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EXPOSED: Trade union bosses and their rabid sympathies for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin

A wet Tuesday in March and Steve Hedley, senior assistant general secretary of the hardline RMT trade union, is standing on a picket line outside a West London Tube depot.

There’s nothing strange about this. In fact, it’s one of the things Mr Hedley does best.

Over the past three years, he and his RMT comrades have balloted for strike action 204 times, managing to clock up 49 strike votes even in 2020, when Covid shut down much of their industry.

It makes them arguably the most militant trade union in the land. The GMB, for example, gets by with a mere 50 ballots annually, despite having 600,000 members to the RMT’s 82,000.

Today, Steve and his sidekick, a burly gentleman identified as ‘Sev’, are helping to stage a two-day strike over pay, pensions and working conditions that has brought much of London to a halt. 

It has been caused, he tells onlookers, by the Government’s ‘absolute hatred of working-class people’.

Hedley’s remarks are not, however, what make this scene interesting. Not in the current news cycle, at least. For this picket is being staged on March 1, just four days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

And the most unusual thing about the RMT boss who is running it can be found on his raincoat.

RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley poses in a Soviet-style soldier’s hat with an assault rifle

Not far from his RMT armband and a couple of socialist pin-badges, Hedley is wearing a striking black-and-orange ribbon. To those in the know, which might include anyone who follows Soviet or Baltic politics, it’s a Ribbon of St George.

These accoutrements are currently popular in Moscow, where people wear them to demonstrate support for the invasion of Ukraine. 

Similar ribbons are sported by Russian military chiefs and ambitious politicians, and you will often see one on the lapel of Vladimir Putin’s designer suit.

The black-and-orange ribbon is, in consequence, banned in Ukraine and many Baltic states, where it is regarded as an ugly symbol of Russian military aggression. 

Canadian analyst Michael MacKay, who worked as an observer during the 2014 elections in Kyiv, has described it as ‘an anti-Ukrainian hate symbol . . . as deeply offensive as the swastika’.

Why, then, was Steve Hedley, the deputy head of a British trade union, wearing something so provocative on an official RMT picket line, as Putin’s tanks were rolling across the border?

Well, it turns out Hedley belongs to a powerful far-Left cabal at the RMT who have spent much of the past decade supporting Putin’s murderous adventures in Ukraine.

Sympathisers include two of the union’s three most senior officials, along with two more members of its ruling NEC, plus two of its regional organisers, one other senior staff member and an unknown number of RMT activists.

Like many extremists, they regard an enemy’s enemy as a friend. And since Russia’s despotic leader opposes Nato and the West, by their twisted logic he should be regarded as an ally.

Senior RMT power-brokers have spent recent years advancing Moscow’s interests in various ways, from parroting pro-Kremlin PR lines to founding anti-Kyiv lobby groups and, in one case, even travelling to eastern Ukraine to meet a notoriously violent pro-Russian warlord.

This malign track record will attract scrutiny in the coming weeks as Britain’s weary commuters, already grappling with a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by Putin’s invasion, face a ‘summer of discontent’ on the rail networks, to use the activists’ own phrase.

On Tuesday, the RMT announced that 89 per cent of its 40,000 members who work in the rail sector had voted for industrial action over plans to cut up to 2,500 jobs and reorganise the troubled industry following the 25 per cent decline in passenger numbers caused by Covid. In interviews, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said strikes could start in mid-June, bringing trains to a halt nationwide.

Not far from his RMT armband and a couple of socialist pin-badges, Hedley is wearing a striking black-and-orange ribbon (pictured). These accoutrements are currently popular in Moscow, where people wear them to demonstrate support for the invasion of Ukraine.

Not far from his RMT armband and a couple of socialist pin-badges, Hedley is wearing a striking black-and-orange ribbon (pictured). These accoutrements are currently popular in Moscow, where people wear them to demonstrate support for the invasion of Ukraine.

Such disruption will raise questions about where exactly the RMT’s loyalties lie. Which brings us back to Steve Hedley, a notorious controversialist who, despite a union pay and benefits package approaching six figures, has said he is motivated by a desire to ‘overthrow capitalism and create a socialist form of society’.

On Facebook, he has 1,200 followers and has appeared in pictures brandishing an automatic rifle while wearing a Russian fur hat emblazoned with a hammer-and-sickle badge. 

The combative Left-winger has devoted considerable time recently to sharing pro-Kremlin material on Facebook to ‘counter the one-sided media narrative on Ukraine’, as he puts it.

On February 27, he attacked plans to ban the Kremlin propaganda outlet Russia Today: ‘The fact that the governments are banning a channel that gets 80,000 views a day should give the lie, to anyone with a brain cell, that freedom of speech is a right of living in a bourgeoisie democracy [sic],’ he wrote.

On March 8, he posted a video message online: ‘People are asking ‘can we assassinate Putin?’ Well look, the reality is all countries, occupied countries like Ireland may have something in common with the Ukraine. 

‘But the reality is as well that the British are occupying Ireland, have done for 800 years, and I don’t see anybody advocating that we assassinate Johnson and neither should we.’

It was music to the ears of many of Hedley’s followers, including ‘Sev’, his picket-line companion.

Sev’s full name is Seva Sergeich and he is an RMT activist who was born in St Petersburg. His Facebook page is a sewer of pro-Kremlin propaganda: adorned with a photo of the ‘Z’ symbol of the invasion, it contains endless pictures of Russian military symbols, plus links to YouTube films peddling fake news about the conflict.

In one post, Sergeich argues that ‘the bombing of civilians in Ukraine is [being] done by Ukrainian nationalists, not by Russian forces’.

Such opinions seem to be widely shared in the upper echelons of the RMT. Not least by Eddie Dempsey, who became the union’s senior assistant general secretary four weeks ago, when Hedley (who was briefly suspended by the RMT in 2020 for saying he would ‘throw a party’ if Boris Johnson died of coronavirus) retired.

Dempsey, who has said the RMT is ‘trying to create a culture of civil disobedience in this country’, is a long-standing supporter of far-Left campaigns against the Ukrainian government. In 2015, he decided to travel to the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, where he met Aleksey Mozgovoy, a misogynistic paramilitary leader of the pro-Russian ‘Ghost Brigade’ militia — branded a ‘terrorist organisation’ by Ukraine’s supreme court.

A year earlier, Mozgovoy had ordered his troop patrols to arrest any woman sitting in a pub or cafe, because ‘a woman must be the guardian of the hearth, a mother’.

He had also ordered the murder of several members of a family whose car was riddled with bullets in a shooting that left a ten-year-old girl with life-changing injuries.

Alex Gordon (pictured), rail union activist and member of the Communist party Popular Sovereignty, gave a speech claiming Nato policy in Ukraine 'relies on the promotion of the resurgence of fascism' and parroting Putin's line that Ukraine is a 'failed state held hostage by neo-Nazis'

Alex Gordon (pictured), rail union activist and member of the Communist party Popular Sovereignty, gave a speech claiming Nato policy in Ukraine ‘relies on the promotion of the resurgence of fascism’ and parroting Putin’s line that Ukraine is a ‘failed state held hostage by neo-Nazis’

Dempsey nonetheless regarded this fellow Leftist as a natural ally, posing for a chummy photo with him. Following Mozgovoy’s death a few weeks afterwards, the RMT boss wrote a glowing obituary for the pro-Kremlin Russia Insider website, lavishing praise on the ‘charismatic’ terrorist.

Today, as Luhansk burns and its people are murdered by Russian invaders, those words make grim reading. 

Which is why, when they came to light a few weeks ago, the Labour MP Chris Bryant demanded that Dempsey ‘apologise and be ashamed’, saying: ‘The writing has been on the wall in relation to Putin and his territorial ambitions for more than a decade now, and anybody who has not been able to see that should step aside from the political arena.’

Then there is the RMT’s president Alex Gordon, who besides his £57,000-a-year role chairing the union’s ruling NEC, is a senior figure in the Communist Party of Great Britain. 

In March, in the latter role, he gave a speech claiming Nato policy in Ukraine ‘relies on the promotion of the resurgence of fascism’ and parroting Putin’s line that Ukraine is a ‘failed state held hostage by neo-Nazis’.

Back in 2017, Gordon said on Facebook that the Holodomor, the notorious forced starvation of four million Ukrainians in the 1930s under Stalin, was a ‘myth’.

To support this false claim, he posted links to two articles on Sputnik News, a propaganda website controlled by the Kremlin. 

And in 2015, after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, he protested outside the Ukrainian Embassy in London wearing (like his comrade Steve Hedley) the black-and-orange Ribbon of St George.

What normal RMT members, who pay a combined £18 million in subscriptions each year, make of such behaviour is anyone’s guess. But the union’s questionable record on Ukraine runs deep.

It can be traced back to 2014, when Gordon, Dempsey and Steve Skelly — now one of the RMT’s regional organisers — helped to found ‘Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine’ [SARU], a far-Left group devoted to defending the Russian invasion of Crimea and paramilitaries fighting on Moscow’s behalf elsewhere in the country.

Over the ensuing months and years, SARU’s website would circulate endless items of pro-Kremlin propaganda, revolving largely around the premise that — to quote a speech by Dempsey at a SARU meeting covered by the Morning Star — the ‘Western-backed government of Ukraine . . . included open Nazis’.

One particularly abhorrent post, on the group’s Facebook page in late 2015, linked to a deeply anti-Semitic YouTube video claiming that Alexei Mozgovoy (the warlord previously photographed with Dempsey) had been killed as part of a Jewish blood sacrifice.

This output didn’t seem to faze anyone at the RMT. Indeed, prior to its annual meeting that year, the union’s then general secretary, Mick Cash, wrote to branch secretaries urging them to support a motion to affiliate their organisation formally with SARU.

The motion duly passed, thanks in part to what the Morning Star later described as a ‘devastating’ speech by Steve Hedley, who argued that opponents of the proposal would be ‘dancing on the graves of 30,000 merchant seamen who died under Nazi bombs in the Second World War’.

Eddie Dempsey previously visiting warlord Alexander Mozgovoy, an uber-nationalist, uber-misogynistic paramilitary leader in the pro-Russian militias during the war in eastern Ukraine

Eddie Dempsey previously visiting warlord Alexander Mozgovoy, an uber-nationalist, uber-misogynistic paramilitary leader in the pro-Russian militias during the war in eastern Ukraine

It is unclear whether the RMT remains affiliated to SARU. In a BBC podcast aired yesterday, general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘I don’t think we are.’

Yet recent public statements suggest support for Ukraine in its struggle against Putin’s barbarity is limited at RMT headquarters.

For example, the union’s South West organiser, Brendan Kelly, gave an interview about the war last month to Left-wing website The Bristol Cable. 

‘You’ve got two imperialist blocs really, which is Putin and the East, and you’ve got Nato, which has clearly set its path out in recent decades to try and push the boundary back on Eastern Europe and Russia.’ He added: ‘It has created a lot of instability.’

Back in 2018, RMT head of industrial relations Alex Reid criticised the EU for ‘backing fascists in Ukraine’ and in April he called for the ‘dismantling of Nato’. 

NEC member Ian Allen said of Ukraine in 2014: ‘Just give it back to the USSR,’ adding, ‘what the funk has Ukraine got to do with America feck off up your own end [sic]’.

Another member of the RMT’s NEC (which contains just two women alongside 14 men) is Joe Kirby. 

A few weeks ago he, along with Alex Gordon and Eddie Dempsey, signed Stop the War’s controversial open letter blaming the invasion of Ukraine on Nato’s ‘disdain for Russian concerns’ and Britain’s ‘aggressive posturing’.

The letter caused a huge row within the Labour Party because 11 of its MPs, who had originally signed, withdrew their support for it on the orders of Keir Starmer.

A third NEC member, Paul McDonnell, chose the day of Russia’s invasion to post to Facebook a link to a lecture entitled: ‘Why is Ukraine the West’s fault?’

Asked about such remarks, an RMT spokesman said last night: ‘The RMT does not support Vladimir Putin or the war in Ukraine. Both Eddie Dempsey and Alex Gordon agree with that position.’

As to the decision of the RMT’s former number two, Steve Hedley, to wear the Ribbon of St George on an official RMT picket line less than a week after the invasion, the spokesman would say only: ‘Steve Hedley has retired from his role in the RMT.’

One thing that doesn’t seem to have been retired is the ugly hard-Leftism that, when it comes to Ukraine, has placed this powerful trade union firmly on the wrong side of history.


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