US GOVERNMENT RIDDLE: WHY ARE SO MANY DOGS NOT BARKING? BECAUSE THE CAATSA GOT THEIR TONGUES

By John Helmer, Moscow

As midnight tolled in Washington, DC, and January 29 slid into January 30, the deadline for the US Government to produce a report to the Congress listing Russian oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin slipped by in the darkness. No dog barked.*

Required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), enacted with President Donald Trump’s signature last August, the oligarch report was not produced on time. Nor were three other reports – one on sanctions for Russian sovereign debt issues, one on sanctions for business with the Russian defense sector, and one on the extent to which Russian state banks and state asset holdings have re-nationalized key sectors of the Russian economy, such as banking, insurance, real estate, and ports.     

There was no press release from the White House, the US Treasury, or the State Department. The  House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which are responsible for administering CAATSA, made no announcement of  what had happened, and  not happened. Despite a media blitz in advance of the deadline, anticipating the release of dozens of Russian oligarch names as potential targets for fresh US sanctions, not a single mainstream US newspaper or broadcaster reported the failure of the list to materialize.

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THE CLOWN AND THE ELEPHANTS — DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER ARKADY DVORKOVICH SAYS THERE ARE NO OLIGARCHS IN RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

No matter how intelligent elephants are, they won’t learn not to defecate when performing at the circus. Generations of circus managers and animal trainers have wrestled with the problem, but the elephant sphincter has forced them to bow to the inevitable

The solution they have come up with is to employ clowns walking behind the elephants with scoops,  buckets, and brooms. Their job is to divert attention when the inevitable occurs, and make the audience laugh. Yury Nikulin, the greatest of Russian clowns and director of the Old Circus in Moscow, once told me that if the clowns he assigned to the elephant’s rear guard failed to get the crowd laughing, they wouldn’t get promoted until it did.  

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich (lead image, left) is trying to preserve his job when President Vladimir Putin appoints the new Russian government after the election of March 18.  A US-educated chess adept and protégé of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Dvorkovich is thinking several moves ahead in his game. That game, Dvorkovich calculates, must survive the possible replacement  of Medvedev as prime minister. So when Dvorkovich said in Davos there are no oligarchs in Russia, only “good businessmen”, he wasn’t trying to make the Russian audience laugh. He was trying to save his job — with support from oligarchs who haven’t backed him before. (more…)

ANDREI KOSTIN OF VTB DOESN’T BELIEVE RUSSIANS ARE RUNNING AWAY LIKE “COCKROACHES THROUGH THE FLOORBOARDS”

By John Helmer, Moscow

Andrei Kostin, 61, the head of the state-owned VTB Bank, has enjoyed a long career as a state official and state banker.  His reputation among his international banking peers does not highlight expertise in treasury operations  or investment ingenuity. Rather, Kostin is reputed for being the trusted executor of his shareholders’ instructions, deliberative, loyal, cheerful.

Since Kostin was head of Vnesheconombank (VEB) between 1996 and 2002, and head of Vneshtorgbank (VTB) since then, the instructions Kostin is trusted to follow come from the President, the Prime Minister and the senior state officials who rule the VEB and VTB boards, as well as from the security services with which Kostin was acquainted early in his government career. President Vladimir Putin made an exceptional public token of this trust by honouring Kostin’s 61st birthday last month with the gift of a Chimes wristwatch. 

When Kostin makes public statements in western media, it is understood he aims to reflect what the Kremlin has decided; he is not lobbying a personal or factional policy line before the decisions are made. So what were Kostin’s instructions when in Davos this week he declared, in reply to a question about the threat of US Government sanctions against Russian oligarchs: “I don’t think that everyone will now start to run away like cockroaches that disappear through the floorboards. The business community is generally calm”?

International bank sources in London and New York say they regard the remark as uncharacteristically vivid for Kostin. “In the first place, Kostin doesn’t think of the oligarchs as cockroaches,” commented a source who has known Kostin professionally for years.  “In the second, he knows they have already run away with their money, leaving Kostin and other state bankers holding their debts. In the third place, everyone knows they are anything but calm right now.” (more…)

GREAT MOMENTS IN COUNTING HISTORY – TURNOUT FOR VLADIMIR PUTIN, TURNIN FOR BORIS YELTSIN, TURNDOWN FOR THE RUSSIAN CONSTITUTION

By John Helmer, Moscow

Next to the certainty that President Vladimir Putin will win re-election on March 18, there is a doubt which no Russian pollster, political sociologist or official of the Central Election Commission dares to discuss on the record. That is the evidence from polling surveys of how many voters will cast ballots on the day – the turnout percentage.

The Kremlin and the president’s campaign boosters have announced a target of 70/70; that is 70% turnout, 70% vote for Putin.

The available evidence indicates that intention to vote, the projected turnout, has been sinking into the 50th  percentile. This level is so low, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has been ordered to do everything possible to raise turnout. Everything possible may include the method of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration; that’s the inclusion of voters who are dead but whose names remain on the registers. Named after the Nikolai Gogol story,   the Dead Soul vote is estimated by experts, who don’t wish to be named,  at between 3% and 7%; up to 10% in some regions.   (more…)

THE CIA BULL IN GLENN SIMPSON’S RUSSIA SHOP

By John Helmer, Moscow

In criminal trials the rule for prosecuting and defending lawyers is the same. Never ask a witness a question unless you already know the answer. The corollary rule for defending lawyers is – if the answer to your question will incriminate your client, don’t ask it, and hope the prosecutor fails to do his job.

Glenn Simpson, a former employee of the Wall Street Journal in New York, is currently on trial in the US for having fabricated a dossier of allegations of Russian misconduct (bribes, sex, blackmail, hacking) involving President Donald Trump and circulating them to the press; the objective was to damage Trump’s candidacy before the election of November 8, 2016. Simpson was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017; then the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on November 8 and again on November 14, 2017. So far, Simpson’s veracity and business conduct face nothing more than the court of public opinion. He has not yet been charged with criminal or civil offences. That will happen if the evidence materializes that Simpson has been lying.

Simpson’s collaborator in the dossier and his business partner, Christopher Steele, is facing trial in the London High Court, charged with libels he and Simpson published in their dossier.  Together, they are material witnesses in two federal US court trials for defamation, one in Miami and one in New York.  If they perjure themselves giving evidence in those cases, they are likely to face criminal indictments. If they tell the truth, they are likely to face fresh defamation proceedings;  perhaps a civil racketeering suit for fraud;  maybe a false statement prosecution under the US criminal code.

One question for them is as obvious as its answer. Who do an American ex-journalist on US national security and an ex-British intelligence agent go to for sources on Russian undercover operations outside Russia in general, the US in particular?  Answer — first, their friends and contacts from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); second, their friends and contacts from the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6, as the UK counterpart is known.

Why then did the twenty-two  congressmen, the members of the House Intelligence Committee who subpoenaed Simpson for interview, fail to pursue what information he and Steele received either directly from the CIA or indirectly through British intelligence?    

The answer noone in the US wants to say aloud is the possibility that it was the CIA which provided Simpson and Steele with names and source materials for their dossier, creating the evidence of a Russian plot against the US election, and generating evidence of Russian operations. If that is what happened, then Simpson and Steele were participants in a false-flag CIA operation in US politics.

This isn’t idle speculation. It has been under investigation at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)  since Simpson and Steele decided in mid-2016 to go to the FBI to request an investigation, and then told American press to get  the FBI to confirm it was investigating. At the fresh request this month from the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the FBI is still investigating.   (more…)

GLENN SIMPSON CHASES HIS SHADOW INTO A BLACK HOLE

By John Helmer, Moscow

American reporters are so mesmerized by Russia-related investigations of the Trump family, Trump businesses, his election campaign and the presidential transition, they can no longer see the obvious. The recently released Senate Judiciary Committee interrogation and testimony of Glenn Simpson (lead image) proves — if it proves anything at all – that Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, authors of the Golden Showers Dossier, are liars who fabricated claims about Russians which they then promoted to reporters and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) without double-checking or independent verification.

Simpson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. His interrogation by senators and their staff lasted almost eight hours, beginning at 9:34 in the morning, and ending at 7:04  in the evening. Lunch took forty minutes. There were nine toilet breaks, one every hour, averaging just 6.9 minutes. Long enough to empty bladders;  too short for golden showers. (more…)

OLEG DERIPASKA’S DUAL ALIBI — NAÏVE DUPE OF PAUL MANAFORT, FAITHFUL SERVANT OF VLADIMIR PUTIN (AND VICTOR YANUKOVICH)

By John Helmer, Moscow

On January 10, Oleg Deripaska (lead image, front left), the Russian oligarch who controls the state aluminium monopoly Rusal and electricity producer EN+, ordered his personal lawyers, Bryan Cave, into the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. There, court papers reveal that Deripaska is charging Paul Manafort (rear left) and his associates with “fraud, gross negligence, blatant disloyalty, and rapacious self-dealing”. Deripaska’s allegation is that between April and July of 2008 he was swindled out of $26.3 million.

The court papers represent Deripaska to be a naïve partner in a business in Odessa, Ukraine, for which Deripaska did no due diligence; took no security over assets; kept no records; saw no accounts; and did nothing at all for almost a decade.  In the New York court papers, Deripaska confesses himself to be unable to manage the smallest of businesses, let alone several multi-billion dollar enterprises vital to the economic security of the Russian state.

“Of course, Oleg Vladimirovich doesn’t think that,” responds a Russian business figure who knows Deripaska well. “This is Deripaska’s alibi in case his name is listed as one of the oligarchs liable for the next round of US sanctions. He is saying he hasn’t been buying favour from Americans close to [President Donald] Trump; he says they have cheated him. And if Deripaska’s name turns out not to be on the new US list, it’s also his alibi when the Kremlin asks why.”

“The Russian oligarchs are between the hammer and the anvil,” explains an international banker who has served on a leading Russian corporation board. “It’s bad enough if the coming US sanctions list puts their US business and assets at risk. It’s even worse if they aren’t on the list, and [President Vladimir] Putin suspects them of disloyalty and of cutting a secret deal with the Americans.” (more…)

NO KREMLIN HANGOVER FOR THE VODKA OLIGARCHS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alcoholics have ruled Russia in the past, but for the first time in Russian history a producer of alcohol, a winemaker, is running for president in the March election.  

Boris Titov, owner of Abrau-Durso whose shares are listed on the Moscow stock exchange, is careful to avoid speaking to the voters about what he knows best.  If elected president, is Titov intending to make alcohol cheaper, or more expensive, he was asked ahead of the launch of his campaign last month. Does he propose to raise or lower the price of beer, wine and vodka by increasing or cutting state excise taxes?

Titov replied through a spokesman:  “He will not discuss alcohol taxes.  There are no plans concerning alcohol regulation in his programme.”  Supporting him, and one of the advisors to Titov’s “Party of Growth”,   is Alexander Mechetin, owner of the Beluga vodka brand, and one of the four vodka oligarchs who dominate the Russian vodka market (lead image, 1st left; to right, Rustam Tariko; Andrei Strelets; Vasily Anisimov).

The reason for their sensitivity isn’t political. On current polling of Russian voter choice, Titov will be lucky to draw one percent of the vote on March 18.  There isn’t a temperance constituency in Russia to appeal to. Promising heavier taxes on alcohol will upset poor drinkers, hurt legal producers, and encourage an increase in the tax-evading trade in samogon (moonshine) and alcohol substitutes, which cause alcohol poisoning. Titov and Mechetin, like the other commercial alcohol producers, as well as the Republic of Tatarstan, currently the biggest volume producer of vodka in the country, say they want the alcohol market to stabilize at the current level of tax, while they produce and sell more alcohol domestically, as well as to the international vodka market.  They are looking to the federal government to use police methods to crack down on illegal, untaxed alcohol plants, while motivating regions like Tartarstan to deter the illegal trade by keeping in the region as much of the tax as they can collect.

Titov the winemaker isn’t going to spill the vodka bottle. Nor will any other candidate for the Russian presidency. (more…)

WE ARE BACK, AGAIN – JUST TWO YEARS TO GO BEFORE THE PROFESSION OF JOURNALISM DISAPPEARS, BUT WILL THE RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS GO FIRST?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Four years ago almost precisely, on January 12, 2014 – just before the Anglo-American war against Russia began in earnest — we reported that the Moscow School of Management at Skolkovo was publishing what it called  a market atlas of the jobs and professions which will be newly needed by the year 2020, and those to be needed no longer.

One of the new ones was what the Skolkovo atlas called a cyber-cleaner (кибердворник). This is a specialist in removing from the internet and all digital data archives whatever information someone pays to have cleaned or deleted entirely, and its substitution with what the specialist is paid to put there – fake news, kompromat, disinformation, PR, advertising, fraud.  One of the professions the cyber-cleaners will replace, according to the atlas, is journalism. (more…)

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.  

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THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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),  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.  

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



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.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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KILLING IS CHEAPER — THE US ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND WEAPONIZES TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, WHATSAPP, TELEGRAM

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)

MARIA YUDINA OUT OF THE DARK – THE RUSSIAN CLASSICAL PIANIST PLAYS AGAIN

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

(more…)
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