RUSSIA-HATING AND RUSSOPHOBIA ARE A THOUSAND YEARS OLD – LONG ENOUGH TO PROVE THERE’S NO CURE, ONLY REMISSION BY FORCE OF ARMS

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Hatred of the Russian race and Russophobia are more than a thousand years old in Europe – long enough for everyone nowadays to realise there’s no cure for them.  At least not by rational persuasion, not by words.  Remission by force of arms is another matter altogether.

A Swiss history of the phenomenon in Europe, starting in France in Charlemagne’s time and ending on the Donbass contact line since 2014, explains why the stakes along that line are so great now. The book is also an aid to comprehending why in this week’s telephone conversation between the chief Russian and American negotiators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (lead image, 1st right) demonstrated the futility of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s (3rd right) talking with him again.*  

The Swiss history, published by Guy Mettan in 2017 as President Donald Trump was taking office in Washington, reveals a hopefulness that is impossible now. “Will Trump know how”, Mettan asks in his last paragraph, “will he still want to, or will he simply give up on trying to turn the tide and bring back civility in the relations between the West and Russia? Is a respite in what is turning out to be a new Cold War at all possible?” Mettan answered himself: “We certainly wish so. After all, if the task is almost superhuman, as no one will doubt after reading this book, it just may not be altogether impossible.”

Squeezing between that double negative there is in fact no space, no hope.

Mettan has written a primer on this brand of racism, noting that “Russophobia, contrary to French Anglophobia and Germanophobia, is a phenomenon that, though different of course, resembles anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. Like anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, it is not a transitory phenomenon linked to specific historical events; it exists first in the head of the one who looks, not in the victim’s alleged behaviour or characteristics.”

In Mettan’s history, American Russophobia “begins where the French, the English, and the Germans left off. It is a dynamic synthesis of French liberal-democratic Russophobia and English and German imperialist Russoaphobias.”  To Mettan the American phenomenon of today is a millennial climax of sorts. It‘s the apogee and the perigee, the final form of confidence in pursuing genocidal war against the Russians who resist and subjugation of those who remain,  which the German leadership held in June 1941.

According to Mettan, though, the adoption of Russophobia as US state policy since 1945  has reversed the outcome of the last war for the Germans. “This is how, in less than a quarter century, without striking a single blow Germany has just won the First and Second World Wars!”

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CATHERINE BELTON LOSES FIRST TRUTH TEST, RUPERT MURDOCH PUBLISHER TO RETRACT, APOLOGISE — REUTERS PRETENDS IT ISN’T SO

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Catherine Belton (lead image, left), a reporter on Russia for the Financial Times and Reuters, was abandoned this week by her publisher, Rupert Murdoch’s (right) HarperCollins, and obliged to sign an out-of-court settlement in London with Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven of Alfa Bank and the LetterOne group.

The publisher has agreed to admit there was “no significant evidence” for Belton’s allegations of KGB connections in the early careers of Fridman and Aven; and that she had failed to check her claims with Fridman and Aven before publishing them. “HarperCollins and [Belton] recognise and regret that comment was not sought earlier from Mr Aven and Mr Fridman… and to apologise that the subject was not discussed with them prior to initial publication.”

HarperCollins will publish this statement within a week of the High Court issuing its order. Three months ago, the publisher had announced it “will robustly defend the claim and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest”.  The publisher has now  agreed to remove Belton’s allegations against Fridman and Aven from new printings of the book, Putin’s People:  How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West.

The hardcover edition was published in April 2020 in the UK; the following June in the US. The American publisher is a subsidiary of the German Holtzbrinck publishing group, which produces the anti-Russia newspaper Die Zeit.  The paperback edition of Belton’s book has not yet been published, delayed indefinitely by the London court action and by the publishers’ loss of confidence in Belton’s veracity. 

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THE BRITISH NAVY’S CRIMEAN CAPE CAPER ENDS UP LIKE THE BORNHOLM BASH, BALTIC BLUFF, BLINKEN BLINK

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The British Embassy’s Press Office has stopped answering its telephones in Moscow.  It is also refusing to respond to emailed requests like the name of the Embassy defence attaché, a naval officer, who appeared at the Russian Defence Ministry on Wednesday to listen to the official protest of HMS Defender’s 31-minute, 29-kilometre run into Russian territorial waters  that morning.  

It is in the small details that the meaning of the naval engagement off Cape Fiolent, Crimea,  can be found. In not lining up the small details so they corroborate the official interpretations, the British Government in London has demonstrated less competence than the Polish Government in Warsaw three months ago, when it sent fishing boats, a navy mine-layer and an anti-submarine patrol aircraft  against Russia’s Nord Stream-2 pipe-laying vessel, the Fortuna.   

In that episode, Warsaw’s defence ministry tweeted officially that “the Polish Navy does not carry out any provocative activities and carries out its statutory tasks in accordance with international law. M-28B Bryza aircraft regularly carry out patrol and reconnaissance flights in the Baltic Sea area.”

In this week’s episode, London’s Ministry of Defence tweeted:  “No warning shots have been fired at HMS Defender. The Royal Navy ship is conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law. We believe the Russians were undertaking a gunnery exercise in the Black Sea and provided the maritime community with prior warning of their activity. No shots were directed at HMS Defender and we do not recognise the claim that bombs were dropped in her path. As is normal for this route, she entered an internationally recognised traffic separation corridor. She exited that corridor safely at 0945 BST [11:45 Moscow time]. As is routine, Russian vessels shadowed her passage and she was made aware of training exercises in her wider vicinity.”

The wording of both communiqués was a combination of calculated imprecision and state  propaganda. But the words covered retreat under Russian counter-attack. It’s on occasions like these,  when the facts don’t match the words,  that retreat under fire means backfire. Like the Poles, the British lose by gaining nothing.  The Russians win by demonstrating effective defence of a red line.

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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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THE CROOK COMES HOME TO ROOST – VADIM BELYAEV’S NEW YORK HAVEN UNDER COURT ATTACK FOR AT LEAST $1 BILLION



by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Vadim Belyaev (lead image)  is not the first Russian bank robber to take Cyprus citizenship on his way to safe haven in New York City, and then find himself facing a billion-dollar recovery lawsuit from his Russian pursuers in New York Supreme Court.  He is, however, the very first to attempt to slip into New York’s Jewish community by renaming himself Wolfson after his father. The next step will be an interview with Masha and Konstantin  (Keith) Gessen of New Yorker to explain how he’s being persecuted on trumped-up charges by President Vladimir Putin.

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THE FROG WHO GOT TOO BIG FOR HIS BOOTS AND WAS TURNED INTO A TOADY — SIR MARK SEDWILL SACKED, BRITISH POLICY ON RUSSIA FOR REVIEW

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The plot to rid the British Government of the man who combined more domestic and foreign policy-making powers than any British official in peacetime was not a clandestine Kremlin operation directed by President Vladimir Putin.

But the sacking of Sir Mark Sedwill, the grammar school head-boy who became Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor under Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018, removes the plotter-in-chief of the Skripal affair, the Novichok plot, and the campaign of British info-warfare against Moscow over the past two years.  

The man who defeated Sedwill, Dominic Cummings, chief adviser of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is the only official in the prime ministry to have operated under cover in Russia. What  Cummings’s cover was has never been publicly revealed from his counter-intelligence vetting.  The rise of Cummings has also not been reported by the NATO propaganda unit Bellingcat and the Murdoch press to have been a clandestine Kremlin operation.

Between the two plots, Sedwill’s and Cummings’s, the outcome is now a small space in which the British will reflect on how far Sedwill, and co-conspirator Sir Alex Younger, chief of MI6, took  Anglo-Russian policy past Germany and France to the one promoted in Washington by John Bolton.  Sedwill’s term as supremo has run almost exactly parallel to Bolton’s. Sedwill’s removal would have been as swift as Bolton’s sacking last September if not for the corona virus pandemic. That was not a clandestine Chinese plot.

Younger, Sedwill’s old classmate at St. Andrews University, has now been in the secret intelligence service post for six years; that’s longer than any of his predecessors for the past half-century. If Younger follows Sedwill out the door, the cranny between the plots will be a little wider.  

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TOO CROOKED TO LIE STRAIGHT IN BED – BBC TRIES TO RIGHT THE WRONGS OF ITS SKRIPAL STORY

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) isn’t likely to have heard the old Australian working-class expression that a man is too crooked to lie straight in bed. It meant that lying and  cheating are in the nature of a deformity, and can’t be operated on or cured.  “The Salisbury Poisonings”, the three-part, three-hour film which concluded its run on Tuesday evening, was composed by individuals like that.

That isn’t news. From the beginning in March 2018, the BBC has been a platform for the British Government’s narrative that Russia, directed by President Vladimir Putin, waged chemical warfare on British soil,  attempting to assassinate Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and then killing  Dawn Sturgess. In May of 2018 – almost three months after the Skripals were attacked on March 4; one month before Sturgess was hospitalised — the corporation broadcast a series of interviews with the medical staff at Salisbury District Hospital attempting to prove that a Russian-made nerve agent called Novichok had been the weapon of the crime.  The BBC broadcaster, Mark Urban —  he admitted later – had been preparing interviews with Skripal by arrangement with the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and then to have produced his book on the case with the NATO information warfare unit, Bellingcat.  In November 2018, the corporation broadcast a fresh hour claiming to be the “inside story” of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The corporation then began negotiations on an even longer version of the story. By mid-May 2019 money was committed and other terms agreed for what was initially planned to be “a two-part factual drama”.  Casting followed; filming began in October of that year. The drama was stretched into three parts. The facts were stretched, too.

Unravelling the facts composed by a crooked man trying to lie straight can be a whodunit of the conventional English type. This time, though, the BBC has revealed the  complicated plot of a true crime hatched in the Cabinet Office in London by a character the new film introduces with an untraceable name.

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HIGH COURT DECISIONS ENCOURAGE RUSSIAN RUNAWAY CAPITAL IN LONDON


by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

For catching birds it’s old-fashioned child’s play to put salt on their tails. But fooling the bird in order to get close enough with the salt-shaker, before the bird takes off, is a job for grown-ups.  

When it comes to catching fugitive bankers, money launderers and the families of corrupt state officials in Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union,  the two-year history of the British National Crime Authority’s (NCA) Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) is faltering because the courts require more than suspicious police and allegations promoted in the press.

Last week, the High Court ruled that  NCA lawyers, prosecutors and investigators had made “unreliable” assumptions; conducted “inadequate investigation of the obvious”;  applied “artificial and flawed reasoning”; were “unfair” in their evaluation of the evidence as well as pursuing targets “without any evidence”. “It is ultimately for the Court, not the NCA, to determine whether there is ‘reasonable cause to believe’,” Justice Dame Beverly Lang decided on April 8, dismissing three Unexplained Wealth Orders, together with three asset freeze orders covering several London residential properties worth about £80 million. Through a network of offshore foundations, trusts, and cut-out companies these belong to Dariga Nazarbayeva and Nurali Aliyev, daughter and grandson of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the ruler of Kazakhstan. Nazarbayeva is currently the speaker of the Kazakh Senate.

The stinging rebuke to the NCA, and a pending appeal of two earlier court judgements against Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a jailed Azerbaijani banker, are likely to slow down, or stop altogether, the pursuit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (lead image, left) of Russian runaways in the UK.

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SKRIPAL IN PRISON – THE FIRST BOOK TO REPORT THE TRUTH

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It is exactly two years since the case of two Russians, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, began with their collapse on a park bench in the middle of England on the afternoon of March 4, 2018.

On their anniversary it is necessary to tell this story. But it isn’t the story of what happened. This is because the only people who can tell that one, the Skripals, are locked away in isolation, guarded by determined men under secret government orders.

Instead, this is the story of what didn’t happen – provably didn’t happen because it was quite impossible circumstantially; and because the legal papers warranting that it did have not been signed by a judge, tested in a court of law, or released in public.

The facts which you have seen, heard or read about the incident of March 4, 2018, have been falsified. Everything that has flowed from them is false too.  Understanding this is a start to the other story, and so something solid to work from – not missed until now; more like seen but disbelieved. As if the truth were fiction, and the fiction truth.

This is the story of how the largest and longest criminal investigation in modern British history ended in a prosecution without evidence of the crime, the weapon, the crime scene, and even of the crime victims. Allegations there are; evidence admissible in a British court of law there is not. That’s to say, a prosecution which will not be presented in court, before no judge and jury; with no witnesses on oath; and no verdict. That is no prosecution at all.

To say otherwise, as do the British Government, its allies abroad, and every one of its mass circulation media without exception, is a lie. The victims, it turns out, are held in a British prison, at a secret location, incommunicado, without access to lawyers to defend them, without contact with their families, or the consular representatives of the state whose passports they hold. No court has judged them or sentenced them to this punishment.

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END OF STRING FOR RUSSIAN YO-YO LOAN FRAUD — ILYA YUROV CONVICTED IN LONDON COURT OF STEALING $1.1 BILLION FROM NATIONAL BANK TRUST

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The English read detective stories for the pleasure of unravelling the crime,  proving that even if there are perfect crimes, in the majority of cases the perpetrators don’t get away with them because the detectives are usually cleverer. That’s fiction.

In real life,  Russian crimes are different. In the majority of cases, including less than perfect crimes involving vast sums of money, the majority of the perps get away with them; live richly  in the UK, Tuscany, or on the Cote d’Azur; and enjoy promotional publicity in the Financial Times. In the cases of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and William Browder they have become so famous for their lying, it’s a devil of a job for the truth to prevail against their fictions.

In the minority of Russian cases, the judgements of the High Court in London are thrillers, though complicated in the reading. In the majority of these judgements, the guilty are convicted, and the innocent vindicated.  But that’s a majority of a minority. A rarity in the library of true Russian crimes.

There have been many Russian yo-yo loan schemes since commercial banking began in Moscow just under thirty years ago. The modus operandi is that the controlling shareholder arranges for his bank to make large loans to offshore companies he invents and controls; passes the money from these fronts on to other fronts,  and then into his pockets. His plan from the start is not to repay the loans; the borrowing fronts have no security for their loans when the bank demands repayment, and there’s no cash. That’s the big crime.

The scheme requires dozens of fake entities, thousands of transactions, more than a handful of banks, and accomplices to manage the operations. Because they are in the know, they have to be paid well. They, too,  grow rich.  They commit the smaller crimes and compound the big one. Even if the big criminal is caught, and his underlings at the Russian end sent to prison until they inculpate their bosses, the offshore managers and fixers – those who keep the yo-yo revolving and the string from breaking – usually get away.

In the case of National Bank Trust versus Ilya Yurov (lead image), his partners and their wives, the High Court published its whodunit last week. The story can be followed from the start in 2015 in this archive;  Khodorkovsky makes several crooked cameo appearances. A British national named Benedict Worsley, the most important of Yurov’s managers,  changed sides when the yo-yo turned into a boomerang. To save himself, he agreed to take more money from the bank to assemble the evidence in the court case against the defendants. In the new court judgement, he reportedly switched sides again before the trial opened on October 1, 2018.  Neither side wanted to call him to testify because they all agreed he was a liar. The Worsley tale can be followed here. In the High Court judgement, Worsley is named 733 times. “It would appear that he was something of a fantasist and prone to exaggerate,” the judge ruled, “and that he was prepared to act dishonestly…”

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LONDON POLICE COMMISSIONER MAKES NEW CLAIM TO KEEP YULIA SKRIPAL INCOMMUNICADO

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, has announced that Yulia Skripal is not being held incommunicado, against her will, and in violation of her legal rights “if she consents to any assistance provided”. Last week’s videotape of Skripal signing a paper and making a brief speech was arranged within four days of the Commissioner’s announcement in an attempt by British officials to remove the Commissioner’s “if”, and demonstrate publicly that Skripal “consents to any assistance provided”.

British human rights lawyers challenge the legality of the videotaped “consent”. They say Skripal remains incommunicado, her whereabouts secret, prevented from access to her family and friends in Moscow, unrepresented by a lawyer, and unable to apply to a British court. Such restrictions, the lawyers believe a British judge would rule,  amount to secret incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance in violation of her rights under the British Human Rights Act of 1998. 

Skripal’s brief scripted references last week to “privacy”, “time to recover”, and “all the people who gave me support and help in this difficult period of my life” do not meet Commissioner Dick’s standard of consent, the lawyers believe.

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YULIA SKRIPAL’S POSTSCRIPT – WHAT DID SHE WRITE, AND WHAT DIDN’T SHE SAY IN THE BRITISH GARDEN EVENT, PLUS THE NEUROLOGY EVIDENCE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Yulia Skripal’s appearance in a British garden and her speech for one minute fifty-five seconds provides fresh evidence, less of what is happening to her in British custody, and more of what is not happening.

What is happening is that Skripal gave a memorised speech in front of a camera and teleprompter, but did not say in Russian what the English broadcast transcript, and also the English-language document she signed, claim she said.

Two script pages were visible on a side table during the filming; the one on top Skripal was filmed signing. The two papers appear to be in a different handwriting from Skripal’s signature and in a different pen from the pen she is seen to use. On the top page, apparently the Russian language text, Skripal added words after her signature; these are her first and family names in Russian, but without her patronymic, as Russians usually record their names in official documents. The handwriting of that name and the handwriting of the Russian statement are not the same. Nor the pen and ink used. 

In construction, the Russian version followed after the English; several important English expressions are not repeated in the Russian paper, nor in Skripal’s speech.  The most obvious is the English text in which she purportedly referred to “offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.” Skripal’s Russian text speaks of “help” from the Russian Embassy: “now I don’t want and [I am] not ready to use it.”

“The Russian version of Yulia’s speech is soft, simple, and balanced,” a professional translator comments. “There is no hint or innuendo suggesting hostility towards anything Russian. The English version is sharper and more complicated than the Russian. The meaning is different.”

In the Reuters release,   Skripal made two crossings-out on her script, and two substitutions. Her corrections of the text imply that she has been obliged to change the time period she planned to stay with her father. In the original Russian, Skripal wrote that she intended to “help my father until the time of his discharge from hospital.” That line was changed to extend the period of her stay “until his full recovery”. Yulia Skripal was released from Salisbury Hospital on April 9;   Sergei Skripal, the hospital reported, was discharged on May 18.  If Yulia had been hoping or planning to return to Moscow then, her intention has been altered. The English text and the corrected Russian one mean Yulia Skripal will be staying in the UK indefinitely. (more…)

GORILLA TRIES RADIO-CONVULSIVE THERAPY TO CURE JOHN BOLTON OF HIS PSYCHOPATHOLOGICAL URGES

By John Helmer, Moscow

A politician becomes a psychopath when he or she acts without calculating the consequences for approval rating and voter support. The same thing goes for ministers and their advisers who urge military operations abroad which make voters feel unsafe at home. Fear and insecurity aren’t good for incumbents.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Theresa May both made this miscalculation when they launched their April 14 attack on Syria. In the latest political polls they are now worse off than they were before the attack. The military operation, according to US and UK poll compilations, has reversed the positive trend in their standing with voters since the start of this year. (more…)

THE OLIGARCH SANCTIONS – STEVEN MNUCHIN EXPOSES US TREASURY FILES TO COURT CHALLENGE FOR OLIGARCHS WITH LESS TO HIDE THAN OLEG DERIPASKA

By John Helmer, Moscow

US Government economic sanctions have a hundred-year long history in US statutes and court cases, starting in 1917 when the US was at war with Germany. Trading with the Enemy Act was what the first statute was called.   It was clear then who the enemy was, and there was a shooting war in the Atlantic and in Europe to prove it.

Many US wars later, most of them for reasons which turned out to be lies, US Government sanctions have been endorsed by the American courts as a defence against an attacker whose method always included the use of force. But not now.

On Friday April 6, the US Treasury, headed by by Steven Mnuchin (lead image, centre), introduced a new type of economic sanction; read the official announcement.  For the first time, the individuals and companies targeted have no record for using force, and there is no evidence of their intention to use it. Instead, they are accused, and by the new sanctions punished, for things which American citizens have the constitutional right to exercise – the freedom of association and the freedom of expression.

The Russian targets of the new sanctions, announced Mnuchin, are proscribed for the full range of economic sanctions because of their association with the Russian government, and because they are Russians doing business in Russia. “The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” Mnuchin said, stamping his foot where Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and C. Wright Mills have famously trod before.  “The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe”. Ergo, a Russian businessman associating with the Russian government and growing rich is a threat to the equitable distribution of income and capital in Russia; ergo, he is a threat to the security of the United States. Never before has Russian capitalism been declared an enemy of American socialism, and forbidden to borrow, lend, own or trade with Americans or the US dollar. (more…)

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACKWARDS

 

By John Helmer, Moscow

Empires are just like everything else going down the toilet. Bits always stick on the porcelain which require more flushing.  Embarrassing bits.  

Now in its fifth week since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on March 4, the bits that cannot be flushed away are producing an odour whose obviousness is embarrassing for  Salisbury Hospital and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The hospital is treating the Skripals for their medical welfare and is required by hospital policy and  UK law to be accountable to their next of kin. Their rights of access to and from the hospital are also required by  European Human Rights Convention.  The evidence now accumulating is that the hospital is detaining and isolating the Skripals against their will, preventing contact with their family. Requested to explain this and identify her legal authority, the response of the hospital’s chief executive, Cara Charles-Barks, is to stonewall.

The OPCW, comprising 192 states which have signed, ratified and enacted the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),  is governed by a 41-member Executive Council, and administered by a Secretary-General and a staff based in The Hague. They represent the management arm of the Convention to ensure that everyone follows its provisions.  But in acting on the Skripal case, the OPCW is voting in secret and  violating the articles of the Convention itself. The OPCW’s spokesman, an American named Deepti Choubey, refuses to reply to questions claiming the right of confidentiality according to the Convention and the OPCW’s policy. When asked to identify which provisions of the Convention apply, and what is the text of the OPCW policy on confidentiality, Choubey’s response is to stonewall.  (more…)

YULIA SKRIPAL IS NOT ALLOWED TO TELEPHONE HER GRANDMOTHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

The British public telephone is two years short of a century old. The Salisbury Hospital has dismantled the outdoor models because it is now possible for patients  to receive and make telephone calls from their bedside. The hospital has contracted with a company called Hospedia to provide patients with personal access to telephones (television, internet, games too). The patients must pay.

The business of overcharging them for incoming and outgoing calls was such a corrupt scandal, Hospedia’s predecessor company went bankrupt. The Royal Bank of Scotland took over the assets, and then went even more corruptly bankrupt itself.  So the bank sold the hospital telephone business to Marlin Equity Partners. That company presently controls most British hospital patient telephones; it is an American group specializing in investment in signal and cyber operations of every sort. It is based in Los Angeles and London.

If you are Yulia Skripal, you are likely to want to use Salisbury Hospital’s Hospedia telephone system to call home in Moscow. There she has a family consisting of a grandmother and a cousin; an uncle lives in St. Petersburg and another cousin in Primorye.  All of them have been identified by name and address in the Russian press. Yulia Skripal also has a fiancé with whom she was living, and about whom considerable detail of his marital intentions, occupation, mother, father, home address and black Land Rover have also been published. Their 90-second telephone call before Yulia took off on her fateful Aeroflot flight to London on March 3 has been published.  So have details of her father Sergei’s request that she bring him packages of kasha and bay leaf in her luggage.   Even  the address of the pet hotel where Yulia Skripal’s dog Noir is staying at Rb800 per day is reported in the free Russian press.  

Two Moscow reporters have specialized in this investigation – Lev Speransky and Yekaterina Sveshnikova. They have also published excerpts from the Skripal family photo album.   Their evidence is that Yulia Skripal is human enough to want to call home.

However, she cannot do so. Salisbury Hospital officials, who have confirmed her capacity to listen and speak by telephone, will not say why. (more…)

THE SKRIPAL CASE GOES TO COURT FOR THE FIRST TIME – NEW UNCERTAINTIES FOR THE BRITISH AND RUSSIAN GOVERNMENTS

By John Helmer, Moscow

British High Court Justice David Williams has issued the first court adjudication of evidence presented by the British Government of what happened to Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal when they succumbed to poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.  Following three days of closed-door hearings this week in London, the judge issued a ruling for publication yesterday.  

This allows the commencement of a process of evidence-gathering and testing by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under international treaty procedures and rules for the admissibility of evidence. The new court-ordered safeguards  respond to the criticism issued in an official aide-memoire from the Russian Foreign Ministry on  March 21. In that document, the Russian Government criticized the British Government for failing to secure “the chain of custody [of blood sample and poison evidence] up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected”.  

The process ordered by Justice Williams yesterday will not only assure the independence of OPCW evidence-gathering.  By DNA testing of the fresh blood samples to be taken by the OPCW and matched against the original blood samples taken by British investigators to the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Russian suspicion of evidence tampering will be addressed.

In a dramatic disclosure defying explanation, Williams has now revealed that lawyers representing the Skripals and witnesses from the Salisbury Hospital and the British Government  told the court there has been no approach from any Russian family member, any Russian government agency,  or a lawyer acting for them to seek access to the Skripals or their medical records.

According to the hospital witness, “the hospital has not been approached by anyone known to the patients to enquire of their welfare. The hospital know little about either patient or what they might have wished. Independent Mental Capacity Advocates have been appointed by the Trust to assist with best interests decisions on clinical matters.”

Representing the Skripals, Vikram Sachdeva QC told the judge “that in this case at present it did not appear practicable or appropriate to seek the views of others who might be interested in the welfare of Mr Skripal (his mother perhaps) or Ms Skripal (perhaps a fiancé).” (more…)

TEST OF THERESA MAY’S RULE OF LAW, AN APPLICATION FOR HABEAS CORPUS FOR YULIA SKRIPAL

By John Helmer, Moscow

An application to a British court for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Yulia Skripal is the last chance, British and international lawyers believe, to preserve for public accountability the evidence of the poison attack against her and her father, Sergei Skripal. The attack occurred on Sunday afternoon, March 4, after the poison  had been prepared at the Skripal home in Salisbury. The Skripals themselves were exposed several hours later at a nearby restaurant.  

Bulletins on their medical condition are being issued by the National Health Service. In addition, Salisbury District Hospital has been publishing daily Twitter feed on the public health risks since the attack, along with a notice: “Salisbury Hospital is open and operating normally. We are advising patients to attend for their scheduled appointments as normal.” When hospital officials were asked today what is the condition of the Skripals, they reported  they are “in a critical, but stable condition in intensive care… The police officer, who was also part of the initial response, is conscious in a serious but stable condition.”

The lawyers say it is already impossible for the evidence collected by the police and military investigators at sites around Salisbury to be admissible in a court of  law. This, they add, is because samples of the poison may have been tampered with before or after Prime Minister Theresa May (lead image) announced to the House of Commons the ongoing forensic investigation on March 12, and then announced the government’s conclusions on March 14.

Securing the chain of custody of the evidence required by British courts has been compromised by the state secrecy surrounding the case, legal sources believe.  It stopped altogether with May’s second statement to parliament yesterday.   In that speech, the prime minister implied that no samples of the poison have been despatched to the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) in The Hague.

The only accessible evidence about the source of the poison, according to the lawyers, is in the bodies and medical records of Yulia Skripal and her father.  Accordingly, the lawyers are now considering an application to a British court for habeas corpus on Yulia Skripal’s behalf, so that the poison and the allegations surrounding the attack on the Skripals can be tested by a judge, according to the British laws of evidence. (more…)

SANCTION FOR SERGEI FRANK – UK APPEALS COURT APPROVES $75 MILLION PENALTY FOR FAILURE OF 12-YEAR VENDETTA LAWSUIT

By John Helmer, Moscow

Sergei Frank, a former federal transport minister and chief executive of the state shipping company Sovcomflot since 2004, is unique among Russian state officials. He is the only one to have been adjudicated by a series of UK judges to have lied, been dishonest in evidence-gathering, and vindictive in his use of the courts against business rivals. 

This week in London, in a unanimous ruling by three judges of the Court of Appeal, Frank has been judged to have foolishly postponed the day of reckoning by unjustified criticism of his judges, and ordered to pay $75 million to a UK-based Russian shipowner. This puts an end to the 12-year vendetta which Frank has waged over allegations which this week’s ruling says were properly “dismissed because the transactions were not dishonest or in breach of trust”.

Frank is also unique among Russian state officials. Despite all the judgements against him, and the millions of dollars of penalties for his misjudgements which Sovcomflot has had to pay, he hasn’t been sacked. Not yet. (more…)

THE CENTRAL BANK’S DOMINOES — OTKRITIE BANK’S COLLAPSE FOLLOWED TRUST BANK ASSET RAID

By John Helmer, Moscow

The collapse of Otkritie Bank last month is the largest Russian bank failure since the collapse of National Bank Trust in December 2014.  The Central Bank rescue of Trust made inevitable the much more costly bailout of Otrkitie, announced a fortnight ago on August 29,   charges Ilya Yurov, the former control shareholder and chief executive of Trust, speaking from exile in the UK.  

The reason, according to Yurov, is “the dishonest and deliberately malicious actions of the management and shareholders of Otkritie Bank, and also, unfortunately, a number of officials of the Central Bank of Russia and the Deposit Insurance Agency.”   The state organizations, Yurov alleges,  “continue to adopt dishonest practices when initiating their processes of ‘financial rehabilitation’ or the prevention of bankruptcy of the Russian banks, which inevitably lead to the violation of the rights of customers and bank lenders,  and significantly worsen the situation of the financial industry as a whole.”

Bank analysts and investors in the Russian banks say the combination of failures reveals grave weaknesses in the Central Bank’s supervision. “The black holes in the Russian banking system are expanding,” believes a London banking source. “The more money the Central Bank lends to stop bankruptcy, the faster the cash disappears. Sooner or later, the falling dominoes will come down on [Central Bank Governor Elvira] Nabiullina [lead image] herself.”

Between December 2014 and May 2015 the Central Bank loaned Rb127 billion ($1.7 billion) to Otkritie for the takeover of Trust in what Russian bankers call a “sanitation” – a state funded bailout, administered by the Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA)  which stops short of bankruptcy, court-ordered administration, or liquidation.

Then late last month,  after Otkritie depositors lost confidence in the bank and withdrew Rb693 billion ($11.6 billion)  from Otkritie accounts in June,  July, and August,   the Central Bank topped the senior management and board, froze transactions, and commenced fresh lending to preserve Otkritie’s solvency. In exchange for the new cash, the Central Bank now owns 75% of the bank’s shares. Over the coming weeks, from Rb250 billion ($4.3 billion) to Rb400 billion ($6.9 billion) will be the Central Bank bailout required, a deputy governor at the bank announced on September 1. 

Yurov has been charged in Russia with defrauding Trust, triggering the bank’s failure after related-party lending to a network of offshore companies, which Yurov controlled, drained the bank of its cash. Up to $1 billion has been reported as unaccounted for, if not exactly lost. Early this year two of Yurov’s subordinates at the bank were tried and convicted of embezzlement from the bank, using fake loan papers.  

In London and New York Yurov is counter-charging the now ousted chief executive and control shareholder of Otkritie, Vadim Belyaev,  and the next most powerful shareholder on the Otkritie board, Ruben Aganbegyan,  with conspiracy to attack Trust, push it into sanitation,  and withdraw Trust’s cash for themselves through Otkritie. Yurov is also accusing three Central Bank officials at the time of being participants in the cash-and-grab conspiracy.

“Yurov is not a credible accuser,” a Central Bank veteran commented in Moscow. “As the old Russian saying has it, Вор у вора дубинку украл – a thief is stealing a bludgeon from another thief.” (more…)

EBRD CORRUPTION – MI5 TRIES TO EXCHANGE BRIBES TO RUSSIAN BANKERS FOR ESPIONAGE AGAINST RUSSIAN OFFICIALS

By John Helmer, Moscow

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the government-owned bank established in London in 1991 to finance market boosting projects in the former Soviet Union, has been secretly aiding UK and US intelligence services in espionage targeted at Russia. The US is a 10% shareholder in the bank, the UK holds an 8.7% stake; Russia, 4%.

The disclosure appears in the records of a trial this month at the Central Criminal Court in London of Andrei Ryjenko (Рыженко, usually Anglicized as Ryzhenko),  a senior banker at the EBRD who is a dual Russian-British citizen.  Early in June, Ryjenko was convicted of taking and then laundering $3.5 million in concealed bribes for helping applications to the EBRD for loans and equity investments from two Russian oil and gas companies win approval for a total of $275 million. MI5, according to testimony in open court, offered Ryjenko the opportunity to keep his money and avoid prosecution if he agreed to spy for the British against Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) agents who, MI5 told Ryjenko, were under cover in London. Ryjenko refused for several months. He was then arrested and subsequently tried. On June 20, Ryjenko was sentenced to six years in jail.

Treason against Russia was one crime Ryjenko refused to undertake, the Old Bailey testimony reveals.  Also revealed, and for the first time, is EBRD’s role in operating the scheme of lures and inducements MI5 proposed for Ryjenko,  and other Russian nationals at the bank.  “Honey traps,”  comments a London banking veteran, “are generally illegal. Otherwise, the honey wouldn’t be so sweet, or entrapment worth plotting. It looks like Ryjenko trapped himself. It also looks like the bank was happy to make its money baiting the trap for MI5.”   

The EBRD spokesman, Anthony Williams, was asked to clarify the court testimony that the EBRD cooperates with MI5 to permit EBRD executives and EBRD records to be used in espionage operations against EBRD shareholders. “This refers to claims made during the trial”, Williams said on Monday, “that were not deemed credible by the court and which are rejected by the EBRD. EBRD does not cooperate with MI5 and other British and US intelligence agencies.”

Williams was unable to produce statements by the presiding judge, dismissing the MI5 evidence.  “I can only repeat: The EBRD does not cooperate with such intelligence services.” (more…)

FINALE OF THE SOVCOMPLOT – UK JUDGE DISMISSES APPEAL AGAINST $72 MILLION IN PENALTIES AND COSTS; REJECTS RUSSIAN BANK SURETY; ORDERS IMMEDIATE CASH DOWN-PAYMENT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

 It’s the job of the Dorchester doorman to know his hotel guests’ sins; cater to them discreetly; but  keep them under his top-hat, forever secret.

During more than a decade of Sergei Frank’s trips to London to direct High Court litigations against the men he succeeded at Sovcomflot, the Russian state shipping company, he could count on the discretion of the hotel doorman.  After the final ruling came down on Thursday, Frank, chief executive of Sovcomflot (lead image, right), can’t be sure that his humiliation by more than a dozen British judges will not now make him a laughingstock.

In a new 4-page judgement , Frank’s appeal against $72 million in compensation and costs to be paid to Sovcomflot’s ex-shipping partner, Yury Nikitin, has been dismissed, and he has been ordered to start paying immediately, with a down-payment of £1 million.

“There is no doubt,” ruled Sir Stephen Males, the presiding judge, “that, overall, the defendants [Nikitin’s companies] were the successful party. They obtained a judgment for US $59.8 million on the inquiry.” More than that, according to Males, the award of the costs of litigating should be paid to Nikitin, plus interest on further delays the shipping company takes. Not to do so, according to the judgement, “would fail to recognise the overall success which the defendants achieved.” (more…)

MELCHIOR WATHELET, THE GLADIO – ADVOCATE-GENERAL OF EUROPEAN COURT IN ROSNEFT SANCTIONS CASE WORKED WITH SECRET NATO SPY AND TERROR RING AGAINST RUSSIA; ROSNEFT LAWYERS IN SANCTIONS CASE INCLUDE US SPY

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Melchior Wathelet (lead image, left), the Advocate-General of the European Court in Luxembourg, publicly recommended on May 31 that the court should dismiss a challenge to the legality of European Union sanctions by the Russian state oil company Rosneft. Wathelet has a history of secret operations against Moscow. That history ought to have disqualified Wathelet from participating in the Rosneft case, lawyers at the court say. “He should have done so voluntarily,” one of the lawyers adds. “Instead, Wathelet, along with the Belgian President of the Court, Koen Lenaerts, have kept the past secret, allowing a serious conflict of interest to influence the outcome of the case.”

As the minister of justice in his native Belgium, Wathelet supervised the Belgian state security service, and officially participated himself over several years in NATO spying, military operations and propaganda schemes against Russia and the Soviet Union. Details of Wathelet’s involvement in NATO’s Operation Gladio were not known to Rosneft when Wathelet was assigned to the case. Rosneft’s Anglo-American law firm did not investigate Wathelet’s bacckgournd. Also, the law firm, Hage Joseph Aaronson, has kept from Rosneft the knowledge that one of their own lawyers was a long-serving officer in the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

Lawyers engaged in European Court cases in Luxembourg say they are astonished by the conflict of interest. “This case is hugely important,” said one source engaged in a parallel sanctions proceeding. “If Rosneft were to win, the legality of sanctions would collapse”. A London lawyer adds he is surprised that Rosneft management and its lawyers in Luxembourg failed to challenge Wathelet’s participation in the case.

Wathelet is not denying the information about his past involvement in NATO operations. He won’t explain why he and the presiding judge, Court President Koen Lenaerts, acted together to arrange his assessment of the Rosneft legal papers.
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THE BRITISH VOTE ISN’T AGAINST EUROPE – IT’S AGAINST THE WARS OF BARACK OBAMA, ANGELA MERKEL, AND EVERY SERIOUS NEWSPAPER IN THE WORLD AS WE USED TO KNOW IT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On November 15, 2015, I told you so.

“Since the US started the regime dominoes falling in Kiev in February 2014, the Polish regime has already toppled, and the French one is doomed – President Francois Hollande will be defeated by every one of the candidates now running to succeed him, including Marine Le Pen of the National Front. The British Prime Minister David Cameron can postpone his day of reckoning, but on the margins of Europe, not inside. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has less time, fewer supporters. When Merkel topples, she will take the European Union (EU) into the shambles with her.”
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MAMELUKES TAKE CHATHAM HOUSE TO FIGHT RUSSIA WAR—SIR RODERIC LYNE’S LINE ENDS INDEPENDENCE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the history of warfare there is nothing new in the engagement of mercenaries to do the fighting and run the risks. The mamelukes (mamluks) were the most successful at the game — they started as slaves, became a warfighting caste, and ended as the rulers of the countries they captured, including Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517, and Iraq from 1704 to 1831. They defeated the European Crusaders. From then on, the term mameluke, when applied to someone in Europe, meant slavish obedience — the antithesis of independence. Napoleon employed a corps of them, and his long-serving bodyguard was one.

Sir Roderic Lyne (lead image, 3rd from left) is the number-2 executive in charge of the Royal Institute for International affairs (RIIA), known by its residence in London as Chatham House. Insiders say Lyne, a former British ambassador to Russia, has captured the organization, and turned it into a warfighting unit against Russia, though, the sources say, not without a fight. Amongst the organization’s members and financiers, opponents of the Lyne line against Russia accuse him of suppressing independence, and by promoting war against Russia of violating the Chatham House charter.
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AT HEADBUTT MOMENT FOR RUSSIA, ROMAN ABRAMOVICH AND ALISHER USMANOV SHOW THEIR STUFF — WHAT STUFF?

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John Helmer, Moscow

Russia survived the threat of a homosexual boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, handily. But can it survive the threatened boycott of the 2018 World Cup from a wannabe candidate to lead a minority party in the House of Commons; a British prince whose chance of becoming king is, failing accidents, at least 20 years off; and four US senators, one of whom has been indicted for taking bribes himself. The answer is yes – Russia will survive even this; and also what President Vladimir Putin has called a case of the US “illegally persecuting people”.

For the moment, though, no Russian owner of an international football team is willing to go public with a defence of Russia’s World Cup. Nor are they willing to endorse Putin’s claim that the US corruption charges against officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) are a political plot for “ulterior purposes”. Against Russia, Putin means.
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AUSTRIAN COURT STARTS LEGAL DOMINOES FALLING – NEXT, POLITICAL SCHEMING TO BE DECLARED ILLEGAL IN EU SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIAN CORPORATIONS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Last week a Vienna, Austria, court ruled that US government charges against Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash are unsubstantiated and unlawfully motivated by political scheming. Next up for the rule of evidence and of law — the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg must judge whether European Union (EU) sanctions against Russia are unsubstantiated and unlawfully motivated by political scheming.
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HARVARD ACADEMIC TIMOTHY COLTON WASN’T A PENTAGON SPY WHEN HE MET VLADIMIR PUTIN AND DMITRY MEDVEDEV — HE WAS A CONSULTANT TO THE NAVAL WAR COLLEGE

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Timothy Colton, a Russia expert at Harvard University in the US, has admitted he has been engaged in research on Russia’s leaders as part of the Pentagon’s top-secret Operation BODY LEADS. Top-secret, that is, until last week’s disclosure of the operation to investigate President Vladimir Putin’s and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s brains from their body movements and other evidence gathered under cover by academics and journalists. According to Colton, “I was not and never have been in any way a clandestine military contractor. I have never had a security clearance, and I have never conducted classified research for any organization.”

The disclosure sheds new light on the operation of universities, think-tanks and academic researchers engaged in the US Government’s campaign to overthrow the Putin government.
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THE ILLEGALITY OF SANCTIONS – UK HIGH COURT SENDS ROSNEFT CLAIM TO EUROPEAN COURT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The UK High Court has rejected a lawsuit by Rosneft challenging the legality of sanctions against its oilfield operations and international financing.

The court has ruled that for testing the legality of the sanctions British law and British courts are subordinate to the European Union, and that Rosneft must try its case in the European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg. The ruling, which was issued on Monday, contradicts the judgement of the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, which decided last March that sanctions against the Iranian bank, Bank Mellat, had violated British law. The new judgement makes no reference to this or any other case decided recently in London on the illegality of UK Government sanctions.

The ruling by Lord Justice Sir Jack Beatson (lead image) and Justice Sir Nicholas Green also flies in the face of the British Government’s promise to preserve the primacy of the British courts over the EU judiciary, and keep London’s market dominance for global litigation. Acknowledging that the issue will be tested in the parliamentary election due in three months’ time, embattled Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed: “We want to make the Supreme Court supreme”. Cameron has promised to introduce a new Act of Parliament to establish the superior status in law of UK courts over the European Court.” That hasn’t happened.
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LORDS ON BOARDS: WILL THE BRITISH DIRECTORS KEEP THEIR RUSSIAN SEATS? THE AMERICANS TOO?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The sanctions programme adopted against Russia to date aims, according to this week’s declaration by US President Barack Obama, at curtailing the capabilities of the Russian government to field men and arms on or across Russian borders; and to penalize individuals and corporations for sustaining the Russian economy while the war in eastern Ukraine continues.

For the first time, US officials have declared that every sector of the Russian economy, including investment and financing for industry, urban development, farm production and food supply, are targets.
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SOVCOMFLOT LOSES ANOTHER UK COURT APPEAL, LOSES COSTS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Court of Appeal has issued a ruling to deny the Sovcomflot group and its Novoship subsidiary the right to appeal a corruption judgement to the Supreme Court, the highest of the British courts. The judgement puts an end to nine years of attempts by Sovcomflot group chief executive Sergei Frank and Russian government officials to have the British courts convict Yury Nikitin, their former chartering partner, of bribery and corrupt profiteering in the business of shipping oil.
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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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