As the etymology of the word suggests, news is something that tells people what they don’t already know, throwing a new light on recent events.
My contention is that no information about Russia fits that definition. Just look at the two news items currently making all the papers.
First (in importance, not chronology), we’ve found out beyond any doubt that the chaps who poisoned the Skripals and everyone else in the vicinity are actually GRU officers.
One of them has been identified as Col. Anatoliy Chepiga, a much-decorated veteran of Spetsnaz (GRU special forces) and undercover intelligence work.
Crikey. And there I was, thinking he and his accomplice really were camp lovers of Gothic architecture and each other, who simply couldn’t miss the glory of Salisbury Cathedral. “Don’t you think this spire is absolutely scrumptious, darling, and ever so slightly naughty, the way its stands up at the ready?”
So the Botox Boy lied through his teeth when he declared publicly that’s what the two murderers were. That’s another bit of non-news.
Putin’s whole career is based on lies, from his youth in Leningrad street gangs to his early years as a small-fry KGB thug to his maturity as the principal Petersburg gangster to his current position of presiding over history’s first gangster state.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s always nice to find a confirmation of something one knows already. Such scoops are pleasantly tickling to one’s ego. What they aren’t is news, for they add nothing to existing knowledge.
Then there’s the item about Abramovich being denied Swiss residency because of his links with organised crime and propensity for money laundering. His presence in Switzerland, ruled a federal judge, would be detrimental to the country’s reputation.
That’s a bit like a prostitute refusing to enter a casino because gambling is immoral.
Switzerland’s reputation is that of a money launderer who somehow has cloaked himself in a mantle of respectability. If Abramovich’s presence is deemed too toxic for the rarefied atmosphere of Swiss finance, then he’s a money launderer lacking even such a flimsy cover.
So what else is new? Anyone who manages to make a fortune in a gangster state is himself a gangster. If he isn’t, then long before he makes his first billion he’ll end up ‘whacked’ (Putin’s preferred term), suicided or in prison.
None of those misfortunes has befallen Abramovich, who satisfies the main – some will say the only – requirement for massive enrichment in Russia: he’s Putin’s poodle, always at the Botox Boy’s beck and call.
Abramovich has to be one of the major conduits through which Putin’s personal billions flow to the West. Occupying that position is a major honour in Russia, and a prerequisite for making and keeping one’s own billions.
The honour comes at a price. Thus whenever the Botox Boy needs a few hundred million to bankroll some obscene extravaganza, such as Olympics or a World Cup, chaps like Abramovich fling their wallets wide-open.
Or when Putin needs one of his stooges to act as governor of a province, Abramovich is his first choice to take over Chukotka, a piece of icy tundra in the Russian Far East housing 50,000 thoroughly frozen souls.
Some personal tributes are also welcome, such as the timely gift of a £25-million yacht Abramovich presented to the Botox Boy. Neither the biggest nor the costliest, but hey – it’s the thought that counts. Modest but tasteful, as the Russians say.
Is any of this eye-opening news? Far from it, at least to anyone who knows that Russia is indeed history’s first gangster state, criminalised from top to bottom and run by a perfect blend of secret police and organised crime.
And anyone who doesn’t know this simply doesn’t want to know, like those Western lefties who denied the on-going slaughter of millions in the Soviet Union. You know, the empire whose demise the Botox Boy describes as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”.
For reams of amply documented facts are in the public domain. In the past month alone I have read three books that dispel any residual doubts anyone may harbour about the true nature of Putin’s Russia: Russian Roulette by Isikoff and Corn, House of Trump, House of Putin by Craig Unger and Moneyland by Oliver Bullough.
Among other things, these books cite and show photocopies of countless documents tracking Putin’s criminal career and those of his accomplices.
Abramovich figures prominently, along with that other great English footballer, Alisher Usmanov, and their French colleague Dmitry Rybolovlev. Football clubs must be useful laundromats – or else their function is simply to confer some respectability on Putin’s friends.
What upsets me about this story is that even the Swiss seem to be more moral than either the US or Britain. The two countries have gratefully absorbed an estimated two trillion dollars of purloined Russian cash flowing through the veins of their finance.
It’s only now, after the much-publicised tour of Salisbury Cathedral, that HMG is beginning to stir a little.
Thus Abramovich’s British visa has so far not been extended, and the poor chap had to become an Israeli citizen in a hurry. Our gain is Israel’s loss, I’d say.
Moreover, one even hears vague noises about impounding large Russian accounts whose provenance is dubious. A move in the right direction, but that’s something I’ll have to see to believe.
However, my sense of fair play, vicariously acquired but none the weaker for it, is such that I sympathise with Abramovich. Why single him out?
Since in a gangster state only gangsters become rich, every large fortune acquired in Russia (not necessarily by Russians) is proceeds of criminal activities.
Impounding all such assets, without going into casuistic detail in each individual case, would thus be a welcome hygienic procedure, making the air of London purer to breathe.
Russian loot is ecologically worse than carbon dioxide, you can take this to a bank – and feel free to cite me as the source.