Ties with Russia are becoming increasingly toxic

In the European news landscape, information about two mysterious deaths last year, directly related to the Russian special services and the Kremlin’s propaganda comes into the foreground. Generally speaking, honest, unbiased journalism in Russia died long ago — only propaganda flourishes. That is why news coverage, preparation of political talk shows, and even the creation of entertainment content — everything is brought into line with the one task: broadcasting the Kremlin’s messages and shaping public opinion favourable for V. Putin and special services.

In doing so, the Russians are acting in big-picture terms — the messages necessary for the Kremlin are successfully disseminated not only within the Russian Federation itself and the adjacent post-Soviet space, but also throughout the West. To this end, Russia employs not only its official news agencies (RT, Sputnik), but also local media registered in Western countries, skillfully hiding their pro-Russian nature, as well as foreign non-profit organizations and ordinary citizens.

However, the problem is not only that Russians, through bribery, blackmail and deception, manipulate information and completely distort the general world picture. Everything is much worse — the Kremlin’s propaganda can pose a fatal danger to its distributors.

Thus, on May 26, 2020, Jon Hellevig, a Finnish citizen, mysteriously died in Moscow. The intrigue is that shortly before his death, on May 10, he published two posts on Twitter, where he reported that the Russian regime would try to eliminate him. Unfortunately, Jon Hellevig did not specify the reason for the Russian special services to announce a hunt for him. But, as it is not difficult to guess, his problems arose from the very fact of cooperation with Russian business, media and… special services. What is then known about Jon Hellevig?

He contributed to the advancement of the interests of the Russian Federation on the territory of Finland; participated in carrying out propaganda campaigns in the EU media space prepared in favour of the Kremlin; financed a disinformation campaign against Ukraine in the Finnish media; repeatedly visited Crimea and the military conflict zone in Donbass, and also financed trips of his compatriots there; worked as an observer at the “elections” in Russian-captured Luhansk in November 2018. Probably, a Finnish friend of the Russian Federation has crossed someone’s pass. Perhaps he asked for an exorbitant payment for carrying out the Kremlin’s delicate orders. It is also possible that he wanted to “quit the game” and break off too close cooperation with Russia, but the Russian special services did not like this idea.

It stands to mention that Jon Hellevig was not a “grey mouse”, but an experienced and successful businessman. He studied law (Finland), business administration (France), international business (Great Britain), worked at the Central Bank of Finland, founded the Mandatum bank, was engaged in business in various companies (including Russian), was a board member of the Association of European Businesses (the most influential business association of foreign companies in the Russian Federation).

In early May 2020, Jon Hellevig received confidential information that the special services of the Russian Federation are expecting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to cover up finishing him off, i.e. to announce that he died as a result of coronavirus infection. Jon Hellevig tweeted that he is in Moscow and feels himself fine having no signs of COVID-19. Hellevig probably had serious reasons for worrying about his future. Therefore, he considered it necessary to publicly declare that if he dies in the near future, it will be definitely the result of a special operation planned by the special services of the Russian Federation. But despite this, after some time he was found dead in his hotel room.

So, despite the fact that Jon Hellevig made a desperate attempt to escape from the grasp of death, he still had to pay a high price for being too close to the Kremlin. Last year, this episode did not attract much public attention, however now, as Russian propaganda has exceeded all conceivable limits, such stories have become trending.

Generally, any ties with Russia, and particularly cooperation with it, are becoming increasingly toxic. This fact is confirmed by another resonance story and another death instigated by Russia and its propagandists. Moreover, in this case, the interests of the Kremlin were served not by agents recruited by the special services, but, figuratively speaking, by “useful idiots.”

Thus, journalists got e-mails, indicating that the British “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media” has consistently discredited UK civic, volunteer and charitable organizations that dealt with various “hot spots” worldwide — from providing humanitarian aid to pursuing rigorous war crimes investigations. The members of the group denied massive repressions in Syria (ruled by the Kremlin-friendly B. Assad regime), which in fact fully met Moscow’s interests.

The main sensation was that this “Working Group” includes not some amateurs (misled or simply stupid), but researchers from leading English universities! These scientists wrote questionable articles on topics not related to their specialty (chemical attacks, bombing, mass murder, torture), but, on the other hand, in the correct scientific form. All the materials they wrote had one common feature — their conclusions always fell in line with the narratives of Russian propaganda. As it became known from the e-mails, some members of this group did not see anything wrong with fulfilling information orders and even expressed their readiness to cooperate with the special services of the Russian Federation.

Not all British scientists engaged in the Working Group are supporters of V. Putin and B. Assad, spreading Kremlin propaganda and slander against other NGOs helping troubled Third World countries. Many of them are “useful idiots” and passionate adherents of conspiracy theories. But, unfortunately, there are enough of these “useful idiots”, whom the Kremlin is brilliantly able to use for its own purposes, to bring noticeable harm to both the UK and the democratic world at a whole.

For example, the Working Group targeted such NGOs as the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), led by Bill Wiley, and White Helmets, led by James Le Mesurier. Both NGOs tried to drive home to the world community the truth about the developments in the Middle East, as well as somehow help the local population. But the Working Group falsely accused these organizations of financial fraud and lack of documentary evidence of cash receipts.

The Working Group especially strongly tarnshed the image of the White Helmets organization, claiming that its employees are jihadists, as well as a tool of the CIA and British intelligence services. In fact, reputational damage to the “White Helmets”

was necessary in order to disseminate the Russian version of the war in Syria in the West.

According to the investigation, following the accusations against the White Helmets organization, James Le Mesurier committed suicide in the summer of 2020. It is unlikely that the former British professional soldier was a weak-willed person.

But, apparently, he could not withstand the huge avalanche of charges brought against him. We will never know whether the British scientists from the Working Group were happy when they became aware of the suicide of James Le Mesurier, but the Kremlin achieved one of its goals — there was one less enemy of V. Putin and B. Assad in the world.

So, it would be well-advised for any Westerner and supporter of an open democratic community to fear and avoid any ties with Russia. The above examples of cooperation, with a fatal outcome, clearly demonstrate that everything that Russia touches falls in a zone of increased danger. Any ties with Russia are becoming more and more toxic today.