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By John Helmer, Moscow

“I consider myself a person from here” Yuri Slezkine, a US historian, told a Russian interviewer https://philologist.livejournal.com/9444335.html 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…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

By the standards our police, prosecutors, and judges are required to follow, the cases presented so far by the British Government in the Skripal poisoning and the Dutch Government in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 shoot-down fall short by a long way. Worse than unprovable to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt, they are unpresentable in a court of law. So long as this is so, the particulars of the offence presented in the media are no more than guesswork with political objectives, local and international.

The recent Dutch Government presentation of evidence of Russian espionage around the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) proves no more than that the Russians were looking for evidence of the weapon in the alleged poisoning.  That was evidence which had been officially requested by the Russian Government from the British Government, and been   refused.

The British refusal was a violation of Article IX of the OPCW’s Chemical Weapons Convention For details of what Russian espionage then found, read this

At the civil court standard of proof on the balance of probabilities, the published British evidence proves there were Russian espionage agents in Skripal’s town  on the fateful day. That doesn’t prove what the agents or Skripal himself did in what may have been –speculation alert! unpresentable in court!– an accident in handling hazardous substances, Skripal’s mishandling;  Russian spies monitoring a British spy operation with Skripal on the British side;   or a crime against Skripal.  Until Skripal himself is cross-examined in court, or presents himself in front of the press, we aren’t getting closer to knowing which.  

In the annals of true crime – that’s to say an indictment which the Director of Public Prosecutions will present with his or her name on it in court — the Skripal case is unique. No corpse or corpus delicti;  no weapon;  no witness; no culprit;  no modus operandi;  no chain of custody for the evidence. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Kremlin through Dmitry Peskov, the President’s spokesman, has endorsed Alexei Kudrin’s call for changing Russia’s foreign and defence policy to save the country from American sanctions. “We can perhaps agree with the point of view [of Kudrin],” Peskov said, “   except [that the reason] is not the foreign policy of Russia, but the international situation that is developing – the situation of pressure on Russia, unilateral actions in the trade and economic field, illegal restrictions and the terrorist threat.”

Peskov also wished Kudrin many happy returns for his 58th birthday. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Anglo-American candidate to be President of Russia, replacing Vladimir Putin, reprivatizing Russia’s resource assets, and emasculating the country’s defences, has made a fresh pitch.

Alexei Kudrin, sacked as Finance Minister,  demoted as presidential economic adviser, then appointed  Chairman of the Accounting Chamber five months ago,  gave a speech to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) in Moscow on Wednesday. “Today”, Kudrin declared, “Russia’s foreign policy should be subordinated to the reduction of tension in our relations with other countries and, at least, to the preservation or reduction of the sanctions regime, not to the build-up. Today I would measure the effectiveness of our foreign policy on these indicators. We do not have such global problems for Russia —  risks of military and political importance which would require increasing tension with other countries.”

By other countries, Kudrin means the United States. By subordinating Russian foreign policy, Kudrin means withdrawal from Syria; from Crimea and the Donbass; and capitulation to US sanctions. By reduction of tension, Kudrin means regime change in the Kremlin – himself instead of Putin.

Kudrin’s speech was a deviation from his official role as the state auditor that is unprecedented for the post; Kudrin’s predecessors, Sergei Stepashin and Tatiana Golikova, had been ambitious politicians and ministers of state in their time, but they did not advocate their own views on foreign and defence policy outside the state budget that is the Chamber’s remit. Kudrin’s speech was at the invitation of the executive council of the RUIE; that’s the Russian business lobby. The speech was Kudrin’s opening bid – he’s opened this bidding before — for the oligarchs to back him against the Russian military and security establishment.   (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Did the Russian espionage operation at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague last April succeed before the Dutch counter-intelligence agents stopped it and caught the Russian agents? 

Did the report of an OPCW laboratory investigation of the Skripal poisoning, released publicly in Moscow the day after the Dutch arrests, reveal that by computer hacking the Russians were able to prove that OPCW’s Technical Secretariat and former Secretary-General Ahmet Üzümcü, together with the British Government, had been falsifying the evidence in the Skripal case, and violating the OPCW charter by keeping that evidence secret from OPCW member states? (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Until mid-April, almost six months ago, the performances of the British, Dutch, Ukrainian and American intelligence agencies in producing evidence to explain the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury were about equal in fabrication quality and standard of proof; equally poor.

The four services had no need to use espionage tools or hack into the Netherlands-based organs investigating the missile attack and the poisoning. That is because their agents walked through the front doors of the Dutch Safety Board (DSB),  the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW); took seats at their internal proceedings;  and were given unrestricted access to their files.  The agents of the four services also dictated the findings which have been published by the DSB, JIT, and OPCW;  they have jointly agreed to withhold release of material evidence.

It has taken much longer for investigations by British, Dutch and other independent researchers to prove their fabrications and disinformation. The Russian contribution to this effort has been positive, though delayed, incomplete and contradictory, in the MH17 case; it has been negative in the Skripal case.

Then on April 13, four Russians were arrested in The Hague, the Dutch capital, in circumstances and on evidence suggesting they and their alleged employer, the Main Directorate of the General Staff (GRU), were attempting to spy on the OPCW by electronic means. Official disclosure of what they were doing was delayed for six months until this Thursday. The exposed Russian operation threatens to compromise the veracity of much of the independent investigations of the MH17 and Skripal cases.

How could the four middle-aged operatives and their superiors at GRU have miscalculated the risks and costs of being caught, as compared to their estimate of the gains of their OPCW operation, if they had got clean away?

One clue to the answer can be found at page 24 of the Dutch military intelligence dossier, titled “operational modus operandi”. In the baggage of the four Russians were two wads of unspent cash — €20,000 and $20,000. (more…)

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By John Helmer. Moscow

Alisher Usmanov (lead image, left) has announced that the Russian oligarchs have almost died out.

Not counting himself, he claimed in a television interview on the weekend there is only one oligarch left. “I think we have one passenger in this car, it is already empty, and he sits alone — still rolling along. He is an oligarch. And he knows that about himself. He lost everything but one company, which is why he stays in it. And there are no more oligarchs.”

Asked whether he meant Roman Abramovich or Oleg Deripaska, Usmanov said they are “big businessmen, leading businessmen, the best businessmen, talented businessmen, and so on, and so on.” 

Another oligarch said through his spokesman that “for sure” Usmanov was speaking of Vladimir Potanin (lead image, right).

Almost every Russian in the land believes Usmanov is lying. According to a nationwide poll  in April, 94% said they consider there are oligarchs in Russia; 3% said there are not; and 3% said it was difficult for them to answer.

A poll of the leading business editors and reporters in Moscow this week, plus bankers and the staffs of the oligarchs themselves, also found it difficult to identify whom Usmanov was referring to as the last oligarch. These sources mentioned so many names that the poll demonstrates the opposite of what Usmanov is claiming. But none of the journalists wished to be named themselves. This reveals not only that they believe the oligarchs continue in wealth, but also that they are powerful enough to attack any reporter whose remarks they don’t approve of. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On Monday President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, responded to British and American press reports about the Skripal case by saying the Kremlin had decided not to respond.   “We will no longer talk with the media. The BBC cannot confirm anything; the BBC can put forward an assumption or something else. Since the whole discussion has been conducted at the media level, we, as the Kremlin, no longer want to take part in that discussion.”

On Wednesday, in a speech to the international oil and gas industry,   the state news agency Tass reported President Putin as declaring:   “Some media outlets are trying to put forward the idea that [Sergei] Skripal was practically a human rights defender. He is simply a spy and a traitor to his country. He is just scum (подонок) and that is it.”

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Chief Magistrate of England, Emma Arbuthnot (lead image), ruled on Friday to dismiss an application from the Russian Prosecutor-General for extradition of Ilya Yurov, the control shareholder of National Bank Trust (NBT) before the bank was de-licensed by the Central Bank and transferred to Otkritie Bank at the end of 2014. It is Arbuthnot’s second judgement  in as many months against Russian prosecutors seeking alleged runaway fraudsters living in the UK.  

In the first case, involving the pursuit by Rosneft of Andrei Votinov, a former Rosneft board director and chief executive of the Tuapse oil refinery, Arbuthnot found that one of the Russian prosecutors had lied about his case to a Russian court. She also considered whether Rosneft and its chief executive Igor Sechin were powerful enough to prejudice the case against Votinov if he were ordered back to Russia. “I find the facts in this case lead me,” Judge Arbuthnot wrote, “to the conclusion that this is one of those exceptional cases where the defendant [Votinov] has shown there is a real risk that [Votinov] will suffer a flagrant denial of justice if he were to be extradited to the Russian Federation.”

Judging Yurov, Arbuthnot decided his extradition to Moscow to face trial is “not made for the purpose of prosecuting him on account of his political opinions. It is being made because he allegedly stole a large amount of money from a bank.”

On the other hand, the judge ruled that because of Yurov’s links to Mikhail Khodorkovsky (lead image, frame rear left) and to Igor Sechin (right), and because of the ongoing Russian prosecution of the former and the interest of the latter in Yurov’s bank, “I cannot see how [Yurov] could not be prejudiced… there is a real risk he will suffer a flagrant denial of justice. His would be a very high-profile prosecution of particular interest to the [Russian state] and these are very exceptional circumstances.” (more…)