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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Armenia has lost the October war with Azerbaijan because of Armenian failures in battlefield intelligence, obsolete defences, and the political miscalculations of Prime Minister Nicol Pashinyan (lead image). His only allies now are the mountains and the weather.

This is the consensus this week of Moscow’s leading military analysts. “During the period of Nikol Pashinyan’s premiership,” Vzglyad reported the Russian General Staff assessment on Tuesday, “three intelligence chiefs were replaced, and one of them had no competence and was a purely political appointee from the West. All this was accompanied by internal anti-Russian rhetoric, multiplied by national arrogance. Some leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh have said things like ‘we don’t need the Russians at all, we can walk to Baku without you.’”

“Moreover, over the last six months, in the General Staff of Armenia there has been a mass dismissal of officers who were trained in Moscow.”

“It’s probably about time that real purges within the government took place,” Pashinyan had announced in April. According to the Russian assessment, Pashinyan then made the nervous novice’s classic mistake: he reinforced his palace  guard against rival Armenians, but underestimated his traditional Azeri enemy and has now lost control of territory.  

The Armenian riposte is that Moscow analysts who say this “receive money from Turkey and Azerbaijan.”

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014 was an operation the US-appointed regime in Ukraine intended for the purpose of drawing the NATO alliance into military intervention in the Donbass. It failed, but the Dutch keep trying.  

The Navalny Novichok of August 2020 is an operation in Berlin intended to draw the NATO alliance into the German election campaign to ensure the outcome remains loyal to NATO and the US. This operation hasn’t failed yet.

It won’t if the retired chief British bureaucrat and supervisor of the intelligence services and war machine, Baron Sedwill (lead images), has anything to say about it. Last week he said quite a lot. He explained that “naivety” towards Russia is “probably mistaken”. When he discovered the Russians had attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal with Novichok in March 2018, he says he was an “advocate for muscular reprisal”. This included “a series of other discreet measures including…covert measures as well, which obviously I can’t talk about. The Russians know that they had to pay a higher price than they had expected for that operation.”

Because he wasn’t asked, the British baron didn’t explain why  his discreet,  covert and high-price muscle moves against Russia in 2018 failed to deter a Russian repeat of their Novichok operation just two years later.

Either that makes the Navalny Novichok a successful move on the part of the Russians, to show how puny the muscles of Sedwill and the NATO alliance have proved to be.  Or else the Navalny Novickok is an Anglo-German operation intended to provoke the pro-NATO, pro-US faction in Berlin into using discreet, covert and high-price muscle against their German critics and rivals.  

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by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Last night the question was put by Hans-Joachim Spanger of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt to President Vladimir Putin, requesting his analysis of the evidence of poisoning in the case of Alexei Navalny; and the President’s assessment of whether the affair marks a turning point for the worse in Russian-German relations, ending the “special role of the Chancellor”. Spanger also asked Putin “what Russia can do to avoid it happening, or conversely, to turn the turning point around again”.

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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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