MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKY AND IGOR SECHIN TRIGGER RELEASE OF ILYA YUROV IN LONDON EXTRADITION RULING

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Chief Magistrate of England, Emma Arbuthnot (lead image), ruled on Friday to dismiss an application from the Russian Prosecutor-General for extradition of Ilya Yurov, the control shareholder of National Bank Trust (NBT) before the bank was de-licensed by the Central Bank and transferred to Otkritie Bank at the end of 2014. It is Arbuthnot’s second judgement  in as many months against Russian prosecutors seeking alleged runaway fraudsters living in the UK.  

In the first case, involving the pursuit by Rosneft of Andrei Votinov, a former Rosneft board director and chief executive of the Tuapse oil refinery, Arbuthnot found that one of the Russian prosecutors had lied about his case to a Russian court. She also considered whether Rosneft and its chief executive Igor Sechin were powerful enough to prejudice the case against Votinov if he were ordered back to Russia. “I find the facts in this case lead me,” Judge Arbuthnot wrote, “to the conclusion that this is one of those exceptional cases where the defendant [Votinov] has shown there is a real risk that [Votinov] will suffer a flagrant denial of justice if he were to be extradited to the Russian Federation.”

Judging Yurov, Arbuthnot decided his extradition to Moscow to face trial is “not made for the purpose of prosecuting him on account of his political opinions. It is being made because he allegedly stole a large amount of money from a bank.”

On the other hand, the judge ruled that because of Yurov’s links to Mikhail Khodorkovsky (lead image, frame rear left) and to Igor Sechin (right), and because of the ongoing Russian prosecution of the former and the interest of the latter in Yurov’s bank, “I cannot see how [Yurov] could not be prejudiced… there is a real risk he will suffer a flagrant denial of justice. His would be a very high-profile prosecution of particular interest to the [Russian state] and these are very exceptional circumstances.” (more…)

DIGGING UP THE DEAD FOR SALE AT THE TIMES OF LONDON — DEAD RUSSIAN AGENTS AND SPIES, THAT IS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Grave robbers used to need special skills to make their living.  Indifference to getting their hands dirty was one; a flexible spine for shovelling in the dark was another.  A nose and throat which didn’t gag at  the smell of rotting flesh was a third. 

John Witherow (lead image, right) , editor of the Times of London, has displayed some talents for his  37-year long rise in the service of Rupert Murdoch. He’s been so keen on grave robbing that once he didn’t realize the corpse he was lifting and selling in his newspaper was still alive. In that enterprise, Witherow’s accomplice was the Moscow correspondent for the Sunday Times, Mark Franchetti (lead image, left).  Their idea was that selling stories about a dead Russian agent was bound to attract paying readers. In January 2005 they tried it with the name of Claudia Wright, who was the Washington correspondent for the New Statesman of London between 1979 and 1986; also my wife.

This month Witherow is trying again, promoting a book by his associate editor Ben Macintyre. The corpse this time is different – it’s Michael Foot, the former Labour Party leader; he died in 2010.  

But Witherow is careless. Macintyre’s new tale gives the lie to the one Witherow and Franchetti dug up about Claudia thirteen years ago. Claudia, they reported then, had tipped off the Soviet KGB to the identity of Oleg Gordievsky, one of the best double-agents the British Secret Service claims to have run against Moscow.  Macintyre says the report of the Claudia tip-off was a lie – “a false lead” according to Macintyre’s source at the CIA. The real tipster he now declares was the KGB’s double-agent at the CIA, Aldrich Ames, who told his handler in Washington, the head of KGB counter-intelligence in the US, Victor Cherkashin.

Macintyre reports also that Gordievsky, with the benefit of hindsight, says the same thing.

Cherkashin  published his own book in 2005.  “Ames also informed us that Gordievsky agreed to spy for MI6,” according to Cherkashin. “Ames identified Gordievsky in March [1985], the month before he started spying for us.”  Like Gordievsky, Cherkashin denied that Claudia had been the tipster.  Witherow and Franchetti ignored what both of them said, then turned their saying it upside down so that they became the Times’s sources for “speculation” about Claudia.

Cherkashin’s book concluded this was “little more than intelligence games. Their connection to real issues of national security…was often peripheral…during the last years of the Cold War, intelligence became a game of penetrating the adversary’s service. It was expensive and superfluous.” Unless you are selling the game to gullible readers. (more…)

DMITRY PESKOV LOSES HIS FOOTING, DEPARTS THIS LIFE

By John Helmer, Moscow

At 19:50 on Thursday evening Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK), one of the largest circulation newspapers in Russia, published an announcement from Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin.  “The Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has said that the Kremlin will check information from the investigation of Bellingcat and The Insider on suspects of the Salisbury poisoning of the Skripals where it is claimed that Ruslan Boshirov, accused by London of involvement,  is a member of GRU, Hero of Russia, Colonel Anatoly Chepiga. In the words of Peskov, in the Kremlin [officials] intend to check the lists of recipients from the President of this title. He added that the official position is still unchanged. And it was announced by the President, and the suspects themselves.”

When Peskov claimed the Kremlin “will [sic] check information from the investigation of Bellingcat”, more than twenty-four hours had already passed since he had first seen the Bellingcat report on Boshirov and Chepiga. That Peskov did not already have the GRU file on Chepiga, the Hero of Russia list, and the relationship between Chepiga and Boshirov is impossible.  

The statement has stunned Moscow political sources. Their assessment is that the man who says these things because he believes them to be true, or because he believes Russians and others will believe he is telling the truth, has lost contact with reality. “I have not seen such unprofessional conduct at any time throughout Putin’s presidency,” commented a veteran Moscow publisher. “This means they are  making things up as they go along.”

“Peskov’s last line is the most extraordinary of all. He is saying Putin is running this show and he is doing a bad job of it. Peskov put responsibility for the entire Skripal affair on to Putin, and implied he should deal with it himself. Peskov just threw Putin under the bus.” (more…)

PUTIN CORRECTS MISTAKES BY BITING HIS TONGUE ON TELEPHONE WITH ASSAD AND NETANYAHU

By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week President Vladimir Putin triggered the most serious crisis of his presidency, as the Defence Ministry and the Russian General Staff (Stavka) declared that Putin’s explanation for the downing of the Ilyushin-20 electronic reconnaissance aircraft by Israeli fighters was false, and worse –capitulation to Israel. 

Sources in Moscow report the military’s  loss of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief has not been seen in public since President Boris Yeltsin countermanded orders for Russian military aid to Serbia under NATO bombing between March and June 1999, dismissing Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on the US demand.  

“[Putin] has blundered with Erdogan, with Netanyahu,” commented one Moscow source. “In making all his concessions, one after another, Putin has been watched very carefully. His civilian advisors – [Foreign Policy Advisor Yury] Ushakov in particular – are making mistakes. They expect[ed] the show of strength in Syria would have changed US and European attitudes, and they would listen. They didn’t. So the Russian military have reminded Putin – we told you so.”

On Monday morning, following an unprecedented Sunday briefing at the Defence Ministry, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced measures which Putin has repeatedly dismissed over many years. The  new Russian war policy puts a stop to Putin’s assurances to the US, the European NATO powers and Israel that he was resisting the recommendations of his General Staff.  Putin’s resistance ended on Monday morning. Shoigu and the Stavka ended it. (more…)

GIFT TO THE SULTAN — TEXT OF RUSSIA-TURKEY AGREEMENT OF SEPTEMBER 17, 2018, ESTABLISHING TURKISH PROTECTORATE OF IDLIB

By John Helmer, Moscow

A copy of the Russian-Turkish agreement, negotiated on Monday in Sochi by President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  has appeared. If its authenticity is confirmed, it will mark the first official Russian acknowledgement of partition of Syria, allowing Turkey to resume control of the Ottoman territory in northwestern Syria which was lost following the Turkish defeat in World War I.

According to the published terms,  Putin has agreed to Turkey playing the role of “guarantor” of ceasefires throughout Syria. Putin has also accepted reinforcement and expansion of Turkish military forces in the Idlib governorate according to the formula of “fortification” of Turkish “observation posts”; their number, already twelve, has not been restricted in area or limited in manning and firepower in the new pact. Putin also agreed to “take all necessary meassures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided and the existing status quo will be maintained.” This is Russia’s undertaking to prevent the Syrian Government and its forces from reclaiming Syrian territory and resuming sovereingty lost to the US and NATO-backed forces seeking to take power in Damascus.

The full extent of the new Turkish-ruled territory  has been postponed, according to the wording of the Sochi pact. “The delineation of the exact lines of the demilitarised zone will be determined,” Point 4 says, “through further consultations.” This proviso allows Turkish forces to consolidate their territorial control eastward towards Aleppo, under Russian cover, ignoring the Syrian government.

(more…)

PUTIN’S FORFEIT – FROM STRATEGIC MISTAKE TO STRATEGIC DEFEAT IN 24 HOURS

By John Helmer, Moscow

“When people die, especially in such unfortunate circumstances,” President Vladimir Putin said at a Kremlin press conference  on Tuesday afternoon, “it is always a tragedy”. The president was responding to the destruction of a Russian reconnaissance aircraft and the deaths of fifteen crew members during an Israeli Air Force attack on Syria on Monday evening. The Israeli operation was coordinated with British and French commands to spoof, confuse and overwhelm Russian and Syrian air defences.

“It is always a tragedy,” Putin went on – “a tragedy for all of us, for the nation and for the families of our people who lost their lives… In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft. It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me. As for reciprocal action, this will be primarily aimed at ensuring additional security for our military and our facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These steps will be seen by everyone.”

What will be seen by everyone has already been registered. According to Turkey, Putin has conceded Turkish military occupation of the Idlib governorate of northwest Syria, allowing Turkish Army  reinforcements from the west and north,  but preventing Syrian Army operations in defence of Syrian territory. According to Israel, Putin has accepted the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) air superiority over central as well as southern Syria and a free-fire zone for any target in Syria which Israel regards as hostile, including Russian military operations.  According to the Russian military command, Putin has forfeited his defence of Russian forces in Syria to the combination of Israel, France and the UK, which coordinated the combat against Syria on Monday evening. (more…)

THE MH17 MISSILE GOES HOME TO UKRAINE

By Max van der Werff, Amsterdam*

Today was a remarkable day. For the first time the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation held a press conference about the MH17 case in which it took a pro-active stance, instead of  responding, as it has before,  to challenges from its “partners” in the west. (more…)

MEMO FROM HENRY KISSINGER TO VLADIMIR PUTIN ON IDLIB — A REMINDER OF HOW THE TURKS AND AMERICANS DO THINGS TOGETHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

Greek investigative journalist Michalis Ignatiou revealed on Sunday the classified White House document of August 13, 1974, in which Henry Kissinger persuaded then-US President Gerald Ford that Turkey should be supported by the US in their two-wave invasion of Cyprus, seizing and occupying over a third of the island, deterring the Greek defence of Cyprus, and encouraging the Turks to ignore United Nations (UN) condemnation. According to Kissinger, “the Turkish tactics are right — grab what they want and then negotiate on the basis of possession. But if the Turks run loose on Cyprus, the Greeks could come unglued. We certainly do not want a war between the two, but if it came to that, Turkey is more important to us and they have a political structure which could produce a Qadhafi.”

This month the Kissinger scheme is being revived by the US, with support from Germany, France and the UK, to support Turkey in its seizure of the city and governorate of Idlib, in northwest Syria. Threats of US and NATO missile attacks have deterred the Syrian Army from attempting to reclaim its own territory. President Vladimir Putin has been pressured by the Turks, the US and NATO to delay Russian military support for the recovery of Idlib.

“There is no American reason why the Turks should not have one-third of Cyprus,” Kissinger told Ford in the Oval Office forty-four years ago.  Substitute Idlib for Cyprus today, and there is no American reason why the Turks should not have Idlib, no matter what UN resolutions on Syrian sovereignty require and the Kremlin supports.  Today, as Putin meets the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, the question to be decided is whether the Kissinger scheme will prevail again. (more…)

MODEST MUSSORGSKY, RUSSIAN SINGING DESPITE WAR AND HUMBUG

By John Helmer, Moscow

Falling for a honey trap of their own imagining is what over-educated fools do.

There is nothing new about the present American belief in the malevolent power of Russia to have penetrated the American mind; that’s to say, American bedrooms, smartphones, chat networks, voting machines, power grids, and most intimate of all, American gun clubs.  It’s an old, familiar phantom – the projection of exceptionalists who are being outclassed in their heads and beaten on the ground. Americans believe they will only be desirable if they are over-powering. That’s their honey trap.  

Between 1968 and 1973, when the American infantry were pinned down by the Vietnamese forces, failing to defeat them with what the US Army and US Air Force thought was their overwhelming superiority of firepower, the ordinary American soldier believed the reason was the inverse of US military capacity. The Vietnamese were  winning, the soldier thought, because of their superiority, not only in fighting spirit, but in arms – ghost tanks, ghost helicopter gunships,  etc.

Since the end of Soviet rule, it was to be expected that Russians would abandon their own exceptionalist ideology and become infatuated by American and European things of every description, including things to spend money on, and safe havens to luxuriate among those things. It’s also to be expected that time is required before Russian things can be valued for their own sake by Russians. (more…)

FIRST STRIKE – WASHINGTON SAVED FROM THE VEKSELBERG BUNKER-BUSTER BOMB

By John Helmer, Moscow

The newest type of American bunker-busting bomb is expensive. So it’s understandable that the United States Air Force (USAF) doesn’t want a Russian to sabotage the bomb by installing steel casings which break apart before landing, or fuzes which detonate prematurely, or tail kits flying off- target, or warheads which bounce instead of bust.

On April 6, the US Treasury dropped a bunker-buster on the Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg (lead picture, top) in an attempt to destroy the worldwide business of his Renova group of companies. The US Treasury declared  Vekselberg had been targeted “for operating in the energy sector of the Russian Federation economy.  Vekselberg is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Renova Group.  The Renova Group is comprised of asset management companies and investment funds that own and manage assets in several sectors of the Russian economy, including energy.”

Vekselberg has also owned 26.8% of the Swiss steelmaker Schmolz+Bickenbach (aka Swiss Steel, S+B), which in turn owns all of the US steel forgings specialist, A. Finkl & Sons (aka Finkl Steel) of Chicago. Because the loss-making Swiss group was counting on the USAF bomb contract to boost revenues and profits from Finkl — it accounts for about 10% of S+B’s annual revenues — it was a sore point for the loser of the bomb contract, Ellwood National Forge Company of Ellwood, Pennsylvania,  that a Russian under sanctions might get his hands on the bomb deal, and even on the bomb itself. (more…)

THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME – THE SECRET IN THE CLINTON-YELTSIN PAPERS WHICH THE KREMLIN SPOKESMAN REGRETS TO SEE EXPOSED IS THE LOVE OF SUBMISSION

By John Helmer, Moscow

The records of the relationship between President Boris Yeltsin and President Bill Clinton, declassified for public reading since July, are revolutionary, but not for the reasons the Russian and US state media, journalists and academics on both sides chose to report last week.

That Yeltsin was ingratiating, wheedling, sycophantic towards Clinton is no surprise. In  desperation to survive politically in  the first half of 1996 and cardiologically in the second half of that year  Yeltsin begged Clinton for billions of dollars and the best American heart surgeons   — this too is well-known. It was just as well-known then, and again now, that the two of them schemed for a degree of American intervention in Russian domestic politics much greater, and far more potent, than the Hillary Clinton allegations of Russian intervention in the US since 2016.

It is also no secret that Yeltsin was more fearful of Yevgeny Primakov, foreign minister (1996-98) and then prime minister (September 1998-May 1999)  than any other Russian politician of the time;  and that Yeltsin picked Sergei Kirienko to be prime minister in 1978  and Vladimir Putin prime minister in 1999 because he regarded them as obedient ciphers who would follow his orders without questioning. About Primakov to Clinton, Yeltsin had nothing good to say. By contrast, Kirienko, Yeltsin told Clinton on the telephone on April 6, 1998, was “a very vigorous politician, a very skilful politician, and I think he’ll build good rapport with [Vice President Albert] Gore.”  

Putin, Yeltsin said in a telephone call on September 9, 1999, was dependable. He is “a solid man…thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners.” In another telephone call on November 9, 1999,  Yeltsin described Putin to Clinton as “a democrat and he knows the west… He’s tough internally, and I will do everything possible for him to win, legally of course. And he will win. You’ll do business together. He will continue the Yeltsin line on democracy and economics and widen Russia’s contacts.”

The revolutionary secret to have tumbled out is that no Russian position of any importance was ever acceptable to the US; that negotiations between the presidents and their subordinates achieved nothing but Russian concessions and the American conviction that reciprocation wasn’t necessary; that this was the decade-long US strategy; and that then — and still today — negotiations between Russia and the US can never be settled except on Russian capitulation to US terms. This is revolutionary because until now the Kremlin refuses to acknowledge it.

That war is the only alternative to capitulation has obvious revolutionary implications — and not only for Russia and the US.

The second revolutionary secret to have been revealed is that these records have been eligible for declassification and public release by the Clinton Presidential Library at the ten-year mark from the record date; this means from 2006 to 2009.  The additional decade of blackout for these records has been accepted by ex-president Clinton himself and the Obama Administration, not because they favoured it, but because they asked the Russians to agree, and the Kremlin  refused. Last week  Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman,  made the point that the president was unhappy at the disclosure.     This time the Americans, according to Peskov, “did not coordinate it or hold any consultations. These [records] are not always liable to declassifying.”

The secret in the Yeltsin-Clinton archive revealed for the first time is the secret President Putin didn’t want anyone to know. Anyone Russian, that is. (more…)

MORE ON THE SKRIPAL CASE – “WE ARE ALL SUFFERING FROM AN OVERDOSE OF INFORMATIONAL NOVICHOK”

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the discussion with Chris Cook, listen to today’s interview  on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia, commencing at Minute 34:50.

Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria.  The radio station can be heard here.  The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.

THE NEW ALLEGATIONS IN THE SKRIPAL CASE, AND THE STANDARD OF PROOF

By John Helmer, Moscow

The idea that a picture is worth a thousand words is only a century old. As old, that is, as publishing newspapers profitably has depended on selling advertisements to catch the eye of credulous readers.  Released in London yesterday, pictures of two Russians suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal on March 4 are advertising. If being credulous makes you uncomfortable, try applying the burden of proof as British law requires in cases of murder. (more…)

RICH RUSSIANS TELL SOCIOLOGIST THEIR SECRET, THEIR WEALTH CAME FROM THEIR GENES — CARTOON JUST RELEASED BY OXFORD UNIVERSITY

By John Helmer, Moscow

Botanists can’t say for certain how many hoary old chestnuts, if planted in the right conditions, will turn into a stand of Castanea sativa; that’s the botanical name for chestnut trees.

It’s more certain that when Oxford University recently published a book of interviews with eighty wealthy Russians, conducted by a sociologist from Aston University in Birmingham, the outcome, entitled Rich Russians – From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie,   is a “unique inside-look at the history and soul of the fabulously rich Russians…a must-read”. That is according to Derk Sauer on the book wrapper. Half of this certainty comes from the fact that for the past twenty-five years Sauer has been the paid mouthpiece for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then Vladimir Potanin, and finally Mikhail Prokhorov whose wealth is oligarch sized.  A small fraction of their money made big sums in Sauer’s pocket and in his judgement,  of course.

The other half of the certainty comes from the fact that the new book’s author, Elisabeth Schimpfossl, is the first in modern sociology to replace standard sampling procedure according to which researcher selects subjects by a random or representational method.   In this case it was the reverse — the sample of 80 rich Russians picked Schimpfossl and told her what they wanted to read about themselves. Their reason was equally certain. Schimpfossl was their public relations opportunity. PR agents for some of the sample subjects were instrumental in setting up the interviews and the ground rules; some of the PR agents were interviewees themselves.

The ground rule Schimpfossl accepted as the precondition for her research was that she would never question her rich Russians about their business or their assets — where their money came from; how much of it was stolen by Russian or international legal standards; how much of it is owed to Russian or international banks, or to partners of the silent type who don’t give interviews, not even if promised, as Schimpfossl proposed, to disguise them with false names.  Just how false the disguise turns out to be starts with this conclusion of Schimpfossl’s on Russian politics in her introduction: “the oligarchs’ capture of the state in the 1990s was short-lived.” After that, the 75 rich Russians whom she quotes from her sample of 80 feed her their hoary old chestnuts — what they want everyone to think.

(more…)

AUSTRALIAN TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT – RUSSIA-HATERS FALL OUT AMONG THEMSELVES, PRIME MINISTER REPLACED – NEWS FLASH! MOSCOW DID NOTHING

By John Helmer, Moscow

When the Australian Government was overthrown a few days ago, nothing and nobody Russian was blamed in the local media for interfering.

According to the ousted Liberal (conservative) Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the “insurgency” was a plot by media owned by Rupert Murdoch and a group of conservative MPs led by Peter Dutton, an ex-vice squad policeman who shaves his skull and has run Australia’s secret services with an order to roll down their shirtsleeves to conceal their tattoos. Murdoch and Dutton failed. For the time being, power has been taken by a religious zealot called Scott Morrison. His belief in God speaking in tongues has, so far, not led his own tongue to wag blamefully in Russia’s direction.

The absence of fake news about Russia might have been news in Australia had not the national consensus on Russia-hating been comprehensive, covering all the political parties, factions and ethnic lobbies; all the media, mainstream, alt and social; and all the universities and think-tanks, so there’s no advantage for anyone to repeat the obvious. (more…)

THE YALE SCHOOL FOR AMERICAN GRAND STRATEGISTS, FOR REPEAT LOSERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

There’s not been an American war which John Lewis Gaddis doesn’t think was a good idea, speaking as if he was Thucydides, the ancient Athenian general and historian of whopping mistakes of calculation in warfare.

Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face was not an idea Thucydides thought a good one. Nor was he as blind to the significance of losing wars for Athenian strategy as Gaddis is  blind to the string of lost (outright or unwon and continuing) wars fought by the US — the Korean War, Cuban War, Vietnam War, Afghan War, Iraq War, Libyan War, Syrian War, and war against Russia. Gaddis even disapproves Robert F. Kennedy’s 1962 public acknowledgement that the US war against Mexico which resulted in the annexation of Texas was “unjustified”.

By the Gaddis standard of strategic success – that’s outcome matching aim, cost proportionate to gain — the last wars which Washington won were those against Mexico, Spain, the Philippines, the Caribbean Banana Wars, and the American civil war (Gaddis assumes the Indian wars were strategic successes too, but doesn’t dare say so in print.). He concedes World War I and World War II were strategic successes for the US in the sense that compared to the American allies, for a relatively small expenditure of men, blood and materiel, the US took an enormous cash profit and investment dividend, not to mention imperial sway. For the textbook on why the US is now losing that, Gaddis is the perfect specimen; this is because his primer reveals the teacher can’t recognize the writing on the wall, er blackboard. (more…)

JOHN HELMER APPOINTED SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR PRESERVATION OF RUSSIA-OLIGARCH CULTURAL LINKS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Announcement just released by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Information and Press Department: “Prominent investigator and martial writer John Helmer has been appointed Special Representative for Russia-Oligarch Cultural Links, Cultural and Historical Heritage in a voluntary capacity. The special representative will perform his duties without any financial remuneration and for the purpose of strengthening direct contacts, mutual understanding and trust between the Russian people and the oligarchs.” (more…)

AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

(more…)

THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

(more…)

LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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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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