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From Dimitri Lascaris, Baltimore* (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin decided there shouldn’t be a centenary commemoration this year for either the February or October Revolutions of 1917.  Instead, he recommended confining the interpretation of the events to “experts”.  Before that, Putin confided publicly his opinion that the Bolsheviks had caused Russia to lose World War I by collaborating with Germany.   Never mind the view of the experts that the strongest source of public support the Bolsheviks had in 1917 was that they – unlike Tsar Nicholas  II, the Provisional Government which replaced him, Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky, or the socialists – wanted to stop the war, and also the home front violence on which the tsarist order depended to rule. Thinking about that, however, has political implications for the present; that’s to say, for the presidential re-election campaign which concludes in seven months’ time, on March 18, 2018.  

Violence, inequality, foreign intervention, national elections, civil war – that’s a highly inflammable combination in Russia, still.  The president hasn’t wanted to add fuel to the flames, and that’s why there is no public commemoration of the Revolution this year. No debate among Russian experts either.

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By John Helmer, Moscow

A Toronto newspaper has revealed that Canada’s leading Russia hater, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, had a deal with George Soros (lead image) to write his biography after she had lost her journalist jobs at the Financial Times and Reuters,  and before she started her run for election to the Canadian parliament.

On August 16 the Toronto Globe and Mail reported Soros is a “close friend” of Freeland, and that with her he has “very great hopes for Canada”. Before she decided to run for parliament, the newspaper says Freeland had a “deal” for “a sort of authorized biography of George Soros”.  Soros’s spokesman in New York, Laura Silber, refused to answer repeated questions last week for clarification of the terms of this deal or the compensation Soros agreed with Freeland. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

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akhromeyev

On August 24, 1991, Marshal Sergei Fyodorovich Akhromeyev committed suicide. He had returned from his holiday at Sochi responding to the attempted removal of Mikhail Gorbachev from power. According to the reports of the time, he hanged himself in his Kremlin office, leaving behind a note. One version of what it said was: “I cannot live when my fatherland is dying and everything that has been the meaning of my life is crumbling. Age and the life that I have lived give me the right to step out of this life. I struggled until the end.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Among the famous cautionary tales of a century and a half ago, the one about Augustus, the boy who refused to eat his parent’s soup for supper, is meant to inculcate obedience, with death as the alternative. This August for Russia readers you can have a third variant that’s both – do what you’re told, then die. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a ruling of Russia’s Constitutional Court, issued on July 18, fifteen out of sixteen judges ruled that a state of lawlessness now prevails in the country, in which the constitutional rights of citizens to have courts adjudicate government decisions, with evidence and reasoning, have been abolished. 

The court ruling came in the dismissal of an appeal by 20 members of the St. Petersburg legislative assembly and citizen organizations against the transfer of St. Isaac’s Cathedral from state property to the Russian Orthodox Church.  Led by the court chairman Judge Valery Zorkin,   the court has ruled “the complaint does not meet the acceptance criteria applicable to such appeals to the Constitutional Court”. There was no elaboration of the criteria or legal reasoning.   

Just one judge dissented. In a lengthy opinion, Judge Yury Danilov called the actions of the Church, the city government, and district courts in St. Petersburg unconstitutional and unlawful because they failed to produce and review evidence of how the cathedral transfer had been decided.  Danilov also attacked Zorkin and the other judges for violating the court’s own statutory rules because he said they had considered no evidence; evaluated no legal arguments; and given no reasons for their decision. The lower courts had acted prejudicially, Danilov wrote. The majority of the Constitutional Court had acted “prematurely”.

The ruling by Russia’s highest court cannot be appealed. It follows by six months the disclosure by President Vladimir Putin that he operates a special telephone line to Zorkin in which the court’s opinions are discussed in advance. According to Putin:  “As Mr Zorkin can tell you… I call him maybe not every day but fairly often to ask what he thinks about some regulation that is going to be adopted by legislators or the Government.”

This week,  a Kremlin spokesman was asked to say if the president had spoken to Zorkin about the St. Isaac’s Cathedral case. The spokesman replied he has “no information about that.”    

Zorkin met Putin on December 16, and then again on March 14.  Zorkin’s spokesman at the court, Marina Mavrina, refuses to say if the two of them have discussed the St. Isaacs case. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin doesn’t know how to talk to Americans. He thinks forbearance is the trick.

The advisors Putin listens to, like Dmitry Peskov the mouthpiece and Alexei Kudrin the wannabe premier, know even less. Peskov thinks giving large sums of money to a Hollywood hack is the trick. Kudrin thinks taking big promissory notes from oligarchs is the trick.

None of them has read the greatest American comic writer of the 20th century, James Thurber. His tale, “The Tiger Who Would Be King” (lead image), first appeared in the New Yorker magazine in 1927,   and turns 90 years old in September. Not knowing it is a handicap Putin shares.  The military junta now in charge in Washington – click for more about them — also haven’t read the tale. That’s because they lack the sangfroid and irony required by Thurber’s sense of humour.  The reason President Donald Trump hasn’t is because he can’t — he is witless.

Thurber’s moral is: “You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Dixy is the Russian supermarket chain which is proving that the secret to selling groceries across the country at an annual loss of billions of roubles is, er, TOP SECRET.  

This makes Dixy unusual because it is the only one of Russia’s top supermarket chains losing money. It is also the only one  whose shares are traded daily on the stock market with the legal duty to explain to shareholders why it is operating in the red.  

Dixy is controlled by the cigarette oligarch Igor Kesaev, who is chairman of Dixy’s board of directors.  He and his men have presided over loss-making at Dixy at the same time as the rival foreign and Russian-owned supermarkets are all reporting fresh profits for the half-year just ended, and profit growth for last year, too.  Kesaev has also been purging his senior management, as if they, not he, are to blame.  

Kesaev’s riches – Forbes puts him down this month as worth $2.4 billion – have produced a reputation for succeeding in business, not failing. His reputation is  controversial because it is widely reported that he has benefitted from the administrative resources and personal backing of high-ranking officers of the former KGB, the present FSB, and the Russian Orthodox Church.   Whether this is true, exaggerated, or untrue,  the secretiveness of Dixy’s financial reports doesn’t help to clarify.  

Bank and stock brokerage analysts, who follow Dixy’s rivals carefully and promote their shares, are fearful enough of Kesaev and his friends not to ask questions about his 10-year record in the company.  TOP SECRET inside Dixy has turned, accordingly, into a plummeting share price – down by 55% since March 2015. Kesaev’s stake in Dixy has lost Rb147 billion ($2.5 billion). This is the minimum estimated loss of his stock value, because the full size of Kesaev’s shareholding in Dixy is also, er, TOP SECRET. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Jared Kushner’s title is Director of the Office of American Innovation at the White House, a new function for the old one of overseeing everything in the US Government for the benefit of the incumbent president. He’s also ranked Senior Advisor to the President, and by marriage he is son-in-law to President Donald Trump. 

Stupidity isn’t a crime; it’s a life sentence. Not so for power. Supposing everything Kushner has written in his presentation to the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday is true, then one conclusion from a half-dozen bits of evidence he testifies to is obvious – Kushner is unfit to rule, and so are the Russians whom he mentions. (more…)