A truly insidious development in the Russia-Ukraine stand-off was the circulation today on YouTube of what was apparently a bugged phone call between the EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet. In it Paet put forth the conspiracy theory that snipers responsible for killing civilians and police in central Kiev last month were protest movement provocateurs as opposed to backers of then-besieged Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
This is the second reportedly bugged phone call to emerge in the last day or so. The other was a potentially even more incendiary Russian intercept of a call between the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nyland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt in which they discuss protocols of encouragement to potential leaders of the new regime such as Arseniy Yatseniuk and Vitaly Klitschko and disparage the EU’s role in the entire affair, which has (understandably in many ways, when you look at the geography) been much more cautious. This gave us Nyland’s immortal line, “F*ck the EU!”
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The backbiting between the US and EU recalls one of the best subplots in the espionage classic The Ipcress File (1965), available on FilmOn’s free VOD service, which also happens to be a Michael Caine classic. Winner of the BAFTA for Best British Film of 1966, it has been listed as the 59th greatest British film of all-time by the British Film Institute.
Directed by Canadian Sydney J. Furie and adapted from the book of the same title by Len Deighton, the film was an attempt to counter the Bond-mania of the time by attempting to create a more verité portrayal of the espionage game, a story where the spy shops at the supermarket instead of gambling in Monte Carlo.
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Ironically, however, many of the production team came from the Bond franchise; including producer Harry Saltzman, editor Peter R. Hunt and elite lounge composer John Barry, who contributes one of the best of his signature scores. In turn, many elements of Ipcress would have an influence on future Bond and spy films in general, especially with regard to the blockbuster 1967 spoof-Bond Casino Royale — Caine’s turn as slightly modish, ‘snarckney’ agent Harry Palmer (an obvious nom de plume) would have echoes in Peter Sellers’ portrayal of Evelyn Trimble in Casino Royale. Both films would have psychedelic brainwashing plot points and an aficionado might even spot Peter Ashmore, who plays both lecturer Sir Robert in Ipcress and the ‘evil lair’ bartender who uses ‘rain-cooled Tattinger’ in the atomic cocktail for Woody Allen’s Jimmy Bond in Casino Royale.
Of course, there was no EU in 1965, yet then as now England plays the outlier, cool, calm and collectedly playing sides against each other even as they threaten to come together in a smothering grip. And even though the Cold War is supposed to be over now, characters like the flamboyant Dalby, whose name is a clear reference to superspy Kim Philby, played by Nigel Green (Zulu); the stereotype-confounding American Barney, played by Thomas Baptiste; and the Bean-ish counter-agent Grantby, played by Frank Gatliff could easily be having (or recording) the conversations we heard today.
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