The ‘Russia image’ problem

My experience which is not based on a Westminster and media avalanche of recent days…

Politicians and the media continue to represent Russia as the Soviet Union run by presidents in the Soviet Union.

Politicians and media expecting more reaction than they have so far received are not paying attention to how BRICs are changing global politics, global trade etc

One of the main reasons that people in the UK do not understand very much about Russia and Russians is that policies of government especially austerity have left people with less money and so travelling, spending time in Russia, going on courses etc is not as feasible as it could be.

The small island mentality which has brought out the very worst in my country is looking for an escape from the problems caused by greed in Westminster.

Russia (and Turkey) are our allies, they may not always choose to fight on the same side with us on everything. Not this government particularly but we did cooperate on many international agreements in spite of different opinions.

It will take some time to repair the damage caused by political vanity, lies and refusal to provide evidence – not just the damage caused to Russian relations but how Britain is perceived internationally as an international partner and the ongoing damage to citizens of my country from domestic policies.

Countries remain allies if they are treated with respect.

Anonymous peer assessment update

Follow up to session

I will be getting feedback from the students this Friday.

We are going to incorporate polling into some future lectures to assist with revision exercises. The students decided not to use the workshop.

They liked the activity in principle but didn’t want to peer review as they were concerned that some students were working harder than others and would plagiarise their reports.

On a separate but slightly related note, I am probably going to set up an open-access area for staff to upload, peer review and download rubrics as we think this may be helpful especially for new staff and also gain an
insight into other departments learning and assessment practices. This isn’t meant to try and standardise a set of templates but help stimulate discussion about what is appropriate for Roehampton students.

I would also invite student reps to contribute alongside our Learning & Teaching Enhancement unit if I get the go ahead.

Currently informally contacting staff with committee L&T responsibilities for their thoughts.

The area probably wouldn’t be on Moodle but we could investigate funding to additionally code something (if it doesn’t already exist) that could signpost staff at a particular point of need. It is unlikely due to time constraints that we could code an open access area so we may use or tweak something that already exists but we’re discussing within our team.

Response to qs from colleagues, friends about what happened in Salisbury

Being asked quite a lot in person but also online so here is example of brief exchange:


What’s your take on the current UK/Russia rhetoric? No one wants to see this kind of use of chemicals used anywhere. However, the cynic in me has questions about the motivation for the anti-Putin messages.

I recall how political leaders who are deeply unpopular at home love to ratchet up Foreign issues to try and improve their ratings. Thatcher did this with the Falklands.

I don’t know enough about Putin to form a coherent view though.


We don’t know for sure the nature of the attack, whether it’s a nerve agent or not. There are some inconsistencies including a policeman in hospital but an account from a doctor was published who said that she attended to Skripal’s daughter and put her in the recovery position. This was a similar time period to the policeman so why no side effects. If this is true she had more physical contact.

But there is no way to verify this as Counterterrorism and military have authority that some police do not.

A normal govt who was able to make this accusation so quickly about this being highly likely to be Russia with a compound made only in Russia would be required to contact Russia about it which they did not do and due to chemical/biological changes may now be impossible.

I’m not saying CT & military involvement necessarily wrong but their control of investigation means less information available to the public including evidence.

It’s strange they didn’t contact the Russian embassy because they are high profile (not as in public but would be known to the Russian govt), perhaps because that could trigger processes which would complicate or disprove the accusations. But having lived abroad I find this very strange.

We have no way of knowing if either the Russian govt, non govt Russian citizens or anyone else had a motive because he was a spy, info would be classified and in theory only available to people with appropriate security clearance, however we live in a world where information sent securely can be accessed by people with the technological know how.

He was pardoned by Russian govt several years ago. He could have been doing corporate / private investigation work that could have caused the incident.

Other factors could be the Russian presidential election which is Sunday and we are approaching peak Putin hysteria with the UK, some EU govts and the US wanting Putin unelected, dead or damaged so they can profit financially from a chaos that would occur which would be similar to early 1990s.

I don’t think Putin is a saint unlike some members of the Orthodox church but I don’t think he has done all the things he has been accused of. Politically he has significantly helped Russia grow into a beautiful 20 year old who knows her own mind and is itching to explore the world again.

Did he handle ‘teenage tantrums’ as best he could – probably not as well as he could have done.

I think he is right of centre but not far right, generally decent but has an arrogant attitude to women (like many men) have no idea if Russian govt had an agenda that did involve or didn’t involve Skripal any more – he is an old spy as such so struggling to see a serious motive.

But the media have done their best to escalate tensions so whether they did or not may become irrelevant. Other geopolitical factors too – the US election, the discovery by Syrian army of chemical weapons this week, Israel, Iran, Saudi visit etc I have one conspiracy theory about it that I’m keeping to myself, probably everyone does.

It’s very upsetting for anyone interested in improving western / Russian relations so difficult not to be emotional about it.

Doubts about “Novichoks”

Tim Hayward

The following briefing note is developed from ongoing research and investigation into the use of chemical and biological weapons during the 2011-present war in Syria conducted by members of the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda. The note reflects work in progress. However, the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political crisis that is now developing. We welcome comments and corrections.

AuthorsProfessor Paul Mckeigue and Professor Piers Robinson +447764763350 .  (


(1) Notes on Novichoks and the Salisbury poisonings

In the House of Commons on 12 March the Prime Minister stated that:

It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. It is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok. Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading…

View original post 1,090 more words

Attribution 3 – security clearance

With multiple forms of security clearance theoretically unique to a state or the so-called national interest, I seriously wonder how much other people care with the world wide Web. A small group which has a hierarchy knows what form of security clearance/s a person holds but communications are increasingly online so there is no way to ensure that this group is the only group with access to information.

Politicians are the same but events of the recent week in the UK makes a reasonable person question what has been shared inappropriately with MPs and their – friends, neighbours, business partners, whomever.

Or the so-called special relationship with the US and the comments from the White House on different incidents in the last year relating especially to policing.

Or US companies using personal data that was obtained without consent e.g. from emails which could give US companies confidential information that can be used for their advantage and damage others. Or collectors of analytics who do not have security clearance or don’t care about it and have access to personal information about private lives that could damage humans of any number in any country.

Or bots and algorithms which process the data and distribute it, they don’t have security clearance. A media frenzy can lead to war but attribution
remains unproven and security is for whom, who is being protected and why?

Spring flowers

Russian update

Think previously mentioned that my online Russian course is with US instructor and Ukrainian wife, both friendly and helpful:

And a very nice Ukrainian student who I once met for an attempt at speaking Russian.

I had a tea today with a lovely PhD student also from Ukraine who is researching media, politics and language.

NB I have nearly no idea about the events in Ukraine in 2014, I was heavily involved with NHS campaigning in Yorkshire and the only awareness I had that anything was going on was some campaigning friends who said that they couldn’t help at that time because of Donetsk (a one word explanation that meant considerably more to them than me).

They had been members of various versions of Communist party in UK, mostly in their 70s now – wonderful campaigners holding their local NHS to account and proud Yorkshiremen to boot.

So I’m not going to take sides because I don’t have any knowledge. The little I’ve read so far seems to have some similarities with some of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’. We didn’t and don’t want to discuss politics anyway, it’s a nice chance to have academic or social discussion about life etc

I now know that Ukraine had a big shipbuilding industry at one time and hopefully going to learn how to make Ukrainian pancakes soon. Apparently they are slightly different to Russian pancakes (which I haven’t tried yet actually) and Ukrainian Russian is different to Russian Russian and Belarusian Russian but most people can understand each other even if they can’t speak the local / national languages.

In return I hope to help with making links in London and finding interesting events. She has also offered to help me improve Russian but I have also found a local tutor so will do some lessons first and then hopefully we can talk in both English and Russian. She thought that it was a good idea to get a good grasp of the grammar and other intracies in order to approach researchers in Russian universities later this year.

I am still hoping to take my niece and nephew out for Russian tea. The visit to the Tate and an opportunity for them to see Russian sculpture didn’t happen because my niece decided to dance on a chair with wheels at a sleepover and unsurprisingly fell off and unfortunately fractured her shoulder. Will find out if Cossacks visiting or some other highly energetic form of Russian culture – I attempted to show her from a YouTube video – was amazed that she didn’t know what Cossack dancing was. But when she saw it, she said oh, a boy at school does this. He is Jamaican.

Will continue to finish off existing Russian course as well, starting again next week. And hopefully learn to make some nice Russian soups or kasha – have grabbed some recipes from a friend’s Eastern European cookbook.