TOAST TO THE NEW YEAR — REST BREAK FROM THE CARTOON, PAUSE TO DETOXIFY

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In the US war for regime change in Russia, Christmas dinner for the oligarchs was President Vladimir Putin’s idea in 2014 for demonstrating that he was in command of their loyalty for a price the oligarchs were afraid to test. By 2019, the occasion had been turned into an afternoon tea ceremony in which the oligarchs confirmed for Putin the price he must pay if he isn’t to lose them to the other side.  

In 2014 there were 45 guests at the party. In 2017 the invitation list had swelled to 63; a year ago it was 60. As the years have gone by, and the US campaign for regime change escalated, the Kremlin has grown more reluctant to reveal who was invited, who was not.

Because the US Treasury and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)  have rationalised their sanctions on individual Russian businessmen as aiming at those judged to be closest to Putin – to pit them against him —  the oligarchs and the President have agreed that when they raise their glasses at their annual toast for the New Year, they prefer their presence to remain a state secret.

This week the Kremlin spokesman was as coy as ever. “Wait for the announcement on the web site”, he said. Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), the oligarchs’ lobby, acknowledged that time for this year’s party was running out, and that he himself “had not shown any initiative, and there had been no information coming from the Kremlin.” 

Putin has not been meeting face-to-face with groups of individuals for months now because of the Covid-19 precautions. This week he made two exceptions; the first for a visit to the National Defence Control Centre where he gave a speech on military priorities to the  Defense Ministry Board;  the second for a visit and speech at the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), in celebration of the agency’s 100th anniversary.

The military and the intelligence services have been far more hostile to the oligarchs than Putin himself. The US Treasury has discreetly acknowledged this. Of the Treasury’s 96 “list of oligarchs” first reported to the US Congress on January 30, 2018, only 11 have been sanctioned to date. Another 3 are under Russian indictment for bank fraud and are on the run in Cyprus  or the UK.  One has been charged with cheating the US Internal Revenue Service and is fighting extradition to the US from his home in London

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BERLIN DOCTORS’ REPORT ON NAVALNY CASE REVEALS NEW EVIDENCE, RAISES NEW QUESTIONS

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

A clinical report of treatment of Alexei Navalny in the Charité Clinic in Berlin reveals that the  atropine treatment by Russian doctors at the Omsk Emergency Hospital Number 1 was the same as provided to Navalny by the Germans. No evidence was detected by the Germans of a poison attack on Navalny in the Omsk hospital, as Navalny and the western press have recently alleged.

The British medical journal, The Lancet, published a four-page clinical case report on December 22. It is signed by fourteen doctors, including Kai-Uwe Eckardt (lead image, centre), the head of the Charité clinic’s treatment unit who was publicly thanked by Navalny on October 7.  Eckardt and David Steindl (lead image, right) are the principal authors; Eckhardt is a specialist on diabetes and kidney transplants. Steindl is a specialist on musculo-skeletal pathologies.  

Although the German doctors refer in passing to the treatment of the Salisbury incidents involving Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018, there has been no comparable clinical evidence from the British doctors in public. The German doctors do not report communicating  with the British.

The Berlin medical report also reveals that a German doctor was at Navalny’s bedside, making tests and reporting the results back to Berlin, without Russian government interference or control, on the afternoon of August 21, the day after after Navalny’s hospitalisation in Omsk.   

The Berlin doctors now admit they did not detect organo-phosphate poisoning in Navalny’s blood, urine or on his skin; they tested no water bottle or clothing evidence which had been brought to Berlin by Navalny’s staff on the evacuation aircraft.  They also acknowledge they did not know what might have caused “severe poisoning with a cholinesterase inhibitor” until the German armed forces laboratory in Munich reported the Novichok allegation “2 weeks later”.

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RUSSIAN CODE SUPREMACY MEANS THERE’S ONLY ONE SECRET THE US GOVERNMENT HAS LEFT – THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO SECRETS FROM RUSSIA

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

To believe what the US State Department is saying officially, and the Department is doing, the US is now at war with Russia; withdrawing from Russia as many of its personnel as possible; keeping this quiet.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo made the announcement on Friday evening: “I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified. This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.” Pompeo is referring to the penetration through SolarWinds software of computer systems of many US Government departments, including the intelligence agencies, the Pentagon and the Treasury, and reportedly thousands of other federal, state, and municipal government entities, as well private corporations.   

Asked if President Donald Trump would be making an announcement Pompeo said that sometimes “the wiser course of action to protect the American people is to calmly go about your business and defend freedom.” Trump attempted to put himself in control a day later: “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control.”  Then Trump hinted at a contradiction, both of Pompeo and of himself. Media fear-mongering for commercial motive was the problem, he added:  “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of… discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).” Trump’s personal motive was in his last line: “There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA.”

At the same time as Pompeo’s declaration, State announced the remaining two US consulates in Russia, at Vladivostok and Yekaterinburg, will be evacuated, leaving nothing more than a skeleton staff at the Embassy in Moscow.  The official statement said:  “the resulting realignment of personnel at U.S. Embassy Moscow will allow us to advance our foreign policy interests in Russia in the most effective and safe manner possible,”  

Pompeo’s declaration means four things. The first is that it no longer matters whether the story of the SolarWinds hack, allegedly commencing nine months ago and revealed publicly on December 13,  is true or false;  whether the evidence to substantiate Russian espionage success will be made public or not. Notwithstanding, it is now US Government policy that Russia has invaded the US Government and acquired code supremacy.

What this means – the second of Pompeo’s concessions — is that the US Government is now in the position of the German Reich of Adolf Hitler and the German military from July 1941; that was after the British had cracked the Enigma machine ciphers, and were reading in almost real time the German war machine’s intentions, plans, and operations.

The third point to understand from Pompeo is that there is now only one secret the US Government is able to keep: this is that the US Government has no secrets from Russia. Fear that the adversary has taken code control is redoubled by Trump’s attempt to say otherwise.  

The fourth point is not one Pompeo acknowledged or can understand himself; it is the consequence in Moscow, in the politics of the Russian leadership. There is now no one left in the Kremlin who does not understand and accept that the US is at war with Russia, perpetual war, and this cannot be negotiated to an armistice, treaty  terms for non-aggression, or capitulation by either side. This is the end of the line for the US faction in domestic Russian politics – Dmitry Medvedev, Alexei Kudrin, Anatoly Chubais, and others. It is the end for the pro-American opposition led by Alexei Navalny, from now on in permanent exile in Berlin. It is also curtains for those Russian oligarchs whose secret collaboration with the US Government can be secret no longer.

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CHRISTMAS ALERT — GRAB STOCKING, STORM COMING DOWN CHIMNEY

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Since the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 4, 1964, off the coast of Vietnam,  the US Government has believed it has needed a lie, voted by a majority of the US Congress, to launch a war. Not since then has the Congress doubted, or the rest of us accepted, that a war-starting fabrication like that one will always succeed in Washington to start the war.

Nor has the truth of the incident — however delayed in discovery — brought the war to an end;  nor inhibited the war party from starting the next one. Force deters or ends wars; truth does neither.

“This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States and we should take that seriously,” declared Richard Durbin, the chief whip of the Democratic Party in the US Senate  on December 12, a month after he won election to a fifth term.

Durbin was referring to US government and media reports of the operation allegedly conducted  by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to penetrate the SolarWinds company software installations in US Government computers.   What is unusual about this alleged attack is that there has been no confirmed damage, no casualty, no loss, reported Reuters “according to three of the people familiar with the matter”.

The New York Times claimed: “the broad Russian espionage attack on the U.S. government and private companies, underway since spring and detected only a few weeks ago, is among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.” But the newspaper qualified this by adding it didn’t know this for sure. “The sweep of stolen data is still being assessed…Investigators were struggling to determine the extent to which the military, intelligence community and nuclear laboratories were affected by the highly sophisticated attack.”     This followed months of investigation:  “investigators spent Monday [December 14] trying to understand the extent of the damage.”

Durbin — born in 1944 to a Ukrainian mother and Irish father — was just out of short pants when the Gulf of Tonkin incident was staged by the Johnson Administration to commence its full-scale ground, air and naval war against North Vietnam and the Vietcong. There hasn’t been a war since then which Durbin didn’t vote for.

Except for a difference of wording to start the war against Iraq in October 2002.  When the Senate considered the authorising resolution to launch that one and topple Saddam Hussein, Durbin proposed amending the authorisation to limit the use of US force against an “imminent threat” posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – if they existed – instead of the “continuing threat to the national security of the United States” represented by Iraq. Durbin’s amendment was defeated by 70 votes to 30.

When it comes to war against Russia, Durbin no longer distinguishes between “imminent threat” and “continuing threat”.  Durbin now says: “Russia is relentlessly trying to invade America’s cyberspace, Durbin added, and this latest hack proves they are having at least some success. We must start taking Russia’s ongoing threats to our democracy more seriously.”

In this US war against Russia’s “ongoing threats”, there is no limit to the Russian targets which the US and allies will attack – with Durbin’s approval – and no restriction on the lies required to justify the war.

This is what we have to look forward to in the new year.

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NOW THAT JOHN LE CARRÉ IS DEAD, IT’S TIME TO REMEMBER ERIC AMBLER

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Elephants are the truly self-knowing creatures of our world.

We know this because when they are about to die, they go somewhere no one else can find. It’s the elephantine way of saying they aren’t convinced they are leaving anything behind that’s worth remembering, so in their last act of will, they escape the speculators.   

Not so writers, especially the big-money ones. Thus, when John Le Carré (aka David Cornwell) died over the weekend, we know that it happened in Truro, Cornwall; in a hospital; and that the cause of death was pneumonia, but not the Covid-19 type.  He was 89 years old.  

His commission agent issued a statement claiming he should be remembered for having “define[d] the Cold War era with the help of his character, George Smiley, and through his complex plots and beautiful prose, beamed a harsh light at the injustices of our world.” In marketing circles this is known as talking your book. The agent attached two hyperboles – one approximately true, one absolutely false. “He has sold more than sixty million copies of his work worldwide. His like will never be seen again.”

The Murdoch Times also tried hyperbole: “[Le Carré] created a new school of fiction, not so much spy stories as anti-spy stories, convoluted tales of disillusionment and betrayal.” The Financial Times cut the pedestal down by several notches. “[He] elevat[ed] the spy novel to a higher literary form that reached well beyond the flimsy, hard-boiled, action-packed capers often common to the genre.” If you think about that for an instant, it’s no reach at all. It’s a description of the FT’s reporting on Russia.     

The Guardian momentarily suspended its Russia-hating obsession to record the career and personal betrayals Cornwell performed against fellow Englishmen when he was employed as an agent, first of MI5 and then of MI6. Evidently, there was much worse he did to them, but the newspaper’s obituarist added: “the precise details of his work have never been spoken of.” This comes close to the truth about the Le Carré books – from them we learn next to nothing about the other side, only how discreditable our side is.

“Always George’s problem,” le Carré wrote in his last tale of his best-known MI6 officer, George Smiley, “seeing both sides of everything.” About the Russians, not so — not Smiley,  certainly not Le Carré.  

It was clear last year that he had ceased to have his wits about him when he wrote the following to be pasted on the front cover of a book MI6 had dictated about the Skripal affair  to a BBC correspondent called Mark Urban. “A scrupulous piece of reporting,” Le Carré wrote —  “necessary, timely and very sobering”. Later, when the evidence was pointed out to Le Carré that he had been quite wrong, and was asked to set his own record straight, he arranged the following pretence with his agent. She wrote: “Mr Cornwell is away writing currently and has asked that we decline all requests for him at this time.”

Now that Le Carré is away permanently, it is time to remember his predecessor, Eric Ambler (lead image, left and right). He died also aged 89; that was in London in 1998. At the time it was said he had “raised the thriller to the level of literature. He brought intellectual substance to the genre at a time when it often suffered from shortages of surprise, maturity, verisimilitude and literary skill.”

On his way out, Ambler said: “Thrillers are respectable now. Back in the beginning, people weren’t quite that sure about them. But ‘they really say more about the way people think and governments behave than many of the conventional novels. A hundred years from now, if they last, these books may offer some clues to what was going on in our world.”

With elephantine flair he titled his autobiography “Here Lies Eric Ambler”. There Ambler tells of creating “Soviet agents who were on the side of angels”, and the “only Communist Party speaker who ever carried conviction with me”. Ambler amused himself, and also the reader, when eating eggs on toast in a café on the Edgware Road with the Communist and a professional burglar. According to Ambler, the latter told the former: “I suppose you could say that I redistribute wealth”.

In the real world Cornwell would have reported to his superiors on them both; in his fiction Le Carré would have affected guilt.   Ambler judged both to be laughable, the latter more so.

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WETTER THAN GOLDEN SHOWERS — HOW CHRISTOPHER STEELE, SACKED BY MI6 FOR INCOMPETENCE, MADE A LUCRATIVE BUSINESS OF INVENTING RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE TO SELL TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Until Christopher Steele (lead images, 1st and 2nd left) was introduced to Victoria Nuland in 2014, there had not been as penetrating a British spy penetration of US policymakers in Washington since 1943. That was when Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming, on orders from London, unbuttoned their flies and penetrated as many of the wives of US politicians, newspaper proprietors, and oil corporation chiefs as London thought they should mount in order to tap their pillow talk, and by whispering in their ears influence their husbands.  

The story of Steele’s relationship with Nuland over two years, 2014 to 2016, has just been unbuttoned, er declassified, by two Republican committee chairmen of the US Senate in a file of 126 pages.  At the time, Nuland was the State Department’s chief policymaker for Russia and the Ukraine as Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. The chaperone, er go-between, was a State Department official named Jonathan Winer (lead images, 3rd left and right). At the time, Winer wasn’t working directly for Nuland; officially, he was State’s special envoy for Libya.

The disclosure of the role Winer played to introduce Steele to Nuland, and persuade her to trust confidential reports Steele was writing on Russia, has been forced by Republican senators who have accused Secretary of State John Kerry and other Obama Administration officials of fabricating Steele’s reputation in preparation for the role he was subsequently hired to play by Hillary Clinton in the scheme to discredit Donald Trump during and after the election campaign of 2016. Winer had already spent ten years working for Kerry in the Senate and was personally influential with him.

Steele’s reports, opened here for the first time, reveal more of the micturition he became famous for in mid-2016; that was revealed for the first time as the Golden Showers dossier in January 2017.

Among Steele’s papers, it is now revealed he told Nuland that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was preparing for “a big war” against Russia in eastern Ukraine before Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down in July of 2014;  that none of his sources, or the State Department officials he was briefing,  believed MH17 had been shot down by a Russian missile or by a Russian group; the incident was a success for the US because “the Russian President’s aims of dividing the US and EU appeared to have been shattered by the downing”; and that “by the end of the year [2014] there would be a string of serious [Russian] corporate defaults and in 6- 12 months the [Putin] regime could be on its knees.”

“Fascinating”, responded Nuland in one email. “Tx as ever”. “Love these, tx” she emailed after reading another of Steele’s reports. “I’m honored to be the telegraph operator”, Winer replied.  

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RUSSIA’S YEAR OF GREATER RESILIENCE THAN ITS ENEMIES — GORILLA RADIO INTERVIEW

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Not since before the end of the Soviet Union have Russians been more certain the country has deadly enemies. They are also in no doubt the US is the biggest of them, trailed by the Ukrainian enemy, the British, the European Union, and the Poles.  

There has been a brief exception. In September 2014, following the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the mobilisation of NATO forces for an invasion of eastern Ukraine, 84% of those polled by the Levada Centre agreed the country had enemies. This past September the comparable figure was 82%. Today there is less uncertainty than before – in 2014 8% of Russians told their face-to-face interviewer they weren’t sure; now it’s only 5%.

This is the outcome of years of US and European military, economic and propaganda operations aimed at convincing the world to support regime change in the Kremlin, and Russians to believe they would be better off  if this happens. The outcome of these operations this year has been defeat on each of the hot war fronts – Ukraine, Syria, Libya, and Armenia – and failure in the major cyber-war operations: the Skripal Novichok case; the MH17 trial in The Netherlands; the Alexei Navalny affair in Germany.

Failure of cyber-warfare means that it doesn’t matter what  the attackers say happened to Skripal or MH17, if the Russians resist believing what they are told. In the Navalny case, despite all the publicity he has attracted since he collapsed on the toilet of his airplane to Moscow on August 20, the proportion of Russians supporting him politically has stuck in the margin for statistical error; that’s  between 3% and 6%. Despite the increased name recognition and sympathy for his earlier anti-corruption message, there has been a sharp increase in Russian disapproval of Navalny’s promotion of himself from his bunker in Berlin.

In recent days too, the retreating commanders of the enemy states have asked President Vladimir Putin for Marshal Kutuzov’s golden bridge.  That’s a reliable back-channel for negotiations; an agreement for a ceasefire, then exit from the battlefield; the resumption of profitable interstate trade and investment, despite sanctions. This was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s purpose sending a junior foreign minister to Moscow in mid-November; it is Putin’s purpose for naming Anatoly Chubais to be the negotiating counterpart of John Kerry, President-elect Joseph Biden’s appointee as “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate”.  

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THE ENRICHMENT OF BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS – HOW THEY THINK THEY ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT ABOUT THE RUSSIANS, NEVER DO, BUT GROW RICH TRYING

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Even as the British Empire was collapsing, and its army was defeated by the Germans,  Japanese, Israelis, Egyptians, Indians, Cypriots, and the Kenyan Mau Mau, British intelligence officers were unshaken in their confidence that they were cleverer than their adversaries;   their espionage and deception operations an uninterrupted success  despite the loss of men, materiel, territory, terms of trade, and the pound.  

“We have the brains. [The Americans] have the money,” remarks one of these officers, Sir David Omand (lead image).

A former head of the signals intelligence agency GCHQ, then coordinator of the intelligence and security services for the prime  minister, Omand has just published a book  with the aim of converting some of the brains into more of the money. More, that is, than Omand already draws from his seat   on the board of Babcock International, a maker of warships, submarines, air force trainers,  helicopters, plus a division Omand and Babcock call cyber intelligence and security.  

It’s natural, therefore, that Omand is talking his own book — in the sales department sense of the term. Natch too, the book, entitled “How Spies Think, Ten Lessons in Intelligence”, is a success story. All that’s missing is the eleventh lesson Omand leaves out.  That’s the one about how the principal enemies in Omand’s world, the Russians, keep managing to succeed in their operations – invasions, assassinations, deceptions, hacking, phishing, spoofing, and faking — despite all the defeats Omand and his colleagues have been inflicting on them, year in, year out.

Omand’s twelfth lesson is to keep trying to beat the Russians. That, he concludes, requires giving GCHQ and the rest of the British intelligence establishment — not to mention Babcock International — new powers, new money from the state treasury, and relief from the law.  “The surveillance that is needed to uncover those responsible and to detect malware… can appear highly invasive of personal privacy. I do not believe we have any alternative for the protection of society from those who mean us harm other than to allow our intelligence and security agencies to use such powerful tools.”

Cyber-attack against Russia is Omand’s thirteenth lesson — with enough extra power, money,  and  exemptions from the criminal code he promises that victory over the Russians is just around the corner.  Omand projects this into the pages of the Economist seven years into the future,  when he and his colleagues imagine they will be counting “the cumulative gains in cybersecurity following the top priority given to countering subversion as an intelligence requirement. There had been corresponding additional investment in the UK National Cyber Security Centre, working in partnership with the private sector and in close cooperation with its counterparts overseas. The public was much more security-savvy. The critical infrastructure was now [2028] much more resilient to any attempts to disrupt it. A small number of highly targeted offensive cyber-operations…had demonstrated that the UK and US were prepared to defend themselves from cyber-coercion. The UK cyber-domain (.uk) was now protected by active cyber defences that identified malware in bulk traffic, and removed bad websites and fake internet addresses…”

This wishful thinking Omand is trying to sell at £21 per copy.

So far, wishful thinking is paying off for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which was created in 2017 as a new section of GCHQ with a budget of £1.9 billion. Before that, it was a group of smaller, cheaper, competitive organisations operating inside other ministries and the Bank of England, with a great many more targets than Russians, including each other.  But the NCSC is facing a budget review in March 2021. In a recent report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee there was considerable skepticism about the Centre’s performance. The MPs didn’t believe what the intelligence officers told them. “The weak evidence base and the lack of a business case for the National Cyber Security Programme that helps to deliver the Strategy make it difficult for the Department to assess whether it will meet all its objectives by 2021. A lack of a business case also means it is unclear whether the money allocated at the start of the Programme was the right amount, making it more difficult to judge value for money.”

For Omand, the Centre and the GCHQ, the Russian enemy remains the big money shot.

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GERMAN GOVERNMENT’S NAVALNY NOVICHOK, CONCOCTED FOR PARLIAMENT, DISSOLVES INTO LIES

By Liane Theuerkauf, Munich 
  @bears_with

Last month Germany’s  Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) headed by Bruno Kahl (lead image) joined with the Chancellery and other ministries in Berlin to provide the first official catalogue of the German government’s allegations in the case of Alexei Navalny.

This was published on November 19.  Press reporting in Germany has been scant; in Russian, the texts did not appear in translation until last week. In English, there has been almost no reporting at all.  

Required to answer by a formal 76-point questionnaire presented to the German Government in the Bundestag  by deputies of the Alternative for Germany party (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD),  the combination of the questions and the Government’s answers reveals a catalogue of lies. By examining the fine print the extent of this lying becomes both obvious and shocking.

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THE SS AND THE NN – GERMAN SECRET SERVICE (SS) PLAN REVEALED IN BUNDESTAG FOR NAVALNY NOVICHOK (NN) OPERATION

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The German Government has revealed to the German parliament that it had decided Alexei Navalny (lead image, left) had been the victim of a crime within minutes of his collapse on board a flight between Tomsk and Moscow on August 20. That was before Navalny’s staff in Tomsk had begun filming their search of Navalny’s hotel room in Tomsk; and also before Navalny’s flight was diverted to Omsk, and he was examimed at the Omsk Emergency Hospital number 1.  

The officials in Berlin (2nd, 3rd from left, right) who decided to send a medical evacuation aircraft to fly Navalny from Omsk to the Charité clinic in Berlin,  now acknowledge that before they made this decision, they were “not aware” of the medical data on Navalny’s condition. Although the government arranged the evacuation flight, it says it has “no knowledge” of whether the German flight crew and medics on board the evacuation flight wore any form of protective clothing. No subsequent testing for contamination of the aircraft, ambulance, or personnel attending Navalny has occurred, according to the German officials. This is an indirect admission by the officials that the crime against Navalny was not treated as a chemical warfare attack until after it was reported by the Institut für Pharmakologie und Toxikologie der Bundeswehr (IPTB, Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology of the German Army) to the head of the  German intelligence agency BND, Bruno Kahl, (2nd left) and by him to Chancellor Angela Merkel   (3rd left).

On September 2, thirteen days after the Germans say they knew there had been a crime, officials in Berlin  now say they  “provided all EU member States… as well as all NATO allies on 3 September 2020, with unequivocal evidence in writing of poisoning with a Novichok chemical warfare agent.” Only after that did the Germans request the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Swedish and French military experts to double-check by taking samples of Navalny’s “biomaterials” (blood, urine). The Bundestag has been told the Swedes arrived at Navalny’s bedside on September 5; the French and the OPCW on September 6. The Swedes reported  back to Berlin in 48 hours, on September 7; the French took four days until September 10; the OPCW needed almost a month for their testing until October 5

The latest admissions by German officials also reveal that the water bottle which Navalny staff claim to have been the murder weapon has not been analysed by the Germans themselves, the Swedes, French or the OPCW. The bottle, brought from Tomsk to Berlin by Navalny’s associate Maria Pevchikh, has not been fingerprinted in Germany to confirm whether Navalny had touched it.

German officials told the Bundestag they are “not aware” and have “no data” on whether Pevchikh was on board Navalny’s medevac aircraft,  or whether she carried the bottle to Germany. Asked to confirm if Pevchikh has been questioned by the German authorities,  the officials say: “It is impossible to answer this question due to the current rules of law. Despite the fundamental constitutional obligation of the Federal government to meet the information requests of the Bundestag, it is affected by the need to keep certain data secret due to current legal norms. Not to distribute the details of the criminal process to the public is the principle of the rule of law, which has equal constitutional force.”

These disclosures in the form of official answers presented to 76 questions submitted by deputies of the Alternative for Germany party (Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) were published by the Bundestag on November 19. A translation into Russian by Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper appeared on Monday of this week. Deustche Welle, the German state propaganda organ – motto,  “Made for Minds” —  has not reported the question-and-answer document in either German or English.

No Anglo-American newspaper has reported the document in English.

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YULIA SKRIPAL GOES HIKING, CALLS RUSSIA SECRETLY

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Yulia Skripal (lead image) has telephoned home to say that she and her father, Sergei Skripal, are alive and well in the UK; living in separate rented accommodations;  paying for them with the pension her father gets from MI6; getting plenty of exercise on a treadmill and nature walks; keeping her diabetic father’s sugar level down; and planning to meet next for a Christmas or New Year dinner together.

Sergei has a minder living with him. Yulia described him as a medic whose job is to  maintain a tracheostomy tube installed in Sergei’s throat. Its function is to compensate for what she said was partial paralysis of his nasopharyngeal muscles, for his lack of air to breathe, and for the danger that Sergei might choke on his own phlegm.  

In an hour-long telephone call at noon, British time, on November 21, Yulia Skripal also said she wanted to set the record straight that her father never wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin asking for permission to return to Russia,  nor gave an interview to Mark Urban, a BBC reporter who published a book of what he claims Skripal told him.

She also said: “I really want to go to New Zealand, but, unfortunately, not yet.”

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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?”

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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.

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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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