TAKING OFF!

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Entitled “The Yellow Airplane”, this is a Russian painting of the late Socialist Realist epoch. The artist signs himself Kazak, and dates the work 1960.

I found it in Moscow in 1998. Later it disappeared for more than a decade. But several months ago it was found, and I’ve had it stretched again and mounted on my wall. In trying to trace the painter, I have found two Kazak names who qualify, more or less – Oleg Iosifovich Kazak, born in Minsk in 1935; and Vasily Ivanovich Kazak, born in Moldavia in 1938. Vasily Ivanovich is the most likely painter, as he lived and worked for most of his career in Belgorod region, and because “Belgorod” is written on the back of the canvas. He died in 1996.

I’ve found only one other picture by the same Kazak, and nothing to compare to the beauty of the first. The painting comes from a time when it was possible to believe in building a civilized future in Russia, in Europe. Those whose wickedness you have been following here this year have taken us into a war from which there may not be enough time for us, you dear reader and I, to recover. For us, the yellow airplane isn’t a figment of the imagination, though if it were, it could not be shot down.
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PUTIN’S SUPPER FOR THE OLIGARCHS – WHO’S IN THE FAMILY, WHO’S OUT?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

At the very beginning of his presidency, in March 2000, Vladimir Putin said the state – he meant himself – should be “equidistant” from the oligarchs. He also promised “compliance with [market] rules, without offering any advantages or privileges or preferences to anyone”. The president, Putin added, “should stand above this influence and not pile up all the interests only in favor of the big companies and monopolies. We should not allow this.”
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LEONID LEBEDEV LOSES MOST OF HIS $2 BILLION CLAIMS IN NEW YORK COURT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Leonid Lebedev (lead image), the former Russian senator and energy trader, has lost fraud and deceit claims against Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg in a New York Supreme Court ruling. After considering the case for eight months, state judge Salliann Scarpulla has also rejected Blavatnik’s and Vekselberg’s application to dismiss Lebedev’s entire lawsuit. This leaves one question to be decided next year — Lebedev’s claim of breach of a contract from 2001, which remained unsigned at the time; and which depends, according to Lebedev, on a conversation during a walk in New York’s Central Park.

The US judge has also ruled to allow Blavatnik and Vekselberg to continue their litigation in a London arbitration court, and the opportunity to file elsewhere. In London Blavatnik and Vekselberg say they paid Lebedev the $600 million he asked for and received through Irish and Cypriot front companies he is claiming didn’t pass on the money to him for more than a decade.
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THE LITTLE DUTCH BOY, HIS FINGER, AND THE LEAK IN THE DYKE STORY – MAKE THAT THE BUK STORY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Eponymously, much of The Netherlands is close to or below sea level. So it’s susceptible to inundation by sea storms and heavy rains. So long as the man-made dykes hold the water back, the country can be saved.

According to a well-known Dutch history lesson from the 19th century, it took a little boy’s alertness to the dyke leak he spotted on his way to school, to sound the alarm; prevent the dyke from being breached; and save fortunes and lives. Russians, whose familiarity with Dutch dykes and little boys began with Tsar Peter the Great in 1697, regard this story as a harmless national fantasy. Actually, the story of the Little Dutch Boy, his finger and the dyke was invented by an American novelist in 1865. But the Dutch are so fond of the fiction, they have erected statues of the Boy and his Finger around their country. These provide opportunities for American tourists to leave coins beside them.
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GENNADY TIMCHENKO PUTS A CORK IN IT – NEW WINE COMPANY QUALIFIES FOR STATE CASH, AS RUSSIAN TASTE FOR RUSSIAN WINE GROWS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On November 13, Gennady Timchenko (lead image), once the oligarch controlling the greater part of Russian oil movement from well-head to market, established a new line of business. He called it Carignan, after the Mediterranean grape variety, and he put his public relations agent in charge of the company as chief executive. The company is so new the President of the Russian Union of Winegrowers and Winemakers, Leonid Popovich, hadn’t heard of it.

Rival Russian winegrowers, who have heard of Timchenko, say he’s making his move to qualify for the large cash payouts from the Ministry of Agriculture to encourage new vine plantings, boost domestic wine production, replace imports, and revive Crimean winegrowing after a very bad year in 2014. This state cash represents 80% of outlays on new vineyards. Anton Kurevin, Timchenko’s spokesman, and chief executive of Carignan, responds: “an application for participation in this programme has not been lodged.”
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MH17 CORONER CONTRADICTS HIMSELF, IGNORES AUSTRALIAN FORENSIC EVIDENCE, RULES IN FAVOUR OF DUTCH SAFETY BOARD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Victorian state coroner Iain West (lead image) has concluded a 60-minute inquest into the deaths of Australians on board Malaysian Airlines MH17 by issuing a statement of findings contradicting the coroner’s own statements, as well as the evidence of reports from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and courtroom testimony from the senior Australian police officer investigating the MH17 crash.
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AUSTRALIAN POLICE, DUTCH PROSECUTORS BREAK WITH DUTCH SAFETY BOARD AT FIRST CORONER’S COURT INQUEST ON MH17 CRASH

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian Federal Police and Dutch police and prosecutors investigating the cause of the crash of Malaysian Airlines MH17 believe the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) has failed to provide “conclusive evidence” of what type of munition destroyed the aircraft, causing the deaths of 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

After testifying for the first time in an international court, Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe, the senior Australian policeman in the international MH17 investigation, said a “tougher standard than the DSB report” is required before the criminal investigation can identify the weapon which brought the aircraft down, or pinpoint the perpetrators. Their criminal investigation will continue into 2016, Donoghoe told the Victorian Coroners Court (lead image) on Tuesday morning. He and other international investigators are unconvinced by reports from the US and Ukrainian governments, and by the DSB, of a Buk missile firing. “Dutch prosecutors require conclusive evidence on other types of missile,” Donoghoe said, intimating that “initial information that the aircraft was shot down by a [Buk] surface to air missile” did not meet the Australian or international standard of evidence.
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OLEG DERIPASKA OFFERS TO PAY MORE TAX FOR CLIMATE CHANGE — ASKS FOR KREMLIN TAX BREAKS INSTEAD

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On what the Paris Agreement for climate change (COP21) should have decided last Saturday, no Russian business figure has been as outspoken as Oleg Deripaska (lead image), chief executive and control shareholder of the Russian aluminium monopoly, Rusal.

“Balderdash”, Deripaska said of the agreement terms during a whistlestop interview with a British newspaper in Paris. “We all know that countries submit [emission cuts] as a way to do nothing, to wait for the next election. They do not want to be criticised, they do not want to deal with the substantial issues.” Concretely, he added: “there is no other solution. For us engineers and managers who run companies, for the financial community,  the only way [to reduce emissions] is to put in a global carbon tax. Seriously, it is carbon tax or die.”
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RUSSIA FIRES MOON SHOT OVER THE BOSPHORUS – TURKS THREATEN WAR

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It isn’t exactly certain what the Turkish military saw on a foredeck deck of the Russian Navy’s landing ship, Caesar Kunikov, as it passed through the Bosphorus Strait last Sunday. What is certain is that the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared the Russians had launched “a pure provocation” at Turkey, and that the Turks would react with matching force. “The necessary answer will be given in situations deemed to be a threat,” announced Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has been foreign minister for 12 days.

Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, identified the source of its photograph as the Twitter account of “photographer Emre Dağdeviren”. The photograph has disappeared from that source, if it ever was there.

The London media also went on the attack. The Guardian published a photograph, but the caption, “Photograph: None”, failed to identify the source or the authenticity. The Financial Times reported its Istanbul correspondent as saying it was “a particularly chilling incident.” With more caution, Reuters claimed that the Turkish television channel NTV “broadcast photographs that it said showed a serviceman brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck”. Reuters wasn’t sure what had happened, or whether the photographs had been fabricated; but the Reuters headline declared “Turkey [was] angered by by rocket-brandishing on Russian naval ship passing Istanbul.”
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IS THE RUSSIAN ART MARKET SINKING FOR LACK OF CASH?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If the London art market is a test of reality, then last week’s Russian Week sales demonstrate that Russian buyers are poorer, and there is now less Russian money for buying Russian paintings, jewellery, porcelain and other art objects than at any time since Russian Week started in London in 2005.

Some dealers say there is another test of reality, and that’s the quality of the art, not the supply of cash bidding for it. According to James Butterwick, “Russian art has always been over-valued. People are now putting reasonable estimates on their items with the result that more will sell.”

Last week’s sale results from the four auction houses – Sotheby’s, Christie’s, MacDougall’s and Bonham’s – totalled £17.2 million. Simon Hewitt, international editor of Russian Art + Culture, reports this is “less than half the £40.7m generated by the corresponding Russian Week in late 2014, and down 18% on the £21.2m taken at Russian Week in June 2015 (even though all four firms staged slightly larger sales this time out, with the total number of lots on offer up 20% from 888 to 1069).” Hewitt explains the reason is “a host of calamitous factors — the weak ruble, increasingly isolated Russian economy, terrorism, Syria.”
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TURKEY’S COMPLICATED RELATIONS WITH ITS NEIGHBOURS AND ALLIES

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By Gary K. Busch, London

The most frustrating aspects of the media coverage of the current efforts to suppress the forces of Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria is that there is a dearth of ‘joined-up’ thinking behind most of the analyses. There is a lot of eyewitness reporting of daily events in the countries, cities bombed, planes downed, tactical struggles for control of cities and provinces, secret alliances and nefarious activities , as well as a litany of opportunism by politicians pressing self-serving analyses of the events. The most important problem, however, is that each aspect of the evaluation of the impact of the Syrian crisis is treated as a discrete problem, unrelated in any meaningful sense to the bigger picture.

There is probably no better example than the world’s reaction to events in Turkey and the search for a solution to the current crisis over Syria and its attendant problems. Turkey is the key to the Syrian crisis and its unique geographic, political, ethnic and military situations are the most important antecedent problems facing the world when trying to adopt a useful and credible policy for dealing with Syria.

Turkey has played, and continues to play, a duplicitous role in relation to Syria, and so it has found itself in conflict with enemies both international and domestic. It is bitterly opposed to the Assad regime but hates and attacks the Kurds even more, despite the fact that the Kurds have been doing much of the heavy lifting in the battles against Daesh. Turkey has supported Daesh in Syria; funded and supplied Al-Nusrah; attacked and bombed the Kurds to the south and east of the frontier; made a market in Syrian oil; refused (until recently) for the U.S. to use the Incirlik Air base; attacked and downed a Russian plane passing through Turkish air space for 17 seconds. Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı,MIT) has been the main supplier of explosives, ammunition, medicine, and free passage to Daesh fighters inside and alongside Turkey.
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HOW IMF AND WORLD BANK REPAIR THE UKRAINIAN BANKING SYSTEM — KONSTANTIN ZHEVAGO LIQUIDATED; IGOR KOLOMOISKY, GENNADY BOGOLYUBOV, VICTOR PINCHUK, VASILY KHMELNITSKY ENRICHED

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The International Monetary Fund has decided to delay fresh loan payments of $3.4 billion to Ukraine. In the meantime the World Bank has given the Deposit Guarantee Fund in Kiev $500 million to keep the leading Ukrainian banks solvent. The two international agencies have also agreed to the seizure of $174 million in funds held in a Kiev bank by the London-listed iron-ore miner, Ferrexpo. The state raid on Ferrexpo’s corporate account in Finance & Credit Bank, one of the top-10 Ukrainian banks in asset value, is the first cash confiscation from a Ukrainian oligarch for the benefit of the Ukrainian reform programme.

According to sources close to Konstantin Zhevago, control shareholder and chief executive of Ferrexpo, and owner of Finance & Credit Bank, the money is being used to prop up the banks of rival oligarchs, Igor Kolomoisky and Gennady Bogolyubov, owners of Privat Bank; Vasily Khmelnitsky’s Khreschatyk Bank ; and Bank Dnepr Credit belonging to Victor Pinchuk.
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MR BEAN GOES TO THE US, PARAGUAY, BRAZIL TOO – RUSSIAN SOYBEAN SECTOR TO CHALLENGE AMERICAN IMPORT SUPREMACY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The soybean is an edible legume native to East Asia. For Russians
that means it’s a native of Siberia. Eighteen months ago, President Vladimir Putin declared Russian soybeans to be the best in the world.

The president was on a tour of the Russian Far East, the region of the country where most Russian soybeans are grown. He promised to increase federal budget support to accelerate the rate of growth of the soybean harvest until Russia can become self-sufficient in soybeans, and do without imports from the world’s two largest sources, the US and Brazil. The Russian harvest has been breaking records, but for the time being, it is far short of the domestic requirement. Can the annual import volume of two million tonnes – roughly one-half of consumer demand, and equal to the domestic harvest – be grown at home, and how quickly?
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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.

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