By John Helmer, Moscow

The widow of Cyrus Vance, the only US Secretary of State to resign in protest against his president’s actions in a hundred years, called Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor and Vance’s rival, “that awful man”. Not a single official of the State Department under Vance during the Carter Administration of 1977 to 1981, thought differently. Most of them had monosyllabic terms for Brzezinski.  Since Brzezinski died last Friday, not a single member of his own  White House staff has made a public statement in his honour, memory or defence. The mute ones include Madeleine Albright, who owed to Brzezinski her career promotion as an academic, then White House staffer, then Secretary of State herself.  

Despite the disloyalty of those closest to him, and the detestation for Bzezinski of those further away, he was, and remained, Carter’s favourite. Between 1977 and 1981, Brzezinski’s time with Carter, according to the White House logs, amounted to more than 20% of the president’s working time.  That’s 12 minutes of every hour — no other official came close. On Friday, shortly after Brzezinski’s death was announced by his family, Carter issued a statement extolling him as “a superb public servant…inquisitive, innovative, and a natural choice as my national security advisor …brilliant, dedicated, and loyal. I will miss him.”   

What was this bond between them, and why does it matter now?  One reason is that what they did together were the freshest American operations studied at KGB schools in Moscow by a recruit in training at the time named Vladimir Putin.



By John Helmer, Moscow

If ever there was a man who displayed on his face the evil on his mind, it was Zbigniew Brzezinski, (lead image, right) who died last week at a hospital near Washington.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who employed Brzezinski as his National Security Advisor between 1977 and 1981, the only high official post Brzezinski reached, said he “helped me set vital foreign policy goals, was a source of stimulation for the departments of defense and state, and everyone valued his opinion.”  Of Carter’s three claims, only the first is true; the second is ironic hyperbole; the third is completely false. If Carter cannot tell the truth now about Brzezinski, after having 36 years to reflect on it, Carter reveals the principal source of Brzezisnki’s power, when he exercised it.   For Carter was no innocent ventriloquized by the evil Svengali (lead image, left), as in the original Svengali tale. Carter was simply more mendacious than Brzezinski, and is entirely to blame for doing what Brzezinski told him to do.   (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

It used to be fashionable for European tourists of high class, especially the ladies with their menfolk, to visit wars and enjoy the display of artillery at night; the clash of infantry and cavalry on the battlefield; and the morgues where the casualties were displayed in naked and dismembered heaps afterwards. Frisson tourism then, extreme or shock tourism today.

The Crimean War, for example, was further away from London and Paris than St. Petersburg, but was visited by more British and French than Russian tourists; that was because the Anglo-French side was winning. These days American tourists do not cruise the waterways of the Persian Gulf; trek in the Afghan mountains; holiday in houseboats on the Tigris; or visit the ancient ruins of Leptis Magna (Libya)  and Palmyra (Syria).  The reason isn’t want of aesthetic taste for the sights or of appetite for frisson.   It’s because the US is losing the wars in those places. Tourists, like soldiers, want value for money and they aim to return home. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska (lead image, right), the controlling executive of Rusal, Russia’s state aluminium monopoly,  has run into difficulty winning the approval of the British Government’s stock exchange regulator, the UK Listing Authority (UKLA),  for an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in EN+. This is the holding unit through which Deripaska runs Rusal; the Siberian hydroelectricity generating company Eurosibenergo;  and coal and molybdenum mines.  Asked to respond to the informal approach which has been made so far on Deripaska’s behalf, UKLA spokesman Chris Hamilton refused to confirm or deny the approach, adding: “any interaction we may have with a firm wanting to list is confidential so [it] isn’t something we can comment on even off the record.”

Rusal insiders say no international bank has accepted Deripaska’s mandate to manage and underwrite a London Stock Exchange (LSE) listing for EN+.  That leaves only Kremlin backing for the share sale through the state banks, said the insider.  “My understanding is that VTB and Sberbank play an active role in it.”  

An earlier attempt, promoted by Deripaska in Bloomberg at the start of February, for Rusal to sell its shares on the LSE, was a feint, a Rusal source said. It was aimed at deterring Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim group, a minority shareholder which has been trying to sell its 17% stake in Rusal for years, from making a deal at a discount to the market price for the share. “It has never been seriously considered,” the Rusal insider said. “It was EN+’s and Rusal’s attempt to thwart Onexim’s sale of its Rusal shares to the market, which Deripaska considered harmful to Rusal. This is an example of fake news.”

Part of the problem, London market sources add, is that the EN+ share sale is viewed outside Russia as a bid by the Kremlin to demonstrate investor confidence in the future of  the Russian economy, despite sanctions.  “But if you can’t disguise that nobody is buying except for the Russian state banks, then the scheme is self-defeating, just  as the Rosneft share sale was last year.”  For details of that story, read

Another problem, market sources in London say, is that Deripaska himself has already demonstrated considerable risks for investors in the Hong Kong listing of Rusal, now priced at a third of its IPO value. Deripaska risk, they add, also led to the US Government rejecting a deal for the sale of the Opel division of General Motors to a Deripaska-led combination with Sberbank and German government funding; Deripaska was turned down in 2009. For details, read this. Last month, the Opel sale was agreed to the French Peugeot PSA group.

On May 15 Deripaska launched a lawsuit in federal US court in Washington, DC, in a bid to defend his reputation in that country. “Mr. Deripaska has never stolen assets from Ukraine or elsewhere”, lawyers for Deripaska say in the 12-page complaint against Associated Press (AP) of New York, which can be read here. It is defamatory, the lawyers add, to make Deripaska “appear to have been engaged in criminal conduct” and “making him appear infamous or odious.” (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

A Washington Post reporter has revealed that the Islamic State (IS) laptop plot story, which President Donald Trump mentioned to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week came from IS itself, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The reason for the leaking against Trump, which followed in the Post and in the Anglo-American media, has also been disclosed by the Post. The CIA and at least one senior staff official of the National Security Council, who briefed the CIA on what Trump had said, are angry at the President for revealing collaboration between IS operatives and their US Government handlers in attacks on Russian targets, including Russian airline travellers. (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

When it first appeared in Washington in December 2013, the semi-thousand page biography of Vladimir Putin by two minor American think-tank researchers, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, was judged to be a valuable compilation of everything the US news media and other government-funded think-tanks had already reported, suspected or believed about the Russian president for the previous decade. No more, no less. In Russia, since no knowledgeable or politically significant Russian contributed evidence to the book,  much less. 

The subsequent publication of chapters on the putsch in Ukraine in February 2014, the accession of Crimea, Russian military intervention in Syria in 2015, and the US war to overthrow Putin and fight Russia everywhere in  cyberspace, added nothing more remarkable in Washington, and nothing novel (non-fictional sense) in Moscow.

But had Hill not been appointed a few weeks ago as President Donald Trump’s (lead image, right) director of Russia at the National Security Council (lead left), the principal foreign policy advisor serving the President,  Hill’s book, with its one thousand and one footnotes, and fifteen single-spaced pages of references, led by Hill and Gaddy  themselves, The Economist, and extracts from the Voice of America,  would have been as inconsequential as  they have already proved to be for years. However, Trump’s confidence in, and dependence on Hill’s advice on Putin, and the campaign to impeach Trump himself for high crimes and misdemeanours in association with Putin, change the way the book  must now be interpreted.

Does the evidence that Hill spent two formative years as a student at an institute in Moscow where she rubbed shoulders with Russians bound for, and already bound to, the two state intelligence services, GRU (military intelligence) and SVR (foreign intelligence),  require a counter-intelligence assessment because of the risk which was unforeseen until now?   

Hill’s Moscow time is a detail of her resume which has yet to be identified in US media reporting and Congressional committee vetting.  But as a Russian source from the institute points out, “this is especially curious if we take into account the fact that the Moscow State Linguistic University is a source of supply of employees for GRU and SVR.  It was during the Soviet period, and it remains the same nowadays.” As another Russian source familiar with the secret services points out, by the standard of investigation the CIA, FBI and the US media now apply to Trump, his appointees, business associates, advisers, family,  and friends, does this detail require special scrutiny for Hill? “Her book,” claims the source, “is so full of false leads and dead-ends, don’t the Americans wonder if Hill is a sleeper agent, recruited long ago with the mission to keep the Americans as ignorant of Russia as her book on Putin demonstrates?”

If Hill is a continuing Russian penetration risk at the White House, then is there also the risk that the potentially culpable General Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser between January 20 and February 13, 2017, and his successor General H.R. McMaster, have failed to protect Trump himself? (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

The first meeting of Canada’s new Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (lead image, left) with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) has backfired when Freeland addressed Lavrov in Russian, and Lavrov replied that speaking in Russian will soon be illegal according to a new law proposed by the Canadian-backed regime in Ukraine.  “While Chrystia Freeland is free to speak Russian here in Alaska,” Lavrov told the press, “in Ukraine, where Russian has long been a native language for a huge number of people, it could soon lose its standing and status.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

The name Isaac (lead image, right), son of Abraham (centre) and Sarah (left) in the Old Testament book of Genesis, meant “he laughs”. That was because Isaac was conceived when his mother thought she was long past child-bearing,  so Abraham started laughing at her news. He got more serious, later in the story, when he prepared to cut Isaac’s throat. Abraham thought he was doing God’s bidding, until God sent down new instructions.

The Isaac after whom St. Petersburg’s cathedral (Isaakievskiy Sobor, Исаа́киевский Собо́р – lead image, extreme right) – Russia’s largest; world’s fourth biggest church — is a different one. He too got the lucky last laugh. That Isaac was a fourth century Syrian by origin, who was living as a hermit contemplating Christian theology when Valens ruled the eastern Roman empire in nearby Constantinople.  Valens was a nervous, insecure sort who, with his brother, the co-emperor in Rome, had taken power by assassination, bribery and regular shows of military force.

Isaac was a go-getter, and insisted Valens give him an audience. Valens wasn’t so nervous he saw every Christian hermit in from the desert, so he refused. Isaac got his own back by broadcasting the meme that Valens would die shortly in a fire.  Valens threw Isaac in prison for sedition, where he stayed until Valens did die (378 AD), and the new successor emperor released Isaac to run a monastery on his pledge not to issue any more emperor death threats. Isaac was lucky too, because of the four versions of how Valens met his death,  one of them included fire. All of them recorded that Valens’s body was never found.

Because Isaac died on May 30 (383 AD), and that turned out to be the birthday of Peter the Great (1672), the tsar decided to turn Isaac into the patron saint of the Romanov dynasty. That’s what the current 19th century cathedral, built to replace smaller structures on the site, means. Its name signifies  holy war on the enemies of the tsar and  Romanov dynasty. That’s one, but not the only reason, a group of Russian Church bishops have recruited Kremlin support to order  Georgy Poltavchenko, St. Petersburg’s governor, to overrule his earlier decisions,  ignore the courts, city parliament,  and thousands of citizen petitioners, cancel state ownership of the building,  and hand it to the Russian Church to become its property.  

“The Church”,  according to close observers of its affairs in Moscow, “has persuaded the Kremlin to allow it to act above the law, and outside the law, too.  Thieving Church banks like Peresvet go unprosecuted. When businessmen take real estate, the state’s or each other’s,  it’s called asset raiding, and the courts often intervene. Not when the Church is the raider. But even raiding is not enough. The state budget, and of course ordinary taxpayers are being required to pay for the Peresvet Bank bailout,  and for running St. Isaacs, while the priesthood hang on to their gains.” (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikail Shishkhanov (lead image, left and right) is the chief executive and control shareholder of B&N Bank (Бинбанк, BiNbank), one of the fastest growing banks in Russia today. What is driving that growth, however, is a combination of state money and influence in circumstances open to challenge from government regulators for the bank’s lack of transparency. 

Four recent transactions by the bank and related-party companies involving Shishkhanov have drawn a  warning from Central Bank first deputy governor, Sergei Shvetsov,  that cash from the Central Bank and from privately subscribed pension funds is what is driving B&N Bank’s growth, and not too prudently or lawfully.  “Shareholders are trying,” said Shvetsov, “to use the resources of pension funds not only for public investment in public instruments, but also to finance projects, fully or partially affiliated with the shareholders themselves”. To secure against conflict of interest and insider dealing, Shvetsov proposed to exercise “strict supervision.”

Shvetsov is head of financial market regulation at the Central Bank of Russia (CBR). His role, according to the bank,   includes “countering malpractice in the financial market, including regulation and control over the observance of the requirements of Russian Federation legislation on countering the illegal use of insider information and market manipulation.”

This week the CBR was asked to clarify whether it is investigating related-party dealings in the sale of $150 million worth of  B&N Bank bonds to the  Safmar pension fund group, both  controlled by Shishkhanov;  the sale to Safmar of Rb3.2 billion ($44 million) in shares of Evroplan, a leasing company also controlled by Shishkhanov;  the sale to Shishkhanov companies of Rb32.4 billion ($500 million)  in shares of Russneft,  the oil company controlled by Shishkhanov’s uncle, Mikhail Gutseriev; and finally, B&N Bank’s role in underwriting the sale of $60 million in fraudulent Tatfondbank bonds, weeks before the Central Bank imposed bankruptcy administration on Tatfondbank. The CBR would neither confirm nor deny, explaining “we don’t comment on actions connected with active banks.”

When the Federal Service for Financial Markets (FSFM), the formerly independent financial regulator  now part of the CBR organization and directed by Shvetsov, was asked the same question, it replied: “We don’t comment on active banks and companies.”  

A Russian oil industry banker says “it’s clear from Russneft’s share trading record since last November’s IPO that there is almost no sale volume. Also, the share price isn’t responding to the price of oil or to the movement of the other Russian oil companies. That means Russneft is closely held. There’s a fake float, not a free float.” (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

Last year the government of Botswana decided to halt a 2-year old, multimillion dollar contract for its state mining company to purchase a nickel mine from Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company. The government also decided to put its state nickel mining company into bankruptcy to protect against court claims from Norilsk Nickel. At the same time, the Botswanans tried arranging a buyout of their mining company by a penniless investment group in the United Arab Emirates.

A document, drafted on March 13 and circulating since then among Botswana Government officials, reveals details of the buyout and confirms that the Norilsk Nickel deal was negotiated in bad faith by the Botswanans without the money to pay for it.  The Botswanan Government then sought secret help from the South African Government to block the deal. 

This sequence of events, decided behind closed doors,   have so far cost Norilsk Nickel a contract worth $277.2 million, and the conviction that the Botswana Government cannot be trusted to honour either its obligations to foreign investors, or its promises of employment and prosperity to its own people. Mining sources in Gaborone, the Botswana capital, say it’s a case of politicians inexperienced in business “doing something either so clumsily they are culpably incompetent, or so cleverly they are corrupt. Either way the Norilsk Nickel case is a tragedy for the country.”

The deal was the last exit from Africa by the Russian company, convinced that Botswana is a much higher risk than has been admitted until now in reports of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and Transparency International.  As for the smoking-gun letter, Sadique Kebonang, the Botswana mining minister to whom it was addressed, says: “I am unaware of it. I will look for it since you have brought it to my attention.” He declined “to respond to matters that are before court and are subject to the sub judice rule.” (more…)


By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

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 Blue Line (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), (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

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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