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Tag: Moscow

Boris Nemtsov and the tyrant

Sunday, 1 March, 2015 0 Comments

In his final interview, hours before he was shot dead on Friday night, Boris Nemtsov said that he was a patriot, but one who regarded the Russian flag as a “symbol of freedom” from Soviet tyranny. Vladimir Putin has revived that tyranny by creating an atmosphere of hatred, driven by an hysterical propaganda offensive that portrays opponents as traitors. Boris Nemtsov, who “died in the streets”, just outside the Kremlin, is the latest victim of the evil that W. H. Auden so brilliantly depicted during a former age of tyranny. It is a tragedy that Russia is again ruled by such wickedness.

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

The Tyrant


Journalist of the day: Robert Bruce Lockhart

Friday, 11 April, 2014 0 Comments

When the Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917, Robert Bruce Lockhart was the Acting British Consul-General in Moscow. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he set about creating a network of undercover agents, but he and fellow British spy Sidney Reilly were soon arrested. Robert Bruce Lockhart Instead of getting the expected 9mm of lead in the back of their necks, however, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

11 April 1929: “Priceless story of Lenin and the death of his mother-in-law (Krupskaya’s mother). Krupskaya tired of watching at the death-bed asked Lenin to sit by her mother while she slept. He was to call her if her mother wanted anything. Lenin took a book and began to read. Two hours later Krupskaya came back. Her mother was dead. Lenin was still reading. Krupskaya blamed him: “Why did you not let me know?’ Lenin replied: ‘But your mother never called me!’ Still, Lenin was not inhuman.” Robert Bruce Lockhart (1887 — 1970)

And thus ends our week of journal entries. It’s good for mind and soul to keep a journal says Oliver Burkeman: “Write about your most profound fears, your feelings of loneliness, of regret and grief. Then hide it somewhere where nobody will ever find it, don’t tell a soul…”


Germany’s chief Putin “understander”

Wednesday, 2 April, 2014 0 Comments

Moscow, 11 December 2013: “Meeting with Helmut Schmidt” is the title of Vladimir Putin’s press release and it’s filled with oleaginous praise: “It is a great pleasure and honour for me to meet with you in Moscow, for you are not only the patriarch of European politics but of global politics as well.”

Last week, the former German chancellor used the pages of Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper printed in Hamburg and of which he is a co-publisher, to pay back the compliments he had received in the Kremlin. “Helmut Schmidt hat Verständnis für Putins Krim-Politik” is how the abbreviated piece was titled in the online edition; “Putins Vorgehen ist verständlich” was the title in the print edition. Both were repulsive in their attempts to legitimize Russia’s aggression, and both were nauseating in their efforts to display “understanding” for Moscow’s thuggery. At one point in the print version, the vain, doddery, chain-smoking oracle says: “Until the beginning of the 1990s, the West had never doubted that Crimea and Ukraine — both — were part of Russia.” In fact, until the beginning of the 1990s, they were part of an entity called the Soviet Union.

Schmidt-Carter Helmut Schmidt was German Chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and Jimmy Carter was the President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 so their paths often crossed. Carter’s White House Diary portrays the Hamburg-born politician as an unpredictable whinger, constantly lecturing the Americans on global economics, and then disappearing when Washington needed his help. According to Carter’s notes, Schmidt “acted like a paranoid child” who believed that if life were fair, he would have been president of the United States instead of the man from Plains, Georgia. And in an observation that’s relevant to today’s debate, Carter noted on 5 January 1979: “I was impressed and concerned by the attitude of Helmut toward appeasing the Soviets.”

In 1980, Jimmy Carter lost the presidential election to Ronald Reagan. The upside for the Democrat was that he would no longer have to deal with the German leader. In his diary, he noted that he was “glad to deliver Schmidt… to Reagan.”


The Tyrant Games

Sunday, 9 February, 2014 0 Comments

The Olympic Games have a long and ignominious history as a glossy brochure for evil regimes, from the Nazi Games in Berlin in 1936 to the Communist Games in Moscow in 1980. Now, we have the Putin Winter Games in Sochi, an enormously expensive show that’s an ideal metaphor for the current Russian regime: corrupt, […]

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Snowden deserves life in Russia

Monday, 20 January, 2014 1 Comment

For an entire swathe of useful idiots, Edward Snowden is a hero. In fact, however, he’s a thief. password Worse still, he’s a traitor. In an eye-opening account of Snowden’s amorality, Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball of Reuters reported that he gained access to his cache of documents by persuading some 25 of his fellow employees to give him their logins and passwords, saying he needed the information to help him do his job as systems administrator. Most of these colleagues were subsequently fired. It should be noted also that Snowden signed an oath, as a condition of his employment as an NSA contractor, not to disclose classified information, and he was well aware of the penalties for violating that oath. But he stole an estimated 1.7 million documents, anyway.

Then there’s Snowden’s admiration for the enemies of freedom, which became public in a statement he made in Moscow last July, soon after Vladimir Putin granted him asylum. He thanked the countries that had offered him support. “These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, have my gratitude and respect,” he declared, “for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful.” Earlier, Snowden had said that he sought refuge in Hong Kong because of its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”

The man is either naïve or evil. Take your pick.

On Friday, President Obama limited Snowden to two mentions in a more than 5,000 word speech as he criticized his “unauthorised disclosures.” There was no suggestion of clemency, and there will be none. “It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating,” said President Obama. “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account.”

Edward Snowden has sentenced himself to life in Russia, which is ruled by an unpleasantly authoritarian regime. He deserves his fate.

This just in: “The heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees suggested on Sunday that Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, may have been working for Russian spy services while he was employed at an agency facility in Hawaii last year and before he disclosed hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.” The New York Times

Note: It’s telling that Snowden has not released any documents detailing the cyber-operations of Russia or China, even though he must have had access to the NSA’s reports on the hundreds or thousands of hacking campaigns that they have carried out over the years.


Black and white in the pre-PC days

Tuesday, 5 November, 2013 0 Comments

Back in March 2006, Garry O’Connor of the Scottish football side Hibernian agreed a £1.6 million transfer to Lokomotiv Moscow. He was not, however, the first Scot to play football in Russia. Robert Bruce Lockhart won the Moscow league championship in 1912, playing with Morozov — a textile factory team. But all this was a cover for his real profession: espionage. And if one believes the conspiracy theorists, he was at the centre of a plot to assassinate Lenin.

British Agent Robert Bruce Lockhart was Acting British Consul-General in Moscow when the first Russian Revolution broke out in early 1917. Working for the Secret Intelligence Service, he had been given £648 worth of diamonds to fund the creation of an agent network. Diamonds are said to be a girl’s best friend and it was almost inevitable that Moura Budberg, the beautiful widow of Count Johann von Benckendorff, became his mistress. With all the dramatis personæ in place, Lockhart was ready to strike, but Felix Dzerzhinsky, the cunning head of Cheka, struck first. Lockhart and fellow British agent, Sidney Reilly, were arrested, but instead of being shot, they were exchanged for the Russian diplomat Maksim Maksimovich Litvinov. Lockhart wrote about his experiences in Memoirs of a British Agent — a bestseller that was made into the film British Agent in 1934.

Spy, author and broadcaster Robert Bruce Lockhart was a talented, prolific diarist with an eye for detail and an ear for anecdote:

5 November 1928: “Heard a very good story on Mussolini and crown Prince [Wilhelm of Germany]. Latter had been to Tripoli and his father asked him what he thought of the natives. He replied, ‘I prefer dealing with black men in white shirts than the white men in black shirts.'” Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

Tomorrow, here, Cesare Pavese, the Italian writer and diarist, who once said, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”


Will Cochrane kills and cooks

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013 0 Comments

“Will waited. The sailor looked around, but not back at Will. Beside the man was the Lubyanka building. It was the current headquarters of the Border Guard Service, and it also contained one directorate of the FSB. But during the era of the Soviet Union it had been a notorious prison for political dissidents and spies.”

Sentinel That’s a snippet from Sentinel by Matthew Dunn and the “Will” there is the novel’s protagonist, Will Cochrane of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or MI6. In these days of ascendant Putanism, the West needs heroes to take the fight into the heart of darkness and if that means going mano-a-mano with the enemy on Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya in the middle of Moscow, our spycatcher is up for it:

“Will sprang to his feet and jumped onto the hood of the second Range Rover, ignoring the target, who was still in the vehicle. He ran over its roof, jumped onto the Audi, and dived right over it towards the FSB man, who was now in the rear of the car and had leveled his gun at Roger. Crashing midair into the man, Will wrapped his arms around the Russian’s upper body and limbs, pinning his arms tight against his sides before they hit the ground. He kept squeezing him tight.”

Unlike James Bond, who spends a lot of time squeezing tight members of the opposite sex, Will Cochrane is a rather monkish secret agent. Instead of flirting, he longs for love and that Bondsian double entendre with Pussy Galore is definitely not his cup of tea. Whereas 007 despises domestic duties, our Will is ever so useful in the kitchen:

“Expertly, he peeled and diced shallots and tossed them into the pan with olive oil and butter. Then he deboned and portioned the chicken, pan-fried it with crushed garlic, pepper, and finely chopped herbs, splashed red wine into the pan, and allowed the alcohol to burn off before tasting the liquid and adding some salt and sugar.”

This is far superior to the bacon and scrambled eggs that Bond manages to cook. Still, 007 fans will know that he did eat a doner kebab in From Russia with Love. With Will Cochrane, Matthew Dunn has created a spy with potential, but he needs to make him less nerdy and more witty if he’s going to win over a greater public. The eight-page glossary at the end of Sentinel is useful for those who need to know that the AEK-919K Kashtan submachine gun fires 9mm rounds, but it does reflect the weight of terminology that the reader has to cope with.

Then there’s the confusion of prime minister and president, which could be a consequence of Putinism as the Russian leader has held both offices. But more about that here next week.