The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.
It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.
Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.
Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points, want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.
“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification, his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”
The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island, was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.
It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.
Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”. The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.
But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.
Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits, LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”
Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”. “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added, diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February. Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace Morawiecki next year.
The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45; and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption, and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .
“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June, “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”
“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”
The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.
The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.
Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha by the Black Sea in Abkhazia. Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.
Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel. As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him. “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”
In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.
Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.
There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.
There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.
Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers. In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.
Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.
How little the Germans have changed.
But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.” By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”
So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.
Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.
China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.
The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.
In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022, is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.
There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself. Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”
This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.
The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.
Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age, after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.
After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster history to be her own joke.
Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself. This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.
In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English: the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.
The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British. Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating. The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin BlueLine (d. 1996).
The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion), Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok) are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences. The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.
Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money. “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.
By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with
It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.
The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.
Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.
China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years. The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.
So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.
The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).
A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester, he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018, claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.
Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”
Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.
After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.
The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.”
Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.
New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.
Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes, it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.
The US Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been firing several hundred million dollars’ worth of cyber warheads at Russian targets from its headquarters at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida. They have all been duds.
The weapons, the source, and their failure to strike effectively have been exposed in a new report, published on August 24, by the Cyber Policy Center of the Stanford Internet Observatory. The title of the 54-page study is “Unheard Voice: Evaluating Five Years of Pro-Western Covert Influence Operations”.
“We believe”, the report concludes, “this activity represents the most extensive case of covert pro-Western IO [influence operations] on social media to be reviewed and analyzed by open-source researchers to date… the data also shows the limitations of using inauthentic tactics to generate engagement and build influence online. The vast majority of posts and tweets we reviewed received no more than a handful of likes or retweets, and only 19% of the covert assets we identified had more than 1,000 followers. The average tweet received 0.49 likes and 0.02 retweets.”
“Tellingly,” according to the Stanford report, “the two most followed assets in the data provided by Twitter were overt accounts that publicly declared a connection to the U.S. military.”
The report comes from a branch of Stanford University, and is funded by the Stanford Law School and the Spogli Institute for Institutional Studies, headed by Michael McFaul (lead image). McFaul, once a US ambassador to Moscow, has been a career advocate of war against Russia. The new report exposes many of McFaul’s allegations to be crude fabrications and propaganda which the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has been paying contractors to fire at Russia for a decade.
Strangely, there is no mention in the report of the US Army, Pentagon, the Special Operations Command, or its principal cyberwar contractor, the Rendon Group.
Maria Yudina (lead image) is one of the great Russian pianists. She was not, however, one who appealed to all tastes in her lifetime, 1899 to 1970.
In a new biography of her by Elizabeth Wilson, Yudina’s belief that music represents Orthodox Christian faith is made out to be so heroic, the art of the piano is diminished — and Yudina’s reputation consigned again to minority and obscurity. Russian classical music and its performers, who have not recovered from the Yeltsin period and now from the renewal of the German-American war, deserve better than Wilson’s propaganda tune.
Those lighting Mikhail Gorbachev’s funeral pyre are torching the truth of the matter – that Gorbachev was a liar of monumental vanity who betrayed his country out of greed and incompetence, outpointed by his adversaries in Moscow, Washington, and London because they knew him better than he knew himself.
Among men eunuchs have the highest pitched voices. In crowds they can be heard but not listened to. They were more persuasive in the empires of the Asiatic despots.
Sir Rodric Braithwaite has just published a book entitled “Russia, Myths and Realities”, implying that now his country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is at war with Russia – a war Braithwaite endorses with enthusiasm — he can tell his readers which side of the war reality is on. His book is also a declaration that the UK is a significant war-fighter against Russia when it’s that no longer — this is Braithwaite’s myth. The reality is that the British have castrated themselves in front of Europe, first with Brexit; now on the Ukrainian battlefield and at NATO headquarters in Brussels; the “United” part is on its last legs, the “Kingdom” not quite.
In the British crowd shouting approval, the reviewer of The Timescalls Braithwaite’s declaration an “elegant history shed[ding] light on the Russian president’s imperial ambitions”; the reviewer of Spectator says it is “wise and thorough…the work of a man with a deep inside knowledge of and sympathy for Russia’s people and their culture.”
Braithwaite was Prime Minister Thatcher’s and Prime Minister Major’s ambassador to Moscow when Mikhail Gorbachev was being replaced by Boris Yeltsin, with Thatcher’s and Braithwaite’s connivance. Braithwaite’s wife handed out cookies to Yeltsin’s supporters in the Moscow streets in 1991. Since Braithwaite has been outside Russia since 1992, the only inside knowledge he has can be attributed to the time he presided over the UK intelligence establishment in 1992-93, and then to the friends he made as Deutsche Bank’s adviser on lending to Russia until 2002. The self-castration he and his claque are making a show of these days is a sign of religious faith, like Origines of Alexandria (lead image).*
The piety is already at cut price – in the first week after publication Amazon has discounted the hardcover edition of Braithwaite’s book by 30%; the e-book version by 44%.
On August 24, 1991, Marshal Sergei Fyodorovich Akhromeyev committed suicide. He had returned from his holiday at Sochi responding to the attempted removal of Mikhail Gorbachev from power. According to the reports of the time, he hanged himself in his Kremlin office, leaving behind a note. One version of what it said was: “I cannot live when my fatherland is dying and everything that has been the meaning of my life is crumbling. Age and the life that I have lived give me the right to step out of this life. I struggled until the end.”
When I was optimistic, I used to mark the passing summers by the hit songs that were playing on the radio as I sweated away at jobs that paid me the money I badly needed.
“She loves you” was the summer of 1964 for me; “Summer in the City” was 1966. “Nutbush City Limits” was 1973. Ten years later, in the summer of 1983, “Nutbush” was the backing theme for radio programmes I produced for Claudia Wright in Melbourne – the last time she was allowed to broadcast on an Australian radio station. In 1995, though it seems to have been earlier, there was “If God was one of us”.
In this wartime the lyrics can’t mean what they used to. Now it’s not a good idea to be sentimental when the job is to scribble until Labor Day.
The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (lead image), was toppled from power in Colombo and forced to flee the country on July 13, leaving behind a prime minister he had appointed to succeed him, assuring his immunity from prosecution and delaying national elections for two years. A week earlier, on July 6, Rajapaksa telephoned President Vladimir Putin and requested emergency shipments of Russian fuel to the country on credit because Sri Lanka had run out of fuel and also the money to pay for it.
The last Russian shipment, 90,000 tonnes of Russian crude oil to restart Sri Lanka’s sole but bankrupt refinery, had been ordered from intermediary traders and then delivered to port in May. However, the oil could not be unloaded until the government produced the cash to pay for it. Rajapaksa followed in the last days of June by sending two officials to Moscow to ask for direct government-to-government oil deliveries without cash. There was no Russian agreement.
Rajapaksa’s prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had announced to the press that if the US or its allies in the Middle East wouldn’t agree to deliver fresh crude oil or gasoline, he and Rajapaksa would go to Moscow. “If we can get [it] from any other sources, we will get [it] from there. Otherwise [we] may have to go to Russia again,” the prime minister said.
Behind the scenes Rajapaksa had been trying to get Putin on the telephone for weeks, announcing publicly in Colombo he was ready to fly to Moscow. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded publicly that no face-to-face meeting was possible. On July 6, the Kremlin agreed to take the Sri Lankan call.
Rajapaksa was desperate; Putin non-committal. “Had a very productive telecon with the #Russia President, Vladimir Putin,” Rajapaksa tweeted. “While thanking him for all the support extended by his gvt to overcome the challenges of the past, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to #lka [Sri Lanka] in defeating the current econ challenges. Further, I humbly made A request to restart @AeroflotWorld operations in #lka. We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in sectors such as tourism, trade & culture was paramount in reinforcing the friendship our two nations share.”
“The presidents,” reads the Kremlin communiqué, “discussed current matters of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, in particular, in energy, agriculture and transport… It was agreed to continue contacts at various levels.”
In Moscow the Russians interpreted Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa to be making a public show of asking for Russian help in order to persuade Washington to rescue them instead.
The Kremlin was convinced the Sri Lankans were scheming and bluffing. The reason was that on June 2, at Colombo’s airport, an Aeroflot Airbus Flight SU-288, with more than two hundred Russians returning to Moscow from holiday in the country, had been prevented from departing; the aircraft had been stopped by an order from a judge of the Commercial High Court. Ostensibly, the court was acting on a lawsuit filed against Aeroflot by an Irish aircraft leasing company called Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited.
In fact, that entity was a front for AerCap, the dominant global aviation leasing corporation in the world, controlled by General Electric of the US; Celestial Aviation is an AerCap special purpose vehicle; its claim against the Aeroflot aircraft in Sri Lanka was part of Washington’s sanctions war — and Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were immediately told so by Russian officials. They claimed the court order was a “commercial dispute” with “no involvement of the state”; the Russians didn’t believe them.
The aircraft was released on June 6 and a court official charged with corruption. But a month later, by the time Rajapaksa was appealing to Putin, Aeroflot had not restarted its flights. There would also be no Russian oil nor credit to save Rajapaksa.
In Moscow, Rajakpaksa’s downfall and his replacement by Wickremesinghe are not viewed as regime change – not yet. Russian officials are not saying whether they believe there is a continuing US plot in the country. Neither are the government officials who know best what has occurred already, and what is likely to happen next – they are the Indian government. The silence from Moscow and Delhi is telling.
Never mind the bang and whimper with which the pietistical Anglo-American Harvard alumnus and Tory snob Tom Eliot ended his 1925 poem, “The Hollow Men”. Whatever he could have known and didn’t then, can’t answer the question now: How will this war in Europe end?
Last week the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answered by drawing a geographic line three hundred kilometres westward and southwestward from the Russian border, including Donetsk, Lugansk, Sevastopol, Kaliningrad, Brest and Hrodna (Belarus). That is, the direct line of fire by the artillery, rocket, or missile batteries which the US and the NATO allies are installing.
“Now the geography is different,” Lavrov said. “It is more than the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic], but also the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and a number of other areas. This process continues, consistently and persistently. It will continue as long as the West, in its impotent rage, desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible, continues to flood Ukraine with more and more long-range weapons. Take the HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]. Defence Minister Alexey Reznikov [Kiev] boasts that they have already received 300-kilometre ammunition. This means our geographic objectives will move even further from the current line. We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Vladimir Zelensky, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory or to the republics that have declared their independence and want to determine their own future.”
Will this line extend to Lvov in western Ukraine, or somewhere between Dniepropetrovsk, Kiev, and the Polish border, Lavrov was asked. The answer will not be given by diplomatic negotiations, he replied. “There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.”
What the deuce? Gorilla Radio’s Chris Cook asks the question and Gorilla Radio broadcasts the answers.
The British government’s scheme of secrecy surrounding the public inquiry into the alleged Novichok attacks against Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Dawn Sturgess in 2018 has been opposed by the BBC and the London Times.
“A requirement for confidentiality undertakings”, a BBC lawyer wrote to the inquiry chairman, Lord Anthony Hughes, in a document released by Hughes’ spokesman last Friday, “is itself an impediment to transparency… as well as general, healthy discourse among legal and editorial colleagues.” David Attfield is the head of the BBC’s programme legal advice department which signed the document. But the name on the signature line has been blacked out. “The media should be trusted to act responsibly,” the BBC told Hughes.
In a letter dated July 1, Brid Jordan, deputy head of the legal department of Times Newspapers Ltd. (TNL), told the Hughes Inquiry her media group “opposes the blanket anonymization of categories of individuals. TNL is particularly concerned that the restrictions are requested to be indefinite with no periodic review of necessity or appropriateness. The restrictions sought have the potential to stifle reporting of a significant inquiry and, as proposed, represent a disproportionate restriction on the fundamental principle of open justice.”
At the close of the letter, Jordan’s name has been kept secret by the Inquiry; the evidence of this is not quite erased.
The state media corporation and the London press group owned by Rupert Murdoch have led the British government’s efforts to accuse the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, and President Vladimir Putin personally, of launching the Novichok chemical warfare weapon against British targets.
The BBC’s dramatized retelling of the Russian cause of Sturgess’s death, titled “The Salisbury Poisonings” was broadcast in June 2020. This followed fabrication of evidence in interviews and a book released by a BBC correspondent and MI6 informant, Mark Urban.
The BBC and the Murdoch media have refused to interview the Skripals for their account of what allegedly happened to them in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. They have also failed to report or investigate the announcement, which Dawn Sturgess’s family made public through their lawyer on July 15, that they suspect British officials, prosecutors, and police of fabricating the Novichok story.
It’s unlikely that when they were alive, Sergei Skripal (lead image, left) and his daughter Yulia Skripal (right) read Enid Blyton.
The paratroop and military intelligence training which Sergei Skripal received prepared him for Afghanistan, Malta, and Spain. By the time he reached England in 2010, he wasn’t undercover, and didn’t need to pretend to having read the Blyton books as a boy. By then too Blyton had been dead for more than forty years, and her books condemned in fashionable English circles as sexist, racist, paedophilic, and sadistic; although Blyton’s prejudice against foreigners has returned to fashion recently. Her taste for playing tennis in the nude did not suit the Skripals or the retired policemen neighbours in their Salisbury block.
Blyton’s books weren’t translated and published in Russian until after Boris Yeltsin became president. The first of her Secret Seven series didn’t appear in Russian until 2015. By then Sergei was 64 years of age; Yulia was 31.
In March of this year, the first of the seven Skripal secrets began to slip into the public prints when Adam Chapman (lead image, centre), a lawyer who was on sabbatical from his London office at the time, was appointed by the British government to represent the two Skripals as their legal representative. The official announcement of his appointment appeared on April 4. For the first time since March 4, 2018, when the front door-handle of their cottage was attacked, and Skripal and his daughter collapsed in the middle of Salisbury town four hours later, it appeared they had recovered their voice and their freewill.
Except that Chapman refuses to speak for the Skripals; to acknowledge that he has been instructed by them to be their lawyer and that he has seen for himself that they are alive.
On July 15, in Chapman’s first public appearance in a London courtroom on behalf of the Skripals, he was asked a question by Lord Anthony Hughes, the judge chairing the public inquiry into the alleged Novichok attacks by Skripal’s former military service. Did he have anything to say to the court for Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Chapman was asked. “Nothing”, Chapman replied, shrugging his head. That was the second of the seven Skripal secrets to slip out.
On Friday, July 15, in London, a session took place of the British government’s public inquiry into the story of the Novichok attacks of 2018. This followed the first public session on March 25 and a closed-door session on April 4.
However, the sound and video recording system failed. The presiding chairman, former judge Lord Anthony Hughes, had no microphone and was both inaudible and invisible to the camera for more than two hours of the proceedings. Microphones at the tables of the lawyers in the courtroom, including those of the inquiry itself, the government, and the police, did not work. A single microphone had to be moved by a court clerk between speakers, but this failed to catch everything that was said. The stenographer contracted to transcribe the session was not in the courtroom; dependent on the audio and video feed, she was unable to transcribe what was said.
A spokesman for Hughes told the press “the stenographer was listening remotely and this has resulted in a delay with the transcript. I hope it will be published early next week.” Following the failure of the transcript to appear this week, the spokesman conceded “we are hoping to publish the transcript as soon as possible.” She was requested to say when the transcript and the texts of the presentations the lawyers had prepared in advance would appear. She replied: “we are aiming to publish the transcript and submissions together as soon as possible.”
The result is that the two most important revelations in what was said in court have not been recorded officially. They have also not been reported by the handful of media reporters who listed themselves at the hearing; the BBC and Salisbury Journal reports omitted them. The two dramatic disclosures were however recorded by hand, by me.
In the first, Michael Mansfield QC, said that a “jigsaw of intelligence” had been the evidence when British government officials announced the Novichok story and then charged Russian agents with the Novichok attacks. If the evidence had been good enough for public statements by Prime Minister Theresa May, her Cabinet Secretary and security advisor Sir Mark Sedwill, and then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, then what explained the delay in releasing the evidence to his clients, the family and partner of Dawn Sturgess, the lawyer asked. “Unless it’s an empty barrel”, Mansfield added.
In the second disclosure, Georgina Wolfe, junior counsel for the Home Office, was speaking in court for the government, including the prime ministry and the two security services, MI6 and MI5. She explained there was an ongoing threat to British lives of Russian attack. Her evidence for this, she added, included “the Danish investigation of the MH17 attack”. Wolfe was referring to the Dutch investigation and the ongoing court trial in The Netherlands of the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the Ukraine in July 2014.
The truth of what caused the death of Dawn Sturgess and of the Novichok story is not what Mansfield’s and Wolfe’s statements in court last Friday meant. Mansfield wants a multi-million pound payment for his clients and himself, and is prepared to accuse the government of lying. Wolfe wants the government to get away with the lying under cover of secrecy, backed by something misbegotten in the kingdom of Denmark.
Without an official record of what was said, the lawyers and the judge can pretend Mansfield’s and Wolfe’s revelations didn’t happen.
The public inquiry by Lord Anthony Hughes into the British government’s narrative of Russian chemical warfare in the UK and the alleged Novichok death of Dawn Sturgess on July 8, 2018, collapsed into secrecy, mishap, and farce in a London courtroom on Friday.
The sound system failed, leaving only one microphone to be moved from one speaker to another. The judge was invisible off camera and inaudible for the entire proceeding. A court official told the press “I personally apologies [sic] for the ongoing technical issues…The Cloud video platform equipment was tested beforehand and all was thought to be well. However there have been ongoing issues with equipment today.”
A government lawyer acknowledged that the “preliminary” security check of documents in the case is requiring reviews and approvals by five unnamed government agencies, and taking five months before the documents can be released to Hughes and to the lawyers in the case. Police and intelligence service applications to the judge to keep evidence and witness identities secret will be heard in secret. A closed-door hearing for this was expected to follow the public one on Friday, but the timing of this is a state secret the judge has not revealed.
Michael Mansfield QC, a lawyer representing the Sturgess family, said in court that four years ago, a “jigsaw of intelligence” was already available when British government officials announced the Novichok story and then charged Russian agents with the Novichok attacks. Mansfield said the delays for secrecy reviews had left the Sturgess family’s “patience [wearing] extremely thin.” He hinted that if the evidence for the Russian Novichok attack had been solid enough for public statements by Prime Minister Theresa May, her Cabinet Secretary and security advisor Sir Mark Sedwill, and then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, followed by announcement of criminal charges, the Sturgess family was exasperated by four years of postponement in releasing the evidence to the public inquiry.
“Unless it’s an empty barrel”, Mansfield added. This is the first suggestion the Sturgess family has made publicly that they suspect government officials may have been lying.
When I was ten years old, I was tall for my age and had an unusually powerful first serve for a boy.
After observing me hit a few practice balls, a famous international tennis star turned coach told my mother that if she handed me over to him every day after school for three hours a day, every day for the next ten years, along with a cheque almost as tall as I was, he was sure he could turn me into the world champion he had been. She refused.
It wasn’t that my mother was sceptical of the promise, or of my juvenile talent at the game, or even of the price she had to pay. Her reason, she told me later, was she thought there was more to life than tennis, and that in my after-school hours I would be better occupied doing my school homework. At the time that wasn’t my choice to make. Later, when I went in for politics instead of tennis, she thought there was more to life than that too. Still, she went to Wimbledon when she could. She also kept up her own tennis game. I haven’t done either.
That is until last Sunday, when for the first time in the history of tennis, the politics met the tennis game on the centre court, and Novak Djokovic, the Serbian champion, won both. The Australian government’s abuse of emergency powers to keep Djokovic out of the country last January – quashed by one federal court judge, allowed by a panel of three – had been defeated in four sets. Nick Kyrgios served 30 aces to Djokovic’s 15, but Djokovic won 132 points to 112. Had Kyrgios won, the Australian press, which had supported its government’s attack on Djokovic in January and Kyrgios in his Wimbledon challenge, would have claimed the double victory. Djokovic kept his eloquent silence.
This coming Sunday, July 17, will be the eighth anniversary of the downing over eastern Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in which 298 crew and passengers on board were killed; most of them were Dutch; some Australian, Malaysian and other nationalities. The Dutch, Australian and Ukrainian governments combined at the time to plan a NATO military intervention; to tamper with the bodies and the crash evidence; and for the past two years to run a show trial, in order to make their political case that Russia was guilty in the crime. The verdict is proven; the crime is not. That’s a double-fault.
In wars like the present one, politics on the home front cannot be permitted to give aid and comfort to the enemy. In the US and NATO campaign, the Russian oligarchs and their businesses are targets and also weapons of the plan for regime change in the Kremlin. What role they will play personally in the future of the Russian war economy, and how their assets, cashflows, profits and investments will be managed, are bound to be closely held secrets.
So when the aluminium oligarch Oleg Deripaska (lead images, left left, right left) and the nickel oligarch Vladimir Potanin (left right, right left) appeared to agree to announce publicly on July 4 that they are negotiating a merger of their companies Rusal and Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) into a single national mining and metals champion, they may be telling the truth; or they may be running a disinformation operation against each other; or they may be flying a trial balloon over the Kremlin to see what President Vladimir Putin will decide.
Potanin spoke first; he has detested Deripaska in the past. For the time being Deripaska has said nothing. The spokesmen for their companies are saying nothing on the record.
Potanin may have intended to sandbag Deripaska before the latter expected it. Last Monday they both knew that what Potanin said would immediately boost Rusal’s share price and damage Norilsk Nickel’s, and that is what happened, making the merger proposal appear to be Deripaska’s initiative, not Potanin’s.
The last three times Deripaska tried a hostile takeover against Potanin – in 2008, 2010, and 2015 — Putin refused to allow it. That the president is the one to decide again is too obvious to be a state secret now. That the Rusal-Nornickel merger is a much greater test of the war economy plan than the Central Bank’s rouble and interest rate policies, or the government’s capital export controls is also no secret. Whether Putin has made up his mind this time, and what he will decide remain secret. So is the fight to persuade him to say yes or no.
Next year it will be four hundred years since the Amboyna Massacre of March 9, 1623. The British won’t be memorializing their countrymen’s killings by the Dutch, nor the Dutch celebrating one of the last gasps of their Asian empire. They are now allies in the fabrication of reasons for killing Russians.
Remember the Amboyna Massacre! That was fighting talk in London during a decade of litigation in The Netherlands, and leading to the first Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54. The British won that one – and also the second war of 1655-57, and the third war of 1672-74.
In the Amboyna massacre the Dutch water-boarded and then executed a group of ten British merchants on the trumped-up charge of plotting to seize the Dutch fortress on the island of Ambon, now part of Indonesia, where today it is called Maluku. They were beheaded, along with nine Japanese mercenaries and a Portuguese they had employed. The head of the senior English officer, Gabriel Towerson, was put on a pike for display by the Dutch . On the fiftieth anniversary, John Dryden gave Towerson the leading role in a play he put on the London stage entitled, “Amboyna, or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, A Tragedy”. That was the time when British political propaganda was written by men of talent.
The real reason for the massacre was that the Dutch were trying to keep their monopoly of the nutmeg harvest on the island, making sure the British didn’t undercut their prices or their influence with the local sultans who controlled the indigenous nutmeg plantations. In those days, nutmeg was more than the sweet spice it’s thought of today. It was a strategic commodity – and a matter of national security in Europe. That was because it was believed to be able to ward off the Black Plague.
Also, the British and Dutch were fighting for sea routes and colonial assets capable of producing much more than nutmeg. Along the way, the Dutch lost New Amsterdam (aka New York) and much more besides. The Amboyna massacre had another unintended outcome – having lost the heads of several of its best men, the British merchant holding, the East India Company, decided to exit Indonesia, and entrench themselves in India instead. India was good for cotton textiles, chintzes, and the blue dye known as indigo. Nutmeg stayed with the Dutch, but the British stole the Ambon nutmeg tree and replanted it in other parts of their empire.
At the litigation stage, before the warring started, the British position was that the Dutch had no jurisdiction to put the Amboyna victims on trial for treason, let alone torture them and cut their heads off. That was judicial murder according to the British reading of the applicable Dutch and English laws and case precedents. The Dutch insisted that on their territory they had the jurisdiction to do what they did. By the time the litigation was over with acquittals of the Dutch judges who had issued the guilty verdicts and the death sentences, it didn’t matter. War did.
Fast forward to March 9, 2020. Dutch jurisdiction was decided by the US and the NATO allies for prosecuting the allegation against retired Russian army officer Oleg Pulatov of murdering the 298 passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by shooting the aircraft down in the Ukraine on July 17, 2014. The trial which began two years and four months ago has hidden the identities and proceedings of the judges investigating the evidence behind the court room. The Dutch state prosecutors have accepted the trumped-up evidence of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). The promised smoking-gun evidence of US satellite photographs never materialized. In anticipation, the guilty verdict has been as obvious as Towerson’s head on the Dutch pike.
Philip Short, a journalist from the BBC, has published a new book which claims to be a biography of Vladimir Putin. It isn’t.
What it is instead is a biography of one hundred and twenty-three westerners — what they claim to know about Russia’s leader and what for commercial motive, reason of state, or vanity they have told Short in interviews he conducted for his book. They include spies he names without their cover – John Scarlett, Richard Dearlove, Richard Bridge, Kate Horner, Martin Nicholson, and Pablo Miller from the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); Hans-Georg Wieck and August Hanning of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND); Jean-Francois Clair, Raymond Nart, and Yves Bonnet of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST); Seppo Tiitinen of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO); Mark Kelton, Michael Morell, Peter Clement, Michael Sulick, Michael Morgan, Paul Kolbe, and William Green of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Juri Pihl, head of the Estonian Internal Security Service, and Eerik-Niiles Kross, chief of Estonian intelligence; and several dozen other ambassadors, consuls, advisers, headquarters staff, journalists, and think-tankers.
Not one of the spies was operational in Moscow for the past twenty-one years of Putin’s terms in office.
There is a flash of originality in this book. Not a single source on which Catherine Belton’s book on Putin relies has been interviewed by Short; in his references to Belton’s claims Short reports they “appear to be untrue”. He reaches the same conclusion about two other books about Putin, Karen Dawisha’s and Masha Gessen’s. “Neither book pretends to be a balanced account”, Short says. Dawisha’s book “is marred by numerous errors of fact”. “All three”, Short warns, “set out the case for the prosecution, and like all prosecutors, the authors select their evidence accordingly.”
The Poles have always had a serious problem with their neighbours.
They have the Germans on their western flank, the Russians on their eastern flank, and inside their borders there used to be the Jews, but now there are the Ukrainians. In September 1939 there were about 3.3 million Polish Jews. Since February 24 of this year, the Ukrainians in Poland have come to the same number.
The war which the Polish government and military have been fighting against Russia is proving to be almost worthless politically to Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party in Warsaw; and also to the Civic Platform (PO) and its allies, the principal opposition coalition (KO). The PiS was 15 percentage points ahead of the KO in the voter polls a year ago, 35% to 20%; the margin between them now is 11 points, 38% to 27%. The gains for each are close to the margin for statistical error.
Economically, the war is costing much more in public outlays for the refugees than the value of US and NATO arms flows and related war income. By the time Warsaw pays for its new US weapons, it will owe more than when the war started; and there is still no relief from the European Union funding freeze and penalties.
What’s to be done, the Poles ask themselves – and who’s to blame when they realise the answer is something between not much and nothing.