FIRST DAY SHOCK AT THE HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT INQUEST – BELLINGCAT TO BE CALLED TO TESTIFY, BUT NOT SERGEI OR YULIA SKRIPAL

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The first session of the inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess, held in London on Tuesday, was almost entirely predictable.

The counsel for the coroner,  like the lawyers for the Sturgess family and for the Home Office, repeated without qualification the allegation that a Novichok poison weapon they say was produced in Russia and taken to the UK by Russian assassins, caused the unplanned  death of Sturgess. This followed twelve weeks after an attempt at assassinating Sergei Skripal with the same weapon on March 4, 2018. Sturgess was the unintended victim of leftover poison, they say.

In short, this is an inquiry into evidence everyone in court already agrees can mean only one thing, beyond reasonable doubt — the Russians did it. A court proceeding to demonstrate what has already been announced; aka a show trial.

There were  two surprises, though. These appear to have been as unintended by Her Majesty’s Government as Sturgess’s Novichok death.

The first was the disclosure by the inquest counsel from the pathologists’ post-mortem report on Sturgess, after her death was recorded at Salisbury District Hospital on July 8, 2018. The cause of her death, according to these medical findings, was “Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity”.  This is the first time the post-mortem results and the names of the two doctors who reached them have been disclosed publicly. The Wiltshire county coroner David Ridley, who conducted the case for almost three years, kept this secret.

The disclosure means that Sturgess died first of a heart attack, loss of oxygen to brain, and bleeding in brain, possibly at the apartment of her partner in Amesbury before ambulance men arrived, or on her way to hospital. “She was pronounced dead in hospital,” the lawyer added. Only later was “Novichok toxicity” discovered. But when?

For the first time, it is revealed that the post-mortem examination was done on July 17; the post-mortem report did not follow until November 29. The gaps in time, and also in biochemical and forensic meaning between “1a, cardiac arrest” and “1b, Novichok toxicity”, are so large, it is shocking that the presiding coroner, Lady Heather Hallett, indicated no plan to call the pathologists to testify under cross-examination.

The second surprise is not less of a shock.  It appears in the list of witnesses. “Our current intention,” the counsel to the inquest announced, “is to make disclosure requests to the following individuals and organisations following the PIR [pre-inquest review]”. Eighteen names of witnesses follow whose testimony is planned. They start with Sturgess’s family and her companion, Charles Rowley, allegedly a survivor of the same poisoning which killed her. The local and London police follow on the list; then ambulance crews; hospital staff; the secret intelligence agencies; the Cabinet Office in London; and finally, at No. 18, “Bellingcat”. This is the well-known NATO-funded evidence fabricator and cyber warfare unit.

The Hallett inquest will call Bellingcat to testify. Missing from the list, excluded from testifying in court, are two names – Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Neither the coroner nor the lawyers in court explained this omission. The reporters attending the hearing for the BBC, Guardian,  and Salisbury Journal failed to notice.

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BERNADETTE CAFFAREY WAS THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S PRESS OFFICER DURING THE COVER-UP OF THE DAVID KELLY CASE

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Bernadette Caffarey (lead image, 2nd from left) is the go-to person when high British government officials need a spokesman after a suspicious death has occurred in the vicinity of the secret services; and when withholding of evidence from a coroner or criminal court judge requires discretion, sensitivity, trust. That’s trust on the part of officials that she won’t spill state secrets to the press; and trust of the press that she isn’t lying.

Caffarey is the press spokesman for the inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess which opens in London today, Lady Heather Hallett presiding. For details and analysis of what is at stake, click to read yesterday’s story.

So discreet is Caffarey that she has omitted in her public career resume the years she spent as a press officer at the Attorney-General’s Office (AGO), and as press officer for Dominic Grieve, Attorney-General from 2010 to 2014, when he was deciding not to allow reopening of the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly who died, officially of suicide, on July 17, 2003. Kelly was a chemical and biological warfare expert from Porton Down and the Ministry of Defence, who worked as a British inspector in Russia in the 1990s, and later for the United Nations in Iraq in the runup to the Anglo-American invasion of 2003. For Kelly’s story and the evidence of his death, read this.

Caffarey was asked this morning to say when she had served as spokesman for the Attorney-General, and what reason she had for leaving an eight-year blank in her career resume, between 2007-2015. She responded that she began at the AGO in April 2009 and served as a press officer there until November 2015. The omission of those years from her Linkedin profile was inadvertent, she said.   

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THIRD MEMBER OF THE NOVICHOK INQUEST RIGGING TEAM APPOINTED FROM UK HOME OFFICE, BBC

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

For more than three centuries the judges of the United Kingdom’s courts have struggled to preserve their independence from the monarch and the government, and thus their power to rule on the truth before them, not the lies presented by the ruling powers.  

When giving public lectures, optimistic, pensioned, and Scottish judges speak of “tensions with the executive [as] an inevitable part of the relationship with the executive”. Some of them claim that since 2003 the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice are constitutionally powerful enough on their own to protect the independence of the judges working below them.  

In the case of who attacked Sergei Skripal in the middle of England on March 4, 2018, they aren’t and they haven’t. The evidence of this will be on display in the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday.

That is when a retired judge and commercial consultant named Baroness Hallett (lead image) will convene the first hearing of a new inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess. Sturgess died on July 8, 2018, allegedly after ingesting a lethal dose of the nerve agent Novichok from a false perfume bottle her partner had presented to her after finding it in circumstances he has yet to explain with certainty.  

The British Government alleges that two Russian government agents were responsible for the attack on Skripal; they “are now also the prime suspects in the case of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley too. There is no other line of inquiry beyond this. And the police have today formally linked the attack on the Skripals and the events in Amesbury – such that it now forms one investigation… Our own analysis, together with yesterday’s report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has confirmed that the exact same chemical nerve agent was used in both cases. There is no evidence to suggest that Dawn and Charlie may have been deliberately targeted, but rather were victims of the reckless disposal of this agent.” That was then-Prime Minister Theresa May in a speech to the House of Commons on September 5, 2018.

Eighteen months later, police and prosecutors have issued no formal indictment for Sturgess’s death. The coroner’s court inquest into the cause of her death has been repeatedly postponed; it begins again on March 30.  Hallett has replaced David Ridley, the county coroner in charge of the inquest until now, for reasons which were decided by government officials in secret.  Until the secret becomes public knowledge, the independence of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice is in doubt. Hallett knows the secret; the way she conducts the inquest will reveal it.    

In the Sturgess case Hallett has appointed Martin Smith as her chief assistant, the official solicitor to the inquest.  When they wish to speak to the public and press, they have appointed Bernadette Caffarey. She says Hallett “does require some help in contacting the press to alert them of the upcoming hearing… A coroner can choose to seek assistance from anyone they feel has the right expertise to assist them.”

Smith has been employed by Hallett in a major political inquest before. Caffarey currently works for Smith; she is paid her salary by the Home Office. In her last two jobs she was paid by the Home Office, the government ministry overseeing the judiciary and police, and by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). She is a state mouthpiece.

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ALEXI NAVALNY’S WIFE IS IN GERMANY DISCUSSING A GERMAN GOVERNMENT OFFER TO THE KREMLIN FOR A KHODORKOVSKY-TYPE RELEASE INTO PERMANENT ASYLUM

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In a series of moves coordinated with German and other NATO government officials, Alexei Navalny has released a fabricated internet message while his wife Yulia Navalnaya is in Germany to seek German, British and US Government aid for Navalny’s release from prison on terms that will end his political ambitions in Russia.

The details, confirmed by more than a dozen people familiar with the matter,   have surfaced just four weeks  after Navalny was sent to IK-2 Pokrov, a special-measures prison near Yaroslavl.  

In a March 26  Instagram posting made to appear as if Navalny himself had prepared it in jail,  two pictures reveal a foreign service fabrication with a coded message for the Kremlin. Navalny, the code reveals, is willing to accept terms for his release similar to those accepted by Mikhail Khodorkovsky in December 2013.   In return for a letter to President Vladimir Putin admitting his guilt on the offences charged, the proposal is for him to be released to Germany where Navalny would be granted permanent asylum, never to return to Russia.

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DONBASS – WHERE THE NEGOTIATIONS END AND WAR STARTS

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The Kiev regime of Volodymyr Zelensky is now in the same strategically vulnerable position as Petro Poroshenko’s regime was after the presidential election of May 2014.

Both were facing domestic alienation and armed opposition, which for different reasons in the east of the country and the west, were impossible for the presidents to overcome, compose,  or coordinate.  Both have calculated they should provoke a military confrontation in the Donbass in order to draw the US Government and the NATO allies into rushing a combination of fresh money into Kiev and arms on to the line of contact in the east.

The shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, was a provocation planned to draw direct NATO military intervention on the ground; recovery of the MH17 victims’ bodies and aircraft black boxes was the cover story and camouflage.  But the scheme – devised by the US and Ukrainian secret services, adopted by Poroshenko, promoted by the Dutch, and manned by the Australians – failed; read the book explaining how.

The present situation in the Donbass is understood by the Russian General Staff, the Foreign Ministry, the intelligence agencies, and the Kremlin to be at this point of ignition. They also understand what has changed since mid-2014. The political capacity of the Germans to resist US folly has been eroded by the Navalny Novichok operation since last August,  and by party battles to replace Angela Merkel and her government at the September 26 election; so Germany is much weaker than it was seven years ago. The Dutch, having just re-elected Mark Rutte and continuing the MH17 show trial, are exactly where they were then. Everyone else in Europe, including the British, are more uncertain and unconfident than they were. Joseph Biden was Kiev’s principal ally in Washington then; now he’s mentally less capable of calculation or control.

An unusually detailed presentation of the Russian positions, as well as the Russian interpretation of the positions of the other sides in the conflict, was published this week in Kommersant. Reporter Vladimir Soloviev has transcribed what his source, the chief Russian negotiator Dmitry Kozak (lead image, right), deputy chief of the presidential administration, has provided verbally and in documents.

The current map of the war zone (lead image, left) can be expanded for view here.  A semi-official Russian military situation report can be read here.  

This is the Russian text of Kozak’s briefing.  Here is my translation, unabridged and unedited.

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SAFE PAIR OF HANDS FOR BRITISH NOVICHOK CASE – DAWN STURGESS TO GET A NEW CORONER, NEW INQUEST

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The British government has selected a new team trusted with state secrets to run the inquest into the alleged Novichok death of Dawn Sturgess three years ago.  The appointments of former Court of Appeals judge, Lady Heather Hallett,  and Martin Smith as legal advisor will commence at a court hearing in London on March 30.

Hallett and Smith replace the Wiltshire country coroner David Ridley and his police advisor in the ongoing investigation of what caused Sturgess’s death.  

Hallett has been a specialist judge for  sensitive military, intelligence, and police problems under the direction of the Cabinet Office for many years. The Cabinet Office coordinated all security and police operations before, during, and after the alleged Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, 2018.

Smith was involved in the state investigation of the alleged Russian assassination by polonium  poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko on November 1, 2006.  Titled “Solicitor to the Inquiry”, he was acknowledged in the January 2016 report by the chief investigator, Sir Robert Owen.  

The move by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise the level of the investigation is likely to secure the Home Office and the security agencies from disclosure of evidence casting doubt on the official story that a Russian assassination squad, on mission to kill Skripal, left behind a bottle of Novichok which ended up in the apartment of Sturgess and her companion, Charles Rowley; they were poisoned at their Amesbury home on June 30, 2018; Sturgess died in nearby Salisbury Hospital on July 8.

London experts on inquests and coronial law say it is not uncommon for “complex and controversial cases” to be moved from local coroners to judges in London. The London lawyers will not comment, however, on the recent record of state security service for Hallett and Smith.

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REUTER’S RUSSIA LIES PUT TO TRUTH TEST IN UK HIGH COURT — RUPERT MURDOCH, SERGEI PUGACHEV & CATHERINE BELTON CHARGED BY ROMAN ABRAMOVICH

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

For the first time, the US-based international media agency Reuters is being sued for lying about Russia in the British High Court. The three defendants in the dock are Catherine Belton (lead image, right); her source, runaway bank robber Sergei Pugachev; and Rupert Murdoch’s publishing house, HarperCollins.

Roman Abramovich (left) has launched the case almost a year after Belton, Pugachev and Murdoch published a book entitled  “Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West”.  According to Abramovich, he  has initiated the lawsuit in defence of his personal reputation and that of the Chelsea Football Club he owns. “It is my hope that today’s action will not only refute the false allegations in regard to my own name, but also serve as a reminder of Chelsea’s positive footprint in the UK.”

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“RUSSIA IS THE ENEMY” IS THE ADVERTISEMENT WHICH SAVES THE US AD INDUSTRY FROM COLLAPSE AND KEEPS US JOURNALISTS IN THEIR JOBS

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Barnacles are unambitious. Once they attach themselves to the keel they don’t think they can influence the direction or even the speed of the boat. They confine themselves to feeding and reproducing. Barnacles are good at that because their penises are closer to their mouths than is true of most journalists. In this respect, the arthropod is a dickhead.

Anglo-American reporters reporting on other journalists reporting on Russia lack the genital-in-mouth modesty of barnacles. But whether in the mainstream media or alternative media, they are stuck where they are and must feed on each other. Unlike barnacles, they think they control the battleship in its fight with Russia; this is how it pays for dickheads to think.

The advertising markets are ambitious, parasitic, and dickheaded in the same way. But it’s not the same way in the US as in Russia. The latest reports on advertising revenues in both markets reveal that if it hadn’t been for the US election campaigns in 2020, revenue spent trying to persuade the American people would have fallen by 17%; this counts only how-to-vote adspend, not how to think adspend. They are correlated because as traditional advertising revenues fall, so do jobs for journalists.

The other driver of US advertising revenue last year was the pandemic-related growth of Amazon belonging to Jeff Bezos; the more money he makes, the more losses he can afford on promoting war against Russia at the Washington Post. In general, Covid-19 helped increase mainstream newspaper readership — without adding to their revenues. But in the US market there is no reader revenue competition over war against Russia between the Washington Post and the New York Times, as the war against Spain once served the competition between William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s  New York World.  However, last year the combination of Covid-19 and war against Russia improved reader trust in the New York Times brand compared to the Bezos brand at the Post, which had been more trusted than the Times in 2019.  The Times also increased its lead in the size of its online readership  compared to the Post.    

In Russia, according to the report from the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia (AKAR) released last week,  the total spent on advertising in all media for 2020 came to Rb473 billion ($6.5 billion); that was 4% less than 2019. Traditional Russian journalism in newspapers suffered most – adspend in this market segment went down by 50%; radio advertising dropped by 30%; advertising on trains and buses, down by 38%; outdoor advertising, down by 27%. By contrast, advertising revenue spent on the internet grew by 4%; on videos, up by 5%.

By contrast also, the pressure on Russians from the Covid-19 restrictions triggered the biggest gain in advertising expenditure from the state savings bank Sberbank. Next in percentage gain in the Russian market came Leomax, a television retailer,  and Miratorg, a producer and distributor of meat products.  Political advertising was negligible in the Russian market; the next parliamentary election isn’t due until September 2021; the next presidential election until March 2024.

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NOT SHOCK & AWE, US WAR AGAINST RUSSIA IS WOOZLE & BAMBOOZLE

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

How many times must we repeat: in this war which the US and NATO have started against Russia, force will decide the outcome, not words. So if President Joseph Biden (lead image, centre) and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) are afraid of running the risk of losing the former – watch the Donbass in the coming weeks — they will stick to wars of words; that’s propaganda, info-war, cyber-war.

In wars of words, truth isn’t the first casualty.  It’s the first weapon – that’s to say, our side’s truth is our weapon; the other side’s truth is a pack of lies (aka deception, disinformation, active measures, trolling). By the way, the US Constitution’s free speech amendment is a two-edged sword in this war-making.  Our side’s freedom to speak the truth or to tell lies is lawful; the other side’s freedom to speak their truth on our side of the front is an indictable crime, according to the Department of Justice. It’s foreign agent influence peddling,  election interference, sedition, or (if Julian Assange did it) espionage.

In propaganda warfare, one of the rules of combat as the Germans, British and Americans have all practiced it, is that repeating a lie often enough will conceal the truth. In British and American libel courts, truth isn’t a defence for publishing lies about public figures. It’s enough for the liar to demonstrate that the fabrications were already in circulation to legalise repeating them in media. Repeat our side’s lie often enough and this will erase the truth of the other side’s as if it had never existed. Novichok, for example, is a war-fighting word — NATO side claims it was a poison to kill Sergei Skripal three years ago; that was a lie. NATO side has repeated that it was a poison to kill Alexei Navalny eight months ago. It’s still a lie, but as a war-fighting word, it has managed to kill the truth on our side of the front. Almost.

In war-fighting with words like this, the big gun of the US and NATO alliance is the woozle. Novichok is a woozle.

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SOVCOMFLOT SURFS ON A WAVE OF CASH

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Sovcomflot, Russia’s dominant shipping company and (next to the Chinese) the world’s most valuable energy tanker fleet, announced yesterday that in 2020 its earnings had risen almost 10%, and its profit jumped by over 18%.

However, the stock market is decidedly unimpressed. On the Moscow Stock Exchange, where Sovcomflot shares have been listed since last October, the share price moved up by less than half of one percent on a tiny volume of transactions.   

At its new price of Rb91.12 ($1.24), the market is telling the shipping company it is worth 13% less than the company claimed six months ago, when it issued its share prospectus at Rb105.

Worse yet may materialise in April, when the lock-up period expires for the anchor shareholders; they committed themselves to buying at Rb105 on October 7 and to waiting six months before selling out. At least one of them won’t do that, though. That’s OOO SCF Arctic, a Sovcomflot subsidiary holding part of the tanker fleet. In order to support the planned privatisation of Sovcomflot shares at the target share price, SCF Arctic promised to buy a block of shares from the share-sale bankers if they didn’t want them; that cost the shipping company $47.2 million.

In other words, Sovcomflot was an anchor investor in itself. The state sovereign investor, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), was the biggest of the other anchors. With state support like this, Moscow market analysts say they aren’t surprised at the lack of commercial investor demand.  “The privatisation was a propaganda exercise”, comments a London shipping expert. “There is a problem in the reporting of Russian companies – the truthful part disguises lots of faking.”

The initial public offering (IPO) last October failed, says Pavel Gavrilov, a stock analyst with BCS Express in Moscow. “Technical difficulties, lack of information, the speculative component, and other factors” were to blame.

Yesterday, Sovcomflot’s chief executive Igor Tonkovidov said that “with swings in global oil demand causing extreme volatility across energy markets, SCF [Sovcomflot] Group has demonstrated resilience to such turbulence and has produced further increase in its key operational and financial metrics.”

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NOW AND THEN – WHY WILLIAM BRUMFIELD’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF RUSSIA ARE US WAR PROPAGANDA

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

William Brumfield is an American university professor who has specialised in photographing Russian architecture before the Revolution, especially churches. His pictures are optimistic, not so much for the revival of the Orthodox God as for the recovery of Church property from before (lead image, right).  If one of Brumfield’s pictures could do for a thousand words, the record of Russian atheism (lead image, left), secularism, communism, collectivisation and socialism would be erased as if it had never existed.

Brumfield has visited Russia more than fifty times in the past fifty years. In 2019 he was awarded the Order of Friendship by President Vladimir Putin, though not personally. The medal was sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington, and that’s where Brumfield collected it. The award is a multi-purpose one for foreigners; it has also gone to Gennady Timchenko’s wife and daughter for their good works as ex-Russian Finnish nationals. Since 2014 they have all been targeted by US Treasury sanctions.

Brumfield’s newest book is a candidate for selection in London as Pushkin House’s best book on Russia for 2021.  That’s if the selection committee agree to count it on their short list to be announced shortly.  The committee is run this year by two well-known Russia haters, Fiona Hill of the US National Security Council  and the ex-NATO secretary-general George Robertson.

Brumfield’s book is called “Journeys through the Russian Empire”. It reproduces the photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, taken between 1903 and 1916, displayed side by side with attempts at reproducing the same shots taken by Brumfield between 1972 and 2018.

Except for a brief record of the mosques and medrassas of Bukhara and Samarkand, the majority of both sets of photographs is of churches and monasteries located outside Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Brumfield is vague on what Prokudin-Gorsky was doing; he provides no direct diary excerpts,  letters, notes, or contemporary versions of what the photographer was thinking at the time. Brumfield appears not to have read Prokudin-Gorsky’s memoirs, published in France in 1932 and quoted in the Russian website dedicated to the Russian photographer since 2011.  

Brumfield is also fuzzy on what he’s been doing himself. He concedes “the nostalgic appeal of a lost world vividly rediscovered in brilliant colour. These photographs transport us back in time and create an illusion of memory”. But since Brumfield thinks he knows what happened next better than Prokudin-Gorsky could, the “nostalgic interpretations…may be superficially appealing, but they ignore a larger, at times devastating, context.”

Brumfield doesn’t mean the German wars on Russia;  nor the civil war invasions by armies from Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, France, Britain and the US;  nor the current US-NATO war.  He is only thinking of the revolution of 1917 and of “the next decade…years of war, social collapse, hunger and savage violence”. On the one hand, Brumfiield acknowledges “the perspective that Prokudin-Gorsky implicitly endorses in his photographs is that of Russians as bringers of progress and amelioration”. On the other hand, he thinks the subsequent history didn’t bring that about either.  He doesn’t quite dare to say that he blames the godless Russians.  “Historical buildings are a form of real estate and as such are subject to competing interests. The survival or destruction of architectural landmarks – and specifically those photographed by Prokudin-Gorsky – may reflect many, seemingly contradictory impulses. We have noted the important role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in the process of restoration, yet the Church has often been criticized by preservationists for renovations taken after the restitution of church property”.

This is a book to help western readers imagine there would be a better Russia if only the present leadership would sign terms of capitulation; they are the terms which Fiona Hill and George Robertson have made their careers thinking up, promoting in public, failing to achieve on the war front.   

The book is a large volume of the sort publishers market to readers intending to display, flat on their coffee tables, how cultivated their owners are.  In this context – cocktails this evening, war tomorrow – it might have been better if Brumfield had presented his collection of matching pre-1917 and pre-1991 photographs without writing a word. That way the photographs would speak for themselves to “the competing interests”. Brumfield might have left the words to Hill and Robertson whom those fond of Russian culture can safely ignore.

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HOW THE NATO ALLIANCE IS FIGHTING RUSSIA’S SPUTNIK V VACCINE WITH SUBSIDIES FROM STATE BUDGETS AND THE GATES FOUNDATION, HIDDEN BY THE FINANCIAL TIMES

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

When the organ claiming to be the world’s leading financial newspaper conceals the large price subsidy for the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by the NATO allies, in order to accuse Russia of price gouging the poor, you can be sure you are watching an information warfare attack.

And when the concealment of the vaccine subsidy operation run by GAVI and COVAX hides the fact that the UK, US, and the Bill Gates (lead image, right) and Melinda Gates Foundation are paying 92% of the $10 billion scheme, then you realise that Covid-19 vaccines are a weapon of war.

A war, not only against Russia, but also against China.

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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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