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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
  @bears_with

Aestivation in August is something to be shared with the African lungfish, alfalfa weevils and salamanders. For them, in the hottest season of the year it’s obligatory to conserve energy and retain water in the body for unluckily long periods. If they don’t wish to die, they must be taught to lower their metabolic rates. This is why August is a holiday month in civilized Europe, including Russia.

The organ most resistant to slowing down is the one which must keep up practicing what it does best; otherwise it loses its capacity to function altogether. The fingers of pianists, for example, must never stop practicing the piano, however hot August gets. The fingers of writers are the same. Even the lady bug and the cane toad usually handle the mortal risk of August aestivation better than people can. In August beasts worry about plain death.  People worry about living death; that’s when the brain slows down to the point of realizing that the fingers and other things work with embarrassing clumsiness, or not at all. (This isn’t about erectile dysfunction; the children in the audience may stay on the page and read on.) (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

This month’s escalation of US and British threats to Iran’s oil export shipping and maritime defences in the Persian Gulf is to be matched with Russian assistance to the Iran Navy and to shore batteries of air defence missiles, as well as the 300-kilometre range Russian Kalibr missile, a US Navy ship-killer.

The Kalibr, according to US assessments, “skims just above the sea, making it difficult to detect at a distance, before leaping up to three times the speed of sound on the terminal approach—offering a challenging target for missile-defense systems. The Kalibr can be fired not only from underwater by submarines, but also by relatively small and cheap corvettes.”

Iran, according to its experts, has its own anti-shipping missiles and drones deployed along the Iranian coastline, on the sea surface and on board submarines, concentrating at the Strait of Hormuz.   What the Iranian arms may lack in speed, range and electronic capabilities, the introduction of Russian electronic counter-measures, which Russians sources say has begun, will assist by jamming or spoofing US tracking equipment.

The result has already been signalled by the British, German and French governments in their response to Trump Administration requests for a multinational naval convoy operation in the Persian Gulf, and also in response to Iranian warnings. At sea, Iranian naval commanders have already deterred the British with the warning: “don’t put your life in danger.” The response of the Europeans is the one from Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister,  Olaf Scholz: “We must prevent an escalation that could end in a much bigger conflict. So I think that this [naval operation] is not the best idea.”

The British naval response has been to add a warship in the Gulf, the destroyer HMS Duncan.  But this has failed to add confidence to shippers. On July 30 British Petroleum’s (BP) chief financial officer Brian Gilvary rejected the efficacy of naval convoys to safeguard BP’s vessels. The company, he declared, “has no current plans to take any of its own vessels through the strait, adding that BP is shipping oil out of the region using chartered tankers.”   According to Gilvary, “we will continue to make shipments through there but you won’t see any BP-flagged tankers going through in the short term.”  In other words, it’s up to others to run their own risks of seizure or destruction. But for them the market has already decided by raising the cost of premiums that independent charterers should be deterred.  For the foreseeable future marine underwriters are requiring them to negotiate terms according to the specifics of the voyages proposed(more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Under cover of its Russian S-400 air defence batteries, and ignoring US and European sanctions, Turkey is going on the offensive at sea, surrounding Cyprus, and by land, launching a weapon against the European Union against which there is no defence: a Turkish cannon firing 150,000 people at Europe’s borders each month. They are the refugees from the wars the US and NATO launched in Iraq, Syria and Libya. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It appears that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his officials may have lied twice – the first time in February to deny they had discussed mediation in the Kashmir conflict with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; and the second time this week to deny that Modi discussed US mediation with President Donald Trump a fortnight ago.

Indian officials insist they never ask other states or leaders for mediation, and don’t lie about it. What they mean by ask and what they mean by mediation are not quite so clear. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The new Verkhovna Rada (parliament) of the Ukraine, elected on Sunday, will have an overwhelming national mandate to negotiate peace terms to end the five-year civil war.

Sluha Narodu (“Servant of the People”), the party of President Volodymyr Zelensky, having won more than 43% of the votes countrywide, will now command majorities of both the party-list and the single-constituency seats in the new parliament; 253 seats altogether out of 422, or a “mono-coalition” as the party is calling the result, or as the hostile Ukrainian media term it, “a landslide [which] has never occurred in the contemporary history of Ukraine and it is more typical for post-Soviet Asian dictatorships.”  

This beats earlier pollster predictions that Zelensky would be forced into a coalition with Holos (“The Voice”), a US-invented spoiler organization of Lvov region (Galicia) led by pop singer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk.  He ended up  with less than 6% of the national votes, fewer than forecast. Holos has proved to be neither the voice of youth, nor an organization without oligarch support (it was backed by Victor Pinchuk), nor a political party at all.

Polling better than predicted was the Donbass (Donetsk, Lugansk regions) party, Opposition Platform led by Victor Medvedchuk, which ended up with 13% nationally; 48% in Lugansk; 42% in Donetsk; 24% in Odessa; and 19% in Nikolaev. If the additional votes of the eastern Opposition Bloc of Boris Kolesnikov and Vadim Novinsky are counted with Medvedchuk’s aggregate, together they have drawn majorities of 53% to 54%, putting Zelensky’s party in the east in a minority.

This is the first time democracy has defeated a US Government-installed putsch and junta in Europe since the election of Andreas Papandreou’s Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in 1982. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

A new documentary from Max van der Werff, the leading independent investigator of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, has revealed breakthrough evidence of tampering and forging of prosecution materials;  suppression of Ukrainian Air Force radar tapes;  and lying by the Dutch, Ukrainian, US and Australian governments. An attempt by agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take possession of the black boxes of the downed aircraft is also revealed by a Malaysian National Security Council official for the first time.

The sources of the breakthrough are Malaysian — Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohamad Mahathir; Colonel Mohamad Sakri, the officer in charge of the MH17 investigation for the Prime Minister’s Department and Malaysia’s National Security Council following the crash on July 17, 2014; and a forensic analysis by Malaysia’s OG IT Forensic Services of Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) telephone tapes which Dutch prosecutors have announced as genuine.

The 298 casualties of MH17 included 192 Dutch; 44 Malaysians; 27 Australians; 15 Indonesians.  The nationality counts vary because the airline manifest does not identify dual nationals of Australia, the UK, and the US. 

The new film throws the full weight of the Malaysian Government, one of the five members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), against the published findings and the recent indictment of Russian suspects reported by the Dutch officials in charge of the JIT; in addition to Malaysia and The Netherlands, the members of the JIT are Australia, Ukraine and Belgium. Malaysia’s exclusion from the JIT at the outset, and Belgium’s inclusion (4 Belgian nationals were listed on the MH17 passenger manifest), have never been explained. 

The film reveals the Malaysian Government’s evidence for judging the JIT’s witness testimony, photographs, video clips, and telephone tapes to have been manipulated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), and to be inadmissible in a criminal prosecution in a Malaysian or other national or international court.

For the first time also, the Malaysian Government reveals how it got in the way of attempts the US was organizing during the first week after the crash to launch a NATO military attack on eastern Ukraine. The cover story for that was to rescue the plane, passenger bodies, and evidence of what had caused the crash. In fact, the operation was aimed at defeating the separatist  movements in the Donbass, and to move against Russian-held Crimea.

The new film reveals that a secret Malaysian military operation took custody of the MH17 black boxes on July 22, preventing the US and Ukraine from seizing them.  The Malaysian operation, revealed in the film by the Malaysian Army colonel who led it, eliminated the evidence for the camouflage story, reinforcing the German Government’s opposition to the armed attack, and forcing the Dutch to call off the invasion on July 27.   (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

What can Foreign Affairs, bimonthly tribune of the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York, be referring to when it reported on the government for which “in worldview and practice, it was a conspiracy that perceived conspiracy everywhere and in everything, constantly gaslighting itself. In administration, it constituted a crusade for planning and control that ended up generating a proliferation of improvised illegalities, a perverse drive for order, and a system in which propaganda and myths about ‘the system’ were the most systematized part.”

Need a clue? On the head of government’s left foot two of his toes were webbed. Still stumped? (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

If Russian money talks,  there can be no doubt it is telling President Vladimir Putin to give Russia’s relationship with Turkey a priority comparable, almost, with China and India. The  message eliminates Greece from the Kremlin’s consideration; it also diminishes Cyprus.

But does this mean there is a powerful Turkish lobby working inside the Kremlin? Does it mean that Russia’s shift on the economic front towards Turkey is causing a strategic switch, reversing the three-hundred year history of tsarist, imperial and Soviet military and security strategy?  Can the Turkish Air Force ambush of a Russian Su-24 fighter and murder of one of its pilots in November 2015; the assassination by a Turkish policeman of Ambassador Andrei Karlov in December 2016; eighteen months of embargo  on Turkish imports to Russia, December 2015 to June 2017; and the failure of the Idlib pact of September 2018 have all been erased from Russian memory, to be replaced by the trust Russian officials now insist they have towards their Turkish counterparts?

As the Turkish military begin deploying their newly delivered Russian S-400 missile batteries, first around the capital Ankara, and then in southwestern Turkey covering the airspace and territorial waters of Cyprus and Greece, Greek sources believe Russian strategy has broken with Russian memory, and will now side with Turkey in the expansion of its claims to the seabed oil and gas of Cyprus and around the Greek islands of the Aegean.

Eight Russian experts on Turkey, the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, employed by Moscow think-tanks, government consultancies, and the press were asked to assess this view, and also to say if they believe there is a Turkish lobby influencing Putin and the Security Council. The questions are so sensitive, however, not one agreed to respond either on or off the record.

“I find it hard to believe that the Russian ‘deep state’ relies on Turkey as a long-term ally”, a  retired Russian official and veteran of many years of policymaking with Greece, Turkey and other Black Sea states, says. “Historical memory is also there — we have many reminders.”

The Russian source adds that the Greek prime ministers have only themselves to blame for Russia’s re-calculation. “In the case of [former prime minister Alexis] Tsipras, it was easy — he was a fake, and many people suspected that from the outset. So why should Russia have tried to strike a deal with a fake that would yield nothing. With or without Russian interaction with Turkey, Tsipras would have acted in exactly same way on practically all issues: Russian-Turkish relations were just his excuse.  Nea Demokratia and the families in the Greek hereditary political establishment, such as Karamanlis or Mitsotakis, might be slightly more reliable partners than the Syriza clowns.”

“I think that Greeks are making a mistake. Early or later, Turks will come for their throat – for example, to reclaim the islands adjacent to Turkey, paying no mind to the American bases in Souda, Larissa, etc., because they know that the Americans will not intervene militarily, just as  they didn’t in the past.  It is just a matter of time. A country like Turkey can afford waiting a century or two. The Albanian expansion which the Americans endorse and EU stupidly disregards will improve Turkey’s strategic standing in the Balkans.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The New York State Supreme Court has ruled to dismiss Leonid Lebedev’s (lead image, right) five-year case against Victor Vekselberg (first left) and Len Blavatnik (second left) for a 15% share of their £13.8 billion sale of the TNK-BP oil company to Rosneft in 2013.    Lebedev has been suing for an award of $2.7 billion. In London he has been trying to bank on winning the payoff.  

In a 19-page ruling, issued on Tuesday at noon, Judge Saliann Scarpulla (second from right) dismissed all Lebedev’s claims for money from the 2013 Rosneft transaction. She also ordered Lebedev to pay  “costs and disbursements to defendants as taxed by the Clerk  upon the submission of an appropriate bill of costs.”  The cost of the litigation for Vekselberg and Blavatnik, which has also extended to courts in London, Ireland, Cyprus and Switzerland, is almost $20 million; Lebedev’s costs are about the same.

Lebedev fled Russia in April 2015, abandoning his Federation Council seat. At the time he feared expulsion from the Senate for lying about his foreign citizenship and assets. He was also facing a criminal investigation of embezzlement of about $240 million from a regional electricity utility, TGK-2. This he had acquired with the patronage of Anatoly Chubais, once the head of the state’s electricity holding, UES.

Lebedev found safe haven in the US and Cyprus; the former by arrangement with the US State Department; the latter from President Nikos Anastasiades and his law firm in Limassol. They arranged a Cyprus passport for Lebedev which they kept secret from the Cyprus courts just as Lebedev kept it secret from the Russian Senate.

Lebedev started his New York court case in February 2014, choosing the Manhattan branch of the state court because Vekselberg and Blavatnik had lived and conducted business in New York, and because Lebedev claimed they had negotiated their deal in a walk through Central Park in Manhattan. Lebedev alleged Vekselberg and Blavatnik had violated the terms of their original deal in 2001, and cheated him over the ensuing years. Vekselberg and Blavatnik countered that Lebedev  had been paid everything which had earlier been agreed between them; concealed his money through an Irish front company and in bank accounts in Switzerland, Cyprus, Ireland,  and New York; and then lied in the US court papers.

In Scarpulla’s ruling this week, she said Vekselberg and Blavatnik “have shown that the 2001 Investment Agreement lacks contemporaneous consideration and, consistent with Korff, Lebedev has failed to raise an issue of fact on this issue.” That’s judicial language dismissing Lebedev’s lawsuit for faking terms of the agreement which had not been agreed; and failing to prove evidence of his right to benefits. By ordering Lebedev to pay his own costs, plus Vekselberg’s and Blavatnik’s costs, Scarpulla has ruled that Lebedev never had a case to argue and fabricated his evidence from the start. (more…)