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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it happened eight months ago, the arrest of little known public works contractor Sergei Vladimirovich Maslov (lead image, right) made a sensational bang. The outcome, eight months later, is a silent ringing one; that’s ringing as in Russian telephone justice.  

At his palatial home at Arkhangelskoye, outside Moscow, on October 19, Maslov refused to let the police in, so they used sledge hammers on his front door before they took him away. A commercial television company chartered a helicopter to fly slowly over the mansion to film its tennis court, guest house, banya, servants’ quarters, garages and gardens. The cameras were invited in to film Maslov’s rooms and make an inventory of his closets, shoes, safes, as well as the objets d’art on the walls. His garage was opened to reveal several luxury autos. Pictures of Maslov’s motor yacht, berthed somewhere in Italy, surfaced in print

The message was that Maslov was very rich.  But the charge against him was that he was only slightly  crooked. He has been charged with defrauding a bank which had gone bust two years earlier of Rb1 billion ($16 million). Also arrested and charged was an accomplice, Vladimir Karamanov. He let the police into his home when they knocked; his face and possessions haven’t been displayed on television. The two men were flown by police to Rostov-on-Don; held on remand for a month; and then released in November to go home, purportedly under house arrest.

This week the Leninsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don  refuses to say if there is a continuing arrest order for either Maslov or his property; if a new hearing has been scheduled;  or if the prosecutors have dropped the case.  Lawyers for Maslov refuse to say what the status of the charges against Maslov are, or if there remains any case for him to answer. These are signals that whoever ordered the police into action last October has decided enough is enough.

Sources who know the players and their businesses agree Maslov was targeted by someone much richer and more powerful, who also sponsored the press coverage. The sources say Maslov’s recent business has been tied to Gennady Timchenko (lead image, left); so the sources are divided in their suspicion between Timchenko and his rival in the gas business, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft. According to one source, “either it was a pressure from Timchenko & Co. to extract money from Maslov, who pretended to be a Timchenko man and grabbed more than he was entitled to. Or it’s one of the battle fronts of the silent war between Sechin and Timchenko over new gas production and Novatek. To me, it looks like the first scenario. Timchenko initiated the arrest. Under pressure Maslov agreed to return money. Charges have been softened or dropped.”

This morning in Moscow Timchenko categorically denies both. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Deep in the inner recesses of the Kremlin there is a Russian group who crave to be loved by the American Establishment. For them shaking the hands of stuntman Steven Seagall or boxer Roy Jones Jr. – recent recipients of celebrity Russian passports — or of moviemaker Oliver Stone, doesn’t quite cut it. 

So they draw large sums of money from the Russian state budget to media studios like RT, talk-shops like the Valdai Discussion Club,  and think-tanks like the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy to host the conferences and banquets at which they can ingratiate themselves with their American inamorati – and most importantly, be seen to be loved in this fashion by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.  For they, too, want to be loved.

The Russian demand for American love potions extends with special keenness to US warfighters against Russia, and US spies against Russia. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

German military records have been found in a Polish government archive in Warsaw revealing that Michael Chomiak (lead image, left), maternal grandfather of Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (right), volunteered to serve in the German invasion of Poland long before the German Army attacked the Soviet Union and invaded Ukraine.  

Chomiak’s records show he was trained in Vienna for German espionage and propaganda operations, then promoted to run the German press machine for the Galician region of Ukraine and Poland during the 4-year occupation. So high-ranking and active in the Nazi cause was Chomiak that the Polish intelligence services were actively hunting for Chomiak until the 1980s – without knowing he had fled for safety to an Alberta farm in Canada.

The newly disclosed documents expose Freeland’s repeated lying that Chomiak had been a victim of  World War II; an unwilling journalist overpowered by German military force;  compelled to write propaganda extolling the German Army’s successes, and advocating the destruction of the Jews, Poles and Russians. As for Freeland’s claim that Chomiak had secretly aided the Ukrainian resistance, sources in Warsaw believe Chomiak was trained by the Germans as a double-agent,penetrating Ukrainian groups and spying on them. 

The Polish records also point to the likelihood that US Army, US intelligence and Canadian immigration records on Chomiak – concealed until now – can confirm in greater detail what Chomiak did during the war, as well as for years afterward, which made him a target for the Polish police until not long before his death in 1984. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mystery moves in a godly way, wonders to perform. Even on state television, in Russia’s secular democracy.    

President Vladimir Putin (lead image, right) was taken by surprise, he said yesterday, by the first question ever asked during his annual Direct Line national broadcast about the affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill (left). Ivan Bratsev, identifying himself as a worker at the state-owned Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg, asked Putin about the future of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the 180-year old city landmark.

There is no mystery about that because the transfer, demanded by the patriarch, of the cathedral from state control to the Russian Orthodox Church has been bitterly protested in the city for months, and reported widely in the national media.  The wonder was performed by Putin in his answer. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Johnny Appleseed, an eighteenth century nurseryman and orchardist, is honoured in his American homeland for being a patriotic soldier in the  war against the British, and for going barefooted in the mission of Jesus Christ to convert the native Indians, whose tribal lands he enriched with apple nurseries.  It’s the job he did for apples that has given him his nickname. When he died, his estate amounted to 490 hectares of apple orchards.

What is less well-known is that because grafting was against Johnny’s religious conviction, the apples he produced were prone to disease and good only for pressing into alcoholic cider, sauce for roast pork, and baked apple-pies.  In Russia the first two are unheard of. Porvidlo (Повидло)  and charlotte (Яблочная шарлотка), puree and pies, are the next best thing, applewise. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Vladimir Yevtushenkov’s asset-holding company Sistema has not inspired investor confidence since September of 2014. That was when Yevtushenkov was arrested in Moscow and charged with fraud and money-laundering in connexion with Sistema’s takeover of Bashneft, a Volga region oil producer.  That year, Sistema’s market capitalization on the London Stock Exchange dropped from $15.5 billion to $1.2 billion, setting a new record for haircuts among Russia’s oligarchs. Yevtushenkov’s incarceration lasted eight weeks in home confinement, during which he gave up Bashneft and accepted a number of other terms from Russian prosecutors and their superiors.

One of these get-out-of-jail cards has just come to light in Johannesburg, South Africa. Through leaked emails, a big-money deal has surfaced between Yevtushenkov and the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. How much money was promised and for what purpose is not known yet.  But the deal in negotiation has been alleged by South African sources and reporters to be a case of skulduggery on Zuma’s part; that of his son, Duduzane Zuma, and of a financial advisor and collaborator of the Zuma family, Rajesh (aka Tony) Gupta. 

In Moscow today, Yevtushenkov’s head of corporate relations, head of press and head of investor relations would not confirm or deny the meetings with Zuma Senior, Zuma Junior and Gupta. They also refused to give details of the business Yevtushenkov has been conducting with President Zuma. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sherlock Holmes pointed the way in The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet in 1892: “When you have eliminated the impossible,” he said, “whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

If you believe the evidence of the US Democratic Party, the Director of Central Intelligence,  the NATO Defense College, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Hillary Clinton,  and several hundred of their state-paid hangers-on, it is impossible for there to be a surge of voters in any of our advanced democracies which cannot have been detected in advance by the election technologies in current use. That is, unless there had been massive cyber-penetration by the Russian secret services, under direct command of President Vladimir Putin, so that voters won’t or can’t reveal what they are thinking until they vote; and if that doesn’t produce wins for Kremlin-manipulated  candidates, to hack voting machines and turn out fabricated vote totals.

However improbable all this may seem to you, it stands to reason, Sherlockian reason, that the Russian explanation must be the truth. Putin’s advice early this month for Americans to “take a pill” must be further confirmation of improbability turned truth.   Also, there can be no exceptions. What must have been true for American voters last November must be just as true for British voters last Thursday. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

For one day  in London every June and December, the Russian assets which regularly pass through greased palms on terms dismal for their repetitiveness,  are of a beauty to make you forget the damage the trade does to the country and its people. The Russian Art Week auctions are the occasion. The results are an indicator of the price the Russian market, and also the foreign one, place on this beauty.

The auction houses claim not to know who buys and who sells. In fact, they keep the identities and addresses secret. That’s because the money for which the art works were exchanged  may have been dishonestly come by at the start, hot in transit, and laundered now.

“Optimism for the future of Russia is at an all-time low”, commented a well-known London art dealer this week. “People with money are escaping and buying art. The good news about this week’s prices in London is that they could have been much worse. A bigger group of Russians is now buying at lower prices per work,  so the cumulative total is a big one for the auction houses. You could say that the best Russian art is better priced to be more affordable if you are rich but not super-rich.”

A Russian art market source adds: “economic distress has always been good for the Russian art market. What you see today is that the old classes of St. Petersburg aristocrats and Moscow merchants who fled a century ago are now selling what they took with them to remind them of the country they left behind. Their heirs feel no sentiment towards Russia, or they are hostile. The buyers are also Russians on the run, but they are still sentimental. The paintings sold this week are being swapped between Russian exiles. They aren’t going back to the motherland. The state isn’t buying, and most people are too poor. The rich are buying for walls of chateaux in France and English country houses.”    (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

First question:  What is as mealy as ex-Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski but not as tart as his wife, American journalist and Russia-hater Anne Applebaum?  Answer: the Polish apple scam.  Second question:  What has more worms in it than the Polish apple scam?  That’s the Russian apple scam. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The late Zbigniew Brzezinski, who died on May 26 near Washington, DC, was another of the Russia-hating Galicians who grew up in safe haven in Canada. Like Chrystia Freeland’s maternal grandfather, Michael Chomiak,  though the late Chomiak may have murdered the late Brzezinski if he had managed to get his hands on him during World War II.
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