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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Australian head of state, a retired army general, has told an Australian reporter that when he was placed next to President Vladimir Putin (lead image, centre) during the centenary World War I armistice ceremonies in Paris on Sunday, he was sorry protocol disallowed his striking the Russian president .

“It was an uncomfortable position to be in,” Sir Peter Cosgrove (lead image, right),  the Australian Governor-General, led a reporter for Sydney and Melbourne newspapers to publish. “But then, someone had to sit there,   and it was not the time or place for shirtfronting.” Shirtfronting is an Australian football term for a violent charge into the chest of an opponent; it’s outlawed by the  rules of the game. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sisto Malaspina was killed on Friday outside his Pellegrinis coffee bar in Melbourne, Australia. The police are calling it a terrorist incident related to the war in Syria.

More than fifty years ago, Sisto taught me why nobody in Italy, or in the rest of the world, could make espresso and long black coffee as he could. His secret, he said, was to ask the coffee-drinker what taste between bitter and sweet, strong or weak, he wanted, and then brew it. 

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The end of the Soviet Union, and the election in 1991, then re-election in 1996 of Boris Yeltsin as President of the Russian Federation, are usually depicted in Russia as a kind of election defeat for the Communist Party as well as of leftwing, socialist or communist policy.  Yeltsin’s destruction of the Russian parliament, elected in 1990, by artillery and special forces units loyal to the Kremlin, wasn’t  electoral. The constitution Yeltsin then drafted wasn’t an electoral mandate either: it was preceded by Yeltsin’s dismissal of the Constitutional Court and followed by a rigged and fraudulent vote to enact  the document.  

For a commentary in Vzglyad  last week to describe the political outcomes of the 1991-93 period as “the rejection by our country of the Communist ideology” is fake history. Just how feeble the fake is in current political terms is revealed by the efforts of the principal anti-communist elements in the country to make themselves appear to be representative, even comprehensive politically under the President, Vladimir Putin, and Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on the eve of yesterday’s elections in the US that “there is no need to delude ourselves hoping that they will somehow clarify things [how Russian-US ties will develop]. So far, there is no definite trend towards normalizing relations.”   This morning, Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, said: “The outcome of the elections is in line with the main forecasts. Naturally, both [parties] will try to present the outcome as their victory. But I’m afraid that the US political system will be among losers, becoming even more misbalanced and unpredictable, up to attempts to launch the impeachment procedure.” 

Both officials were speaking mistakenly. The lessons for Russian policy during the two-year campaign just starting for the presidential election of 2020 are clearer than the Kremlin dares to acknowledge because it wishes to avoid a public Russian debate on the choices required. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

What better occasion can there be for a fresh assessment of Vladimir Lenin than  the November day when the Russian Government claims to be celebrating the expulsion of the Poles from Moscow in 1612, although most Russians regard the date as the anniversary – the 101st this year – of the start of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

Tariq Ali, a prolific, veteran socialist based in London, has published a book entitled “The Dilemmas of Lenin”. The dilemmas Lenin solved a century ago are spelled out in Ali’s subtitle – terrorism, war, empire, love, revolution. Explicating Lenin’s solutions to those, Ali declares, is necessary to help “those who will come after: the gateway to the future can only be unlocked by the past.”

With one eye on the future and the other on the past, Ali has entirely missed the present. In his attempt to resuscitate Lenin, Ali has fixedly refused to consider Russia now, when the country faces as determined, armed and numerous an encirclement of hostile forces as threatened in Lenin’s time, or since. He has thus missed the particular combination of terrorism, imperial intervention, economic and propaganda war, and revolution which started inside the Russian federation in 1991, and continues in the Ukraine and Syria. Ali’s reason for this blindsidedness is that he has joined the Anglo-American forces in their hatred of Vladimir Putin. Putin, according to Ali, is to be condemned for his antagonism towards Lenin, and his embrace of Stalin. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

How many angels can dance on a pin has been an issue of dispute among churchmen for several hundred years. If their livings depended on the credulity of believers, the question would not have lasted as long.

Even without divine intervention, the Russian Orthodox Church is a permanent motion machine in which the houses of worship, clergy, hierarchy, their state-subsidized assets and tax-free incomes,  grow robustly while the number of Russian church attenders and believers is dwindling below the 2% mark. The more the merrier for the fewer the merriest.

This is a paradox which the Russian Constitution instructs the political leadership of the country to be indifferent to. That’s because the Constitution insists  “the Russian Federation is a secular state” (Article 14),  and  “everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with other any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them” (Article 28). 

Naturally, Ukrainians don’t enjoy the benefits of the Russian Constitution unless they move across the border voluntarily, or because they have been obliged to flee for refuge from the war which the US launched with a coup d’etat in Kiev in February of 2014.  If the Ukrainians were fortunate enough to be protected by the Russian Constitution, there would be no problem for their priests to propose any religious belief they like, and appoint anyone to run their churches as they wish. But since they are foreigners without such a constitution, how is it possible that the Russian Church hierarchy, the Patriarch and Holy Synod, insist they have no such freedom at all — at least not the freedom to declare themselves independent of the authority of the Moscow Church and autocephalous, their churches headed by themselves?

Why did Putin instruct the Kremlin to announce at a meeting of his Security Council on October 12 that he and his prime minister,  foreign minister, defense minister,  and intelligence chiefs, “exchanged views on the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine after the Constantinople Patriarchate’s Synod had decided to launch the process of granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, revoking the Synodal Letter of the year 1686, which granted the right through oikonomia [management] to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev, and the statement on re-establishing the Stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Kiev.”

Why then on October 18 did Putin declare  his personal “sympathies” on autocephaly  are with the Russian Church leadership in rejecting  the breakaway by  the Church leadership in Constantinople  and Kiev;  although at the same time Putin added his constitutional duty is “to ensure the opportunity for every person to express their position”?

In theological discourse there may be ample room on the heads of pins for angels to dance. In Russian politics the reason for Putin’s and the Security Council’s position on autocephaly is that they were being shifty.

They were also provoked into the October 12 “exchange of views” by a policy shift in Washington.  On September 13, the State Department said its policy was that “the United States is a staunch supporter of religious freedom, including the freedom of members of religious groups to govern their religion according to their tenets. We therefore believe any decision on [Ukrainian] autocephaly is an internal church matter.”  On September 25, the policy had changed.

According to a statement issued by the State Department spokesman,   “the United States strongly supports religious freedom, including the freedom of members of groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs and practice their faiths freely without government interference. The United States respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch [of Constantinople] as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A man loses his life while he’s on a mission for one or two countries’ secret services in their attempt to change the regime of a third country. It’s a life or death risk he’s running but he calculates he’s well protected.  He miscalculates; the outcome is fatal.

The third country’s regime miscalculates too. Their agents hastened his death (manslaughter), possibly murdered him (premeditation); they certainly disposed of his corpse (class-3 felony). As they made their escape, their aircraft was intercepted in the air over the first country, but the ruler of that country allowed the aircraft to fly on safely. Almost everything subsequently announced by officials of each of the three countries, or leaked by them to their media; also, almost everything announced by employers and spokesmen for the dead man, is incomplete, misleading, fabricated, disinformation, or bald-faced lies.

This is the case of the dead Jamal Khashoggi (pronounced ), willing agent of the US and Turkey for regime change in Saudi Arabia.

None of this involves Russia directly, and until now there’s been no blame cast at Russia’s secret services, the General Staff, or President Vladimir Putin for what has happened. Not even if Russian interests benefit, have the Russia-hating media and the US Congress accused Putin of masterminding the Khashoggi case. But strategically in the Middle East, and tactically on Russia’s war fronts in Syria, Iran, and the Balkans, Russian interests do benefit – although not a single Russian politician, security analyst, academic expert, or media commentator will say so.

They think that gloating or schadenfreude, the satisfaction felt from another’s misfortune, especially an enemy’s, is impossible for Russians in the Khashoggi case because it’s much too complicated. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Oleg Deripaska has been in love, tough love, with the High Court in London for years. That’s to say, he regards the court as one of his personal appendages with which to pummel his rivals into doing what he demands.   Since 2005 the court record shows Deripaska has been a principal, plaintiff or defendant, in 95 cases. That represents an average of more than seven Deripaska cases per year; one case every two months.

Four of the most recent ones   stand out differently from all the rest, but Deripaska doesn’t quite. Instead, he is financing Lolita Danilina to sue her former lover, Vladimir Chernukhin, a one-time  Finance Ministry  and Vnesheconombank official, for his share of the Moscow real estate on which stand several of Deripaska’s businesses. Chernukhin has already won a London arbitration proceeding for $95.2 million in compensation from Deripaska for his half-share of the property.  To avoid paying, Deripaska  engaged Danilina to sue Chernukhin,  claiming that because her name was on the property papers,  she, not Chernukhin, should get Deripaska’s money. Her agreement with Deripaska is that if she wins, Deripaska will give her a tenth of the payment and keep the rest for himself. In the meantime, the British judges have ordered Deripaska to give the court control of shares worth $245 million as security in case Chernukhin wins.

Two other things stand out in the case. One is that it is the first time a British court has exposed the illegality of an intelligence report by C, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Actually, a report by Sir John Scarlett (C between 2004 and 2009) who retired to operate his own private intelligence agency called SC. Scarlett was hired by Chernukhin to compile a dossier on Danilina proving she had been no more than Chernukhin’s front, and is now Deripaska’s front. The court acknowleged the likelihood that Scarlett’s report was a violation of Danilina’s information privacy.

Last, though hardly least, is a veracity which everyone who has investigated Chernukhin in Russia suspects, but noone has mentioned in the London litigation. This is the suspicion that Chernukhin acquired his assets by corrupt means, diverting dozens of millions of dollars out of his bank and into his own pocket, as well as taking bribes from Russian borrowers whom Vnescheconombank financed, either with loans no other bank would approve, or loans not intended to be repaid.

By the legal doctrine of clean hands, Chernukhin should not expect a British court to award him property he gained by an unlawful enterprise of his own. “A dirty dog”, according to a well-known explanation of the British law, “will not have justice by the court”.  So far in the proceedings, noone has argued this doctrine against Chernukhin. Chernukhin himself through his London lawyers refuses to explain where his money came from to buy such valuable real estate with Deripaska, nor the source of more than $135 million in commercial real estate he has subsequently  acquired in London, an airplane worth another $25 million, and Conservative Party  investments he and his wife have  made of more than a million pounds.  

Chernukhin and his London lawyers were asked “how Mr Chernukhin explains the lawfulness of the sources of his substantial wealth from which he has made asset purchases in the UK exceeding £150 million, quite apart from the $100 million shareholding claim on Mr Deripaska.” The lawyers refused to answer, referring instead to Chernukhin; he refused to reply.  According to their spokesman, “please also note I shall not respond to any further emails from you in this respond.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

“I consider myself a person from here” Yuri Slezkine, a US historian, told a Russian interviewer in May.  “I feel at home in the elements of the Russian language and within the Russian cultural tradition. I live and work in America, but it is incredibly important to me that my local colleagues and interested readers learn about this book and take it as part of Russian scientific and literary life.”

The book he’s produced is, however, for Americans. Titled, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution”, the work was published by Princeton University Press, and released for sale a year ago. Russian press reports of the book started in February of this year. Pushkin House, a Russian exile operation in London, short-listed the book for its annual prize in June. The BBC Russian Service broadcast and published a lengthy interview with Slezkine and promotion of his book in August.  A Russian translation is still in the works, according to Slezkine.

For those at Russia Insider, Unz Review, The Saker and others in the American agitprop literature, which is Orthodox Christian and Romanov royalist, the book does much to support their line that the evils of the Russian Revolution, not to mention all left-wing thought in Russian, are by origin and cause, Jewish. Also, for those Americans, the Clintonites and Deep Staters who have been propagating a theory of Russian global conspiracy in order to advance their careers and businesses and support wars to destroy Russia’s capacity to function as international economy and defend its frontiers and people, Slezkine provides graduate-level accreditation. .

Slezkine acts as if he is unaware of or indifferent to the context in which he’s been scribbling away, paid by three state-financed entities – the National Endowment for the Humanities,  the American Council of Learned Societies,  and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. Look carefully at the funding and administration of these agencies for he who pays for the tune Slezkine is piping.     

But then it’s not quite a history Slezkine claims to have produced; rather a work of literature (aka novel). That it’s the latter ought to be obvious from four of his facts. According to Slezkine, the number of registered tenants of the building in 1935 was 2,655.  Turnover by October 1941, when the German military advance on Moscow triggered evacuation and Slezkine’s story stops, added about 100 more. Between 600 and 800 workers were employed at the House of Government over the decade. The number of subjects of his history whom Slezkine identifies in an appendix comes to precisely 66.   You don’t need to be a professor to realize this is a study sample of between 1.5% and 2.5%; that’s less than the standard measure of sampling error.   

So Slezkine has fashioned a history fake. It’s one more demonizing nail for driving into the coffin of the demon, as the US Government, the mass media, and the stipendiary American intelligentsia characterize Russia and Russians. A fresh item on the reading list for aspiring war-fighters on why Russia deserves to be destroyed. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

For as long as President Vladimir Putin (lead image, right) intends to remain president, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) intends to remain his successor in waiting. He made this visibly obvious  in an appearance (lead image)  in Brussels last Thursday and Friday, though it’s not yet officially so.

The signal the two Russian leaders have chosen – a unique one in the history of European and American leaders of state —  is one which kings display on their chests. That’s peaked lapels instead of notched lapels on their suit jackets. Until Putin in February 2017, and now Medvedev, the last president in Moscow to wear peaked lapels was Mikhail Gorbachev. But by the time he did that in August 1991, he had just five months left in power.  (more…)