THE MAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH ABOUT RUSSIA

My corpse managed to keep talking for twenty

years. That’s the time it took between the

Soviet KGB dosing my champagne with a

near-fatal volume of a drug called SP-117, in

order to get the truth out of me;  and a

Russian oligarch sending two gunmen to

fire their pistols into me, to stop the truth

getting out..

 

With hindsight, those who weren’t watching

when Vladimir Putin was small insist he

was bigger than he was, but good at keeping secrets.

Big or small physically or politically, they have still been

 unable to fathom Putin’s character, or explain why,

  after so many years in power, Putin remains as  characterless as when he started. 

I was watching from the beginning; the KGB elixir

 allowed me to see through the secrets to

 the  truth of the matter.

 

  This was that Putin has remained the nondescript  I had first met,

but that the potency attributed to him now was picked up

from a group of men on whom he depended for his rise,

and on whom he still depends for his power.

These were, these are the

Russian oligarchs

whose stories I have been investigating

and reporting every day.

By penetrating their secrets, I measure how Putin rules Russia;

better to say, how Russia is ruled, and with what effect.

(more…)

CHRISTMAS IS FOR TRUE BELIEVERS, NEW YEAR IS FOR FRIGHTS AND FAKERS – BUT THE BEAR HAS A SURPRISE COMING TO CHEER YOU

By John Helmer, Moscow

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, then the charm is firm and good.

Dear readers, as you peer carefully into the picture of the year ahead, you can recite the charm of Shakespeare’s witches or you can rely on the Bear – what’s it to be?

See him taking notes as he eavesdrops on President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.  Who is the soldier with the umbrella weapon? What devils stand their ground falsely; stamp on thin air? 

In the time ahead, who, we are bound to ask, will prove to be the less convincing,  the more unerring? Until Old New Year’s Day dawns, there’s time to open the Bear’s surprise and with his best wishes, rest your mind

BASHFUL BUSINESS, TIMOROUS STATE — KREMLIN REFUSES TO SET THE TABLE FOR CHRISTMAS SUPPER WITH THE OLIGARCHS

By John Helmer, Moscow

This is the week — the last one before the corporate Catholic Christmas holiday commences and runs into the Russian New Year holiday —  when President Vladimir Putin hosts a supper reception for the oligarchs. It’s a very sensitive affair – for the oligarchs invited, disinvited,  or excluded; and for the president to be seen publicly with them.

So sensitive in fact that a year ago, as the president was running for re-election, his Kremlin spokesman appeared to think (and say) on December 14 there was to be no oligarchs’ dinner. Then it turned out, on December 21,  there was. 

This year the Kremlin’s sensitivity is to the deteriorating approval ratings for Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the Government and also the State Duma. In an unusual reflection of this,  the latest session of the Security Council, which met on  Monday,  acknowledged that the first priority on the agenda was “current issues on the domestic socioeconomic agenda. They pointed out the need for a particularly close monitoring of all housing and utilities systems in the regions hit by abnormally low temperatures in recent days.”

The oligarchs are acutely sensitive too. In pre-war times, the invitation to be seated at Putin’s table was a cachet of closeness to power which the oligarchs were keen to display. Now that they face US Treasury sanctions for their “closeness” to the president, many would rather not attend. None can refuse, however, if Putin invites. (more…)

THE SALE OF ALFA BANK – THAT MIKHAIL FRIDMAN AND PYOTR AVEN TALK OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF THEIR MOUTHS ISN’T NEWS; WHY NOW IS NEWS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Fridman (lead image, left) and Pyotr (Peter) Aven (right) have launched an effort to persuade high Russian and American government officials that they are in the process of selling their Russian bank,  and also that they are not doing anything of the kind.  

Uncharacteristically clumsy of them is the assessment of Russian sources. “Fridman has been trying to sell Alfa Bank for a long time,” one source says, “but can’t get his price. He has gone public this time after Alfa Bank officials got the message that someone important in Moscow is offended that he was not involved in the deal.”

“It’s quite risky to signal that a bank is up for sale,” comments another Russian source, a veteran of the Central Bank of Russia.  “Even for a strong name this can shatter confidence and trigger an outflow of deposits as a result. Depositors and other customers would ask themselves — why is the owner willing to sell? Maybe, bank customers will ask, the owner knows something about the bank others do not?  For a bank owner, such a risk may not be worth taking just for the sake of demonstrating something to somebody.”

A US source says that Fridman has been advertising “for a long time that he is Lviv-born, Ukrainian and Jewish by culture, and shouldn’t be sanctioned for Russian business he’s trying to get rid of. The latest press leaks were addressed to Washington to combat the bad press and sanctions threats Fridman is afraid of.”

“In light of recent media reports alleging some negotiations on the sale of Alfa Group’s banking assets,” an Alfa Bank press notice announced on Wednesday in Moscow: “this information bears no relation to reality. We categorically deny these rumors and the fact of any negotiations. No discussions of the kind have been or are being conducted with the market players.”

The Russian and US sources believe the phrases “no relation to reality” and “the fact of any negotiations” are untrue. The discussions already held have been with Russian state banks, so the phrase “market players” is misleading. (more…)

BRAIN OF LAWRENCE FREEDMAN HACKED – LONDON WAR STRATEGIST TURNED INTO CYBORG BY US, UK SECRET SERVICES

By John Helmer, Moscow

One of the leading war strategists in London, professor to general staff officers and warfighters on both sides of the Atlantic, has lost his brain to an advanced cyber technology designed by the American and British military to win wars by frightening their adversaries into capitulation for fear of being destroyed. The new weapon appears to have backfired because it has destroyed the British strategist’s capability to take seriously what his enemy is thinking. The calculation required for fighting has been lost because the strategist has self-destructed.

Sir Lawrence Freedman (lead images) is the victim of this warp weapon; the evidence is the new book he published a few weeks ago. It’s called The Future of War, A History,  “In his new book,” according to a British intelligence veteran, “Freedman repeated everything we and the Americans, especially the Americans, have given him over the years.  But the outcome is what we might call an overdose of Novischlock.” (more…)

CANADA’S PRIME MINISTER AND FOREIGN MINISTER TAKE CHINA HOSTAGE IN “RULES-BASED ORDER” PLOT

By Christopher Black, Toronto

“It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

So read an editorial in the Global Times of China on December 6, the day after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei was taken hostage by the Canadian and American governments on December 1. The daughter of the founder of China’s largest telecommunications company was arbitrarily arrested and detained by Canadian police in Vancouver in transit between planes on December 1 on the pretext of a US extradition request.

The arrest has shocked and angered China while in Canada the large Chinese population must wonder how safe they are.

The background to the arrest is fairly simple. Huawei has become a global competitor in the global telephone market and their 5G phones are cutting-edge technology and so not welcomed by competing phone companies in the US, Japan, South Korea, France, and Sweden; they are so afraid of the competition that they and their governments have spread stories that the phones are loaded with spyware and are “a danger to national security.” The company has even been threatened by the US and allied governments with criminal charges in America’s increasingly hostile economic war against China,  alongside its increasing military pressure, provocations and insults. It’s one way to control the market. But now, acting as a mafia they have kidnapped, detained, and hold hostage a Chinese woman whose simple crime is going to work every day. The lack of outcry from women’s rights groups in the west is,  not surprisingly, deafening. (more…)

GORILLA AND BEAR TAKE PRISONERS, AS THE LIKELIHOOD OF ALL-EUROPE WAR STRETCHES TO POLAND, ROMANIA, CYPRUS, GREECE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Please recognize, if not in yourselves then in others, that there is pleasure in hating.

“The pleasure of hating”,  William Hazlitt, an English writer  of two hundred years ago*, compared this to what the British Prime Minister of today calls a novichok – “a poisonous mineral, [which] eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others.”

If not stopped in politics,   this pleasure of hating leads with certainty to violence and war.  The pleasure of hating Russia and Russians is what today is driving the United States to putting all of Europe in war. (more…)

THE LIE THAT SHOT DOWN MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT MH17

By John Helmer, Moscow

One side of a well-used coin is the maxim that truth is the first casualty of war. The other side of the coin is that lying is the first weapon of war. According to the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, that’s because all warfare is based on deception. He meant that lying – propaganda, camouflage, false flags, disinformation, infowar, cyber war — is a precondition for winning battles at least, if not wars. As the US military learned since Vietnam, lying is no guarantee of winning.

In this valuable compendium of research on how the US war on Ukraine started in 2014, and why, Kees van der Pijl, a Dutch professor who has taught in England since 2000, spells out his case that the destruction of Ukraine, like the shooting-down of MH17, is the means to a bigger strategic end. “Just as Gorbachev was forced to sign the act of capitulation in 1991,” van der Pijl argues, “the current Western campaign against’Putin’ aims at a complete surrender of Russia; that is, pro-Western regime change in Moscow – a process which the Trump presidency has effectively been compelled to continue.”

Even if that’s a war the US can’t win or will lose, van der Pijl’s conclusion is there’s no stopping the war now. Certainly, truth-telling won’t do the trick because “there are no instances of the United States withdrawing from a warlike posture.”

The first remarkable thing about the book is that it has been published at all. (more…)

NOSTALGIA FOR ARISTOS AND FOR HIGHER PRICES DRIVES LONDON AUCTIONS OF RUSSIAN ART

By John Helmer, Moscow

The semi-annual sale of Russian art works in London last week produced signs of stable demand without pessimism for the future. Compared to the estimated valuations in the auction house catalogues, unusually high prices were realized in the bidding for objets d’art, such as miniatures of 18th century Russian court notables; porcelain vases, plates and kovshs (ladles); and icons.

London art market experts expressed surprise there was more profit in objects than paintings, but unsure who the buyers were. “The bigger lots were bought on the telephone,” reported one dealer in the auction room.  According to an auction house source, “supply is limited, as many sellers are waiting for higher prices.  And that means auction houses have to take what they are given, rather than trying to build a balanced sale.  It’s also why the total on sale was down.  Still, better works did sell and sell quite well.”

William MacDougall commented for his house: “the Russian art market continues to overcome the difficulties of low oil prices and sanctions.” (more…)

STATE SPYING FOR STATE LYING – WHAT THE LOCKERBIE FILES REVEAL ABOUT THE MH17 LIES

By John Helmer, Moscow

It will be thirty years later this month since a bomb exploded on board Pan American Flight PA 103 (lead image, left), en route from London to New York. The false narrative of the British and US governments, contrived at the time to blame Libya and warrant the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, required  falsification of evidence and the conviction in a rigged court proceeding of the wrong man. It has also required spying to disrupt the efforts of the families of those killed to uncover the truth.

The extent of that operation was exposed last week in a partial release of British Government documents from the UK’s National Archives. Among the spy operations revealed were telephone taps, hacking into computers, and interference with emails. 

The archive disclosures also show that the same modus operandi has been under way since 2014 to fabricate blame for the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 (lead image, right) over Ukraine, and justify global sanctions against Russia, plus operations to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

But thirty years of state secrets to warrant state lying aren’t long enough to hold those responsible for the lies to account, or for the truth to prevail against them. (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.  

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.  

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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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