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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

On the subject of oligarchy and the treasure storehouses which oligarchs build for themselves, Alexei Navalny reveals that he’s following a US and NATO script: this takes no account of how President Vladimir Putin rules Russia, or the choice most Russians believe is the preferred alternative to Putin – that’s rule by a combination of officers and civilians acceptable to the military. In the past, the name for that was the Stavka

Most Russians believe the Army abhors the oligarchs and will eliminate them, along with their corruption, unless Putin can be persuaded to do so himself.  For more than twenty years now he has been reluctant; but there is still time. In this effort Navalny’s films are a useful tool – a Russian one, but not one contrived with the assistance and operated for the benefit of Navalny’s foreign supporters.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

US Government officials are protecting some of the largest Russian fraudsters and bank robbers on condition they invest their ill-gotten gains in US real estate, bank accounts, and businesses paying US tax; and also publicly attack the Putin administration for “victimising” them. The latest of these oligarch-sized accused,  Vadim Belyaev (lead image), is facing trial in the New York State Supreme Court.

Belyaev is being sued by the state-owned Moscow banks, National Bank Trust and Otkritie Bank, for the return of about $1.2 billion in fake loans, fraudulent bond and debt-pyramid transactions he is alleged to have arranged for his own benefit, when he controlled the two banks and more than 150 offshore front companies through which he directed the cash to himself. His subordinates at the time are facing prosecution in Moscow for criminal fraud. The banks, which went bankrupt as a result of the asset stripping, remain under the administration of the Central Bank and the state  Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA). The Central Bank is the 98% shareholder of Trust Bank and 100% shareholder of Otkritie.

Belyaev, say the banks, “exercised close control over Otkritie Holding and its subsidiaries, and repeatedly used his control to misuse assets of entities owned by Otkritie Holding, and often to siphon off those assets for personal use and the use of his associates.”

Among the homes he purchased in the US, one in Westchester county of New York state accommodates his ex-wife and children. Another, a ski chalet, in Aspen, Colorado, he recently sold for $12.5 million. Another of his homes has been identified in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona.  The town house in New York City where Belyaev and his current wife live, is palatial; Belyaev is paying rent of $80,000 per month.

Belyaev has yet to file a full statement of his defence in the New York court; that is due on February 5. He is asking the court to throw the case out on several grounds. One is that he has been victimised by the Central Bank’s bankruptcy procedures which he calls illegal “nationalization” of the banks. His second claim is that there is no proof that he controlled the banks or that fraud was committed in the alleged loan schemes. The third of Belyaev’s defences is that the court in New York has no jurisdiction over him, even though he lives a 10-minute walk from the courthouse.

The US Government is protecting Belyaev so far by granting him and his wife residency papers, together with Social Security and tax status. His name was omitted by the US Treasury when it published its list of Russian oligarchs on January 31, 2018; read that list here.  Several Russian bankers were listed, including three on the run in Cyprus and London; their banks were not as large as Trust and Otkritie when Belyaev ran them, nor are their crimes as expensive as Belyaev’s.  

The New York court is due to rule on dismissal on February 22. If  the court allows Belyaev to continue living in the US, but protected from being pursued there for his crimes in Russia, it will amount to a declaration that oligarchs who steal but pay tribute in the US will be safe. By contrast, oligarchs who stay in Moscow but pay tribute to the Kremlin will be targeted by US sanctions.

This is also the catchcry of Alexei Navalny (lead image, 2nd from right) who has called for the US and European Union to “be very clear dividing two things: Russian people who must be welcomed and treated very warmly from European Union from my perspective,  and Russian state [oligarchs who] must be treated like a bunch of criminals.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Abdullah Bozkurt, the leading investigative journalist reporting on Turkey, has been threatened with assassination in Stockholm, Sweden, where he has been living since the July 2016 coup attempt in Istanbul. Bozkurt directs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network, and publishes the Nordic Monitor.  

The threat to kill was issued on CNN’s television network in Turkey on January 15. “Turkish national intelligence will find him, I’ll tell you that,” declared Mesut Hakkı Caşın, “I don’t know whether MIT [National Intelligence Organisation] will feed him to the fish or the sharks, but traitors always get their punishment some day.”  Caşın is a member of the powerful Security and Foreign Policy Committee which was created in July 2018 by a decree of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (lead image, centre) giving the committee members the role of “proposing new policies, oversee implementation of policies and take macro decisions”.

Caşın, 65, also lectures at Turkish universities. His television remarks have been reported this week in Stockholm in the Nordic Monitor.

In addition to reporting from official Turkish military and police files on Erdogan’s corrupt involvement in the Syrian war, Bozkurt and the Nordic Monitor have published investigations of Erdogan’s involvement in schemes to kill Russians. These include the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov, shot in Ankara on December 19, 2016; and the ambush of the Russian Sukhoi-24 by Turkish F-16 fighters on the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24, 2015. Erdogan and Hulusi Akar, then chief of the Turkish General Staff, planned the attack on the Sukhoi; Akar then personally congratulated the Turkish pilot who had shot down the Russian aircraft.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

A ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal in Stockholm last week to keep the biochemical contents of Alexei Navalny’s blood secret has created new evidence for Russian prosecutors in Moscow that Navalny has actively collaborated with foreign governments to fabricate the  allegation that President Vladimir Putin attempted to kill him with a Novichok nerve agent.

Responding to a request by Mats Nilsson, a Stockholm lawyer, the appeal court ruled that a multi-page report on Navalny’s blood sampling and testing by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and communications interpreting Navalny’s blood contents between Swedish analysts, the German Defence Ministry,  and other NATO officials, are state secrets. They cannot be released publicly, the court wrote Nilsson on January 14, because declassification and publication “will damage Sweden’s relationships with a foreign power”.

The Stockholm appeal court did not identify the foreign power; it is clear from a public statement by the Swedish laboratory official in charge of the testing, Åsa Scott, that it is definitely not Russia.  Scott is head of FOI’s department for Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protection and security.  

The Stockholm court also rejected Nilsson’s request for release of all Scott’s emails between August 20, the date of Navalny’s collapse on a flight between Tomsk and Moscow, and September 15.

On September 15, Scott issued a press release announcing:  “FOI confirms German results on Novichok”. According to Scott, “I can confirm that we at FOI in Umeå have conducted an analysis on behalf of our German partners. Our analysis confirms the earlier German results. The blood sample from Mr. Navalny did unequivocally contain a nerve agent from the Novichok group.”

What the Swedish government officials did not anticipate at the time was that on December 22, a group of German doctors who had been treating Navalny at the Charité hospital in Berlin, would release their own biochemical analysis of Navalny’s blood, tested by the Germans on September 5; that was the same day the Swedes have reported taking their blood samples from Navalny in Berlin. The German testing, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, on December 22,  revealed that Navalny’s blood on September 5 showed a level of butyryl cholinesterase so close to normal  it would have been impossible for the Swedish laboratory to substantiate Scott’s press announcement.

The Swedish secret,  which last week’s Stockholm court ruling has attempted to make lawful,   is that there was insufficient evidence of Novichok as the cause of the cholinesterase inhibition effect which Navalny has called a Kremlin assassination attempt.

Independent toxicology and biochemistry experts believe the comparison of Navalny’s blood testing by the Germans on September 5 and by the Swedes on the same day proves there was no discoverable trace of Novichok in his blood that day. They also believe that by the time the Swedes began their analysis of the blood, there would also have been no trace of the lithium, benzodiazepamines and other drugs in Navalny’s blood, which, two weeks earlier,  may have caused the sharp drop in his cholinesterase scores and triggered his collapse.

The Swedish black-out is of a black hole — the state secret is that the Swedish laboratory found  no evidence of Novichok.  

But now, for Navalny to continue making his allegation is exposed by the Swedish court judgement to show he is providing “assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation”. This is the wording in the Russian Criminal Code Article 275 for the crime of treason.  If convicted, Navalny faces a prison term of 12 to 20 years.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

How they are hanging is not a question usually asked of the President of the United States in the Oval Office, unless you are an intimate friend of his, or an interior decorator on the make.

There are far fewer of the former than of the latter, so whenever a president changes, the decorators make sure their changes are displayed too.  

Some presidents like their office décor to show they have balls. The gold lamé curtains hung by Donald Trump behind the Resolute desk  mesmerized the editor of the Financial Times and his staff when they were granted their first interview with Trump in April 2017; the president issued a threat to attack North Korea.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Alexei Navalny would have suffered from dramatic cholinesterase inhibition effects from the combination of drugs he took before his collapse and hospitalisation in Omsk on August 20, and before these drugs were detected in his blood and urine on his admission to the Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin on August 22.

European medical sources report the lithium found by the Berlin doctors in Navalny’s blood is commonly used to treat bipolar disorders. It is known to depress the butyryl cholinesterase which Navalny’s laboratory testing also revealed in the German hospital.

According to a leading medical psychiatrist treating patients for depression and  bipolar disorder,  if Navalny was also being treated to stabilise his insulin level with the well-known Metformin, that drug is known to be a cholinesterase inhibitor.

When Navalny appears in a Moscow court, his full medical records, including the laboratory tests recorded at Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 before he left for Germany, are likely to be produced in evidence. His previous medical history, including reported episodes of acute pancreatitis and  diabetes, which Navalny’s spokesmen have denied, is also likely to be revealed.  

At stake is a courtroom test of Navalny’s allegation that he was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent by men of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Also at stake is a forensic test of the  medical evidence of Russian, German and other doctors that Navalny “collapsed because of the drugs he was taking”, as the expert source on the use and abuse of benzodiazepines   says he suspects.

The western government case is that Navalny was the target of the crime of attempted murder,  and that a Russian-made Novichok was the weapon used. The Russian government case is that the medical evidence is of a metabolic crisis caused by the combination of alcohol, lithium,  and benzos taken by Navalny himself.  

If the Russian prosecutors also charge Navalny with assisting the German intelligence agency BND, the CIA,  MI6, and the Bellingcat propaganda unit to fabricate the Novichok story, Navalny will face Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code. That’s the crime of treason – “assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

“Wherefore, by their fruits”, according to the Gospel writer’s version of the well-known warning, “ye shall know them”. In the attack on the website which occurred over last evening, it is wherefore by their pigeon fruit that we have worked out who the birds were,  and what they intended.



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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Alexei Navalny believes he is throwing down a gauntlet for the Kremlin either to arrest him when he returns to Moscow from Berlin on Sunday, or to allow him to walk freely out of the airport. Either way, from behind bars as a political prisoner or from his Moscow film studio as an opposition candidate for regime change, Navalny and his supporters will announce they have shown strength, the President of Russia weakness. The one outcome Navalny hasn’t counted on is that Russians will be laughing at him.  

This is the strategy of Vzglyad, the Moscow online newspaper which publishes sophisticated and accurate analysis of military, intelligence and security issues unmatched by the English-language media. It is almost unnoticed in the west, except for those services who believe it reflects the thinking of key figures, past and present, in the presidential administration. Because the Russian  figures don’t think the way the western services or their media organs depict them, Vzglyad hasn’t drawn the attention of foreign reporters as do state media like RT, Sputnik,  the Strategic Culture Foundation, and the Valdai Club.  

On October 2, 2018, Vzglyad introduced an author whose pen name was reported as Nesh Van Drake (Нэш Ван Дрейк). These words are meaningless in English except that, spelled in Cyrillic, the first of the words evokes the Russian word Nash (Наш) meaning “our”. This was also the name of the black cat (lead image, 3rd from left) which lived with Sergei Skripal in his Salisbury house, until Skripal was attacked on March 4, 2018, and the cat was then put to death by the British. “To alleviate its suffering” was the reason of state announced at the time.

“Skripal’s cat” (Кот Скрипаля) is also the name on the byline for seventeen articles Vzglyad has published by this creature over the past two years.  The other names are meant to sound both Dutch and English; to some ears they may be a reminder of Rip Van Winkle. He was the Dutch-American character invented by Washington Irving in a story he published in 1819. In that tale, van Winkle drinks a mystery liquor given to him by Dutchmen, causing him to fall asleep. When he wakes up again, it is twenty years later, and the American revolution has passed. Van Winkle’s first name is the abbreviation for Rest in Peace; Irving’s tale makes fun of people who have made themselves obsolete.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The German laboratory test results for Alexei Navalny, published by a group of doctors at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin last month, reveal a surprising number of medical  symptoms, but they are not those of  Novichok nerve agent poisoning as Navalny and his supporters in western governments  have alleged.

Clinical doctors, toxicologists, and pharmacology experts outside Germany believe the test results which the Charité group released on December 22 reveal symptoms of acute pancreatitis, diabetes, liver failure, severe dehydration, muscular rigidity, as well as a serious bacterial infection, and a possible heart attack associated with his kidney problems.  According to the experts, these are not recognisable symptoms of a nerve agent attack.  

The German medical publication reports Navalny’s “laboratory values on admission”, and toxicology and pharmacology results “in blood and urine samples obtained on arrival of the patient of the patient at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (day 3)”. Accordingly, the newly available data are evidence of the condition Navalny was in during his two-day treatment in Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1 in Russia; and of the treatment he received there, as well as during his six-hour flight on a German medical evacuation aircraft from Omsk to Berlin.

The German doctors have also released a tabulation of their laboratory test results for Navalny during 33 days of his stay in the Charité hospital, and a subsequent visit to the hospital as an outpatient. The four data tables are described by the Germans as following “the supposed poisoning of the patient”. The doctors don’t wish to sign their names to this “supposing”.

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

In the US war for regime change in Russia, Christmas dinner for the oligarchs was President Vladimir Putin’s idea in 2014 for demonstrating that he was in command of their loyalty for a price the oligarchs were afraid to test. By 2019, the occasion had been turned into an afternoon tea ceremony in which the oligarchs confirmed for Putin the price he must pay if he isn’t to lose them to the other side.  

In 2014 there were 45 guests at the party. In 2017 the invitation list had swelled to 63; a year ago it was 60. As the years have gone by, and the US campaign for regime change escalated, the Kremlin has grown more reluctant to reveal who was invited, who was not.

Because the US Treasury and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)  have rationalised their sanctions on individual Russian businessmen as aiming at those judged to be closest to Putin – to pit them against him —  the oligarchs and the President have agreed that when they raise their glasses at their annual toast for the New Year, they prefer their presence to remain a state secret.

This week the Kremlin spokesman was as coy as ever. “Wait for the announcement on the web site”, he said. Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), the oligarchs’ lobby, acknowledged that time for this year’s party was running out, and that he himself “had not shown any initiative, and there had been no information coming from the Kremlin.” 

Putin has not been meeting face-to-face with groups of individuals for months now because of the Covid-19 precautions. This week he made two exceptions; the first for a visit to the National Defence Control Centre where he gave a speech on military priorities to the  Defense Ministry Board;  the second for a visit and speech at the headquarters of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), in celebration of the agency’s 100th anniversary.

The military and the intelligence services have been far more hostile to the oligarchs than Putin himself. The US Treasury has discreetly acknowledged this. Of the Treasury’s 96 “list of oligarchs” first reported to the US Congress on January 30, 2018, only 11 have been sanctioned to date. Another 3 are under Russian indictment for bank fraud and are on the run in Cyprus  or the UK.  One has been charged with cheating the US Internal Revenue Service and is fighting extradition to the US from his home in London

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