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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There were only two ways for Alexei Kudrin to become the president of Russia that he and the US government have always wanted.

The first was for him to become prime minister first, and for him to get the job through the back door, exactly as Vladimir Putin got it from Boris Yeltsin. The second was for him to take the job by a US-backed, regime-changing plot as Yeltsin ousted Mikhail Gorbachev.

However, after repeated attempts at the back-door option over the past decade have failed, Kudrin has come up with the second way. Last week,  in a secret meeting with Putin, it was agreed Kudrin would leave his official post as Accounting Chamber chairman and become the nominal head of the Yandex group’s restructuring into a combination of state-controlled internet operations and offshore commercial businesses controlled by the group’s founding oligarch and Israel exile, Arkady Volozh.

In this second role Kudrin will be paid a very large sum of money for himself – between $335 million and $1 billion,  depending on the terms of his deal with Volozh. Also, he will be free to bank large donations from wellwishers, all of whom aim to defeat Russia in the present war and replace Putin in the Kremlin.  

The terms of Putin’s agreement with Kudrin include approval for a new form of control over the most powerful media and internet platform in the country for influencing domestic political campaigns for the foreseeable future.  

The Kremlin has not disclosed last week’s meeting,  but on November 29 it sent an official notice of Kudrin’s exit to the Federation Council. Kudrin has published by Telegram this explanation of what he is doing. “In total, I have spent about 25 years in the public sector. Now I would like to focus on large projects that are related to the development of private initiatives in a broad sense, but at the same time have a significant effect on people. Therefore, I am leaving the post of Chairman of the Accounts Chamber, and I have submitted a corresponding application to the President of the Russian Federation in accordance with the established procedure.”  

No one in Russia believes that by “significant effect on people” Kudrin means to be kindlier than his rival for US sponsorship for the Kremlin job, Alexei Navalny. In all of Navalny’s years of exposing oligarch and official corruption in Russia, Kudrin has never been targeted or criticized.  He has reciprocated the favour towards Navalny.  

Mikhail Delyagin, the influential economist and Duma deputy, has restricted himself to observing that at the Accounting Chamber Kudrin was no more than “an accountant who protected state corruption.” “Kudrin made the work of the Accounting Chamber more systematic, more client-oriented for other branches of government. It has been the most comfortable body for interaction inside public administration [and] has never been an influential body.  If the state considers corruption as a direct threat to its existence, then the Accounting Chamber will receive the order to investigate it. So far there have been no such signs.”  Delyagin is unready to say what he thinks on the Yandex appointment.

Kudrin’s opponents in domestic politics don’t doubt that in leaving the Accounting Chamber for Yandex, Kudrin is not exiting from the country nor retiring from Russian politics. Instead, as Sergei Stankevich, the veteran opponent of Yeltsin,  told Tsargrad yesterday:  “the Accounting Chamber was a politically neutral position. In the large IT corporation [Kudrin] will have more opportunities to influence political processes. And he will have more freedom in formulating his views in the public sphere. So he’s not leaving politics; instead, he’s making his comeback.”

So far not a single newspaper, television talk show, social media platform, or Duma deputy has asked why the President has agreed, and what Putin’s plan is for Yandex and for Kudrin.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

For the buffer zone to achieve the demilitarization of the Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in July that military factors, not politics, will decide. “I see no reason to question what President Vladimir Putin announced on February 24, 2022, and reaffirmed a few days ago,” Lavrov said. “Our goals remain the same. And they will be met. There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.”  

In case the distinction Lavrov was making between political negotiations and military operations, between soldiers and civilians, wasn’t clear enough, Maria Zakharova, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, made it the target of her irony last Thursday.  In her regular briefing  for reporters, Zakharova was asked to comment on US weapons supplies to the Ukraine.  “Something is wrong with this world if two women are discussing Stingers, MANPADS, SAMS, and HARM anti-radar missiles,” she answered the journalist. “As a reminder, scaling up its military supplies to Kiev and directly controlling Ukrainian forces, including the provision of real-time recon data, Washington has, in fact, become a party to the conflict in Ukraine…As far as their internal dealings regarding how much money they give to whom, what particular supplies are underway, or what items they are running out of or have more of, this is not our concern. Let them decide what kind of games they want to play among themselves.”

The Kherson manoeuvre, announced  by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Sergei Surovikin on November 9; the electric war campaign  which has followed*; and the cutoff of troops, arms and supplies by train from Kiev to the eastern front, first announced by the Russian Defense Ministry on November 24,  foreshadow how the military are preparing to establish the Ukrainian Demilitarized Zone (UDZ), its depth to the west of the Dnieper River, and the cities to be included in Russian-controlled territory.

This is a future to be established by the Russian General Staff, negotiated and signed by military officers of the NATO-controlled commands in Kiev and Lvov. The outcome is an end to  hostilities with an armistice that is not a peace treaty.

The model is the armistice of Panmunjom of July 27, 1953, which ended the Korean War. The terms of the armistice took two years to negotiate by US, Korean and Chinese officers. The Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) which was the outcome was four kilometres in depth. The Ukrainian demilitarized zone (UDZ) will be up to one hundred kilometres in depth, depending on the range of the US and NATO missile and artillery weapons deployed on the Kiev side of the Dnieper.  On the ground inside the UDZ there may be no electricity, no people, nothing except for the means to monitor and enforce the terms of the armistice.

For avoidance of doubt, red on the map means Russia.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Rupert Murdoch has been making money out of the combination of inflated female sex parts and puffed up Russia hatred for his entire life.  

He used to keep the two of them apart; there wasn’t as much money to be made out of the latter, at least not by the time the legal bills had been paid for libelously faking, Russia hating books Murdoch published, like Catherine Belton’s Putin’s People.   

However, with a woman nom-de-plumeously named Suleika Dawson – real name Sue Dawson  — Murdoch has now produced a breakthrough combination, a lady telling the story of her love affair with David Cornwell (lead image), aka John le Carré, and a chronicle through the bedroom peephole of British ingenuity in outsmarting the KGB.

The stroke of marketing genius at Harper Collins, Murdoch’s publishing house, was to think that the only exaggerated sex parts which would make a bestseller  were not those of the tall blonde Miss Dawson, but those of the tall ginger-pubic Le Carré’s.

Dawson gives the reader an introductory peep when the first thing she describes of Le Carré in clothes was his “enormous desert boots”.   Then with another discreet correlation, Dawson reveals Le Carré’s “huge workman’s hands”. Dawson’s introduces balls at page 21; they make a double-entendre at which she and he both laugh.  She then introduces the real thing – er, things – at page 87 (250 pages still to go) when Dawson says she “ducked down behind him and put an ice cube on his scrotum. Everything [sic] was just hanging there in free suspension… but he still didn’t flinch, though his testicles had definitely decided to come in from the cold.”

That was pre-coital in 1983. In 1999, post-coital, Le Carré says to Dawson on the living-room rug: “I remembered you liked big balls.”

In between there are years of full-frontal displays of the man’s pride in his parts. Once at a restaurant which Dawson is careful to name, along with its address, he says he can’t get up from their table because, he confides to her: “I have an erection”.

This is shortly after Dawson, who drops almost as many people’s names as restaurant, hotel and resort names, says she knows that Christopher Hitchens,  the deceased English writer,  got “a third”. This isn’t a reference to Hitchens’s minuscule hands and feet, or their correlate inside his pants, but to his degree at Oxford. By comparison, Dawson reports bantering at a recording studio with Le Carré about “extra length” and “thickness.”

This is the foreplay, though. There’s a much longer, thicker secret which the book and Le Carré reveal about his spymasters at MI5 and MI6, and about the capacity of British intelligence compared to its rival, the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). This  secret explains for the first time why the British services fabricate stories like the Novichok attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018, and operations like the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines and the Crimean Bridge.

If you can hold yourself in for longer than Le Carré managed with Dawson, and also put on spectacles,  the secret will be exposed in a moment.  “I do worry sometimes,” he once said to her, “that you can’t properly see the full extent of my manhood when we are in bed.”

“I’m short sighted,” Dawson claims she said to reassure him.  

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In a telephone conversation on November 15, shortly after the Ukrainian missile explosion at Przewodów, Polish President Andrzej Duda (lead image, left) said in a secret telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron: “Believe me, I’m very careful, I don’t blame the Russians. Emmanuel, this is war. I think both sides will blame each other for this war…Do you think I need a war with Russia? No, I don’t want that. I don’t want a war with Russia, I’m extremely careful, believe me. I am extremely careful.”

Duda was implying he did not believe the Ukrainian President, Vladimir Zelensky’s claim, which he also repeated to Macron, that the missile attack had been launched by Russia.

The telephone call lasted for 7 minutes 31 seconds and was conducted in English.  Duda did not realise he was not talking to Macron until later. The Polish president took a week before revealing publicly that there had been a telephone call. That disclosure on the Chancellery’s twitter account did not disclose what had been said, and misrepresented how the conversation ended. This was triggered only after Vovan and Lexus, the two skilled Russian spoof artists,  had published their tape-recording in Moscow.

The tape-recording can be listened to here; it was first aired on Tuesday, November 22, between 8 and 8:30 in the morning, Moscow time,  with Russian subtitles and voiceover.   Listen to the original English-language version here.  The first Russian press report was published at 12:36 pm Moscow time.   Duda’s office posted two tweets in succession at 1:52 pm, Moscow time.

Polish sources in Warsaw say the telephone call, and the week-long delay between Duda’s conversation and his disclosure tweets, raise grave questions about Poland’s national security and sovereignty.  Duda, comments one of the sources, “seems to be lying. The Rutube tape shows a complete conversation, with goodbyes, and not an abrupt ‘end of the call’.”

In the absence of mainstream Polish media coverage, Stanislas Balcerac, an independent Warsaw analyst, says the Polish intelligence services are revealed as incompetent for failing to detect the impersonation before Duda began talking – or for allowing the president to be fooled into making his admissions in reaction to the Przewodów attack, particularly the dependence Duda acknowledged on US “experts” for knowing what had happened.

 “The question arises,” Balcerac reported last August,    “whether it is really impossible to find competent and intelligent people in Poland. Or is the problem deeper and lies in the assumptions of the Third Polish Republic, a country which, having ‘regained its independence’, was to be independent in theory, but in fact is played by the special services of stronger neighbours?” Balcerac was implying that the German BND and US CIA are running their own factions inside the Polish services.

A NATO military veteran comments that Duda was “definitely nervous. You’d think he’s worried that he’s talking to someone faking for Moscow or for someone else, or that that the CIA or someone else is listening in.”

Moscow sources have commented on the week-long delay before Vovan and Lexus made the tape public. Long enough, they suspect, for the Russian Stavka  to analyse Duda’s remarks;  decide if the president is being kept in the dark by the Polish military and security services; and arrange secret messages to Warsaw for as long as Duda was capable of keeping the secret.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There isn’t a Russian over the age of forty-five – 40 million people — who doesn’t know by heart Vladimir Lenin’s report on the work of the Council of People’s Commissars of December 22, 1920.

“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country”, Lenin said. “Our best men,” he went on, “have accomplished the task we set them of drawing up a plan for the electrification of Russia and the restoration of her economy… We must see to it that every factory and every electric power station becomes a centre of enlightenment; if Russia is covered with a dense network of electric power stations and powerful technical installations, our communist economic development will become a model for a future socialist Europe and Asia. (Stormy and prolonged applause.)”

With money and media from London to Washington and Wall Street, the regime of Boris Yeltsin generated its alternative to Lenin’s electrification. This privatised Russia’s generating plants and distribution grid; subsidised electricity supplies to London Stock Exchange-listed mines and smelters; stole retail consumer payments; and converted collateralised bank loans into London and New York mansions and bank accounts. The prolonged and stormy applause for all of that was in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

The Russians profiting included Anatoly Chubais,  Mikhail Prokhorov,  Leonid Lebedev,  Valentin Zavadnikov,   Vadim Belyaev,  and  Mikhail Abyzov. None of them is sanctioned;  most are offshore – except for Abyzov who’s the only one of the electrification gang who is in a Russian prison for his crimes.   

But there’s another electrification weapon Russia is using to wage its defence against the US and NATO war.  It was first anticipated and reported by the little known Moscow writer, Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky (1887-1950). In 1939 he called the weapon “yellow coal” and “kinetic spite”.

The weaponising would start at Harvard University, Khrzhizhanovsky said. First the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil. / 

The Stavka has just reversed the direction of the weapon. Not only are the lights out in Lvov,  Kiev, Dniepropetrovsk, and Odessa,  but there’s no electricity to pump water for them to flush Russia hatred down their toilets.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

A former Dutch tax inspector, currently a judge of a district court at The Hague has ruled to convict three men of forming a criminal association for killing 298 passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, on the orders of the Russian military command and government in Moscow. The judge, Hendrik Steenhuis (lead image, right), has ruled admissible the evidence of the crime supplied by Dutch and Ukrainian state organisations and their military officers, intelligence agents,  and police.   They testified in secret that “no traces of tampering [with evidence] were found”. Steenhuis concluded that “all [telephone tapes and photographic images] were authentic and have not been manipulated.”

He has ruled inadmissible and dismissed all the evidence supplied by Russian organisations because, he said, they are state agencies and “not clear, transparent, entirely unconvincing.”

The convicted men – Colonel Igor Girkin (lead image, left), Colonel Sergei Dubinsky, and Leonid Kharchenko – formed their organisation to commit crimes in the conflict in eastern Ukraine in which the Russian state was engaged on one side, but the judge found no other foreign state was engaged on the other side. He also ruled that the laws of war and combatant immunity for the deployment and operation of arms legally protected the Kiev forces but did not apply to the Donbass army.  Accordingly, Steenhuis declared, “due to the lack of combat immunity, the suspects, like any other civilian, were not entitled to shoot at any aircraft, including a military aircraft, and thereby kill the military occupants. The realized criminal act of downing a plane and killing the occupants was therefore already included in the original plan.”

“The court is of the opinion that it appears that although the Buk missile was deliberately fired, it was thought that it was a military aircraft and not a civilian aircraft. To that extent, it must have been a mistake. However, such a mistake does not detract from the intention and the premeditated advice.”

By implication, the Dutch court has ruled that Ukrainian and Russian resistance to the regime change in Kiev of February 2014, the armed struggle for self-determination which followed, and self-defence from Ukrainian air and ground attack was and remains illegal – a Russian state crime because, Steenhuis said, “the Russian Federation had overall control of the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] in 2014.”

Steenhuis identified “artillery shelling on Ukrainian territory, which would have been carried out from the Russian Federation from the beginning of July 2014. Witnesses have also testified about Russian equipment with Russian soldiers, which crossed the border, carried out shelling and then drove back.” He makes no reference to shelling or air bombardment by the Kiev forces.

In 16,000 words of Steenhuis’s ruling, Kiev is not mentioned at all; nor Washington; nor the Ukrainian President at the time, Petro Poroshenko (lead image, rear centre); nor US government financing, arms and other aid to the military operations in the Donbass.

By contrast, President Vladimir Putin, his advisor Vladislav Surkov (picture on table), and other “high-ranking persons in the Russian Federation”,  are named by the judge as having “provided for financing of the DPR, the supply and training of men and the supply of weapons and goods.  In addition, since mid-May 2014, the Russian Federation has had a decisive influence on the filling of high positions within the DPR and has interfered in the coordination of military actions and also taken military actions on Ukrainian territory.”

For evidence of the murder weapon, the judge announced that he accepts a single piece of warhead shrapnel shaped like a bow tie (centre of table), which he said had been recovered from the body of a cockpit crew member. That discovery by Ukrainian and Dutch state investigators has remained undocumented and the chain of custody of the fragment unverified.  Steenhuis had no explanation for the disappearance of all 2,600 other pieces of bow-tie shrapnel in the missile warhead alleged to have exploded against the MH17 cockpit.

According to the Dutch Criminal Procedure Code at Section 344a : “[a judge] may not find that there is evidence the defendant committed the offence as charged in the indictment exclusively or to a decisive extent on the basis of written materials containing statements of persons whose identity is concealed.”    

As the law to warrant the three convictions, the acquittal of Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Pulatov, three life prison sentences, and award of €16 million in compensation, Steenhuis introduced a Dutch Supreme Court concept called “functional co-perpetration”. Dutch and international lawyers acknowledge this is guilt by association. They note that in international, North American and British law, this cannot be proven with a witness testifying in secret; with evidence gathered by a secret chain of custody and tested in secret; without cross-examination of experts in open court; and by hearsay of one judge referring to another investigating judge whose identity and proceedings have also remained secret.

There is “no possibility of reasonable doubt whatsoever”, Judge Steenhuis declared in his summing-up.

“Joint criminal responsibility is an idea the Americans tried to use at the Yugoslav and Rwanda war crimes tribunals thirty years ago  — it’s bogus law”, commented Christopher Black, a Canadian attorney who represented defendants accused in those proceedings.

“By acquitting Pulatov, the only defendant to be represented in court,” comments Dutch jurisprudence expert Alfred Vierling, “the court has done its best to hinder the convicted defendants from taking higher court proceedings to challenge the law and the convictions in the Court of Appeal.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

No one in Poland is in any doubt now that Tuesday’s missile attack on Przewodów* village, eight kilometres west of the Ukrainian border, was caused by a Russian-made missile fired by the Ukrainian military acting on the orders of President Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev. Two  villagers were killed by the Ukrainian action. That Zelensky continues to deny this makes him a liar throughout Poland.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has made this official. “There is a high probability that it was a missile that was used for missile defense; that is, it was used by the Ukrainian defence forces”. Duda justified the action by telling Polish voters: “Ukraine defended itself – which is obvious and understandable – by firing missiles which were tasked with hitting Russian missiles.”

Duda was sharply and publicly corrected by the national party politician closest to the incident, Jaroslaw Pakula, the head of the Lublin City Council.  “ ‘Of course, it’s a Ukrainian rocket. Of course, this is a provocation on the part of the Ukrainian authorities…The rocket could not be fired 100 km in the opposite direction by mistake.’ The aim of the provocation was to scare the EU and gain civil society support to send even more weapons to Ukraine, Pakula added. Instead of saying ‘fairy tales’ about the missile, the Polish president should tell Ukrainian Vladimir Zelensky that Warsaw ‘will no longer put up with this behaviour’ by Kiev.”  

Pakula posted his commentary on his Facebook account.  “I urge you to rethink Poland’s position [looking] at this war in case the red line is crossed again!”  Pakula told Duda and the leadership of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Warsaw.

Zelensky told the Polish Government: “I have no doubt that this is not our missile. I believe that this was a Russian missile, based on our military reports.”  In a full text of his remarks republished from Ukrainian into Polish by the state Polish Press Agency (PAP), Zelensky added:  “It was not our rocket, not our missile strike…I am convinced that we should and will [take part in the Polish investigation]…I want us to be fair, and if it was the use of our air defense,  then I want that evidence. First the investigation, access, and the data you [Polish government] have.”  

The Polish news agency also reported the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council as claiming: “we are ready to provide our [Polish] partners with the evidence of the Russian footprint that we have. We also expect information from the partners, on the basis of which the final conclusion was drawn [by the Poles] that it is a Ukrainian air defense missile.”

Former Polish senator for the opposition party Civic Platform (PO), Robert Smoktunowicz, commented: “Not only have we not yet received an apology and expressions of regret from the president. Zelensky for the explosion and death of two Polish citizens. What is worse, the Ukrainian side denies its responsibility and demands evidence from the Polish side. What went wrong after February 24?”  

Stanislas Balcerac, an independent political analyst based in Warsaw, acknowledges that the Ukrainian missile attack has struck at the rural heartland of eastern Poland which has voted solidly for the PiS party to win the provincial council and governorate (voivodeship) elections of October 2018;   and likewise the national parliament (Sejm) elections of October 2019  and the presidential election which Duda won narrowly in June 2020.

“The PiS has had to fight on three fronts,” Balcerac said “coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, and Brussels’ game of blocking European Union money for Poland. That’s quite a lot.”

He believes the PiS and its leaders – Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski — must maintain a balancing act in public, but privately they are furious at Zelensky’s statements. In the context of the current war, adds Balcerac, “Poland has a specific history with both Germany and Russia.”

In Warsaw, that phrase “specific history” means much more than anyone can calculate in votes for the moment.

The moment won’t last, comments a veteran NATO military analyst. “It hasn’t gotten hard enough for the Poles or Ukrainians. Winter hasn’t sunk in yet. We’ll know better in a week or three.”

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By Yevgeny Krutikov, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The problem of interpreting the war from the Russian point of view is that the Russian military does not signal its punches, make idle threats, believe its own propaganda, or make money on click bait. The Stavka never leaks.  

By contrast, Russian open-source commentators are driven, as is normal in a functioning democracy, by domestic politics. This requires them to disguise or camouflage their support for or opposition to the political and oligarch factions in Moscow with a variety of ploys — attacks on named generals; analyses of the Army’s mistakes; speculation about the negotiations initiated by US officials with their Russian counterparts; warnings of Fifth Columns, stabs in the back, and a shameful peace.  

The outcome in Moscow doesn’t exist in any European or North American capital — noisy debate with sharp dividing lines drawn between the factions of patriots (Tsargrad, Vladimir Soloviev); the left (Sergei Glazyev, Mikhail Khazin); the fakes (Yevgeny Prigozhin); the right (Elvira Nabiullina, Alexei Khudrin); the oligarchs (Oleg Deripaska); the puppets (Margarita Simonyan); and so on, not counting the oppositionists in hiding, exile or jail.

Easy to misread Russian military analysis then, because there is so much of it; because the Stavka doesn’t talk to any of them; and because for Russian commentators this is an opportunity for waging their contests for the usual things — power, money, celebrity. You will see criticism of President Vladimir Putin (lead image, 2nd left, rear), therefore, but always under cover of something or somebody else. 

This is understandable because he and the war aims are so popular. Public support for Putin is currently ten points higher than it was in January of this year; three points lower than in April; two points higher than in September.  There is nothing and no one comparable on the US or NATO side.  Since the start of the special military operation on February 24, the Russian president’s approval rating has remained stable within a 4-point variance; that is roughly equal to the pollster’s margin for statistical error.  This means that, strategically speaking, most Russians are almost as patient as the Stavka.

By contrast, the politics of the US and NATO side is an impatient, short-term business. A week is a long time in politics, the former British prime minister Harold Wilson  once said, correcting Joseph Chamberlain, a nineteenth century predecessor who didn’t quite make it to the prime ministry; Chamberlain said it was two weeks.

Warfare is a longer term business. This war is going to be longer still.

To follow, understand, and anticipate as Russians do requires a form of thinking that can be called byzantine. Not the western meaning of deviousness, but the eastern meaning of the way the thousand-year Byzantine empire was ruled from Constantinople. In our time this starts with the doctrine of economy of force.  Cost-effective calculations regulate the deployment of men and materiel, hence the changeable combination and schedule of fixed-wing air attack, helicopter air attack, missiles, drones, and artillery in Russian operations so far. The rules of war of attrition also apply, as do the tactical variables of positional and mobile warfare. By the time these variables are counted up, and multiplied by firepower and deception, this is thinking which goes  far beyond games of chess or Go. Situation report maps in publication don’t help much; they are already days old and obsolete.

Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov’s  (lead image,  left front) strategy of the Golden Bridge,  applied successfully against Napoleon, requires allowing the enemy the time and space to retreat and withdraw to his own territory because the cost of annihilating him on Russian territory is much greater and unnecessary. General Winter (centre front) also requires operational patience because the freeze doesn’t always deploy itself when the Russian army wants it. This year, however, it has begun already. Snow has started falling in Kiev; in a week’s time it will be minus 8 degrees Celsius. It remains warmer along the eastern front, and in Kherson.    

Russian or byzantine thinking is the antithesis of the shock and awe doctrines of the US and NATO.  Their journalists and staff colleges have invented terms to conceal their incomprehension of Generals Sergei Surovikin (front right) and Valery Gerasimov (rear right), and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (rear left). But they remain in the dark – as US Army Colonel (retired) Douglas Macgregor keeps trying to point out.  

Byzantine thinking can’t be memorised, photocopied, or cribbed. To learn, start with this paradox of imperial impatience first published by C.P. Cavafy in 1904; he called it “Waiting for the barbarians”.  

There is also what Russians say they are thinking will come next. Take it as carefully as you read Cavafy.  What’s the hurry?

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The British Government has admitted over the weekend that its troops currently running the British war in the Ukraine are also engaged in managing the document file for the alleged Novichok attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018.

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The British Government revealed this week it is paying Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image), a retired judge, £900.83 per month to conduct a public inquiry into the Government’s Novichok allegations against Russia.

Following two preliminary hearings in March  and July,  Hughes has ruled that none of the state evidence for the allegations will be tested in public without passing through a closed-door declassification process lasting until next year,  and may be kept secret even then. Direct  witnesses, including Sergei and Yulia Skripal, are to be subject to “special security arrangements” and may not be permitted to testify freely in open hearing. And in Hughes’s latest order, the “livestream” broadcast of the hearing scheduled for November 11, has been delayed for five minutes before the press can hear it.

This new measure was introduced to allow government censors to stop the embarrassing disclosures which slipped out at the last hearing on July 15. The first of these came from the lawyer representing the family of Dawn Sturgess, whose death in July 2018 was allegedly caused by Novichok poisoning: the lawyer, Michael Mansfield KC,  said the government’s evidence against the Russians may be “an empty barrel”. He was followed by the lawyer speaking for the Home Office, the British police and security ministry, who claimed her evidence of the Russian threat came from “the Danish investigation of the MH17 attack.”  

At the opening of today’s hearing, Hughes said the broadcast delay has been introduced to “guard against the accidental mention of sensitive material”. “Should an accident happen”, he  added,  “the risk can’t be taken.” A Home Office lawyer followed Hughes, declaring in court that the broadcast delay and the years of delay in reviewing evidence documents are justified to protect the national security. “There has been no delay in the sense of needlessly wasted time,” Cathryn McGahey KC claimed.

Hughes was also asked to confirm that his government contract for running the public inquiry includes a monthly payment of 83 pence. According to his spokesman, “the Chair is remunerated on a standard scale that applies to all retired judges.”

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