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The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce celebrates its 100th anniversary

This is an exclusive interview for The Duran with Trevor Barton, Executive Director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce.

Haneul Na'avi




I have the pleasure of interviewing Trevor Barton, Executive Director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce located in London, England. We discuss the history of the organisation and the scope of its operations, as well as address the current economic developments between Russia and the United Kingdom.

Haneul: Can you tell us a little about the RBCC and your role in the organisation?

Trevor: The Russo-British Chamber of Commerce was founded 100 years ago, in 1916, which, when you think of history, was quite an interesting time for a group of business people to decide that it would be useful to have a Chamber of Commerce between Britain and Russia. The Chamber has stayed pretty true to its original aims, which were to encourage and promote trade and investment in both directions between Great Britain and Russia.

That has survived through quite a number of political and other circumstances in both countries — including two global wars —and the Chamber did not fold or stop operating, although there were periodically some contractions in the amount of business being done.

Those who have kept the Chamber going all those years have managed to do so throughout those difficult times. We’re very proud that we’ve been around for a century and that we continue to operate in a bilateral fashion. We encourage Russian businesses to come to the UK to the same extent that we encourage British businesses to go into Russia.

We’ve got somewhere between 300-400 members, and it is a strong, enthusiastic membership. Regarding my role, I am the Executive Director, the most senior role in the executive among approximately 14 staff across our three offices in London, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Although we have offices in these key centres, we also reach out to regions throughout UK and Russia.

Recently, I’ve travelled to Manchester, Liverpool, Aberdeen, Peterborough, and Ipswich to speak to groups of large companies and SMEs who are looking for new export markets for their goods, and we try to enthuse them with the idea of considering going into Russia, while pointing out the realities of doing business there. 

So much of what we say is very positive, but we are also realistic. My colleagues in Russia do a similar job of talking to Russian companies. My job as the Executive Director is to make sure all this works effectively and our members get value for their membership. Before I took this job, I was actually on the Chamber’s non-executive board for about 9 years, so I know the RBCC very well.

Haneul: Can you give us a few examples of events that you have hosted? What were some of the key focal points of your discussions and who attended?

Trevor: We ran a Christmas cocktail event a few days ago, and for events like these we always have a discussion panel beforehand. We hosted Sergey Cheremin from the Moscow City Government, in addition to a senior representative from the organisation London and Partners that works with the Mayor’s office in London, as well as representatives from the London Stock Exchange and the London Chamber of Commerce. I moderated that discussion and I think that there were a lot of positive feelings within it.

Everyone is very conscious of the negative publicity that Russia attracts, and what we do, in terms of talking to companies at our events and individually, is give balance to the perception of Russia by emphasising the business opportunities that still exist. It’s very well known that there are sanctions between the EU-US and Russia, and there have been counter-sanctions imposed by the Russian government.

Our message to people is that they should certainly consider doing business or investing in Russia and, as part of that, check whether or not their businesses will be sanctioned. Generally, there is a good chance that the sanctions, which are quite narrowly focused, will not apply.

People on that panel emphasised a rather positive stance regarding the Russian economy going forward. The Russian economy has been in tough financial straits for 2-3 years now. Sanctions have had an effect, but oil prices more so. The value of the ruble has affected ruble-earning Russians’ buying power. However, the picture shared by the panel and ourselves is quite positive in the medium term.

Mr Cheremin pointed out a lot of interesting investment projects in Moscow. The London Stock Exchange was also quite optimistic about Russian companies raising funds in London again in due course. Certainly, London & Partners and the London Chamber of Commerce also reflected positively as well as realistically about the flow of trade and investment in both directions.

Haneul: Have they been facilitating this with Special Investment Contracts (SICs)? I remember that they began doing so in 2015…

Trevor: Yes, but initiatives such as these are only one small part of the picture. I think that SICs have been successful to a certain extent, but what’s more important is the big, overall picture. It is important that Russia is seen as investor-friendly in a more general sense, and we try to make people aware of the opportunities, for example, in the regions.

There is a perception that Russia is only Moscow and St. Petersburg, but although they are very important centres for industry, population, and for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), Russia in fact has some fifteen key cities with a million or more population. These are very significant places, which are a bit more difficult for companies and investors to reach, but exporters and investors will not face the competition in those cities that they would find in Moscow or St. Petersburg, so they bring more opportunities.

Equally, as to Russians coming in this direction, we’re starting to see some of Russia’s high-tech companies and entrepreneurs show real interest in setting up subsidiaries and investments in the UK. UK banks can provide loan capital for SMEs to boost their businesses, which may not be available in the same way in Russia. So, now we’re not just seeing wealthy Russians buy houses and educate their children in UK, but Russians also starting to use the UK as a favourable base outside Russia for their international operations.

Haneul: In the post-Brexit era, how will Russian and British businesses deepen their ties, and what will occur once Britain ventures onward to new opportunities around the world?

Trevor: This is, of course, crystal ball gazing, and I can’t predict how Russo-British trade will develop post-Brexit; also of course nobody knows yet quite when Brexit will actually happen. However, there has naturally been a lot of talk at our events about its potential implications. I think generally it is perceived that it will encourage British companies to look for new export markets and in that way open up opportunities. Certainly, Russia should very much promote itself as a good market for the export of goods if and when EU markets become perhaps somewhat less attractive for British companies.

That’s not the only dynamic that’s happening because at the same time, Russia itself continues to develop as an increasingly lucrative market for British goods. The Russian middle class has good buying power, despite some issues with the value of the rouble in recent years. Furthermore, Russia is developing its infrastructure services, roads, rails, and warehousing networks, and there is a huge rise in E-commerce in Russia. 

The UK has great expertise and experience in these areas.  So, as some markets will perhaps become less attractive to UK exports, we hope that regional markets across Russia will become more accessible and attractive and that more opportunities will emerge. I think that the two elements will come together and that there is a good chance that Brexit will play into a wider picture of Great Britain and Russia doing more business together.

An increase in trade and investment in both directions is certainly something that we at the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce would like to see. 

For more information on the activities of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, kindly visit:

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch



One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou



Via Zerohedge

Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone



Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:

The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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