- Print This Post Print This Post

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In an advertisement for herself on British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Radio 4, the coroner directing the inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess has revealed that she has already decided that Sturgess’s death on July 8, 2018, was caused by a nerve agent called Novichok fabricated by agents of the Russian state, carried to England, and used as a weapon in a murder plot.

Baroness Heather Hallett spent weeks negotiating with the BBC for this interview, preparing the announcer script, and choosing the music to be played on the long-running celebrity programme, Desert Island Discs. The 35-minute broadcast went to air on June 6; it was repeated on June 11.

Hallett announced towards the end: “There is an increasing tendency these days to jump to judgement. You have to analyse the evidence. It’s only when you analyse the evidence that you can reach a sensible and reasoned and fair judgement”.

This is not what Hallett and the BBC had agreed would be said at the start, when Hallett was introduced as “the coroner of the Salisbury Novichok inquest” who would “examine the part played by the Russian government”.

Not since May of 1992, when Lord Chief Justice Peter Taylor appeared on Desert Island Discs, has a sitting jurist agreed to present himself or herself on the radio show.  In Taylor’s broadcast no mention was made of an active case.

In the radio archive there have been many cooks, actors, Tory politicians, lawyers, and the  Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, all actively talking their book.  The BBC and Hallett decided she should be introduced as presiding in the inquest to determine what caused Sturgess’s death. Hallett has held one preliminary hearing on March 30; promised a new one this month; postponed it to September 22. She has heard no evidence in court.

Her radio show reveals, however, that what makes up Hallett’s mind isn’t forensic at all.  

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Every summer and winter the London art auction houses display the best of Russian painting and fine art objects for a bidding match between Russian bank robbers on the run; museums; boardrooms; and everybody else with the taste to fit their pockets. When the price of oil goes up, along with the Moscow stock market index, pockets swell and the price of the art goes up. When court arrest warrants and asset freeze orders are pressing the robbers, the price goes down.

All the fine art markets are the same; the wartime prejudice against Russian art inflicts a discount. The Russian supply is more limited on account of the Culture Ministry’s export controls, and also because the supply history is several centuries shorter for Russian paintings than for Chinese and European.

This year the growth in the clean money was expected to offset the absence of the dirty money. Auction house sources also anticipated that more Russian buyers would participate in the internet format this time than last year’s first Covid-19 auction. A well-known London dealer forecast at the start of this month: “The June 2021 Russian Sales are the best yet! Ever! In history! In the whole, wide, beautiful world!”   This has turned out to be Ukrainian surrealism.

According to last week’s results from Sotheby’s,  Christie’s, MacDougall’s, and Bonham’s,  the virtual sale totals are significantly better this year than a year ago; they also remain significantly below the last live auction totals in June 2019. On the traditional taste tests for nudes and for scenes of Crimea, this year’s results show reluctance to put the money up. Sotheby’s attempt to sell the combination, “Female Nude in Crimea” (lead image) by Stepan Dudnik, failed to reach the bargain reserve price of £6,000.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

For the first time since the Dutch Government began its prosecution of the Russian Government for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the killing of the  298 passengers and crew on board, the court has heard what the presiding judge, Hendrik Steenhuis (lead image), has described as autopsy and post-mortem evidence from the bodies recovered from the aircraft crash scene in eastern Ukraine.

For the first time, Steenhuis has read out a scripted version of what he declares to be admissible evidence from the bodies, although the trial of this evidence has only just begun.

And for the first time – without showing he has comprehended what he has revealed —  Steenhuis confirms that only one piece of shrapnel identifiable with the alleged murder weapon, a Russian-made BUK missile, was discovered by the Dutch forensic teams, pathologists, policemen, prosecutors, and investigating judges who have been working on this evidence since the crash on July 17, 2014. If Steenhuis is telling the truth about this one bow-tie shaped piece of shrapnel from a missile warhead, another cube-shaped piece of shrapnel has disappeared from the cockpit bodies, plus one additional bow-tie and a cube reportedly found in the cockpit frame and photographed by the Dutch Safety Board in October 2015.

This one piece of metal has been admitted in evidence by Steenhuis without any chain of custody protecting it from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) since the SBU supervised autopsies of the same bodies in Kharkiv in July 2014, before sending them to The Netherlands. That is one piece of metal out of 2,600 bow-tie shapes and another 2,600 cube shapes in the BUK missile warhead Steenhuis has now ruled to have committed the crime.

For the Dutch judge this is beyond reasonable doubt.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The US Government told the Dutch Government on April 23, 2021, that it does not trust Dutch judges in the trial of Russians accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.  

In a letter that has been kept secret until yesterday, the US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the State Department and the Department of Justice declared that they were happy to tell Dutch prosecutors that US satellite images proved that a Russian-fired BUK missile destroyed the MH17 in flight above eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. However, they would not allow the evidence of the satellite images, or the details of the secret DNI briefing of unnamed Dutch government officials on August 23, 2016, from being repeated, tested and verified by the Dutch judges who have been requesting the evidence for several years.

The US officials also said in their letter they rejected all possible alternatives for the Dutch judges to examine the alleged evidence.

According to a statement of the Dutch investigating judge to the presiding trial judge, read out in court on June 7,  taking into account  “the clear reaction of the American authorities the investigating judge in all reasonableness sees no possibility to indeed further execute this referred request [for the satellite evidence].”

Russian lawyers following the proceedings in The Hague District Court believe the collapse of US government evidence in the case leaves the only evidence for the prosecution to come from the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) which Dutch judges refuse to allow to be tested by independent experts.  International war crimes lawyers have repeatedly said that without the US satellite evidence, the Ukrainian government fabrications leave no case for the Russians to answer, and that the defence lawyers for  the indicted Russian Army officer Oleg Pulatov should now walk out.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Since 1984 – that’s 37 years – the difference between a slice of meat between two buns and  truth-telling by the President of the United States has been thin.

That’s why the Wendy’s Company of Dublin, Ohio, became famous with the line that distinguishes between propaganda and truth, between the beef and the buns. The line is “Where’s the beef?” It made its debut in Wendy’s hamburger advertisement (lead image); it was weaponised by Walter Mondale against Gary Hart in the Democratic presidential nomination campaign of 1984; it was revived last year when, on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, supplies of beef patties began to run out at US hamburger outlets.

When President Joe Biden (left) meets President Vladimir Putin (centre) in Geneva next Wednesday, June 16, the White House has promised a tirade of attacks on Russia, including last week’s a cyber hack on meat processor JBS; last month’s Colonial fuel pipeline hack; and last year’s SolarWinds hack on every secret the US government thinks it  is keeping.

Remember that if the SolarWinds allegation is true, there’s only one secret Biden has left – this is that there aren’t any US secrets he can keep from Putin,  including how much beef there is in US hamburgers and petrol in US gas tanks.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In an act of over-confidence and carelessness on March 30, the British coroner appointed in January to investigate the cause of death of Dawn Sturgess, ex-judge and secret service advisor Baroness Heather Hallett has created a truth trap. The truth is Cremation Form Number 6 (lead image). This is the trap into which Hallett and the two lawyers advising her, Andrew O’Connor QC and Martin Smith, have now dropped themselves.

This three-page form permitted and registered the funeral and cremation of Sturgess; according to the British government, she is the only person in the world to have been killed by the Novichok nerve agent. She was released to her family after Form 6 was signed by Wiltshire county coroner David Ridley and copies handed to Chris White Funeral Directors who collected the body for the funeral ceremony on July 30; and to the Salisbury Crematorium for official authorisation to cremate the body later the same day. The signed form was passed from Ridley’s files to Hallett’s files when she replaced him as the coroner in charge of the Sturgess case last January.

Form 6  is the first official record of what caused Sturgess’s death, according to the autopsies which Coroner Ridley authorised between Sturgess’s recorded death on July 8 and July 17; only the autopsy on that date has been recorded by the press, by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and by Hallett.

On March 30, this year, Hallett released publicly for the first time the cause of death record signed by Home Office pathologists, Philip Lumb and Guy Rutty, in what the Hallett hearing was told was a report dated November 29, 2018.  That was four months later than Ridley’s Form 6. Since Ridley had ordered Lumb and Rutty to carry out their post-mortem investigation, what was the difference between the cause of death Ridley signed and the November 29 report which Hallett selected for public release? The question is the truth trap.

Hallett has now exposed the difference between Form 6 and the Lumb-Rutty report. This is the difference between life and death — but not for Sturgess.

On the two papers, revealed for the first time this month, depends the truthfulness of the British government’s story of Novichok and of the Russian state agents whom the British accuse of carrying the nerve agent into England; attacking Sergei and Yulia Skripal with it; and then abandoning it in a leftover bottle which later —  the British charge —   killed Sturgess.

Hallett refuses, however, to say there is no contradiction between Form 6 and the later pathologists’ report; she refuses to release Form 6 for verification in the courtroom or in the press.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The British Government is preparing to halt the coroner’s court inquest into allegations that Novichok caused the death of Dawn Sturgess in Salisbury on July 8, 2018.

After replacing the Salisbury coroner in January of this year, and after a single hearing on March 30 by secret service advisor and ex-judge Baroness Heather Hallett, briefings by the Cabinet Office and the security services have led to the decision that the only way of preserving the government’s narrative of a Russian nerve agent attack, first against Sergei and Yulia Skripal, then against Sturgess, is to introduce Defence Ministry and MI6 evidence in secret session.

Hallett and the lawyers advising her inadvertently allowed secret medical evidence to slip into the public record on March 30. This revealed that two leading English pathologists could not agree to sign their findings on the cause of Sturgess’s death after holding two autopsies in July of 2018; they then delayed signing their final post-mortem report for almost five months. That report, dated November 29, 2018, the medical records of the first and second autopsies, along with ambulance paramedic logs, hospital admission records, and ward medical notes remain top secret. Together with the papers of MI6 agents, Porton Down nerve agent experts, and Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Office official in charge, this classified evidence is inadmissible in coroner’s court proceedings under English law; they are allowable in closed-door session if a public inquiry is substituted.

The switch from open coroner’s inquest to secret public inquiry, which Hallett and her predecessor Wiltshire county coroner David Ridley have forewarned, is planned to be announced later this month, or in July.

For the time being Hallett’s office declines to say when she will resume hearing the case.

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

“Vladimir Putin is not the president of my choice”.

This is how the daughter of a powerful apparatchik in Tatarstan begins the book she has just written from London, at a think-tank leading the propaganda war against Russia. The problem for Gulnaz Sharafutdinova (lead image, right),  inside her mind, is “the gap between how many of my schoolmates, friends and family back home perceive Putin’s leadership, and how I perceive it.”   The problem outside Sharafutdinova’s mind is that she is on the other side in the war against Russia, and she doesn’t want to admit it.   

So she has produced the book her employers at King’s College Russia Institute and the Oxford University Press require.  Could it be any other way? Could Sharafutdinova keep her job and publishing contract if she explained current anti-Western, in particular anti-American and anti-British sentiment in Russia, as the outcome of the war those two states and the NATO alliance launched against Moscow since 2014?

If, instead,  her book had come to the conclusion that all Russians from President Vladimir Putin on down believe everyone would be better off if the Anglo-American warmakers left Russia to evolve on its own, Sharafutdinova, her institute,  and her printing press would be impoverished — out of jobs, out of power,  out of money. That’s not a judgement they can afford.    

The watershed year, Sharafutdinova acknowledges, was 2014. But she blames Putin, not only for having instigated the war against the West, but for expanding and exploiting it for his own schemes of domestic re-election, compensation for his own insecurities,  enrichment of his supporters, and “to forge the new Russian collective identity and his own image as a great leader of the Russian nation.”

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Inside a university on the upper west side of Manhattan island sits Timothy Frye (lead image, right), a professor who still likes to talk of the good times he had in the Soviet Union when he was a young agent in a propaganda touring show for the US Information Agency; and then, during the first post-Soviet years, when he was a broadcaster of good news at the US outlet, Radio Free Europe.

He is still making his living broadcasting the news about Russia. This is no less a product of the same US government money trail as his early efforts, although Frye’s title, those of his sources, and of the think-tanks and academic units which pay their salaries and finance their research are more highfalutin than they were.    

There is also no change in the source of this news about Russia. It comes second hand and by hearsay from US and British journalists in the mainstream media; from Russian reporters on stipend to US sponsors; and academic researchers on either side of the Atlantic, quoting each other.

In this world, all the warfighting objectives of toppling the Putin administration, defeating the Russian Army in the Donbass and Syria, and recovering Crimea for the Kiev regime, are endorsed by Frye. All charges of cyber attacks, media trolling and US election campaign intervention by Russian military intelligence agents; poison attacks against Alexander Litvinenko, the Skripals, and Alexei Navalny; the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17; the deaths of Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Nemtsov, and Sergei Magnitsky – in short, every evil Russian deed reported for the past decade is accepted by Frye as the truth,  together with the regime-change narratives of William Browder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Navalny.

But Frye’s book is more than a hackneyed replay.  It is evidence of what is in the mind of Frye himself, and of the Anglo-American academic establishment, as they work away at their war against Russia. Theirs is a virtuous cause, Frye thinks, because he and his peer group believe they are being scientific about the Russian enemy, and are certain they know the enemy better than he knows them.  

(more…)

- Print This Post Print This Post



By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

New evidence has surfaced from interviews with sources at the Salisbury undertaker and crematorium in charge of the obsequies for Dawn Sturgess, whose death at Salisbury District Hospital on July 8, 2018, is the only death officially recorded from the Novichok nerve agent. Their testimony raises fresh doubts that Novichok was the cause of her death, and suspicion that the two state coroners and two state pathologists responsible for the investigation have been concealing material evidence of timing and records in the case.

(more…)