John Helmer: “Zelensky Himself Is Now in Polish Hands;” March 15 Summit with Polish, Czech, and Slovenian Prime Ministers in Przemysl, Poland, Not Kiev

Yves here. John Helmer makes a bombshell revelation in his latest post, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky participated in an in-person summit on March 15, not as widely touted in Ukraine, but in Poland. It is virtually certain that given the difficulty of assuring safe passage that Zelensky has not returned to Kiev.

This allegation matters because it vitiates the effort to depict Zelensky as the second coming of Winston Churchill, heroically holed up in his capital as bombs are falling. Zelensky staying, or appearing to stay, in Kiev, is also a rallying point for the sure-to-lose-but-still fighting Ukrainian army and the civilians who still unrealistically hope that Ukraine can win on the battlefield.

Admittedly, Helmer relies significantly on the debunking of visual evidence….which has not proven difficult to do with a lot of Ukrainian propaganda. Helmer was a master well before the wor, having made the downing of MH-17 a pet project (he not only finely parsed photographs, but made careful readings of inconsistent and shifting claims of experts and prosecutors).

One might point out that showing that the official visual narrative of the meeting is faked does not necessarily prove that Zelensky was not in Kiev. Helmer presents other evidence that supports his contention, including reports from sources in Poland. What I found was compelling was that it was utterly implausible that the Polish, Czech, and Slovenian leaders made a long, overland trek to Kiev, as official accounts claimed. That would be disastrously risky in the absences of Russian assurances of safe passage, which were never made. That then begs the question of what actually happened.

Lambert added,

I hate this Bellingcat-style analysis because absent a very trusted source, there’s no getting to the bottom of what’s photoshopped and what isn’t.

That said, Helmer is trusted, things like railway stations and “Presidential seating style” can be independently checked, and the argument about railways seems dispositive. (I’m also persuaded by the military haircuts on the so-called reporters.)

By John Helmer who has been the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to have directed his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

The summit meeting of East European leaders, hosted in Kiev by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky on March 15 was fabricated by the Polish government, with Polish secret service agents playing the part of journalists, and fake photographs of the meeting, press briefing, and train journey prepared by Zelensky’s press office.

The operation was designed by the Poles to promote their role in support of the Ukraine, the Ukrainian refugees, and in defence of Europe against Russia, and seek new European, American,  and NATO alliance funds and military equipment.

A according to the Ukrainian publicity, the operation was designed to promote the appearance that Zelensky’s regime is in control of Kiev, and to accelerate their application for admission to the European Union (EU).

The Anglo-American media have reported the meeting, as announced by Petr Fiala, the Czech  prime minister, with “the aim…to express the European Union’s unequivocal support for Ukraine and its freedom and independence,”

The result of the summit meeting, according to the Financial Times in London, was “a show of European solidarity even as Russian shelling continued on residential neighbourhoods in the Ukrainian capital. The trip by the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia is the most high-profile visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded the country on February 24.”

“It is here, in war-torn Kyiv, that history is being made,” the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced. “It is here that freedom fights against the world of tyranny. It is here that the future of us all hangs in the balance.”

Morawiecki and the western press were lying – there was no meeting in Kiev. Instead, the meeting was staged at the Polish rail junction town of Przemysl, 95 kilometres west of Lvov (Lviv), and 20 kms inside the Polish frontier with the Ukraine.

In a report published by the Associated Press (AP) bureau in Warsaw, “the long journey over land from Poland to Kyiv by Morawiecki, Poland’s deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Prime Ministers Petr Fiala of the Czech Republic and Janez Jansa of Slovenia sent the message that most of Ukraine still remains in Ukrainian hands.”

The evidence gathered from sources in Warsaw and from analysis of the videos and photographs published on the meeting proves there was no “long journey”; no meeting in Kiev or in Lvov, the Galician region capital, which is the operating headquarters of the Ukrainian government. From the evidence provided by the Poles and also by the Zelensky’s publicity staff, it is now clear that only a small part of western Ukraine remains in Ukrainian hands.  Zelensky himself is now in Polish hands.

The Warsaw sources say the idea for the summit meeting was initiated by Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Since the death of his twin brother in an aircraft crash at Smolensk, Russia, in 2010, Kaczynski has been one of the most influential politicians in Poland; he is in charge of the defence, security, interior and justice ministries.  He is fiercely anti-Russian.

Associated Press (AP) presented this photograph of Kaczynski at the summit meeting with the disclaimer that it did not originate the photograph itself. Instead, it had been supplied by the “Ukrainian Presidential Press Office.”

The Polish sources believe there was no possibility that Kaczynski, Prime Minister Morawiecki, or the Czech and Slovenian delegations would have applied to Moscow for safe conduct to Kiev; nor would they have risked their own security by running the gauntlet of Russian electronic and air surveillance and missile attack on a two-hour train journey from Przymysl to Lvov, or on the seven-hour journey to Kiev.

Instead, the Czech and Slovenian officials flew into Rzeszow Jasionka,  the nearest airport to Przemysl; the airfield is also a NATO logistics and security base. They then drove to Przemysl. There the Ukrainians had despatched one of the luxury versions of the regular train service between Przemysl, Lvov, and Kiev. This had been fitted up for fabricated photographs of the Polish, Czech and Slovenian officials meeting as they purportedly travelled towards Zelensky in Kiev.  The press which has published these pictures knows them to have been faked and has assisted in concealing the real location.


The red line is known as Rail Line No. 92 -- and


In a converted train compartment, left to right: Jansa of Slovenia; Morawiecki and  Kaczymski of Poland; Fiala of the Czech Republic. The individuals on the extreme left and right cannot be identified. The red file on the table appears to be standard issue for the Polish intelligence services which report to Kaczymski.

Advertising for the train’s luxury suites confirms the train depicted in the publicity photographs. Source:


Left to right: Fiala, Jansa, Kaczymski taking the lead position in front of the group, and Morawiecki.

Top: shadows at the feet of the official group photograph reveal the picture was taken in the open-air, sun-lit section of Przymysl station as revealed in the photograph at bottom. All photographs confirm the paving design of the rail platform is specific to Przemysl.  


Left, the interior of the Kiev railway station; right, Lvov. The platform paving is similar in Kiev and Lvov but quite different at Przemysl.  The roofing of the two stations covers the length of the platform and allows no open-air section as at Przemysl.


The staff man on Kaczynski’s left is wearing a bullet-proof vest indoors, indicating he is from the Polish secret services and has either forgotten he is pretending to be in the Kiev presidency safely under Ukrainian control, or else he has forgotten he is supposed to be a civilian. The video screens with the Ukrainian propaganda slogans on both walls  appear to have been photo-shopped in the preparation of the photographs by Zelensky’s press office.  

The picture on left has been tagged as an official one by Zelensky’s staff for publication on their Facebook account. The Ukrainian symbol on the wall is unlike those fixed to the walls of presidential meeting rooms in Kiev.  The right picture is a closeup of the paper cups on the table. They are evidence of an improvised meeting room, not one at Zelensky’s office in Kiev. Likewise, the contemporary-style chairs shown are incompatible with Ukrainian presidential seating style. 


The sign pasted to the door over the heads of Fiala and Jansa says “Situation Room” in Ukrainian. It has been improvised. If the meeting had taken place in a genuine situation room, the absence of computers belies it.

Left, interior camera set-up for the media; right, reporters shown at the exterior of the building. All the purported journalists are men with military haircuts; no women appear to have been included in the press briefings.

The Associated Press (AP) – a US-owned corporation based in New York  — has provided the most detailed bulletin on the meeting, its participants,  and what they discussed. The agency byline reveals that its reporters filed their story from Warsaw; they were not present at the events they claim to have verified. The only direct source for the AP report was reported to be a Polish official who was reported as saying:  “The visit had been planned for several days but was kept secret for security reasons, said Michal Dworczyk, chief of staff for Morawiecki”.

In the fine print under AP’s publication of photographs of the meeting, the agency issued a  source disclaimer. The images came from “video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office”, AP said.

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  1. JohnA

    What I find fascinating is the lack of factchecking among western media that in other contexts make factchecking into almost a religion. The latest is the case of the Mariupol Theatre. The Ukrainians claim it was bombed by Russia killing women and children sheltering there, which has been eagerly publicised by western media as another Russian atrocity, includign by Craig Murray, yet Russia claims the women and children were herded into the theatre which was then blown up by Azov brigade, and that local sources in Mariupol has warned in advance of a possible false flag by the Azov brigade.

    1. Polar Socialist

      The latest news are from the evacuees from Mariupol is that people were seeking safety from the cellars of the theatre, until Azovs started installing explosives on the roof. Apparently they allowed the people to leave before blowing up the building.

      Others are also saying that the shelter survived the explosion(s), and yet some people claim that Ukrainian tanks destroyed the building when they retreated and that some people were wounded in the shelling.

      All of these claims can be little parts of the same story observed from different points in the chaos of urban warfare among civilian population. For now I’m holding on to the thought that very few if any civilians became casualties.

      1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

        Yes hopefully that is the case – I did see a video from I think Maripul that showed some babushka’s giving some shamefaced troops a tongue lashing in relation to placing artillery outside of their houses, but the outcome wasn’t shown. Maybe the othering within people who are very similar culturally isn’t as effective on the ground & face to face, as it was between the original Nazi’s & the Jews. Being a bugger for punishment I am gradually grinding my way through Shoah at about an hour at a time, which is tough & that hell on earth appears to have been created implicitly, built mainly by a bureaucracy on a foundation of centuries of antisemitism. Hopefully those Ukrainian versions are in comparison only playing at it, something that some at least have since discovered was in terms of killing relatively much easier from a distance.

        1. Turpitz

          Winston Churchill was a known coward too.

          See the writings of David Irving. He would slip out the back of Number 10 Downing and go to his country house.

    2. edwin

      You need to link to your Craig Murray I assume tweet. If it is what I assume it is then context matters. He was responding to a specific person trying to provide comfort, and trying to prevent demonetization of all Russians as a response to the pain of war. I would not read into that what you may be doing.

      Vlad, you are in pain, and it is not easy to speak,
      but it is Putin and those close to him
      it is not “the Russians”.
      Some ethnic Russians are fighting for Ukraine, and many brave people inside Russia are resisting the war.
      Individual war crime liability, not hate of “Russians”.
      Quote Tweet
      · 19h
      an hour ago, the russians dropped a heavy aircraft bomb on a theater in Mariupol dawn town. It was the official gathering place for people whose homes were destroyed. Details are unknown, but there may be several hundred victims. It was not Putin who did it, it was the Russians

      1. pjay

        And if it turns out to have been the Azov paras who did it, then perhaps our interpretation of *both* tweets would need revision. We shall see. The truth usually trickles out slowly with these atrocity stories.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Considering that a bunch of OSCE monitors were in Mariupol until the Russian advance into the city opened the humanitarian corridors and they were able to evacuate, there’s a chance we can get information from trained, technically unbiased, observers.

      2. JohnA

        Murray squirms and claims it is Putin, not ‘Russians in general’, but he still accepts that the theatre was bombed by Russia. His original tweet, which he since deleted, was even more scathing of Russia.

        Remarkably, Murray, a strong believer in independence for Scotland, also opposes Crimea wanting to be Russian.

        1. David

          He also invoke individual charges for war crimes, presumably to Putin. I need also to check if he has ever done so for Yatseniuk, Poroshenko, Zelensky and all that gang for what they have done in the Donbass.
          He’s an integer person, however nobody is perfect.
          The fact that he accepts that the Russian bombed the theatre, which i find it quite disappointing from his side, without evidence and contrary to any common sense – why would Russia do that?

      3. Harry

        Thats what Western and Ukrainian sources say. Russian sources say something different. I note that a number of survivors came out of the bomb shelter, so we may actually be able to listen to what the survivors say. I doubt western sources will believe them or feature them if they tell a somewhat different story.

    3. Mr. House

      They only fact check information they oppose. We went into ludicrous speed sadly after 2016 with regards to censorship and so forth. Of course so did the stock market. I think we’re coming to the end of the road with regards to lies IE the economy is great! Jabs are safe! Anything that isn’t dead center corporate politics is radical! and so on

      1. Mr. House

        Misinformation is only a problem if you’re lying and insecure in your power or legitimacy. We never had a problem with it prior to 2016, makes you wonder ;)

        1. Robin Kash

          Could you please explain that! My political/newspaper/TV news memory doesn’t go back much earlier than the Montgomery bus boycott. I shudder to recall how much misinformation was problematic about civil rights, the plural assissinations of the 60s, Vietnam . . .. I’ll run out of space before I have to stop at 2015!
          Saying misinformation matters only for certain people under certain conditions is like saying surveillance by government or big corps matters only if you have something to hide!
          Misinformation is always problematic, and the moreso when spread by national/international media.

          1. Rory

            can’t speak for someone else, but I interpret Mr. House’ comment as observing that powerful institutions may spread lies to support their agendas continually, and may seek to suppress truthful information at odds with their agendas, but so long as such institutions feel secure in their power and legitimacy, they feel no need to publicly challenge critical information as “misinformation.” It is only when such institutions begin to feel insecure, with their legitimacy in question, that they feel the need to forcefully attack “misinformation.” They begin swatting at flies that they would have otherwise ignored. If something like that is what Mr. House meant, I pretty much agree.

      2. Skip Intro

        I think it is mostly a semantic problem. People tend to understand ‘fact check’ as testing alleged facts for veracity via background research. In fact the term ‘check’ is taken from ice hockey, where it refers to an often violent method of physically stopping an opponent. Fact checking organizations slam facts into the boards so they don’t get through.

    4. fresno dan

      I don’t know if this is old news or not
      An urgent “miracle” rescue bid was launched on Thursday, March 17, as it emerged hundreds of Ukrainians—including children—may still be alive beneath the rubble of a bombed theater in Mariupol.

      The civilians had been sheltering there to escape the Russian bombardment, and had written the word “children” outside in the hopes of being spared, but were hit on Wednesday.

      It had been feared everyone inside had been killed, but the BBC reported authorities as saying the bomb shelter underneath the building had held up despite the massive blast.
      soon, it will be reported that Zelensky was in Poland, but miraculously was transported back to Ukraine…

      1. lambert strether

        If I were truly cynical, I’d say the press was backfilling a story they knew would never hold up under scrutiny. Or — speculating really freely — some US wannabe merc was present or involved?

      2. Captain Obious

        Will the next bombing by the nefarious Russians be the valiant rescue party itself?

  2. PQR

    Lets apply a little bit of expanded thinking here. Assuming the above is correct. Russians would like to eliminate Zelensky, so the UKR govt misrepresents where he is. Wholly logical . UKR does a crap job in representing this. I dont see an issue here the misrepresentation is entirely to prevent him being killed.
    Look I understand that Putin is aggrieved that Russia is being white anted and has been by the West for 30 years but attacking the UKR was a strategic fail. Pull out save some face and make nice. This is not Russia of 1950

    1. David

      Why do you think it was a strategic fail, and what, in your opinion would be a strategically winning move in order to achieve the overarching goal of neutrality of Ukraine?

  3. Foy

    When I saw a photograph of the three European leaders in Kiev the other day, my gut immediately said to me no way, really? It just felt off, something wrong, a very big risk to take, leaders of three countries travelling to a war zone of a city under siege, would they really do that, not sure what it was but something just wasn’t right.

    Maybe my gut was right after all

    1. clarky90

      Recruit two, personable and attractive news presenters; (A) and (B)

      “Hi, I’m (A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

      (B speaking) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our ………..(fill in) communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that …….(fill in) News produces.

      (A speaking) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

      (B….) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

      (A….) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

      (B …..) At ….. (fill in) News, it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

      (A…..) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to ……..(fill in) and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

      (B…..) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

      (A……) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.”

  4. sinbad66

    Would be interesting if this story gets passed along to Jimmy Dore or the Gray Zone. Either way, compelling work by Helmer.

  5. BillS

    If this is true, this is big news!

    I agree that no way would these three leaders have made that journey through a war zone and the analysis of the paving stones in the stations seems to be a dead giveaway.

    1. BillS

      I couldn’t resist. A simple DDG internet search for “Kiev railway station” and “Przemysl railway station” yielded images consistent with what Helmer found. The pavers and platform shelters are clearly visible in some images and consistent with Przemysl and not Kiev.

      1. lambert strether

        I don’t mind that they’re treating me like a mark; that’s a given. I do mind that they take me for a fool.

        1. clarky90

          I had a realization….

          “The Masters of the Universe” are as stupid as rocks. Their “power” derives from access to (1) infinite fiat money. And, that (2) we assume that they are (mostly) honest, ethical, well-meaning human beings; just as we (mostly) are. We have always trusted TPTB.

          However, we are witnessing “the great awakening”, not “the great reset”. Thank God.

          What an interesting time……..

          1. MARS

            Hi Clarky90, I disagree with you, I try to be morally sound, and honest, and ever since I was 16 or 17 haven’t trusted any power structure, group or individual. I have assumed the contrary, and that is that power corrupts, and if you see corruption in the lower levels of power then a lot more corruption should exist in the higher spheres of power.

            I believe that your point number two is to be extremely naive.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              He’s not saying that. He says many/most people believe that.

              The reverence for Elon Musk alone supports clarky90’s contention. That guy is a narcissistic ill tempered wacko and is still largley treated with reverence. The fact that he can build cars does not mean he deserves attention on any other topic.

  6. The Rev Kev

    There has been talk for days that he is actually in Poland. If he was really like a Winston Churchill, he would be making brief, unannounced trips in Kiev to show himself to the people and raise moral but of course he is not even in the same country. Since Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili is in the Ukraine and had been asked by Zelensky if he wanted a government job, you would think that Zelensky would have also picked his brain about his 2008 experiences but apparently not. But at least with this staged event, we now know the extent that countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia will go to in the services of the massive propaganda campaign being undertaken at the moment. I do wonder at the absence of the Baltic republics though as you would think that they would be keen to help out here.

    1. Carolinian

      Offered up on saker site that he was in Poland and that he had survived assassination attempts back in Ukraine. The Poland thing was surely known or suspected since his government was said to have moved west. Overt lying and fakery though might turn a few heads.

      That said the Russians don’t have a prayer in the propaganda war. They are going to have to win by winning.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Here is a question. Is he in Poland being protect by their Foreign Intelligence Agency against assassination attempts by the Russians? Or is he being protected against being assassinated by the Ukrainian far-right extremists? Something tells me that he would be safer in Moscow than Kiev.

        1. Harry

          Totally agree. Putin needs him. But for the Ukrainian “Nationalists” they might be better served by his martyrdom. Saying that, motive is only one element of a crime. Opportunity and means are also usually present.

        2. WJ

          Who benefits more from a living Zelensky who has established peace with Russia and begins to rebuild a demilitarized, deNazified Ukraine?

          1. Russia
          2. The U.S.

          The answer is obvious. Which is why–as Yves posted several days ago–the U.S. will never allow Zelensky to come to terms with Russia.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Saakashvili is in Georgia in jail on trial. I wondered where that twerp was a few weeks ago.

      1. OIFVet

        Do they serve neck ties for dinner in Georgian jails? Kidding aside, Georgian cuisine is amazing. Makes one wonder why Saakashvili chose to munch on his tie ?

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist. He is odious. All puppet clowns are.

  7. Alex V

    I’m not sure if I’m buying Helmer’s “evidence”…

    Regarding the pavement pattern, one of the platforms at a Kiev station uses the pavers he claims are in Poland:,30.486695,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipPJQwTCyfLBfTW7v5EhKxTYzWEN03YX_qkiDy2z!2e10!3e12!!7i6936!8i9248!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xce83fd296fc7f7cf!2zNTDCsDI2JzI2LjAiTiAzMMKwMjknMjIuMCJF!3b1!8m2!3d50.440556!4d30.489444!3m4!1s0x40d4ce8d6c9e2c41:0x2889fce8ad5234ef!8m2!3d50.442595!4d30.486695?hl=en

    Something that would of course be easy to fake as well, but also easy to miss are the bottles of water on the tables. They’re Ukrainian:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, this does not prove your contention. Your train track section is entirely outdoors, no roof at all. The photo shot is largely under a roof with only a partial opening.

      And in the official photo, the grey interlaced bricks are on both sides of the yellow safety strip, while in the one you provided, it’s red brick next to the train, yellow strip, then grey bricks.

      1. JC François

        It is possible also that the picture was taken as they were boarding the train in Przemysl on their way to Kiev.

        Same for all the other pictures: they suggest that there may be foul play but none of them contains hard evidences that the meeting took place in Poland.

      2. Alex V

        After further searching on Google, Helmer’s claim seems stronger, once one finds a picture showing the color pattern more clearly at the edge than in the picture he used from Poland. This shows that it alternates red gray red before the yellow line:,22.7763501,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipMS2ooLXyeFuNXPUn1qrBcaBmjK5Xsv5wTjSEAU!2e10!3e12!!7i6000!8i4000!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x0:0xf64c473d3e0f9182!2zNDnCsDQ3JzAwLjAiTiAyMsKwNDYnMDAuMCJF!3b1!8m2!3d49.783333!4d22.766667!3m4!1s0x473b7f26a44556f3:0x35bdf0f482d4b823!8m2!3d49.7835271!4d22.7763751?hl=en

        The picture he used was too washed out to show colors properly, and his asserting the gray paver is unique to Poland did not build his case strongly enough. The crop of the official photo also did not show the yellow line sufficiently.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > his asserting the gray paver is unique to Poland did not build his case strongly enough

          All Helmer really has to show (weak form) is that the station is not Kiev. Strong form is best, that the station was Przymysl.

      3. Alex V

        And as Tomislav Ladika points out, Helmer makes the claim that the photo in front of the train is claimed by the media to be taken in Kiev, yet he does not link to the source for this “official” image or the claim. Perhaps this is in the FT links, but I’m paywalled and can’t check. It may have been taken on the way through Poland. A reverse image search only takes one back to his own articles, but perhaps I’m searching wrong.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I will ask him.

          I suspect you can’t find it because the images are not matched by some whiz-bang tech but by metadata. If Helmer screenshot them, they would be “seen” as new images.

          1. Alex Vaivars

            Thank you for following up. Like Helmer I am also extremely sceptical of everything coming out of this conflict. I also know I’ve misled myself into being convinced certain things to be true or untrue based on my own preconceptions, and seeking evidence that only supported my internal narrative, starting with the invasion happening. I really thought it wouldn’t happen.

            1. Harry

              I have also been guilty as charged in the past. It means I am not as confident in any of my assessments. But it is difficult to argue that Kiev is “under siege”, and that senior Polish officials met Zelensky there. What kind of siege is that?

              1. Polar Socialist

                It’s the kind of siege that allows the civilians to leave at will, provided that the administration allows them and can arrange transport (there has been issues with both).

                Actually some internal refugees are already returning to the capital, because the rents in western Ukraine are obscene and there’s actually not much fighting in the city itself.

                It’s a siege in a sense that Ukrainian military units can’t either leave the city or approach it.

              2. WJ

                Please practice your Doublethink or I will have to report you for misinformation.

                Doublethink is a process of indoctrination whereby the subject is expected to simultaneously accept two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in contravention to one’s own memories or sense of reality.

            1. IF

              Google translate says the caption is “Passengers on the Warsaw-Kyiv line with a brave train crew. Thank you very much for the journey together and its happy ending.”

              Sounds to me as if the picture was taken at the end of the trip to thank the crew.

            2. Alex V

              Good that we now know the source of the image. The caption only claims it was taken somewhere along the Warsaw Kiev line, not specifically in Kiev.

              This however still gives us no clarity on the claim that it was allegedly stated in the media to be taken in Kiev, which is the main thrust of Helmers story. Appreciate if you can follow up again to find which article or journalist he uses as the starting point for saying the media says the photo was taken in Kiev.

        2. Oktembher

          The train station image is originally from Mateusz Morawiecki’s Instagram, with the caption: “Passengers on the Warsaw-Kyiv line with a brave train crew. Thank you very much for the journey together and its happy ending.”

          The same image is hosted here under the headline “Government spokesman Piotr Müller: Delegations returned from Kiev to Poland. They’re safe”

          In other words it is a photo of their return to Poland. I have not been able to find any source that claims the picture was taken in Kiev.

          1. Donald

            I can’t read any language other than English, but even without what you say, what we had here was proof that people other than Zelensky were in a Polish train station.

        3. Lambert Strether

          I downloaded the *.webp file of the photo in front of the train and then Google image searched it. Here is the result:

          I take it the oldest one (highlighted in yellow) is the original. I don’t know what that source is, but it’s not the FT. (To be fair, the image is tightly cropped; one of the subject’s heads is slightly cut off. I don’t know if Google’s search is good enough to consider the uncropped version of a photo similar or not.)

          There is also brickwork to examine in that photo.

          Adding, see Oktembher’s comment; the source is Instagram, i.e. Faceborg, and so not accessible to me.

      4. Katarina Cerar Bajde

        …and the yellow bricks are not the same as in the photo where our beloved PM stands – so, we will not worship the ground of Kijev train station as the one that our JJ walked on!

      5. ilpalazzo

        Other pictures do look shopped, particularly Ukrainian flag on screen wall (look for outlines of people’s heads). Also plate on the door is a bit off.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > outlines of people’s heads)

          The photo is not large enough for my eyes to see whether there is the typical issue of photoshopping an image behind human hair (and there are plenty of heads in front the allegedly shopped in propaganda screen).

      6. Curious Mind

        I’m sure the Moscow State“troll farm” is actively monitoring each and every image posted on social media by the Ukraine government and quickly identifying image locations based upon the EXIF metadata if it’s available. This is a multi-pronged war effort, informational, economic, military, etc. not sure what to make of this articles position but if I were advising the Ukraine leadership, I would be strongly recommending they photoshop every image and modify the EXIF metadata to throw off the enemy.

        1. Lynne

          if I were advising the Ukraine leadership, I would be strongly recommending they photoshop every image and modify the EXIF metadata to throw off the enemy.

          The 21st century version of Bodyguard of Lies?

    2. Lambert Strether

      > one of the platforms at a Kiev station uses the pavers he claims are in Poland:

      I disagree. The patterns are the same, but the materials are different,

      Here is Przyml:

      And Kiev (via Google, as above):

      Just because bricks are cast from the same mold — if that is the technology — doesn’t mean they’re the same brick.*

      NOTE * Fascinatingly, Kharkiv has a plant that sells brick manufacturing machinery all over Eastern Europe. All these bricks might well have been made from the same machinery!

  8. cocomaan

    Rail travel seems like the worst way to travel through a war zone if you’re a VIP. Everyone knows exactly where you’re going to go. The chances of things going wrong are high on a 7 hour train journey (tree across the tracks, a bomb landing in the wrong place, general signal malfunction) and any major delay would mean you have to disembark from the train and take cars the rest of the way.

    I guess the counterargument is that Western Ukraine is not as hot of a war zone as Eastern.

    And then I wonder, how does a train pull into Kyiv station? What does that look like? What is the state of the rail yards going into Kyiv from the West?

    1. Michael

      Yes. How many trains from Poland pull into Kiev station each day?

      Is life so normal that one more wouldn’t be noticed? Esp a “luxury” version?

      1. cocomaan

        For the sake of safety, speed, and subterfuge, I would definitely be taking a series of SUV’s through Western Ukraine. Rail travel just seems like an idiotic idea, right? If something goes wrong you have to be in vehicles, so why not just go using vehicles that will get you there much more effectively?

        I should get a consultant fee for this.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > What is the state of the rail yards going into Kyiv from the West?

      If this were the sort of war the US media claims it is, the rail yards at Kiev would look like this:

  9. nn

    “All photographs confirm the paving design of the rail platform is specific to Przemysl.”

    This type of bricks and pavement pattern is used practically everywhere, it certainly isn’t specific to Przemysl. I would not be surprised if you could find some less prominent railway station in Kiev with this same thing.

    It would be quite extraordinary if heads of three states simultaneously decided to do big PR splash, pretending to run between rain of Russian bombs to show solidarity with Kiev in Kiev, without worrying what will happen when it is revealed they in fact were not in Ukraine at all.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m letting this through even though this comment is a fail in proving your assertion. You are already in moderation for doggedly repeating arguments that were debunked, as if trying to talk over what everyone else said somehow made it true.

      You are persistently violating our overarching comments rule, which you would have seen had you bothered reading our Policies:

      You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

      -Harlan Ellison

      You appear to miss that Helmer provided shots of the railway stations in Kiev and Lvov which show simple reddish rectangular tiles, not light-grey and interlaced, and even more definitively, no open air over the train tracks.

      1. The Historian

        When someone is trying to fake something, it is always the fine details that give them away!

    2. Polar Socialist

      You can do Google image search for Przemysl railway station. Those photos presumably from Kiev capture a startling likeness of said station’s platforms.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > You can do Google image search for Przemysl railway station
        Here is my search (Przemyśl Główny, presumably, not Pzemyśl Bakończyce, where the platforms are in pretty bad condition).

        For grins, I went into the photos as far as my patience with infinite scroll would permit, and here is some brickwork:

        For the above two, there is not only brickwork but the color and texture of ballast to consider.

        An entirely new pattern, above.

        UPDATE Severely off topic, but both these stations are grand public spaces. We have lost the ability to do this.

    3. AlanRoxdale

      Have you considered the possibility that the 3 heads of state in question didn’t go to Kyiv, and instead that part was simply made up by English language reporters?

      What I am suggesting is that Zelensky may have quite openly gone to Lviv or to Poland, and these leaders may have openly met him there, and the mainstream media just made up a completely different propaganda story in the knowledge that no-one was going to be able to challenge it. I would be interested in hearing exactly what the Polish, Czech, and Solvakian press reported on this because it may well be completely different. (Or the same I am not entirely stupid, just jaded).

      1. Acacia

        Various media (in English).

        Polish: Polish, Czech, Slovenian PMs safely back in Poland after visiting Ukraine: officials

        Czech: Czech, Polish and Slovenian PMs meet with Zelensky in Kyiv

        Solvenian: Janša, Morawiecki and Fiala back in Poland

        French: Les Premiers ministres polonais, tchèque et slovène se rendent à Kiev

        Reuters: European leaders’ risky Kyiv mission took even close family by surprise

        When headlines flashed on Tuesday morning that the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia were on a train to Kyiv for talks with the Ukrainian president, it was news to some members of their immediate families.

        The trip to a city under siege, where Ukraine’s military is fighting invading Russian forces just a few kilometers from the periphery, was hastily arranged and known only to a few people.

        It doesn’t sound like any of these agencies had journalists present.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > “The trip to a city under siege, where Ukraine’s military is fighting invading Russian forces just a few kilometers from the periphery, was hastily arranged and known only to a few people.”

          Smells funny to the Reuters people too, though they are delicate in their wording.

  10. Tomislav Ladika

    Regarding the train station photo right under the header “FAKE ARRIVAL AT KIEV RAILWAY STATION”: Does anyone know what is the original source of the image? I briefly searched online but could not find it myself.

    Is it possible the photograph was taking at the start of the journey, or during a pause in Poland before the border crossing?

    1. Dr. Robert

      If the meeting was held in Przemysl it should be possible to identify the building used for the purpose. I spent a few minutes looking at official buildings in street view and couldn’t find it. It should be a government or university building in an older part of town. The pavement is the only other real evidence he has, and that’s not nearly enough to say conclusively that this was all a lie. Even that fits with the official story as the photo could easily have come from the beginning of their journey.

      The story seemed strange to me as well, but politicians have done stupider things for photo ops. Find the building and he has something.

      1. Tomislav Ladika

        Oktembher’s comment above at 12:10 pm seems to have answered my question. The image was posted on Mateusz Morawiecki’s Instagram feed, which states that it was taken upon arriving back in Poland.

    2. żuk

      There’s one more problem with that photo – there’s a text on one of the guys back which says “STRAŻ OCHRONY KOLEI” in Polish. Had this been an attempt to fabricate evidence this text would’ve been most certainly erased from the picture. I’m curious how is it possible that Helmer missed this CRUCIAL and GLARING detail and focused on the pavement pattern instead.

      “Is it possible the photograph was taking at the start of the journey, or during a pause in Poland before the border crossing?”

      Very much so. I’m also yet to see any credible government source that purports this is a photo from Kyiv

  11. p fitzsimon

    So, the CIA, DIA,NSA,MI6 can’t figure out where Zelinsky is residing. Oh, I guess there all in on the scam.

    1. fresno dan

      p fitzs
      I’m not suggesting that the agencies have concocted an elaborate scheme with the help of Western media to make it appear that Zelensky is doing the Churchhill thing…OH WAIT – I am suggesting that it was the agencies propaganda that Zelensky be portrayed as bravely staying in Ukraine

  12. fresno dan

    Unfortunately, EVEN if it is PROVEN conclusively that Zelensky is/was in Poland, than that fact will be downplayed or even entirely omitted – memory holes as far as the eye can see. I hate to keep going back to Trump and the Steele dossier, but I think it is dispositive about the quality, accuracy, or objectivity of most mass media reporting. Correcting the record is no longer part of the media business model.
    The media will NOT do a mea culpa about being wrong, no one will be demoted or be fired. There be agendas here, and the agendas are far, Far, FAR more important than the facts…

  13. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Great work! I was just about to post a comment on this in the links, then saw that Yves had already jumped on it.

    The only thing I can add here is that I think the most damning evidence is that the byline was filed in Warsaw, and none of reporters were actually present at the event. That violates so many basic rules of what used to be taught as journalism. I agree that imagery is tough to prove conclusively one way or another, but it does appear to be a rather sloppy job of fakery.

    Also an observation – I heard of this story a day or so ago while listening to CNBC, in an offhand comment from Jim Cramer (that noted detached, calm journalist …) I remember also feeling very puzzled, why would they risk their lives for a photo-op? The mighty Wurlitzer largely seems to have skipped over this particular tune, with none of the usual suspects who can be counted on to promote the US state departments view choosing to play this number. I could not find much on CNN, The NY Times or other of the usual suspects. I don’t think TheHill or Politico covered in in any depth, either.

    Makes me think this was an Eastern European operation gone rogue, with no coordination from the adults who could have helped train them to be better liars. Just opinion, I admit on that last thought.

  14. Omnibus Lime

    Hmm. Z is the HVT. Russia wants Z, not the EU leaders. I hope Russia would not be into strafing civilians aboard a train but who’s to say. There is more risk in moving Z to strange locations for a diplomatic mission than for diplomats to visit Z in a hardened Kyiv location. As diplomats do even under hostilities. — Call me incredulous but somebody is being taken for ride to an undisclosed Polish location.

    Russia has not achieved any of its objectives yet. Now is the time to parlay with a government in its capital before it’s a government in exile. What diplomatic message could be delivered to an exiled gov’t then, “Sorry?”

  15. bongbong

    The “situation room” sign was added to the photo with Photoshop, as its orientation is square but the photo is shot at an angle. That is a big tell!

    1. juno mas

      Yes, this is a good observation. If the sign was actually affixed to the door the sign would recede along the same angles as the door to which it was purportedly affixed. The sign does not diminish in size from left to right; the door frame does. (You too can make this determination by selecting the image and copying it to a tab (window) indedpendent of the article in which it is embedded and “zoom” into (enlarge) the sign on the door.)

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      Yeah that was the first thing that lept out to me. Your average meme maker does better ‘Shopping than that.

    3. Leftist Mole

      Rush job or disinterested photoshop flunky! Because you can alter the perspective of that sign in photoshop if you want. They didn’t bother. Also there seems to be extra hair growing out of someone’s head when they shopped in those tv screens in another of the photos.

      I’m sure they’re right that none of this matters. Another drop of propaganda for those who already believe it.

        1. Lambert Strether

          > Clearly real.

          Above, Helmer. I can’t tell if it’s lens distortion, or the sign is genuinely out of alignment.

          From one of the videos linked to above. (Note that Helmer’s claim, as I understand it, is not that the sign is Photoshopped but that the entire situation is staged, with the fake situation room sign “pasted” to the door (unfortunate locution, that, but I don’t see any visible screws, so pasted or glued it must have been).

      1. Eustachedesaintpierre

        Yes that is easy to achieve using a layer followed by distort even in my ye olde version of PS.

        Z certainly gets about – ” Ich bin ein Ukrainian ” next in Berlin ?

    4. bun

      you beat me to it! yes, exactly. the label is horizontal but the door perspective is at an angle. as an avid amateur photographer, that jumped right out at me.

      pretty bush league.

    5. ChrisPacific

      I don’t think it is Photoshopped. It’s a trick of perspective – it’s a high door and the point of view is just above the heads of the people, so the sign is horizontal.

      There are more photos of it on the Presidential site from many different angles. It looks a bit shonky in some of them, but it does look like an actual sign. Helmer doesn’t suggest it’s Photoshopped, just improvised. It wouldn’t have taken much effort to grab a sign from somewhere and attach it if they wanted.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > There are more photos of it on the Presidential site from many different angles. It looks a bit shonky in some of them, but it does look like an actual sign. Helmer doesn’t suggest it’s Photoshopped, just improvised. It wouldn’t have taken much effort to grab a sign from somewhere and attach it if they wanted.


    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      IIRC back in the day Russia deliberately chose to build their railways to a different gauge than the more developmentally advanced ones to their west in order to make it more difficult for them to support an invading army.

    2. lambert strether

      Excellent point. Ukraine’s rail system is Russian gauge (1.520mm); Poland’s is standard (1.435mm). Yes, there is a “break” where trains halt and change over. Voltage differs too.

      The halting point is an ideal spot for a drone to loiter, assuming Russian intelligence is any good at all. Or a kinetic weapon. Or worse, a wet team. The security services of the three heads of state would have had to lose their minds to permit this. This, to my mind, is even more dispositive than the trip length

      1. fjallstrom

        I went looking and found some railroad enthusiasts:

        From Przemyśl Główny station there are separate standard and broad gauge tracks which take totally different routes either side of large transhipment yards between Hurko and Medyka which at maximum are 650m apart. From Medyka PKP across the border is two tracks, of which at least one is interlaced.

        As I understand it, you can physically drive a train on the broad guage from Przemyśl into Ukraine.

        My experience from other border crossings is that having some stretch of dual guage is common.

        1. Lambert Strether

          Railroad enthusiasts are an underutilized resource in this controversy. Thanks very much!

          Do you know if passenger trains can operate seamlessly? And what about the voltage?

          1. fjallstrom

            If I understand the railroad entusiasts, you can (if they are running) take a polish train from Lviv to Przemyśl and further into Poland running on standard gauge, or you can take an Ukrainian train from Przemyśl to Lviv and further into Ukraine, but you can’t take a train directly from Warsaw to Kyiv/Kiev. That would accord with my experiences of cross-border European rail. You in general have to change trains, not at the border but at the last railroad hub in the country you leave or at the first you in the country you enter.

            A search on Deutshe Bahn (best search engine for pan-european railroad travel) concurs. If you buy a ticket from Warsaw to Odessa you change in Krakow and Przemyśl, then straight to Odessa. (You can’t buy the actual ticket on the web site currently.)

            According to Wikipedias map of voltages western Ukraine has the same voltage as Poland. I dont know how accurate that map is.

          2. fjallstrom

            To late to edit my other comment, but I wish to withdraw the point about finding the trip on the Deutshe Bahn search engine. I do find the trip, but if I remember correctly the Deutshe Bahn search engine includes buses, so the last leg might be by bus, and if so it says nothing about interoperability.

  16. JohnA

    I saw a clip from CNN (I think) news gloating both about the long debunked Ukrainians on a Black sea island getting blasted to death after telling the Russians to go F themselves, whereas they surrendered and were taken into custody, and the CNN presenter went on to say the plucky Ukrainians had now sunk the dastardly ship showing night time footage of a few missiles being fired and a day time shot of smoke over water. That ship has since been filmed sailing back into Sevastapol port looking totally untouched.
    I tend to trust Russian media more than western media. For the simple reason that t date, their versions tend to turn out to be correct.

    1. Polar Socialist

      Lieutenant General Kirillov, chief of the Russian radiation, chemical and biological protection troops told today more about the proof they have of those biolabs in Ukraine: “One of the coordinators of this activity was the head of the DTRA office at the US Embassy in Kiev, Joanna Winthrop. Maybe journalists should talk to her. ”

      You think western journalists will?

        1. Eustachedesaintpierre

          I would have thought perhaps incorrectly that other Eastern European countries would or should be concerned about these labs in relation to potential leaks & if they were used in that part of the World as a weapon, I imagine at least that as we have seen with Covid containing spread is extremely difficult.

  17. orlbucfan

    Well, history points out one fact lost in this morass of propaganda and misinformation: there is no love lost between the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and the Russian Federation. Probably even more so between the Poles and Russians. That is scary cos it means this war could intensify and spread. I’m talking thermonuclear war, and that thought makes my hair stand up on end!

  18. The Historian

    John Helmer has a good investigative mind and as a former investigator, I do admire his work. But I think he needs to do more to prove his case here. For instance, this article has a photo of an open air station purported to be at the Kiev rail station:

    I can’t really see the tiles though – that was a good catch, Helmer!

    I’d also look for signs of damage or litter. I can’t imagine that cleaning the station would be high priority right now and with the number of people using that station to flee Kiev, there should be signs of garbage everywhere. I didn’t see that in any of photos Helmer used, which makes me think Helmer is right and they may be faked. There must be more photos out there and perhaps some longer ranged ones that might settle this issue, IF they ever come to light.

    However, I am a believer in Occam’s Razor and Helmer’s analysis, prima facie, seems right. Why would those states send their prime ministers into Kiev and announce it beforehand and why would those prime ministers even take that chance? Were they baiting Putin to see if he is lying about not wanting NATO in the fight (and why would he?) or was Ukraine planning to create an ‘event’ to get NATO involved?

    Nope, Helmer’s analysis, although I think he needs more evidence, is most likely the correct one.

    1. juno mas

      See Bongbong at 10:02 am. The “situation room” sign has clearly been photoshopped into the the larger photo of the meeting room. The train station photos are definitive: they are NOT in Kiev.

    2. Lambert Strether

      > with the number of people using that station to flee Kiev, there should be signs of garbage everywhere. I didn’t see that in any of photos Helmer used, which makes me think Helmer is right and they may be faked.

      That’s very good point. I would speculate that, as with hair, litter is hard to fake; too chaotic, to much dependence on the exact location (due to wind, human traffic, etc.).

  19. Russ

    Honestly who gives a damn about where he is–this is all distraction from the immoral, illegal invasion and then destruction of an independent, democratic country leading to the death of thousands of innocents and the largest displacement, migration in 80 years.

    1. pjay

      I know I shouldn’t, but ok, I’ll bite. These are sincere questions for you:

      1. Do you believe the Russian invasion was “unprovoked,” and if so, why do you think Putin did it?

      2. Do you think the overthrow of the democratically elected President in 2014 was relevant to either the issue of Ukrainian “democracy” or the current invasion?

      3. Do you think the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainians in the Donbas over the last eight years is relevant to the current conflict?

      Again, these are sincere questions. For the sake of constructive dialogue, I’d like to know your position on them.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I would add to #3, the matter of the emigration of 1.5 million Ukrainians of Russian extraction to Russia and Belarus as a result of the conflict.

        1. Polar Socialist

          The term the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees uses is refugees. There were also about 1 million “internally displaced persons”.

          Referring to the original post, in this light the current wave of refugees would be biggest displacement in 7 years, not 80.

          1. YY

            The current wave of women and children fleeing potential danger of war, is not the same as previous waves of migrants in that one would have to assume most of the movement is temporary. While there may be good number that would venture permanently without husbands, sons and other male kin, majority probably will return once the war conditions end.

        2. JohnA

          I would add a point 4, do you think Ukraine is an independent country considering:
          Nuland boasted about spending $5 billion on formenting an uprising and telling the US ambassador to Kiev in a recorded phone conversation who the next prime minister should be, and did become? And the massive US presence in Kiev, CIA, etc., the Minister of finance was a US citizen suddenly given a Ukrainian passport.
          And if Ukraine is independent, why did Zelensky not implement the Minsk agreements that had been signed by the Ukrainian government, along with France, Germany, and Russia?

          1. OIFVet

            Newspeak definitions for ‘independent’ and ‘democratic’ apply. For archaic definitions of these terms, please refer to encyclopedias printed before Oceania was at war with Eurasia.

            And always remember, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.

          2. Andrea Casalotti

            Boris Johnson is reneging on the Brexit deal that he signed, but the EU has no intention of invading Britain and killing women and children.

            Even assuming Ukraine has acted improperly, I hope no one on this site is justifying Putin’s actions.

            1. timbers

              I am justifying Russian actions, and Boris Johnson breaking Brexit isn’t the same thing as shooting folks. Waiting for US to turn Russia into Syria isn’t an option and would be a much great harm human wise and Russia knows that.

            2. juno mas

              Did you think the same when the war criminal George W. Bush unleashed “Shock and Awe” on Iraq?

              1. jimmy cc

                what were your thoughts when Israel invaded Lebanon?

                was it a war crime or the inevitable reaction to cross border attacks?

            3. Anthony G Stegman

              You use the word “improperly”. Interesting choice when one considers the Ukraine military attacks on Russian speaking peoples in eastern Ukraine. That is merely acting improperly? That seems like an act of war to me.

              1. Andrea Casalotti

                There was an armed insurrection inside Ukraine. One can dabate the tactics of the Ukranians Army, but they have not waged war against Russia.

                If you are Ukranian, and you don’t agree with the Government, you can leave, you can protest peacefully or you can be violent; if you choose the third option, you are going to face state violence; that is a fact everywhere.

            4. IMOR

              Aaaannnnddd… the U.K. hasn’t had a self-identified fascist militia shelling ethnic and linguistically French or Flemish people in two sections of its ‘own’ territory for four years. There’s not a lot of comparable material to be had here Find another size and scale of analogy.

              1. Andrea Casalotti

                As said above:

                There was an armed insurrection inside Ukraine.

                If you are Ukranian, and you don’t agree with the Government, you can leave, you can protest peacefully or you can be violent; if you choose the third option, you are going to face state violence; that is a fact everywhere.

                I think that it is an established fact that the insurgents violence was stoked and financed by the Russian state.

                Please tell me what would any other Government do, if in its territory there are violent insurgents armed and financed by a foreign power.

                1. Polar Socialist

                  Sorry, your mistaken. There was a coup in 2014, and part of the population did not accept the new government. They renewed their demand from 1991 for federated Ukraine, and held a referendum that supported their position.

                  The coup government refused to discuss and instead sent troops to violently solve the issue, which led to civil war. Which leads to the point that any government would be wise to figure out why there’s 6-8 million people who won’t accept their rule. And maybe seek a peaceful solution, like, I don’t know, Minsk II agreement.

                  1. Andrea Casalotti

                    Can you please show references to your version of events?
                    Please do not link to sources from Russia.

                    BTW, it is “you are mistaken”, not “your mistaken”.

                    1. Acacia

                      John Mearsheimer:

                      For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw.

                      — “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault”

                    2. pjay

                      This was posted by a commenter in yesterday’s Links, I believe. It’s long, but it’s one of the best historical discussions I have seen. Very comprehensive. The author, by the way, was opposed to the Russian invasion. But his discussion of why it happened is excellent.


                      Everything in this article is well-documented, and as the author shows, the most knowledgeable experts have been warning about NATO expansion and Russian concerns for decades. But since 2014, all we have been served is propaganda.

                      I’m not accusing you of this, but in my opinion, anyone who says the Russian invasion was “unprovoked” is not worth serious consideration. The harder cases are those – and there are many — who acknowledge all these factors and yet turn around and condemn Putin as a vicious war criminal — as if these causal factors can now be ignored.

                2. timbers

                  Popular Socialist is correct – you have who did an armed insurrection backwards. It was USA supported neo-(very very bad N word with a Z and I in it after an A) that took up arms and shot some folks.

                3. JohnA

                  To Andrea Casalotti
                  your thought
                  I think that it is an established fact that the insurgents violence was stoked and financed by the Russian state.

                  Who has established your alleged ‘Established fact’? I grant that Russia has provided aid to the Donbass and accepted a very large number of refugees from there, but as for stoking, Russia explicitly rejected the idea of reabsorbing the 2 breakaway states, unlike Crimea, and pushed for the Minsk agreement settlement where they would remain in Ukraine but with greater autonomy. Whatever financial support Russia has provided, this is dwarfed by Victoria Nuland’s boast of $5 billion and more, plus plenty of ongoing support to Ukraine in the form of loans that will knowingly never be repaid as the country is so corrupt and the poorest in Europe.

    2. timbers

      Are you referring to Ukraine in 2014 when USA replaced her government on good peaceful terms w/Russia with a the circus show that almost immediately caused millions of Russian’s to seek legal union with Russia?

      Largest migration in 80 years? How about 10 years, based on the U.N. declaring the number of refugees fleeing all of Obama’s wars equaled the greatest number of all since WW2. Making it the greatest in 80 years.

    3. David May

      Are you referring to the Ukrainian invasion and genocide in the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics?

    4. jimmy cc

      little late for morality concerns in foreign policy.

      i will see your ukraine and raise a Yemen.

      russia is going to try to implement a new world order. ukraine is just a small means to a bigger end.

      foreign policy is almost always amoral, no matter who is doing it.

  20. Tom Stone

    I see three issues here.
    John Helmer’s credibility as a source

    The photographs allegedly taken in Kiev.

    The alleged 7 hour (!) train trip taken by three heads of State through a war zone.
    That’s 7 hours each way.

    Credibility: I have followed Helmer intermittently since the days of the Maidan Coup and while he has occasionally been mistaken I rate him as a highly credible and well informed source.
    He has always acted in good faith.

    The photo’s: I am not qualified to fully evaluate the photo’s myself, Helmer’s argument that they are phony seems very plausible based on my limited expertise.

    The claim that 3 heads of State took a 7 hour train trip through a war zone to reach Kiev?
    To believe that I have to believe that the Ukrainian air force was able to maintain complete air superiority not just over the tracks but for miles on either side of it for 7 hours,
    Each way.
    And that the Ukrainian Army was able to ensure no Russian forces were unable to approach within miles of the track for 7 hours, each way.
    I can think of several other objections but IMO Helmer’s assertions are much more likely to be correct than not.

  21. timbers

    For what it’s worth, comments at The Saker regularily for maybe a week now, have referred to Zelensky as being holed-up in Poland. Sometimes in sarcasm and sometimes not.

  22. John Unger

    Historically there are many instances of leaders taking risks for meetings during wars. Churchill flying to France during the German invasion is one example. The author states “From the evidence provided by the Poles and also by the Zelensky’s publicity staff, it is now clear that only a small part of western Ukraine remains in Ukrainian hands. Zelensky himself is now in Polish hands.”. Where is the support for his claim that only a small part of western Ukraine remains in Ukranian hands? I think this statement undercuts the rest of his argument and makes me question the purpose of his article.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Russia has complete control of the air. The bombing of the base near the Polish border is proof.

      I agree that Helmer was imprecise, since Russia’s military objectives are not to control terrain but destroy military capacity and round up Nazis, but the Przemysl schedule is showing two trains daily direct to Kiev, three to Lvov, but with a warning to the effect that “traffic control” may not be operating along the Ukrainian section of the line and that there may be “disruptions”. This was not only running the gauntlet under hostile air, missile and ground threats; but it was also as unpredictable as war ops usually are.

  23. steven

    This should not come as a complete surprise. Who better to play the role of president in a pretend democracy than an actor? (Think Reagan)

    1. Bruno

      A game-show host fixes a positive authoritarian image in tens of millions of minds. Not so a B-movie actor, who has to play governor to be taken seriously for the role of POTUS.

  24. Good Habit

    Well, it’s difficult to know what is true, and what is propaganda – while its unusal, that political leaders actually risk traveling trough a war-zone, it’s not entirely unheard – doing a stunt for propaganda purposes sometimes makes sense.
    OTOH, while the group picture on the station was almost certainly taken in Przemsyl, it doesn’t include any known Ukrainian figures (if Zelensky would be on it, it would be proof that he left the country.. -) – So, the question would be: were was it actually claimed that this picture was taken in Kiew, (and not before boarding / after leaving the train?)
    And – on a third hand – the pictures of other Railway-Stations in the article – show Lviv to the right (correct) – and the “Kiew Railway Station” in MOSCOW to the left (where trains to Kiew usually depart(ed). (There is obviously no similar station in Kiew – the Kiew central station has many tracks with roofs only covering the plattforms, and not the tracks…)
    All the indoor pictures proof absolutely nothing about location – so I would still say – it could be either way…

    1. juno mas

      …but as Bongbong has pointed out, the group photo of officials sitting for a meeting outside/inside a “situation room” has photoshopped elements (the sign itself).

      And it’s a poor alteration. Any good photoshopper would know how to align the image to have a correct visual perspective.

  25. Anthony G Stegman

    From the get go I felt that the video of the prime ministers meeting with Zalensky in Kyiv was fake. There was no way they would take a train through a war zone. I’m glad someone with good knowledge of the situation pointed out the lies and fakery coming out of Ukraine. Zelensky is a fine actor and a consummate fraudster. Why does the West hitch its wagon to the Zelensky horse?

  26. Dean

    I suppose another way to validate this hypothesis is if we see Zelensky running around Kiev in the next few days or not.

    If that footage dries up, maybe he’s out of country.

    Or did he film a stockpile of footage before hightailing it out of Ukraine?

    1. Greg

      We’ve already seen extensive use of old footage as “current day events in kiev” from Zelenskyy – one that jumps to mind immediately is Z having tea with soldiers while looking very military. This was from a pr exercise long ago, but was circulated as Z being staunch during the initial invasion.

  27. jhg

    Good day,

    I am having some trouble with some of Mr. Helmer’s video evidence that this meeting took place in Poland instead of Kyiv Ukraine.

    Specifically the “Situation Room” that Mr. Helmer asserts is actually in Poland.

    There are other photographs available of that room showing President Zelensky and his staff in video conferences at different times.

    This set of photos is on a page of the Official website of the President of Ukraine. The date is 16 March 2021 and it shows a video conference with members of the US Congress and the Senate. This conference room looks identical to the room presented by Mr. Helmer. Granted this source is the official website of the President but the date is the previous year. The photos are all expandable and show the room from a variety of angles.

    The next set is from a Ukrainian News Website called Ukrinform. Once again it is a Ukrainian source but the date is 25 December 2021 and shows a video conference with US politicians.

    There is also a photo of this meeting on Twitter dated 24 Dec 2021 uploaded by a Ukrainian Government official at another angle.

    The room in the above photos match very well with Mr. Helmer’s photos from the style of chairs, the video monitors on the wall, the flags and the Ukrainian “symbol” on the wall. The arrangement of the tables. Even the shapes of the water bottles.

    Given the dates when these photos were alleged to have been taken it would seem to me that this is an actual government conference room that Mr Zelensky and his staff use for video conferences and it would seem unlikely to me that Mr Zelensky would have to travel to Poland to have video conferences with US politicians. I would also submit that this room is in the Ukraine and not Poland.

    I am aware that these are all Ukrainian sources and I am not an expert in photogrammetry. Perhaps I am reading this completely wrong. I am only looking at the dates of the photos or when the web pages were published and that this room look identical to the room in Mr. Helmer’s article.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      John Helmer says he appreciates these and other comments. He is going to look at your contentions, as well as issues/concerns/disagreements by other readers and will prepare a new article that goes through them. He can’t do this properly by Friday, and the weekend is a lower traffic time, so I expect to be able to post the “Reply to concerns” post early next week.

      1. Alex V

        Helmer’s follow up is not convincing. He keeps making claims/alluding to that media reports claimed that the meeting occurred in the presidential offices in Kiev, when that claim was not made in the media. The only media claim is the meeting happened in Kiev, a rather large city, geographically. It is unlikely in the extreme that a meeting would occur in an obvious, well known location such as the normal presidential offices in Kiev due to security concerns. Yet he keeps stating that because the location used doesn’t seem to be the normal offices, the whole story is fake.

        He bluntly asserts:

        “Morawiecki’s reference to the “Warsaw-Kiev line” is mistaken.”

        But then provide no evidence for the reference being incorrect.

        He states:

        “The heads of government also appear to have spent the two days of their traveling, meeting and presenting themselves to the press without a change of clothes.”

        If anything, this supports the case for the leaders traveling into a dangerous territory such as Kiev and not having the opportunity or desire to worry about appearances.

        His mentioning the possible price of the conference room chairs is also just strange.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          From Helmer via e-mail:

          1. The follow-up is meant to add evidence so that everyone can decide for themselves. It’s the evidence that’s to convince, not me.
          2. If the commenter had read the new piece, and knew anything at all about the Kaczynskis, he would know that they blamed the Russian Army for shooting at Lech when Saakshvili led him to the northern border when the August war 2008 was still on. Jaroslaw also blames the russians for shooting down his brother and sister-in-law at Smolensk. There is no possibility Jaroslaw would ask for safe conduct from the Russians for this journey nor believe it if they agreed. There is also no way the Polish secret services would allow such a journey with the PM as well, and the other two PMs. Impossible — and that’s quoted up front. At the end, there’s the Polish TV stuff about “dangerous territory”, etc — the official line which this commenter parrots with speculation of his/her own.
          3. I don’t need to publish a source reference for the Polish train schedule. The direct line is Przemysl to Lviv, Kiev. There is an overnight express from Warsaw but it goes south then doglegs to the east — via Przemysl. The commenter doesn’t know and hasn’t checked.
          4. There’s no doubt the “situation room” was used when there were no security concerns (e.g, Sept-Dec 2021), so let’s ignore that bit of speculation (“unlikely in the extreme”) from this fellow. We also know exactly in which building it’s located because there were outside shots of the US senators making remarks to the press after being filmed inside, as we report and illustrate (twice). The outside shots of the building wall are not compatible with the outside shots of the building where the purported “journalists” were filmed on the evening of the 15th.
          5. The identification and origin of the chairs came from a source who supplies them in Poland and believes they were not sold to the Ukrainian presidency,or even the Galician administration in Lviv. This may be “strange” to the commenter, but what does that sentiment of his contribute to your audience?
          6. Heads of government don’t sleep in their clothes overnight. The claim about the Kiev journey requires they slept overnight in Kiev. The Czech embassy building was closed and everyone “evacuated” on Feb 24; their consulate in Lviv the next day. The Slovenian ambassador cancelled PM Jansa’s visit to Kiev that week because the Slovenian secret service judged it was too dangerous. Oon Mar 1 the Slovs announced that the Russians had destroyed their Kharkov consulate.Ask yourself, could Jansa have judged that on Mar 15 it had become less dangerous for him, taking into account the Russian raid on Mar 123 which destroyed everything and everybody at the NATO-Canadian base at Yaroviv-Starychi? Too bad the commenter didn’t know any of this before telling you that these fellows were camping like soldiers on patrol.
          7. S [colleague in Poland] and I are persuaded that on the balance of probabilities (civil forensic standard), but not beyond reasonable doubt (criminal forensic standard) the group did not travel to Kiev or Lviv or anyplace along the Ukraine line. How exactly what has been displayed to the media was arranged and managed we don’t know precisely. Instead, we judged that everybody needs to see as much evidence as we have been able to gather and everybody can then judge for themselves.
          Ergo, I suggest you run both the new piece and this comment, or run neither. The larger reader audience ought to have the opportunity to make up its own mind. You are welcome to draw on the above stuff to reflect what you think of the evidence; what other evidence might be available, etc.; what more is required to substantiate the official narrative. S informs me there has not been a single Polish media report to elaborate on the Zelensky meeting in the days which have followed.

          1. Alex V

            Thank you Yves for sharing this follow up. A few points in rebuttal from my perspective:

            1. Helmers still ignores my request to cite where the media claimed the station photo is in Kiev or that meeting happened in the normal presidential offices. This was the main thrust of his original story, that the media lied about where the meeting took place. Mainstream media sources only made the claim that these leaders traveled to Kiev, and that a meeting took place somewhere in the city.

            2. We have no idea what the Kaczynskis are thinking, we’re all just speculating. Perhaps they have changed their mind given the unprecedented situation. Helmer also seems to contradict himself by saying the Polish secret service would never allow the journey due to danger, but then dismisses media reports of said danger?

            3. We have no idea if this was a scheduled train, and Helmer has not cited any claims saying it has been claimed to be. Generally “line” refers to the geographical route, not the schedule when talking about railways. It could well have been a special train. A dogleg would support a special train on a different route due to security concerns. In any case, if it was simply a case of the Polish PM lying about the trains schedule why did Helmer not say that, instead of asserting “mistaken”.

            4. I can’t seem to find any outside shots of US Senators in the evidence Helmer has provided, but perhaps I’m missing something.

            5. The chairs are available from Ukrainian sources, with 6 retailers in Kiev alone. Vitra is now the licensee for the Eames Aluminium Group chair design.


            6. I’m assuming Helmer is claiming the staging of the entire fake event took only 1 day by focusing on the clothes and that this was an oversight by the fakers?

            7. Helmer is free to present what evidence he wishes, as long as it is true. I disagree with him mainly on his portrayal of what he claims media have claimed, and how he asserts his own interpretations as iron clad.

            An example is:

            “Czech prime minister Fiala has published a tweet image of himself in a sleeping car on the train, but the carriage in which he appears is not the same train as the one which the Poles have published.”

            He can’t know this without presenting more evidence. Trains can have multiple cars, with different interior appearances.

            If Helmer had said

            “Czech prime minister Fiala has published a tweet image of himself in a sleeping car on the train, but the carriage in which he appears is not the same train CAR as the one which the Poles have published.”

            he would be on much more solid ground.

            1. Alex V

              His follow up on the follow up also provides no new evidence to support his assertions, he only expands on his conjectures.

              An example:

              “Another form of analysis performed has identified a list of what is missing from the photographic record, but which ought to have been visible if the Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers travelled to Kiev and met Zelensky as they claim to have done. For example, from the Ukrainian, Polish, Czech and Slovenian media publications, there is no exterior record of the delegation in Kiev; their arrival or departure from the Kiev railway station; or their arrival and departure from the presidential office building. No Polish, Czech or Slovenian bodyguards or armed soldiers have been recorded as accompanying the delegation on their train, as they embarked or disembarked in the Ukraine.”

              Even in peace time, it is not unusual for these types of details regarding the security and travel arrangements of head of state to be kept secret or closely guarded.

              Finally, I’m not sure what the motivation is to disproving the meeting took place in Kiev? Simply to discredit Zelensky and the other leaders as liars? Does Helmer really believe they will care if the meeting, which absolutely happened no matter where, is shown to have been in a different location? Does he believe support for Zelensky within Ukraine will instantly collapse if it’s shown he left the country to get outside support for the Ukrainian cause? Citizens endlessly support lies told by their leaders if they believe it supports their side.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                The last part of your comment is an unwarranted character attack with zero evidence. And it looks like projection, since it is difficult to fathom why you have become so obsessed with these Helmer posts. If we are going to speculate about motive, you look awfully invested in trying to defend Zelensky.

                Had you bothered checking Helmer’s history, he’s invested a huge amount of time in successfully debunking the official narrative on the MH-17 downing. There he relied more on written documentary evidence, including trials and official investigations, as well as debunking faked visual evidence.

                Here you can argue that based on his success with MH-17, Helmer overestimated his forensics skills, particularly when working primarily with visual material.

                However, the importance of this story, which is still plenty plausible (why would three heads of state travel a total of 14 hours across a war zone, even more insanely together, for what was not an important meeting? The Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia are not fellow combatants. Any material aid is not going to be coordinated at the head of state level. That meeting made absolutely zero difference in the outcome of combat. It could and should have been done virtually.

                The significance of Zelensky leaving Kiev is it belies the narrative the Western propaganda has been pushing of Zelensky as a Churchill, in a city under attack. But Kiev isn’t being blitzed. The Russian army is tying down the Ukraine army and making enough in the way of salvos to seem a real threat. If the Russians intended to take Kiev, they’d need 800,000 to 1 million soldiers for that operation alone. The lack of that level of manning says that is not their intent.

                Other experts have argued that if Zelensky were known to have left Kiev, it would be seen as a signal that he had abandoned the city and/or had decided the war was unwinnable and was leaving to escape execution by the Banderite fascists

  28. Anthony G Stegman

    Western media obviously thinks little of its viewers intelligence. On the one hand we are being told that Russia is bogged down and running out of armaments – bombs, missiles, etc. On the other hand Russian warplanes are wasting valuable bombs and missiles on non-military targets such as theaters. We’re also told that Russia is indiscriminately bombing cities all over Ukraine, and yet video from these places often show people more or less going about their lives. Cellphones apparently work, as does mass transit. I see lots of vehicular traffic in the photos and video. The stories we are being told are not close to what is really happening in Ukraine.

    1. Greg

      Don’t read too much into vehicular traffic – the Eastern European drivers approach to a tank column is to speed up and overtake, as far as we’ve seen in videos. Nothing gets in the way of Ukrainian trips to the local store.

  29. Dave in Austin

    I’m a slightly Asperger symmetry-lover who visits Europe often. A comment on the Hellmer pavers.

    Pavers are the cheap, fired-brick version of the traditional cobble stones. Both cobble stones and pavers are usually laid in a bed of sand. Unlike cobble stones, which are laid in beautiful overlapping arcs by individual workers working on their hands-and-knees in a line, pavers are laid in neat, infinite, multi-directional Escheresque patterns.

    The newest pavers, like the ones shown in the Hellmer picture, are different and better. First showing up I believe in the Netherlands, they have chamfered top edges so even if they heave a bit in the sand, they don’t trip you up on an exposed edge. They also have little matching “bumps and divots” on the sides, so that when the workers lay them in the sand, each one fits neatly into all the adjacent pavers so if they do heave or buckle a bit they hang together in a neat, curved surface. I do love the Dutch sense of design.

    The Trainspotting map indicates that the train would probably have run through Ukrainian-controlled territory south of the Primpet marshes via, Zhmerinka, the equivalent to Crewe Junction in central England. Zhmerinka has a beautiful old station that somehow seems to have survived WWII. I can only find basic pictures but it definitely has an outdoor platform. See:

    I find no indication the new pavers have been laid in any Ukrainian station, especially Zhmerinka. But that is based on only a few photos… so go to town and start looking

    On the “was the train journey faked?”

    Even in the Hellmer “shadows on the ground” picture, it could simply be that the bedroom car shown was on the end of the train (a comfortable spot usually) and the slanted rays of the sun were from the end of the station. Also, the fact that there was some photoshopping and photo-swapping to hide the details of the transportation and thus the location of the meeting is not really definitive proof that the meeting happened in Poland. For security reasons that happens all the time. Remember the incorrect time stamps on some of the first lunar landing photos that “proved” by inconsistent shadows that the landing had been faked on a Hollywood sound stage?

    Obviously, any train carrying officials going back-and forth between the Ukraine and Poland would have been cleared in advance with the Russians. Political leaders and professional diplomats trust their adversaries a lot more than they trust the adversary’s random tank commanders, captains and bomber pilots who don’t have a clue who’s on the train coming down the track that is refusing to stop for a warning shot.

    And everyone agrees on one thing; someone took the train between Poland and the Ukraine because flying in a war zone is insanely dangerous. So who is more likely to have risked the trip; three senior Eastern European leaders who announced the trip publicly in advance or the assassination-fearing Zelenskyy trying to sneak across the border without telling the Russians?

    I dearly hope that the next round of negotiations takes place in Moscow. In 1957 the furious Chinese delegation was leaving Moscow by train after being told that their “fraternal allies” would not help them build a nuclear program. They got to the train station in the morning, went out onto the platform and when the train arrived pulled down their trousers and took a group dump in front of the startled Moscow commuters before getting on the train and headed back to China.

    Diplomacy has had some amazing moments. And now we have cell phones and Twitter.

  30. ChrisPacific

    The photos appear to have mostly been removed from the linked AP article, if they were there in the first place (FT is paywalled for me so I didn’t check there). What remains are various closeup photos of the leaders in question, apparently from the meeting.

    The absence of reporters is one of the biggest tells for me. We’re supposed to believe that the leaders in question were willing to risk their necks to meet with Zelensky in Kiev but nobody thought to bring an independent reporter or two with them to record that fact? Why not? If the train was secure enough to carry the leaders safely, surely there would have been plenty of reporters willing to take the risk, given the situations many of them routinely work in? And why the ridiculous number of microphones in that ‘situation room’ photo, if no press were present on site and it was all the work of the ‘Ukrainian Presidential Press Office’ as appears to be the case?

    I Googled the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and was able to find the original story and photos in question, along with a bunch of others at higher resolution. There is clearly a CNN logo visible on one of the microphones (other visible logos are the Presidential Press logo and something like ‘TV7 INFO’ that I don’t recognize). CNN is running a story for it but lists only three contributors, two of whom appear to be based in London and one in Atlanta, and all editors. Why is there a CNN microphone if no CNN reporters were present?

    1. ChrisPacific

      On a closer look, the CNN logo is actually ‘CNN Prima News’ which appears to be a Czech news outfit and CNN partner. Their site has no English language version, but I scanned through their Ukraine stories (there are a lot) and was unable to find one matching the photos from the Presidential Office release.

  31. Gerd

    Watching the news tonight I see Zelensky visiting a Kyiv hospital and presenting medals to soldiers.

    Has anyone analyzed that video?

    1. JohnA

      Someone on twitter pointed out that the power sockets on the wall in the hospital were the Polish standard not used in Ukraine. If so, another careless mistake by Zelensky’s PR team.

  32. CaliforniaDan

    FDR and Churchill both used body doubles to mislead about their location and allow themselves risky travel during the war when there was a real chance of Germans finding out about the travel and sending submarines after them.

    If Zalensky returns to Kyiv no harm, no foul as the Russians would have hammered his train if they knew he was on it.

    If he spends the rest of the war in Poland, then people have a right to bitch.

  33. Barry

    The still photo of the door sign definitely looks out of line with the door frame.
    There is a video of the meeting
    I found the video with ” zelensky meeting fiala”
    The sign appears for quite a while starting at 45 seconds
    Multiple angles including shadows passing over the sign
    I cannot reconcile still vs video – perhaps someone can enlighten

  34. ocop

    The post raised immediate red flags and IMO the NC commentariat has done really useful digging here to help put some of the pieces together:

    Oktembher sorted out that the train station photo was explicitly captioned as being in Poland on the return from Ukraine, and so not an attempt to pass off Przemysl as Kiev

    jhg identified the conference room in question as one that is regularly used by Zelensky (ie. in Ukraine)

    Koma found the official photos from office of the president (office as in organization, but there are also pictures of the physical office I’m sure)

    I’d add based on Koma’s find that the “symbol affixed to the wall” and the “paper cups” are not “evidence of an improvised meeting room”. Instead, from photos of a December satellite launch, the symbol is part of the room jhg identified, and the paper cups are apparently a thing they do with the bottled water.

    As we are frequently (and appropriately) reminded, this war has a trash informational environment. This meeting in particular seemed like BS when announced (foreign heads of state traveling via train through a war zone into a besieged city? seriously?). I still couldn’t 100% tell you that the meeting happened in Kiev, but this general discussion seems to be far below NC’s (and the commentors’ and Helmer’s) usual extremely high bar of quality. Lots of “looks photoshopped to me…”-tier observations. Red notebooks and coffee cups, etc.

    I’m an infrequent commenter but daily reader, and this is the first time I had an immediate “WTF” reaction to an NC post and felt the need to full stop and draft an immediate comment. There’s extreme danger in a situation like this in seeing what we are primed (or expect, or event want) to see, but it feels like there’s a lot of that going on here. The Ukranian govt and NATO are engaged in non-stop information warfare, but it’s important to recognize that not everything is necessarily a psyop.

    I’m reminded of a post by Scott Alexander (of slatestarcodex/astralcodexten fame), made right after the start of the invasion. He was assessing how well various prognosticators (and prediction markets etc) performed with respect to the scope of Russian actions. Many of those he reviewed (and many here, and myself) all thought a full-bore invasion was crazy. I tended to agree with his observation here about this particular failure mode:

    Most of the people who failed badly here failed based on their political precommitments.

    A bunch of leftists – Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald – failed because they couldn’t believe that warmongering intelligence officials trying to scare everyone about Russia had a point. They admittedly had great heuristics: there are lots of warmongers, our intelligence community has been really wrong lots of times before, and the past few years have seen a lot of really embarrassing Russia-related paranoia.

    I think a better way to describe what Scott labels “political precommitments” would be a concept used frequently on NC: priors. I think our priors are doing a lot of heavy lifting here and leading to sloppy analysis and confirmation bias. This doesn’t mean trust what the media is reliably parroting as truth, but it should be a reminder to challenge our own assumptions.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As indicated earlier, Helmer says he is preparing a new post to address the concerns and criticisms raised here. I expect to post it early next week.

    2. BillS

      I agree that the informational environment is really bad. Therefore, this implies that pretty much every bit of information we are presented with is part of a PsyOp , whether from NATO, Ukraine or Russia. IMHO, the Western reporting of this supposed meeting is presented in a manner designed to confuse. This immediately sets off the BS detector. I look forward to Helmer’s clarification of the questions.

      I predict that when Russia announces a truce and withdrawal, watch how fast this all the dead-children-war-porn disappears from the news cycle and vanishes down the memory hole (not for the Ukranians, tho’). All the US-EU-NATO crocodile tears and pearl clutching will end as we transition to the next manufactured crisis.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I really really hope you are correct. But the US seems so determined to make Russia pay that I doubt we will drop sanctions, even though we really can’t take much in the way of further energy price increases, economically and politically. We are not shock tolerant, but I don’t see this Administration as willing or capable of finding way to climb down from its tree.

    3. Basil Pesto

      Very good post and thank you for taking the time to write it.

      I would add as well that jhg’s pre-war photos of the conference room match up with the video from the guardian that Karl shares just above – the chairs, the wooden details, the screens themselves, and most importantly, the ceiling. It has a very distinctive design (fancy recessed edge lighting, two parallel rails with strong downlights directed at the meeting table) which I find very hard to believe would have been replicated in a minor Polish town.

      I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the years reading Helmer’s site. It’s often interesting, sometimes entertaining. But I do not automatically trust him as a source of information, and I have said so occasionally in comments on NC in the past. One reason is analyses of this sort, in which he specialises, and which I find rhetorically unpersuasive – to put it charitably. Another is something commenter David mentioned in another crosspost a week or two ago: when he comments on subjects that I actually know a thing or two about, I sometimes find him to be wide of the mark.

      (And this question might show my dilletantish naivete but why would Russia – assuming their intelligence could identify the train in question – attack a train full of foreign diplomats, thereby creating an international incident?)

      Just some further remarks on this post.

      The paper cups might just be a Covid mitigation thing (albeit a misplaced one based on the fomite theory of transmission, but Ukraine would not be the only ones stubbornly adhering to this misguided theory of SARS2 transmission). Heck, it could just be a way of saving water and energy by obviating the need for dishwashers. But consider what he actually wrote:

      The right picture is a closeup of the paper cups on the table. They are evidence of an improvised meeting room, not one at Zelensky’s office in Kiev.

      I mean, ocop’s own investigation notwithstanding, is this not a complete non-sequitur?

      Then there’s the guy wearing the bulletproof vest, who in so doing apparently proves himself to be a Polish secret service agent and thereby proving the meeting to have taken place in Poland. I mean, huh? Who the hell knows why the guy (anyone IDd him? the official photos don’t have identifying captions unfortunately) is wearing a bulletproof vest? This isn’t dispositive of anything. In fact it’s bordering on gish gallop territory.

      I also note the breezy handwave on ‘Ukrainian Style Presidential Seating’ (sounds convincing doesn’t it?), yet the chairs in the photos he shares are the same as those from jhg showing the room’s pre-war use. Another breezy handwave is the assertion that the images displayed on the screens have been photoshopped into the photos. Huh? 1. On what evidence? 2. Why? Even assuming the meeting had been in Poland, would it have been so hard for Zelensky to bring a USB to Poland with him with billowing_Ukrainian_flag.mpg on it and play it on loop on the Polish multimedia setup?

      Whether this post – which I believe to be erroneous (though I stand to be corrected and suitably chastened!) – is the result of an overestimation of his own sleuthing abilities, or just outright bullshitting*, is impossible for me to say, though I certainly hope it’s the former and not the latter. I’m glad others have dug deeper and I’ll be interested to read his response.

      * and unfortunately, the point about the ceiling imo raises the possibility of chicanery on Helmer’s part. The collection of official photos that Koma shared contains the photo of bulletproof vest dude that Helmer uses. That collection of photos also contains shots which show the – again, rather idiosyncratic – ceiling in frame. Which can be cross-referenced with older UA government photos of the meeting room, as ocop and jhg have shown. I find it hard to believe a guy who can go into detail on train platform tile tessellation would have overlooked such a thing that could have been decisive in making his case.

      1. Lynne

        why would Russia – assuming their intelligence could identify the train in question – attack a train full of foreign diplomats, thereby creating an international incident?

        Which brings up questions of mine: Why do we assume that we’re being told the truth about the motives of people traveling from Poland to Kiev: just to tell Zelensky he’s doing a great job? Isn’t it more likely they traveled there to tell him to knock this sh*t off and negotiate a peace deal before Russia decided to chance going after them too? And isn’t it entirely possible that Russian intelligence might know that and ignore their trip as a result?

        I realize this may fit within the site’s rules against making stuff up, but honestly, why are we closely analyzing paving stones and sun angles and not considering whether the whole motive for the trip was falsely portrayed?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          To the quote at the top, if I were Russia, I would never hit the train. That would be ridiculous. Unless the train were essential for other reasons, (ie, critical civilian infrastructure, hard to repair) I would hit the tracks by air a couple of miles ahead. Train apparently does not run often.

          Or alternatively, bomb near the tracks well ahead of train and watch the freakout. A sighting shot of sorts.

          1. Basil Pesto

            That’s what I would have thought. Or they could simply ignore the train/diplomatic mission in question and allowed them passage. Putting the shits up them with a sighting shot seems unnecessarily provocative. Afaik Russia hasn’t been targeting railways anyway. But I’m not a military buff like some NC commenters which is why I prefaced with a remark about my naïveté. Yet many commenters below the line have regurgitated the rhetorical question: “why would these people travel to Kiev/the middle of a warzone?!” (and therefore implying that obviously the meeting was/Zelensky is in Poland*). Yet I can’t believe that the risk to them personally in travelling to Kiev by train was anything other than very remote (and Helmer may have anonymous Polish sources saying “no way that would’ve been allowed”, but for me personally, Helmer has not earned that degree of trust; Sy Hersh he ain’t). But yes, the risk would have been smaller if the meeting were held in Poland, I suppose.
            But are we then to believe the Ukrainian government has been holding high level meetings in Przemsyl, Poland since March 2021, per the earlier photos of the room in question provided by jhg? Or did the Polish film and TV industry go full Moon Landing and rig up the set on a soundstage?

            * I should note that I couldn’t really care less where Zelensky is; I have as little interest in making of him a moustache twirling villain as I do in making him a macho warrior hero.

      2. Lambert Strether

        > why would Russia – assuming their intelligence could identify the train in question – attack a train full of foreign diplomats, thereby creating an international incident?

        To me, the essential point is that the various security services involved would be very unlikely to put their Presidents in such a position, likelihoods or not.

        I mean, imagine Biden saying to his security detail: “Guys, I’m feeling safe in Wilmington tonight. Don’t bother coming in.” They would come in, regardless.

        1. David

          I’d just add that there seem to be two highly unlikely scenarios here.
          One is that a group of political leaders agree to travel by train through a war zone, with no obvious protection, for no obvious purpose than to demonstrate support for Zelensky. Such trips are not organised easily (I can’t think of a single precedent) and the security services of any reputable state would have nightmares about it, even if (as must have happened) the Russians had been informed.
          The other is a massive deception programme, involving hundreds of people at all levels in a number of different countries, including the US and other major NATO allies, for no very obvious political gain, and without anything leaking.
          I have difficulty believing either of them, on the other hand if there is a third alternative, I don’t think we have any evidence for it.

          1. Polar Socialist

            “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Sherlock Holmes

            So, in Holmesian sense the evidence for the third alternative is the fact that the other two are nigh impossible.

            For all we know, they could have traveled to Lviv, which for all practical purposes is not a war zone. Instead of 7 hours they’d be traveling less than an hour in Ukraine.

        2. JohnA

          In answer to Lambert, I raise you Olof Palme. On the evening of his assassination, he and his wife decided to go to the cinema, a good 30+ minutes walk from their apartment in Gamla Stan in the very centre of Stockholm. Palme told his security detail they would not be needed as he felt totally safe walking the streets of Stockholm on a dark cold February evening.

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