legal rules which apply to an inquest in a coronial court. These require a jury, in addition to the coroner, when “the death was caused by a notifiable accident, poisoning or disease”. The rules also require that evidence should be presented and witnesses testify in open court for cross-examination by lawyers and for public accountability. Instead of this, Hallett decided last month that a public inquiry will be substituted in which she alone will decide what evidence and witnesses to take in secret, and what secrets to keep out of the public record.

Hallett and the lawyers for the British government and police say this inquiry isn’t likely to open for another two years. In the meantime, the police say they will be assembling the evidence which they believe may be open to public scrutiny, and the evidence which may not. After three years of investigation of the Sturgess case, and also of the cases of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, allegedly poisoned by Novichok fifteen weeks before Sturgess;  and following police announcements of criminal indictments of three Russian military intelligence agents, this new police effort is code-named Operation VERBASCO.

In the meantime, Hallett’s statements and those of Michael Mansfield, Sturgess’s advocate in court, invite a series of questions. Not a single policeman, prosecutor, pathologist, lawyer, member of parliament, or forensic expert in the United Kingdom has thought to ask them, at least not yet and not in public. To anticipate and to assist them, therefore, read Hallett’s statements in italics; the questions follow in bold.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There’s a lot to be afraid of in life. Mine has been dominated by the fear of suffocating to death.

Compared to that, verbal insults, the headmaster’s cane, my father’s screaming, army camp, police on horses, Harvard University, the doorman at Fortnum’s, bad reviews, Russian gunmen, Georgian gunmen, and threats by lawyers amount to less. When they strike, they generate an equal or greater mass of energy to fight back. But when suffocation comes on, all I am able to do is to gasp for air, and prepare for the worst.

The problem with the fear of suffocating is that it leads to three other fears – the fear of dentists working in my mouth; the fear of being gagged by robbers; and the fear of laughing.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When China was an empire in 1792, the emperor Ch’ieng Lung told the British ambassador to take his gifts and bribes back to London, along with this message for the British king: “we have never valued ingenious articles, nor do we have the slightest need of your country’s manufactures. You, O King, ought, looking upwards, to carry out our wishes, and for ever obey our edict, so that we both enjoy the blessings of peace…Do not say you have not been forewarned.”

When Russia was an empire in 1773, the empress Catherine the Great was persuaded by bribes to purchase from Wedgwood & Bentley, the Staffordshire porcelain manufacturer, the largest order of dinner and table plates in the history of British pottery.  After haggling over the price for the 944 pieces, the tsarina paid Wedgwood’s invoice at today’s equivalent of £4 million – the largest price ever charged and paid for such things until that time. Wedgwood lost money on the deal, though. That was because the bribery and costs of production and delivery turned out to be greater than Catherine’s payment. The way the bribes worked, Wedgwood told the British ambassador in St Petersburg and his wife to make gifts of expensive samples he had sent them, keeping some for themselves as commission. The ambassador’s wife wrote back: “Her Imperial Majesty has kept all the Vases and the Dejeuné [sic — luncheon plates] you sent me, as samples, and they were very much liked.”

There are political lessons in this – especially if you read them while eating your dinner off a paper plate or out of a cardboard box.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It has not been proved that an unlimited number monkeys in a room with typewriters to match and an infinite amount of time would type the complete works of Shakespeare, or even one of the Bard’s lines.

But the improbability of the infinite monkey theorem is nothing compared to the certainty which the British government, its judiciary, the Metropolitan police, and the combined forces of the London Bar proved on Wednesday in a room of the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand. They proved that a troop of humans are making a monkey out of every principle of British justice and the criminal law — in order to advance the government’s war against Russia.

On September 22,  Dame Heather Hallett, the coroner in the inquest into the cause of death of Dawn Sturgess on July 8, 2018, officially ordered the prosecution of a crime without a defence; in a trial in which the verdict has already been declared by the judge herself and the prosecutors;  in which the surviving victims of the alleged crime, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, are not allowed to testify and forbidden to appear in public at all; when the three Russians accused of the crime are not permitted to be represented in the proceeding; in which there will be no jury; and in which the evidence of the crime, the weapon, the intention and motive of the perpetrators will be presented in secret so that there can be no testing for truth, fabrication,  or lie.

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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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