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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British state broadcaster BBC and other media have disclosed that the Salisbury house (lead image) owned by Sergei Skripal is to be partially demolished and rebuilt over the next four months.  

A Wiltshire Council notice to residents in the neighbourhood of the Skripal home is the source of the news reports. The January 4 notice, a media briefing by the Wiltshire Council, and a press release by a spokesman at the Ministry of Defence do not say how much of the house will be reconstructed. “We are working with the site owner, Wiltshire Council and other partners to ensure that the house will be fully repaired and returned to a fit state to live in,” the anonymous Defence Ministry official was quoted as saying by the Salisbury Journal. 

The British Government, London and Wiltshire police, and media reports have claimed that a fast-acting, lethal nerve agent was administered to the handle of the front-door of the Skripal house eleven months ago, on March 4. The alleged attackers have been identified by Prime Minister Theresa May (lead image, left) as two Russians. No allegation nor evidence has been reported to date that they or their poison penetrated inside the Skripal residence.   

Two senior Wiltshire Council officials, Tracy Daszkiewicz, Director of Public Health and Protection, and Alistair Cunningham, coordinator of the recovery programme, were asked to clarify how much of the Skripal house will be replaced. Replying today through spokesman David Perrett, they said “there are no plans to demolish the property at 47 Christie Miller Road. The roof and garage roof are being removed and replaced.”

Because the front-door handle was the sole identified site of the attack, and decontamination has been under way for eleven months, the two officials were asked to explain their reason for the reconstruction.  “Every decontamination site is different”, Perrett responded. “Each one has a tailored decontamination plan. As you would expect this site is more complex than others… we are taking a highly precautionary approach and that is why the clean-up work is so extensive and meticulous. It is vitally important we are thorough on all the sites so that local residents can be fully confident that each one is safe when returned to use.”

Perrett added: “In the more contaminated sites some hard surfaces might be removed.”

Angus Macpherson, the Wiltshire police commissioner, told the press on Monday  that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who entered the Skripal house on the evening of the poison attack and who was hospitalized later for nerve agent exposure,  returned to active duty this week. Bailey has told the BBC he has “lost everything”    in his house.  Commissioner Macpherson, together with Daszkiewicz and Cunningham, were asked to say if the Bailey house is also to be demolished and why. Through Perrett, they answered. “Sgt Bailey’s house has been fully cleaned. There are no plans to demolish this property.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the US war for regime change in Russia, the 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.

Late last month, the dinner was 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. Mikhail Fridman and his Alfa Bank, Vimpelcom and X5 supermarket group demonstrated which side they believe to be strongest in this war by not attending. Their absence shows they calculate the risk of Kremlin sanctions for their business is now zero.

The absence of Arkady Volozh, controlling shareholder of Yandex, the internet services company, reveals the same calculation.

The presence of Anatoly Chubais, head of Rusnano, the state’s high-technology holding, the most pro-American of the oligarchs and one of the most hated of political names in the country,   reflects the calculation  on Putin’s side that there is now no oligarch price the President can risk not to pay.  (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

There’s a reason Albion is well-known as perfidious. Like leopards and spots, it’s because he’s always been that way.

In the 1920s the British secret services pursued Russians in the UK with the same zealous tactics and purposes as they have been doing in the past decade. The partial release of the 1920s archives, documented in a newly published book,  reveals the same fabrications, false flags, contrived press leaks, meretricious politicians and journalists, sanctions, expulsions, and deep state deceptions as the British continue to pursue against Russia today. 

Why is clearer then than now. A century ago, the British government, the country’s military leaders, and media proprietors were all agreed on the necessity of hanging on to the British empire and its colonies, especially India; and to neutralize – if necessary, liquidate – the locals seeking national independence. There were also British business interests in maintaining cheap commodity imports of oil, rubber, wool, and other raw materials in exchange for over-priced machine and manufactured exports into captive markets. The threats of nationalism abroad, unionism and wage bargaining at home were real.  Blaming Russia, Bolshevism and Communism for “meddling” then was an obvious expedient for the police and military measures, and for the state budget funds required to protect the status quo.

But now, without an empire of captive peoples and markets; without army or navy with global reach; without credible British political party alternatives for the domestic terms of economic exchange; and also without Russian ideology to contend with, what explains the revival of Russia-hating as Conservative Party politicians and the chiefs of MI6, MI5 and the Special Branch police practiced it one hundred years ago? This new book is written by an academic who is a true-believer in Russia-hating as British state policy, so he doesn’t answer the question. What can be learned instead from his book are the many flashes of déjà vu — and also the way the flashes, repeated often enough, cause British blindness. For this, the author demonstrates by his own example, there is no cure. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

We have been blasted; we are back; we have ignition; and with more light than ever.

(more…)

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My corpse managed to keep talking for twenty

years. That’s the time it took between the

Soviet KGB dosing my champagne with a

near-fatal volume of a drug called SP-117, in

order to get the truth out of me;  and a

Russian oligarch sending two gunmen to

fire their pistols into me, to stop the truth

getting out..

 

With hindsight, those who weren’t watching

when Vladimir Putin was small insist he

was bigger than he was, but good at keeping secrets.

Big or small physically or politically, they have still been

 unable to fathom Putin’s character, or explain why,

  after so many years in power, Putin remains as  characterless as when he started. 

I was watching from the beginning; the KGB elixir

 allowed me to see through the secrets to

 the  truth of the matter.

 

  This was that Putin has remained the nondescript  I had first met,

but that the potency attributed to him now was picked up

from a group of men on whom he depended for his rise,

and on whom he still depends for his power.

These were, these are the

Russian oligarchs

whose stories I have been investigating

and reporting every day.

By penetrating their secrets, I measure how Putin rules Russia;

better to say, how Russia is ruled, and with what effect.

(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. For a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble. Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips. Cool it with a baboon’s blood, then the charm is firm and good.

Dear readers, as you peer carefully into the picture of the year ahead, you can recite the charm of Shakespeare’s witches or you can rely on the Bear – what’s it to be?

See him taking notes as he eavesdrops on President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.  Who is the soldier with the umbrella weapon? What devils stand their ground falsely; stamp on thin air? 

In the time ahead, who, we are bound to ask, will prove to be the less convincing,  the more unerring? Until Old New Year’s Day dawns, there’s time to open the Bear’s surprise and with his best wishes, rest your mind

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By John Helmer, Moscow

This is the week — the last one before the corporate Catholic Christmas holiday commences and runs into the Russian New Year holiday —  when President Vladimir Putin hosts a supper reception for the oligarchs. It’s a very sensitive affair – for the oligarchs invited, disinvited,  or excluded; and for the president to be seen publicly with them.

So sensitive in fact that a year ago, as the president was running for re-election, his Kremlin spokesman appeared to think (and say) on December 14 there was to be no oligarchs’ dinner. Then it turned out, on December 21,  there was. 

This year the Kremlin’s sensitivity is to the deteriorating approval ratings for Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the Government and also the State Duma. In an unusual reflection of this,  the latest session of the Security Council, which met on  Monday,  acknowledged that the first priority on the agenda was “current issues on the domestic socioeconomic agenda. They pointed out the need for a particularly close monitoring of all housing and utilities systems in the regions hit by abnormally low temperatures in recent days.”

The oligarchs are acutely sensitive too. In pre-war times, the invitation to be seated at Putin’s table was a cachet of closeness to power which the oligarchs were keen to display. Now that they face US Treasury sanctions for their “closeness” to the president, many would rather not attend. None can refuse, however, if Putin invites. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Mikhail Fridman (lead image, left) and Pyotr (Peter) Aven (right) have launched an effort to persuade high Russian and American government officials that they are in the process of selling their Russian bank,  and also that they are not doing anything of the kind.  

Uncharacteristically clumsy of them is the assessment of Russian sources. “Fridman has been trying to sell Alfa Bank for a long time,” one source says, “but can’t get his price. He has gone public this time after Alfa Bank officials got the message that someone important in Moscow is offended that he was not involved in the deal.”

“It’s quite risky to signal that a bank is up for sale,” comments another Russian source, a veteran of the Central Bank of Russia.  “Even for a strong name this can shatter confidence and trigger an outflow of deposits as a result. Depositors and other customers would ask themselves — why is the owner willing to sell? Maybe, bank customers will ask, the owner knows something about the bank others do not?  For a bank owner, such a risk may not be worth taking just for the sake of demonstrating something to somebody.”

A US source says that Fridman has been advertising “for a long time that he is Lviv-born, Ukrainian and Jewish by culture, and shouldn’t be sanctioned for Russian business he’s trying to get rid of. The latest press leaks were addressed to Washington to combat the bad press and sanctions threats Fridman is afraid of.”

“In light of recent media reports alleging some negotiations on the sale of Alfa Group’s banking assets,” an Alfa Bank press notice announced on Wednesday in Moscow: “this information bears no relation to reality. We categorically deny these rumors and the fact of any negotiations. No discussions of the kind have been or are being conducted with the market players.”

The Russian and US sources believe the phrases “no relation to reality” and “the fact of any negotiations” are untrue. The discussions already held have been with Russian state banks, so the phrase “market players” is misleading. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

One of the leading war strategists in London, professor to general staff officers and warfighters on both sides of the Atlantic, has lost his brain to an advanced cyber technology designed by the American and British military to win wars by frightening their adversaries into capitulation for fear of being destroyed. The new weapon appears to have backfired because it has destroyed the British strategist’s capability to take seriously what his enemy is thinking. The calculation required for fighting has been lost because the strategist has self-destructed.

Sir Lawrence Freedman (lead images) is the victim of this warp weapon; the evidence is the new book he published a few weeks ago. It’s called The Future of War, A History,  “In his new book,” according to a British intelligence veteran, “Freedman repeated everything we and the Americans, especially the Americans, have given him over the years.  But the outcome is what we might call an overdose of Novischlock.” (more…)

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By Christopher Black, Toronto

“It is clear the US is pushing the battle line to our door … We can completely regard the US arrest of Meng Wanzhou as a declaration of war against China.”

So read an editorial in the Global Times of China on December 6, the day after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei was taken hostage by the Canadian and American governments on December 1. The daughter of the founder of China’s largest telecommunications company was arbitrarily arrested and detained by Canadian police in Vancouver in transit between planes on December 1 on the pretext of a US extradition request.

The arrest has shocked and angered China while in Canada the large Chinese population must wonder how safe they are.

The background to the arrest is fairly simple. Huawei has become a global competitor in the global telephone market and their 5G phones are cutting-edge technology and so not welcomed by competing phone companies in the US, Japan, South Korea, France, and Sweden; they are so afraid of the competition that they and their governments have spread stories that the phones are loaded with spyware and are “a danger to national security.” The company has even been threatened by the US and allied governments with criminal charges in America’s increasingly hostile economic war against China,  alongside its increasing military pressure, provocations and insults. It’s one way to control the market. But now, acting as a mafia they have kidnapped, detained, and hold hostage a Chinese woman whose simple crime is going to work every day. The lack of outcry from women’s rights groups in the west is,  not surprisingly, deafening. (more…)