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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Yulia Skripal (lead image) has telephoned home to say that she and her father, Sergei Skripal, are alive and well in the UK; living in separate rented accommodations;  paying for them with the pension her father gets from MI6; getting plenty of exercise on a treadmill and nature walks; keeping her diabetic father’s sugar level down; and planning to meet next for a Christmas or New Year dinner together.

Sergei has a minder living with him. Yulia described him as a medic whose job is to  maintain a tracheostomy tube installed in Sergei’s throat. Its function is to compensate for what she said was partial paralysis of his nasopharyngeal muscles, for his lack of air to breathe, and for the danger that Sergei might choke on his own phlegm.  

In an hour-long telephone call at noon, British time, on November 21, Yulia Skripal also said she wanted to set the record straight that her father never wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin asking for permission to return to Russia,  nor gave an interview to Mark Urban, a BBC reporter who published a book of what he claims Skripal told him.

She also said: “I really want to go to New Zealand, but, unfortunately, not yet.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

It requires unusual degrees of self-confidence, political power, and lawlessness for the generals commanding the winning side in war to hold themselves innocent of the killing which the troops under their command committed against the losing side or suspected sympathisers.   

In Washington, in February of 1946, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court Frank Murphy warned that if the law of war requires the most senior commander of soldiers running amok with blood lust to be responsible with his own life for what his men have done – even if the commander didn’t know and had no effective means of controlling the troops – the precedent might one day reach to the US commander-in-chief, the President.  “No one in a position of command in an army, from sergeant to general,” said Murphy, “can escape those implications. Indeed, the fate of some future President of the United States and his chiefs of staff and military advisers may well have been sealed by this decision.”

That decision has come to be known as the Yamashita Standard after Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita (lead image, top, 1st left).  But when Australian soldiers killed more than 39 Afghan civilians between 2007 and 2016,  in a judgement publicly released a few days ago, their commanders – Generals Angus Campbell (2nd left), Paul Kenny (3rd left), Adam Findlay (4th left), and Richard Burr (right) — have been cleared of command duty and personal responsibility.

They have been judged by the Army, the Government in Canberra, and the entire Australian press to be innocent. From their time as special forces’ commanders in Afghanistan, they have been promoted to general rank; appointed to advise the prime minister and his ministers on fresh battlefield operations, including the plan to invade  eastern Ukraine after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.

That was a crime, the guilt for which the Dutch Government aims to convict the Russian chain of command all the way to the President. The Dutch government says it is applying its version of the Yamashita Standard, with evidence of chain of command communications fabricated by the Ukrainian secret service, the SBU; by a NATO propaganda unit; and by a cartoon of Moscow’s command responsibility presented to the press  by a Dutch policeman named Wilbert Paulissen (lead image, bottom ).

The American, Australian and Dutch commands have not yet won their war against Russia, so the MH17 war crime trial is premature. It is also contradicted by their own policy for the Afghan war. “Such circumstances,” declared the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman last Friday, “cast doubt on the genuine willingness of the Australian authorities to bring to justice all military personnel responsible for crimes, as well as on the seriousness of the stated intentions of the armed forces command to reform army special forces units. The massive, systemic and grave crimes committed over the years by fighters of Australian elite units against the inhabitants of Afghanistan make a new assessment of the meaning of the relentlessly proclaimed commitment of official Canberra to a ‘rules-based world order.’ What are these rules?”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Grief for his loss has prevented me from writing about Krissy (Kris, Kriska, Krisichka, Kiryusha from КРЫСА meaning “rat”). He is the cat to whom I belonged who died at our home in Moscow nine years ago, on December 9, 2011.

The efforts of a Russian oligarch to kill me, and then, having failed at that, to expel me from Russia; and the equal exertion of Australian foreign ministry and aluminium business officials to cover up the crime, prevented me from being with Krissy when his heart stopped beating. For several hours in advance, perhaps for a day, he knew death was coming; he was seventeen cat-years old – 84 in human years. He also knew that my kind of practical optimism to save his life would be fruitless this time. He had survived so much already. He, his mistress and I had often considered the risks of exposing oneself to bad Russians and bad Australians. One of his lives had been saved, he knew, by a South African, a very good one.

John Gray, a British philosophical writer who loves cats, tries to explain these things from their  point of view in a new book, which  until Gray came on to a section about Spinoza was encouraging,  Between Spinoza’s birthday in Amsterdam on November 24 – he would have been 388 last week – and Krissy’s dying day, there are a few things which deserve to be remembered. Russian things.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In the November 25 session of the MH17 trial at Schiphol – the final one for this year —  presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis  ruled to accept only those investigations requested by the defence lawyers which are certain to incriminate Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Pulatov. Pulatov is the only one of the four accused to present a defence to the Dutch indictment for destruction of the aircraft and the murder of all 298 passengers and crew on board. 

Accepting the state prosecution’s advice to reject the defence lawyers’ attempts to probe evidence for alternative scenarios of the shooting-down of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft on July 17, 2014, Steenhuis said: “if the main scenario cannot be proved” – the prosecution’s case that the Russian military command sent a BUK missile into eastern Ukraine where the four accused fired it – “then that leads automatically to the verdict of not guilty”.

Steenhuis announced he is ready to accept all the self-incrimination Pulatov’s lawyers have already presented from their client. But he insisted that if Pulatov wishes to testify to the court, that must be done in a live interrogation by the court and cross-examination by prosecutors – a condition Steenhuis has disallowed for any other witness in the case.

Steenhuis also ruled to accept the defence lawyers’ request to interview the commander of the Russian Army’s 53rd  Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade on the same terms. Steenhuis has previously refused to allow any evidence or testimony from Russian Army Major General Igor Konashenkov on Ukrainian deployment of BUK missiles, including the one identified by prosecutors as having caused the destruction of the aircraft. The evidence against the 53rd Brigade was fabricated by a NATO propaganda unit; until now it would not have been admissible in the court trial if the defence lawyers had not applied to interview the brigade commander, Colonel Sergei Muchkayev.   

Steenhuis also expressed his appreciation for the videotaped interviews the defence lawyers have presented in court with Pulatov, together with a recent film of remarks by Colonel Sergei Dubinsky, the second of the four accused.  These films will now be used, Steenhuis ruled, by Dutch government experts and the investigating judge to match Pulatov’s and Dubinsky’s voices with telephone taps prepared by the Ukrainian security service, the SBU. The experts and the investigating judge will remain anonymous, and will not testify directly in court.

In concluding the preliminaries before the trial of Pulatov, Dubinsky, Igor Girkin (Strelkov), and Leonid Kharchenko commences next February 1, Steenhuis’s new ruling anticipates that if the Russian Government decides to dismiss the Dutch defence for incompetence and abandon the show trial, it will appear more guilty than if the Dutch defence had never begun.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Vladimir Putin liked to call the White House officials he met in mid-1999 by their first names,  except for Strobe Talbott of the State Department whom he called Mister Talbott.  

That was when Putin was Secretary of the Security Council, and his direct US counterpart was the White House National Security Advisor, Samuel (Sandy) Berger. In August of that year Putin was promoted to Prime Minister, and he began to take calls from President Bill Clinton. Putin began calling him Bill at their first face-to-face meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, on September 12, 1999, It was there Putin confided that President Boris Yeltsin did things that were “simply mistakes”.

Clinton avoided calling Putin Vladimir when they spoke by telephone on January 1, 2000, after   Putin had replaced Yeltsin the night before as acting President. “Hello Vladimir”, Clinton addressed him for the first time by telephone on March 27, 2001; Putin’s election the day before had been confirmed.

The newly released Clinton-Putin records reveal a string of Putin concessions to ingratiate Clinton which went unreciprocated by the time Clinton left office in January 2001. The Clinton archive also exposes that Clinton patronised Putin, demanded, threatened, extorted, and lied his head off.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

All that glisters isn’t gold. But as all Russian goldminers know, when it comes to the reputation of the mining company, its chief executive,  and its share price, glister will do just as well. That has been the view of Suleiman Kerimov (lead image, right) whose Polyus is Russia’s most important goldmining company.  

Glister has been Kerimov’s lucky colour; his longtime chief executive Pavel Grachev (left), the same. Through one of his children, Kerimov owns and controls Polyus.  Grachev does everything Kerimov senior has been telling him to do since 1998, twenty-two years ago.  Last month Kerimov senior told Kerimov junior to tell Grachev to start advertising Sukhoi Log (Russian for “Dry Gulch”), an underground store of gold in southeastern Siberia whose ownership has been fiercely fought over by international and Russian mining companies since 1992.

Unmined still, but firmly in Papa Kerimov’s possession, Sukhoi Log’s prospective value has more than doubled Polyus’s share price this year – and double the share price gain of Newmont of the US; triple that of Barrick of Canada, the international leaders of the gold world.  

But that’s on the Moscow stock market this year. Kerimov and Grachev are hoping Sukhoi Log will now draw US sharebuyers with an acceleration in annual gold production and  future, life of mine output which is also much faster than Newmont and Barrick.

Kerimov’s glister has always been mistaken for gold at the Financial Times,  so Grachev started his campaign there on October 22.   He then gave an expansive interview in Kommersant last Tuesday.

When we last reported on Grachev,  it was only to spell his name in the caption under an official photograph of the board of directors of Polyus Gold,  when it passed out of one pair of oligarch hands, Mikhail Prokhorov’s, into Kerimov’s. That was in 2014.  By then the market capitalisation was $9.5 billion,  down from its peak of $13 billion in December 2010. Renamed Polyus instead of Polyus Gold in 2016, this week the company is worth the rouble equivalent of $29 billion. Its share price on the Moscow Stock Exchange (MOEX, formerly MICEX) has jumped by 124% in the year to date.

The value of this goldminer has not always reflected the price of gold or the value of the gold reserves Polyus owns, mines, or is planning to mine. The company has often been calculated to be worth what the market thinks of Kerimov, Prokhorov, or before him another Russian oligarch, Vladimir Potanin. Grachev’s new job this week, as it has always been his job, is to rub the oligarch glister off the company, and turn its share price into true gold. As if Kerimov wasn’t there.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Vkusville sounds half Russian, half French. Piquant, you might say – пикантный.

The name can be translated into English as Taste Town. But for the name of a new chain of food stores this sounds so hackneyed that in your average American or British town you would expect to find there all the sugarised, carbohydratised,  and preservatised foodstuffs in the brand-name packages you can find everywhere else in the civilised, genetomodified world. So if you have the money to indulge your appetite, you would leave the cliché store to the plebs to patronise. Not you, nor the bourgeoisie in general.

Moscow is quite different; but not because it doesn’t have an unequal distribution of income, a class of plebians below, a bourgeois class above, and a power elite above them, each with their distinguishing consumer and shopping ideology. That hierarchy of class taste has been the most enduring import from the US, and the most effective NATO strike across the Russian frontier, since Mikhail Gorbachev first invited it; Boris Yeltsin accelerated it; and Vladimir Putin – well, that’s another story.

Not because of him, however, but because of the economic and propaganda warfare waged against all Russians by the US, UK, German and French governments since 2014, Vkusville stands for the taste for Russian independence;  for the revival of national (Soviet) foods;  and for the rejection of everything the globalised food industry has been selling to Russia.  The outcome in Moscow – also growing in St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Bryansk, Tula and Voronezh — is the chain of specialty food shops calling themselves Vkusville.  Since 2012, they have multiplied in just eight years to more than one thousand two hundred, with a revenue in 2019 of  Rb82.5 billion ($1.3 billion). That’s an annual growth rate of 51%. Profit for last year came to Rb3 billion ($47 million) – that was an increase over 2018 of 163%.  

A year ago, Vkusville advertised these numbers to New York investment banks in the hope of selling part of the Russian shareholder’s stake in the business to the Nasdaq stock market – for a healthy number of dollars.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Dutch and Russian state officials combined last week to turn the trial of the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 into a farce.

Two Rotterdam police defenders, Sabine ten Doesschate and Boudewijn van Eijck, engaged by a Russian foundation to represent Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Pulatov, one of the four accused,  pretended to investigate evidence the prosecutors have rejected, and the presiding judge, Hendrik Steenhuis, together with an investigating magistrate whose name is kept secret, have already dismissed.  

Pulatov and Colonel Sergei Dubinsky, the second of the four accused by the Dutch of murder in the shooting-down of the aircraft and deaths of 298 people on board on July 17, 2014, pretended to be naïve in asking to be believed; provided videotapes of themselves offering to prove their innocence; and inviting the prosecution and Steenhuis to dismiss their truthfulness.  The prosecutors will make their presentation this week. The judge has announced he will rule on the defence requests on November 25.

The Dutch prosecution service pretended to report the three days of proceedings with the summary:  “the defence is of the opinion that additional investigation is required to find out more about the reliability and value of the evidence put forward by the PPS [Public Prosecution Service] and about evidence that was not put forward by the PPS but could nevertheless be important”.

The trial is broadcast live in Dutch with simultaneous translation into English. Spokesmen for the prosecution press service said they have no idea how the English voiceover record of each day’s hearing could be purchased, or if it was available at all.

The Russian state media organisation RT pretended to have had “technical capacity” difficulty reproducing the first day’s hearing in the YouTube format it has been broadcasting on the internet since the trial began on March 9. RT management then admitted they have ceased providing this archive record unless a one-time or subscription payment is made. “Ruptly is a B2B agency providing services and materials to the international media across the globe”, said the Moscow manager for RT’s Ruptly subsidiary. “The material in question with translation in English is available for Ruptly subscribers.”

No mainstream western media have paid. They also refused to report the defence presentations as news.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Demjin Doroshenko, a Ukrainian-Australian who says he was employed by the Ukrainian security service SBU at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 to report what the SBU intended in the western media, has replied to last week’s reports about his role.

Responding to publication of a classified interview record with Doroschenko conducted by the Australian Federal Police, and sent to the Dutch prosecutors in The Hague, Doroschenko now says he was defamed. Calling the Australian and Dutch police “criminals”, he says he “will write the truth that no one has seen yet.”

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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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