ONE MILLION SHOES, AND SILENCE

It was in February 1989, thirty years ago, that the first independent press bureau in Russia began to work. The bureau was mine. Death and revolution were my preoccupations.

At the time, the foreign press corps in Moscow was dominated by the well-known American and British media. The Americans were as much the favourites of the Russian political opposition as they were of Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and of  the faction of officials supporting him. Both Russian sides wanted to be loved by Americans; some still do. A handful of foreign correspondents worked for Communist Party media in their homelands; the senior ones were from India and Italy. They were trying to cope with the domestic Russian debate over how far and how fast to dismantle one-party rule by the Communist Party, and what means to employ  short of force. In time,  the old Communist reporters retired or died of natural causes; a Canadian communist party reporter turned into an American journalist – death by a natural cause Canadians are familiar with.

During that first year my despatches went to Ta Nea (“The News”), the leading newspaper of Athens, Greece. Published in Greek, the archive is inaccessible.

On March 25, the Congress of People’s Deputies was elected by a partial free vote, following vigorous electioneering inside and outside the Communist Party. On April 9, the Army intervened to halt public demonstrations in Tbilisi, Georgia; about 20 people were killed; hundreds hurt. On May 25, the Congress opened, its daily proceedings televised live across the country. On September 9,  Boris Yeltsin began his first official trip  to the US – a visit which proved to everyone capable of seeing what Yeltsin was made of, and more importantly, who was making him. On November 9, the Berlin Wall opened. On December 12, the second session of the Congress began, and Andrei Sakharov rose to introduce the new constitution’s articles on the private ownership of property and the end of the Communist Party’s monopoly of power. Two days later, on December 14, Sakharov died. That left Yeltsin to lead the opposition to Gorbachev. Gorbachev trusted the US Government to support him in power; the US Government had another plan.  To the first independent foreign correspondent, the quisling and the fool were obvious every day.

Death and revolution, I said. They were personal. My wife and writing partner, Claudia Wright, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and could no longer compose. We did not disclose this until the year was out.

“A great highway with broad horizons before it”, Gorbachev was promising  the  Congress at the time. Following the mass demonstration in Moscow of February 4, 1990, the direction of that highway was diverted fatefully. So was my road. This was the last piece published under Claudia’s byline; the first in English from the Moscow Bureau. (more…)

US WAR, AMERICAN ENEMY – PRESIDENT PUTIN’S FEDERAL ASSEMBLY SPEECH INTRODUCES THE 12-MINUTE RED LINE

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly has abandoned the distinction between  American partners and American enemies. In this week’s speech, Putin said that in response to the threats of missile attack the US is introducing against Russia, Americans in their command centres, all of them, are now targeted directly.  That’s US command-and-control centres in Europe, including Romania, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and the UK; and US command centres in the continental US. (more…)

PATRIARCH KIRILL LOSES HIS SEAT — REMOVED FROM RUSSIAN STATE LINE-UP AT THE FEDERAL ASSEMBLY

By John Helmer, Moscow

In this week’s address to the Federal Assembly – Russia’s equivalent of the State of the Union speech to the US Congress, and the Queens’s Speech to the House of Lords  – President Vladimir Putin has removed the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyayev), from the seat and rank he has occupied for the past decade next to the Prime Minister.   

The political downgrading of the Church is unprecedented. In its compilation of the official photographs of the Assembly on February 20, the Kremlin website displays no picture of Kirill at all, nor of any other representative of a religious organization. (more…)

EXIT KARL LAGERFELD, RUSSIAN MAN-HATER – SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS CIRCUMSPICE DILIGINTER*

By John Helmer, Moscow

When Karl Lagerfeld (lead image, centre)  died this week, the Financial Times epitaph was that he “helped build up the French fashion house [Chanel] into a business that generated revenues of $9.6bn in 2017. Lagerfeld was unmatched in his output and at one point during the 1990s was designing collections for four brands — Chanel, Fendi, Chloe and his signature brand — simultaneously.”

The Chanel sales figure speaks for itself.  But now that Lagerfeld and Chanel can’t threaten to ruin the critics by pulling advertising from their media,  Lagerfeld’s real contribution to Chanel’s profit line, and his cost, can be tested by investment analysts. They report that Lagerfeld was profitable as a brand salesman but lossmaking as a designer.  As the Latin in the title says: if you seek his monument, look very carefully*. (more…)

VLADISLAV SURKOV ROLLS OUT THE RUSSIAN ANSWER TO THE AMERICAN STATE OF PERMANENT WAR

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the programme for the special form of Russian governance which Vladislav Surkov (lead image, right*) calls Putinism for the next hundred years, there is no power-sharing with businessmen (oligarchs or merchants), social classes, intelligentsia, the Russian Orthodox Church, political parties, parliaments,  the Constitution or  the civil and criminal courts. Rule will be by the military, the security services, and the state corporations advising the supreme leader. He in turn will be trusted by Russian people to convey their wishes, settle disputes, balance rights from wrongs, and check the state from corruption. Mostly, he will be trusted to listen.

To those whom Surkov, a Kremlin adviser since 1999, removes from power,  in order to make Russia combat-ready against the US and the NATO alliance,  this is a revolutionary manifesto.  (more…)

RUSSIA’S STAKE IN VENEZUELA

By John Helmer, Moscow

No ambition in Russia runs wider and higher than that of Igor Sechin, 58, chief executive of Rosneft.

To help fill the Venezuelan treasury, deter attacks on President Nicolas Maduro, reinforce his army,  and show the world he’s the Russian who can defeat both types of war the US is waging against the world – sanctions war and regime-change war – no bill would be too expensive for Sechin to pay. And if he can do that, he will show that he’s the natural successor of President Vladimir Putin. In point of cost for Rosneft, the Venezuelan strategy is relatively cheap.   

For the Russian military, who have created the most powerful army in South America (also a match for Canada ),  with a decade of deliveries of air and ground weapons,  the Venezuelan front is a fresh tester of American warmaking at low money cost and little risk of Russian casualties.  The combination of Sechin and the Russian General Staff  to defend Venezuela is a potent weapon to demonstrate to the world that US threats are bluff.  

So, win or lose on the battleground of Venezuela,  at home Sechin is showing his Russian allies that he’s their winner in the presidential power contest ahead.

Not everyone agrees. “Yes, the presidency is a matter of Sechin’s ambition; it’s also a condition for his survival,” comments a source who has known Sechin well. “As to who his allies are, I am not able to tell because he has managed to come into conflict with everyone around Putin. But if Sechin becomes the Kremlin’s lead on Venezuela, then Sechin will lose his battle for the Kremlin.” (more…)

GORILLA THROWS THE BOOK AND THE BEAR BARES ALL — RADIO DISCUSSION OF THE MAN WHO KNOWS TOO MUCH ABOUT RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow

In February 1989 I started the Moscow Bureau with a first despatch to Ta Nea, then Greece’s leading daily newspaper. That was thirty years ago, a generation in time and several generations in Russian politics.

A generation is the time it takes for individuals to grow into adulthood acquiring the shared understandings which come as their life cycles run together. Knowing more than the generation around you understands can make you into a celebrity or a pariah; reward you with power, medals and money or turn you into a pauper. Knowing too much about Russia has been a life-or-death story for me. How to survive to tell the story, so that you can anticipate the future we hope to share – this is what Chris Cook, host of Gorilla Radio in Vancouver, asks in today’s broadcast. (more…)

LEONID LEBEDEV, FAVOURITE OF THE US STATE DEPARTMENT AND OF CYPRUS PRESIDENT ANASTASIADES, SET TO LOSE NEW YORK COURT CLAIM TO VICTOR VEKSELBERG

By John Helmer, Moscow

Leonid Lebedev (lead image, centre), a Russian oil and electricity trader and patron of  Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades (right),  is set to lose his multi-billion-dollar claim for a stake in the sale of TNK-BP to Rosneft, according to papers  released by the New York State Supreme Court. The Rosneft deal, priced in March 2013 at $55 billion,  created Russia’s dominant oil producer, and one of the world’s most valuable petroleum companies by revenue and market capitalization.  Its current market value is Rb4.4 trillion ($66 billion).

Lebedev has been claiming in the New York court since 2014 that he is owed $2 billion for a 15% share he once held in the Russian oil company, Tyumenneftegas (Tyumen Oil Company); TNK was the Russian acronym until British Petroleum bought into the company and it became TNK-BP between 2003 and 2013.

Lebedev has sued Victor Vekselberg and Len Blavatnik, alleging that their agreement for the sale of his shareholding for $600 million between 2001 and 2003 had not been completed or paid up.  Vekselberg, who is Russian,  and Blavatnik, Anglo-American,  say they paid Lebedev his money, and that he has been lying and fabricating evidence ever since.

In a hearing held by Judge Salliann Scarpulla on November 14, but kept sealed until a month ago, the judge strongly hinted that she will not allow the case go to trial. She has already dismissed  Lebedev’s claims of fraud and deceit by Vekselberg and Blavatnik. That left Lebedev’s claim for breach of the sale contract.

Scarpulla told lawyers arguing Lebedev’s case that she didn’t believe he had not agreed to the $600 million sale through the Cyprus-based company he had created to act his agent, Coral Petroleum.  After concealing Coral Petroleum’s bank transaction records and accounting records for years, they were discovered last year at BNP-Paribas.

The discovery was “explosive”, the lawyers declared in court. “We literally have hundreds, a box full of directions signed by Mr. Lebedev to spend money on Coral’s behalf. This was all before the defendant’s [$600 million] money even came into Coral.”

“You can imagine how this sounds,” the judge declared in court. “I have an agent, I tell my agent to sign the Agreement, the Agreement contains very broad language, and because later on I find out that the Agreement is not helpful or useful to me, all of a sudden, one, my agent didn’t have authority, which I don’t know how you [Lebedev’s lawyers] can really argue that because if the agent [Coral Petroleum] signs the Agreement, the law in New York is you’re bound. You haven’t shown me anything that would let the defendants [Vekselberg and Blavatnik] know that the agent [Coral Petroleum] didn’t have apparent authority to sign the Agreement. Two, the Agreement [between Lebedev’s Coral Petroleum and agents for Vekselberg and Blavatnik] says what it says and you admit that either your client [Lebedev] or your client’s representatives negotiated it. It was everything in that Agreement then. Your client had the ability to change or at least to discuss or do whatever. So, again, I’m at the position where you’re asking me to sort of find an ambiguity in something that seems not that ambiguous.” (more…)

HIGH COURT IN FIRST-EVER RULING ON THE PANTS OF OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time in Oleg Deripaska’s 95-lawsuit history in the British High Court, the aluminium oligarch has been judged by the court to be a liar, a thief, and a thug.

“By force or threat of force,” Justice Sir Nigel Teare declared in a judgement published last week, Deripaska had seized a valuable site in central Moscow, evicting its lawful owner, Vladimir Chernukhin,  in 2010. About his business dealings over the property Deripaska “gave false evidence” himself in court as well as inducing his employees and business associates to do the same in their testimony. “Mr. Deripaska has given dishonest evidence to the court as he did to the arbitrators,” the judge ruled. “What his motive was for doing so is known only to himself.” “I formed the view that it would be wholly unsafe to rely upon his evidence.”

The result of the judgement is that Deripaska must pay about $100 million to Chernukhin, a former deputy finance minister and runaway state banker, who has lived in London since 2004. 

In a statement issued in Moscow last week by one of Deripaska’s companies, Russian Aluminium (Rusal), he called the judgement “biased and unfair”.   (more…)

PUTIN PROMOTES PATRIARCH’S PUTSCH

By John Helmer, Moscow

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (lead image, 2nd from left) , has proclaimed his church the sovereign  equal of the Russian state, and himself the political equal of the Russian president. The power transfer took place at a Kremlin ceremony last week in front of President Vladimir Putin (left).

“For the first time in Russia’s history,” Kirill’s declaration was reported by the state news agency Tass, “such a relationship has established itself between the Church and the state. Because even in the times of the Russian Empire, the church did not have an equal partner in the face of the government. It had always been subordinate to certain government institutions.”  

Russian politicians and constitutional lawyers are slow, and also fearful, to publicly challenge the combination of Kirill and Putin. From a survey of these sources in Moscow, one responded: “Does  the Pope claim to be the equal of the Italian President or Prime Minister? The Archbishop of Canterbury the equal of the British Queen? The Saudi King in a power-sharing deal with the Grand Mufti? Or Netanyahu the equal in Israel of the Chief Rabbi? The answer is obvious. Only in Russia would a churchman dare to make this claim, and violate the rights of all Russian citizens in the Constitution.”

“Nobody may usurp power in the Russian Federation”, proclaims Article 4 of the Russian Constitution. The Church may regard the patriarch as divinely appointed, but Vladimir Gundyayev, the civil name of Patriarch Kirill, qualifies constitutionally to be that nobody. So too are his senior associates on the Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod  – Metropolitans Varsonofy (Anatoly Sudakov,  2nd left), Chancellor of the Synod and Finance Minister; Tikhon (Georgiy Shevkunov, 3rd left) , National Security Advisor; and Hilarion (Grigoriy Alfeyev, right), Foreign Minister. According to the Constitution, “the seizure of power or usurpation of State authority shall be prosecuted under federal law.”

Constitutional experts also believe Kirill’s declaration violates the Russian Constitution’s Article 14:  “The Russian Federation shall be a secular state. No religion may be established as the State religion or as obligatory.” (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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