It’s another frothing yarn from the strange world of Luke Harding, the Guardian’s cobbler of Panama – tenuous links are his trade and fact free comments his game. Only pure hyperbole flows from this very expensive poison pen.

But the intrigue quickly thickens as we realise he’s not sure which president he’s on the trail of, is it Trump, Yanukovych, Putin or someone else?

Read on…

First off it’s Trump who’s in Harding’s crosshairs – the reason:

The “Trump campaign [is] reportedly instrumental in rewriting the new Republican platform to remove calls for the donation of weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces.”

Much to Harding’s chagrin Trump might actually be anti-war with Russia or even an FSB plant. If anyone is about fighting Russia and giving succour to the Neo-Nazi backed government in Kiev at the Graun it’s Luke with his Russophobic rhetoric and fanciful fabrications. The style as usual is crypto-pulp fiction. A racy yarn crudely drawing his readers in…

“The scene was Ostroh, western Ukraine, on the eve of parliamentary elections.

A tall figure bounded on to a stage to cheers from a crowd of elderly flag-waving supporters. They chanted: “Yan-u-kov-ych, Yan-u-kov-ych.””

Quickly he establishes his main character as Manafort a Trump campaign advisor and there is a problem with him – his years in Ukraine. This has come suddenly under scrutiny during the current US presidential campaign. Why? Well because

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign leapt on a report in the New York Times that handwritten ledgers found in the Ukraine show $12.7m in undisclosed payments to Manafort from the Party of Regions.” [underscoring added]. So the only evidence Harding is basing this entire story on appeared in another news paper and was about something “hand written” and “undisclosed”, which in plain English [or Ukrainian] means a fabrication.

There swiftly follows the mandatory links connecting the dots, with Harding establishing who the evil ones are and what their crimes have been – for the benefit of the casual uninformed reader.

“Trump’s links to Russia have raised eyebrows: Manafort’s candidate has expressed admiration for Putin, encouraged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, and appeared unaware that Russian troops had seized the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.” 

He then fleshes out his narrative with a little sartorial whimsy…

“Manafort looked every inch the classic Washington lobbyist. He wore an expensive suit and tie and exuded seriousness. He also bore a faint physical resemblance to his client [Yanukovych] – even their hairstyles were similar.”

Just for good measure he reinforces the link to one of the villains of the piece, Yanukovych as head of the Party of Regions – who with Manafort has been clearly up to no good…

“Manafort’s efforts didn’t go entirely unnoticed. In a 2006 cable to the state department in Washington, US diplomats reported that the Party of Regions had undergone a mysterious transformation. “Long a haven for Donetsk-based mobsters and oligarchs it is in the midst of an ‘extreme makeover’,” they observed.”

Yanukovych we are now made clear was very bad [but good at DIY extreme makeovers…] and the head of a group of mobsters and oligarchs, while we are reassured the US diplomats, the good guys, were keeping an eye on the situation.

But apparently when elected president

“Yanukovych moved quickly to consolidate all instruments of power: the courts, parliament, the prosecutor’s office, the media and TV. Tymoshenko was charged with corruption and jailed; Yanukovych repeatedly shrugged off western calls for her release.”

Harding tells us this was bad ass stuff, but surprisingly he fails to comment on the coup installed US backed Poroshenko doing far worse and being the instigator of mass killings of civilians some regard as genocide.

A US backed coup which was verified by the Nuland – Pyatt telephone call which took place before and was leaked after this crucial event, yet is merely described in Harding’s pastiche as:

“In February 2014, riot police shot dead 100 people in downtown Kiev. Yanukovych abandoned his palace on the outskirts of town, Mezhyhirya – a Versailles of sorts with a pirate-themed restaurant and private zoo – and escaped to Russia.”

It is worth noting here that Yanukovych the democratically elected president of Ukraine actually had to flee for his life. It is well established now from several sources that the shooting of the 100 was not by the riot police but snipers firing on both the police and civilians from a nearby hotel; which had been commandeered by the NAZI para-military AZOV brigade. All of which Harding seems to view as inconsequential perhaps because he is not interested really in facts or in democracy especially when the purpose of his tale is smear one of the candidates in a US style democratic election.

Strangely Harding’s stylistic prevarications lead him to inadvertently admit that what happened in Ukraine was actually a disaster:

Those who worked with Manafort say that he cannot be blamed for the Ukrainian disaster.”

While managing to drag Putin into the malaise of his thickening plot again Harding fails to focus on the actual facts which inevitably are needed to make even a fiction credible. He writes that apparently a

“Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, an [sic] aluminum baron and close friend of Putin, who stumped up almost $19m. Gates, Manafort’s right-hand man, sealed the agreement in trips to Moscow.”

At last Harding has managed to catch his real nemesis, Putin, in his web of intrigue! Just as with his Panama Papers fiasco, poor Luke in his haste to entrap Putin is unable to make any credible evidence available, let alone stick to anyone. So suddenly in this parable of wrong doing he has to admit about his various villains that:

 “The trail wound through other opaque shell firms, including Cascado AG, set up by the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.”

And that…

“A search of the Panama Papers leak gives [only] a few details.” 

Finally in the end he has to conclude:

“It’s unclear if Deripaska ever got his money. Either way, the episode illustrates Manafort’s personal links to figures close to Putin.”

In one last heroic flourish he tries to snare Putin… but fails. So at length he has to ramble through a whole concocted plot to arrive at…

“But Manafort’s critics in Kiev are scathing. “He’s an evil genius,” Alex Kovzhun, who spent a decade working for Tymoshenko, [so he should know about evil if not the genius bit…] beginning in 2001, said. “He doesn’t work statesmen. He works dictators and all-round bastards. He sells the unsellable product. If you have a dead horse [or donkey…?] and you need to sell it, you call him.

“He works bad guys. They pay more, of course.””

[comments added in brackets]

Luke’s finale is as hackneyed as any we have come to expect from him. While desperately trying to spin his tale he inevitably spins himself into the floor because he refuses to accept the true story which is, Putin is not out to get him neither is he the enemy and Harding himself is not at the centre of a geo-political intrigue. The real story lies outside his scope of vision.

So he ends with:

“Can Manafort work his magic one more time? “The tougher the client you have, the[sic] the greater success you get. It isn’t about the money. It’s about ambition. If he can make Yanukovych president, I’m sure he can do it with Trump.””

All of which seems to defeat the object of Harding’s extremely long winded diatribe. Except for one thing it has enabled his handlers to get out into the mass media again a false narrative of Ukraine and Putin under the pretext that Trump must be a villain!

And which president is Luke Harding really on the trail of? Well Hillary’s “campaign” trail of course!