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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Republican Party sources in Pennsylvania say this week’s indictment of six Russian military intelligence officers for cyber-warfare operations in the Ukraine, Georgia, the UK, and South Korea is a highly effective political advertisement for the local US Attorney,  Scott Brady, 51, (lead image, right). The sources say Brady is running to become the Republican candidate to be the next state governor or senator in 2022.

The timing of Brady’s announcement this Monday was driven, the sources say, by the withdrawal of the incumbent Republican senator Pat Toomey, reported on October 4; and by Brady’s calculation that, win or lose in Pennsylvania, President Donald Trump will lose the national election on November 3. When that happens, and until Inauguration Day on January 20, Brady will have to resign his post for replacement by the incoming Democratic president.

“The Republican nominations for governor and senator are wide open,” a well-known state Republican attorney says. “Brady comes from a Trump county in the west; his reputation in Pittsburgh is that of a Trump loyalist. If he’s the only Republican candidate from the west of the state, he stands a good chance of splitting the eastern county votes and winning the party primary. By making this indictment of the Russians public now, he’s drawing enormous free advertising of his credentials for the race – if Trump wins next month, and especially if Trump loses.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

A grand jury of steelworkers and coalminers in western Pennsylvania has voted to charge six Russian Army officers with several criminal offences, including defence against two enemy states at war on Russia’s borders,  Ukraine and Georgia; the UK’s chemical warfare laboratory at Porton Down; and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Netherlands.

According to the 50-page indictment by a local US attorney, the Russian soldiers were engaged in a “conspiracy to deploy destructive malware and take other disruptive actions for the strategic benefit of Russia”.

Between April 5 and 6, 2018, the soldiers sent emails pretending to be a journalist from a German national weekly newspaper and a British journalist. The emails were sent to official addresses of the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down in England,   and to the OPCW in The Netherlands. Regarding the poisoning incidents in Salisbury of March 4, 2018,  involving Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the “Conspirators purported to have information to share regarding the poisoning”.

No evidence has been presented of what information they, or the Russian military intelligence agency GRU at which the six officers worked, had about the Skripal case because their emails were ignored. Malware alleged to be attached to the emails appears to have caused no damage to the targeted computers, nor allowed effective espionage inside the DSTL and OPCW files.

The attempts  to communicate with Porton Down and the OPCW have been charged to be the US criminal offences of wire fraud, damage to computers, identity theft, and abetting a scheme of spearphishing – breaking into the computers of Porton Down and OPCW when those organisations were accusing the Russian Army of an attempted assassination by the chemical agent they called Novichok.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Alexei Navalny has opened his US media campaign on Sunday with interviews on CBS Television and the New Yorker magazine. Wearing a new white shirt, he has also opened a new version of the attempted assassination.  

In Navalny’s fresh plot, he now says he was poisoned when he was putting on clothes in his hotel room in Tomsk, and then touched a water bottle. “We know that I was poisoned in the hotel because I — well, again, it’s just a pure speculation because no one knows what happened exactly —  but I think that when I was, er, maybe put some clothes with this poison on me, I touched it with the hand [left hand], and then I sipped from the bottle [right hand]. So this nerve agent was not inside of the bottle but on the bottle.”

The evidence for the poisoning, Navalny insisted to CBS, can be found in the reports of the French and Swedish military laboratories. According to a partial release of the official report by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI), “two blood samples were collected from the patient [Navalny] on the 5th of September 2020”.  

Litigation in a Stockholm court by Mats Nilsson is under way to compel publication of the full FOI report. The laboratory onfirms it did not test Navalny’s urine, skin samples, clothing, or the water bottle.

Navalny now claims to the New Yorker that the evidence of his poisoning can be found in the classified report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), although it too has announced that it did not test the water bottle and did not identify Novichok. “I was poisoned with a different kind of Novichok. Even the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons classifies its reports, because no one wants to publish the formula.”

According to the report of the OPCW, “the mission was restricted to the collection of biomedical samples from Mr Navalny. No other information was shared by the German authorities. On 6 September 2020, the TAV [technical assistance visit] team visited the Charité Hospital in Berlin… In line with OPCW procedures, blood and urine sampling was conducted by the hospital staff.”  

The only laboratory which did test the bottle, the German Army laboratory IPTB in Munich, has not been identified by Navalny in his new US media claims as a source of what happened to him. No testing of the clothes which Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, brought with the bottle to Berlin has been reported by any source. According to Navalnaya, she wrestled a suitcase of Navalny’s clothes away from local police at Omsk airport to take it on board the charter flight to Berlin.

For the first time Navalny has revealed a diagnosis he says was discussed with his wife at the Omsk Hospital. “There were all these doctors at the hospital in Omsk wearing their white coats,” he told New Yorker, “saying, ‘Of course, he wasn’t poisoned, of course, it’s a case of pancreatitis.’ It’s hard to argue with that. They are doctors! And we are not. And Yulia and [assistant Leonid] Volkov both told me that even as they were making arrangements to have me airlifted to Germany, they were thinking, What if it is pancreatitis and tomorrow he comes to in Germany, furious?”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The anxiety of the times causes most kinds of demand to droop. So it was to be expected that weakening share prices on the Moscow exchange and low crude oil prices would not bode well for the first of the autumn Russian Art Week auctions in London. This took place at Macdougall’s, live as well as online, on Thursday afternoon. The demand for nudes was firm, though.

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By Olga Samofalova, translated from the Russian*   @bears_with

Russia has a strong competitor in the south of Europe in the form of Azerbaijani pipeline gas. It will flow through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) directly to Greece, Bulgaria and Italy in November. Azerbaijani gas has already caused Gazprom a lot of trouble in the Turkish market. What damage will it do to Russian gas in the southern European market?

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The German Defence Ministry in Berlin has confirmed as genuine a copy of its request to the Swedish Defence Research Agency to test Alexei Navalny’s blood, and a partially redacted report of what the Swedes found — and failed to find.

Blacked out in the Swedish report is the evidence of a Novichok chemical because the Swedes failed to identify it. Instead, they told the German Defence Ministry, which paid for the blood testing,  that “the presence [blank blank blank] was confirmed in the patient’s blood.”

The leak of two pages, the German Defence Ministry letter signed by Ernst-Christoph Meier and a page of the Swedish laboratory report, occurred on Twitter on Friday evening.  

Meier’s letter, dated September 4 and written in English, told the Swedes exactly what they were expected to report back to Berlin. Navalny was suffering from “symptoms of a poisoning due to a substance belonging to the group of cholinesterase inhibitors”, the document declared.  So that the Swedish laboratory understood what was requested from them, the Defence Ministry added that the German Army laboratory in Munich had reported that “a nerve agent from the so-called ‘Novichok group’ could be determined as the source of this poisoning.” The word “could”, a subjunctive not an indicative,  was the German expression. The Berlin ministry then “kindly requests scientific support from the Swedish Defence Research Agency in order to have another OPCW designed laboratory validating our findings”.

The word “designed” was a mistake; the German writer meant “designated”. But there was no mistaking what the defence ministry wanted. The Swedes were told to “validate” the Munich laboratory report of “Novichok”. Novichok was a German order.

On Monday, Meier’s superiors at the Defence Ministry in Berlin were asked to say if the published letter was genuine or a forgery; and what substance has been identified by the laboratory in Stockholm and reported back to Berlin. The Ministry was warned that if it refused to confirm or deny authentication,  that would be reported as indirect confirmation that the two documents are genuine.  The Ministry spokesman, who asked not to be named, referred to earlier press statements issued in Berlin, and declared: “The Department of Defense has nothing to add to that.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The history of British intelligence starts and ends with the enemy inside the palace plotting overthrow.  That’s the domestic enemy – not the foreign one.

For Queen Elizabeth I’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham (1570-1589), the enemy was Mary Queen of Scots. The enemy was still as vigorous in 1936, when Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (1935-37) ordered the chief of the domestic security service MI5 to find compromising information on King Edward VIII’s lover, whom Baldwin regarded as a threat to the monarchy. The King’s telephone was also tapped in an operation Baldwin intended for pushing him off the throne; the plot succeeded on December 10, 1936. Neville Chamberlain, who followed as prime minister between 1937 and 1940, then ran a personal system of surveillance through MI5, and through an ex-MI5 agent he put in charge of the Conservative Party’s research department.  Their targets were Chamberlain’s political rivals for power – Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill. Domestic spy plots were just as active in the 1960s for toppling the Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1964-70). A decade later, Prime Minister Edward Heath (1970-74) sent his spies into the transport workers’ and miners’ unions to find evidence of their plots against him, or to provoke and fabricate them. That’s the reality for the prime ministers.

But in this new history of the role which the British intelligence services have played in the affairs of the prime ministers since the start of the 20th century, it has been the enemy without that has been of much greater reward. Not the genuine warmongering enemy like the Germans or the Irish Republicans with the means and the will to kill; as priority targets they came a distant second compared to the Russians whom the British, keeping the secret to themselves, knew to lack both.  

The Russian enemy has always been the meat in the British secret services’ sandwich — the hungrier the services’ appetite, and the fatter their sandwich has grown over time, the more valuable the Russian enemy proves to be.  So the British bite more often.

From this and over the same 1century,  the Russians appear to have learned anticipation and wariness.  But not yet have they learned deterrence, nor —  perish the thought —  bite back.  The proof of this has been the Skripal case, and at this very moment the Navalny plot.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Alexei Navalny has given an interview to the BBC Russian Service contradicting the crucial  evidence and allegations which he and his associates have made earlier about the alleged poisoning attempt against him in Tomsk on August 20.

Navalny’s new admissions expose fabrication of evidence by the German Government and by the German Army’s chemical warfare laboratory in Munich. Navalny has now implicated Chancellor Angela Merkel more deeply in the Novichok plot than has been revealed before.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

A report issued by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), dated on  October 6, has failed to identify the poison weapon which Alexei Navalny and his supporters claim was used to attack him in a Tomsk hotel on August 20.

Instead, the OPCW claims to have found “biomarkers” of Navalny’s metabolic disorder which may have been caused by an unidentified chemical poison. According to a leading British organophosphate chemist, these “biomarkers” may not have been caused by a crime.

“Biomarkers is the wrong term. Biomarkers means metabolites or other compounds which are not the parent nerve agent compound. The vagueness could mean anything,” the expert, who has requested anonymity, concludes. “As always, we need the compound name, but the labs are indicating that somehow they knew they were not identifying a metabolite. Somehow the Germans and the two other labs knew that the compound they identified were not metabolites, they were the parent novel compound. How could they know this?”

The OPCW report, which has been exceptionally delayed before public release, also acknowledges that it did not investigate the Tomsk hotel water bottles which Navalny and his associates have claimed to be the murder weapon. The OPCW analysis also ignored Navalny’s clothing,which he and his associates have insisted to be additional evidence of the alleged assassination attempt.

“If this were expert evidence at the Old Bailey,” a London criminal law source comments, “the defence would rise to say it is evidence of the victim’s illness. It is not identification of the weapon. It’s not evidence of a crime. So there is no case to answer here. The prosecution’s case has failed and should be dismissed.”  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The Dutch Government has rigged the trial for Russian murder in the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on June 17, 2014. The outcome will be a guilty verdict. For Prime Minister Mark Rutte, this is more easily predicted than his survival in power in six months’ time, when Dutch voters go to the polls on March 17, 2021.

The immediate consequence is that the defence of Russian Army Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Pulatov, the one Russian accused who has responded to the Dutch indictment, is pointless; it should stop at once. The Rotterdam lawyers, Boudwijn van Eijck and Sabine ten Doesschate, who are representing Pulatov in court, should withdraw. If they are reluctant, then Anatoly Kovler and Yelena Kutyina, the Moscow lawyers who arranged their engagement and the money to pay them, should order a walk-out.

The Russian side gains nothing, and loses much, by collaborating in the show trial.

A guilty verdict for Pulatov, and by extension the three other defendants and the Russian government behind them, can’t make a significant difference to the outcome of the Dutch election. The MH17 trial will be continuing that month, if it is running on the timetable already announced.  According to that, the verdict cannot be delivered until the very end of 2021 or the first weeks of 2022.

Before the March election day, however, if Pulatov has already abandoned the trial, ordering his lawyers to leave the courtroom, there is a chance that Rutte’s campaign of deceptions will be comprehended by Dutch voters as they go to the ballot box. Just a chance. If then they throw Rutte out, the outcome and verdict of the trial aren’t likely to be directly affected. But Russians will say that Rutte has been felled by the truth.

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