Archive for the 'Opposition' Category

28
Oct
11

Former tennis star Marat Safin will run for the Duma

Former world number one and double grand slam title winner Marat Safin is the latest Russian tennis player to confirm he intends to run for his country’s parliament.

Safin, the 2000 US Open winner and 2005 Australian Open champion, said he was serious about his political ambitions.

“I am running for Federal Parliament in Russia,” Safin told the ATP Champions Tour website.

“The elections are on December 4th so I will find out soon. It’s a new challenge. I think I am an intelligent guy and I have a lot to bring and a lot of ideas about things and what to do. I am very committed to it.”

Safin added: “I could be the best looking guy in the Duma, but that’s only because all the other guys are over 60.”

The 31-year-old Safin is the second Russian tennis star to target a seat in the Duma following 2007 US Open women’s semi-finalist Anna Chakvetadze announcement in September that she was to stand for the Right Cause party.

The 24-year-old, formerly ranked in the top five in the world, has not played since Wimbledon in June because of poor health.

Chakvetadze said she wanted to “try something new” and focus on women’s rights and children’s sports.

“I joined the Right Cause Party because it’s a young party,” she said.

“All of its members are young people, who have many fresh ideas. I believe I also can bring some fresh ideas into this project.

“I’d like to be involved in deciding the questions concerning the sports sphere in case we manage to enter the State Duma.”

16
Aug
11

Russia: Vladimir Putin launches his presidential campaign

In what could be seen as the start of a presidential campaign, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reflected Friday on decisions he made that he said could have cost him his political career – and declared that the risk was always justified.

He specifically referred to his response to the 1999 rebel attacks on Dagestan led by the notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev.

Militants headed by Basayev and Saudi-born Ibn Al-Khattab attacked Dagestan in August-September 1999. Hundreds of people were killed in the subsequent fighting, a precursor to the second Chechen war.

“Unless I took resolute and tough action, the country would have fallen apart,” he said during a working visit to one of Russia’s biggest steel makers, the Magnitogorsk Steel Plant.

“I had to make a decision. I thought: That’s it, my career is over.”

Putin said he acted in accordance with the country’s national interests, with no consideration of political expediency.

Asked what he considered his most significant achievement in the past decade, Putin said a good deal had been done for the country but Russia had still a long way to go, specifically reduce poverty and ensure economic growth.

“New tools, new people and new ideas are needed, deep modernization and innovation are needed to accelerate economic and social growth and strengthen the political foundations of our society,” Putin said.

Asked what quality was most important in a president, Putin said, “integrity – integrity in everything,” adding that a person who “can’t keep his word must not even be allowed to head any team, let alone the country.”

The prime minister also stressed the importance of professionalism and diplomacy.

Putin’s comments come as analysts and ordinary Russians speculate who will run in next year’s presidential poll.

President Dmitry Medvedev and Putin have made clear that one of them – and only one of them – will run in the presidential elections on March 11, 2012, but it is anyone’s guess as to which one.

03
Aug
11

Will Prokhorov really enter Russian politics?

What is doing Mikhail Prokhorov? The Russian tycoon who recently announced his intention to start a political career is playing a confusing game. Will he really defy Prime minister Vladimir Putin or is it just a tactical and symbolic move?

Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, who leads a small party praised by President Dmitry Medvedev, ridiculed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s new political movement on Tuesday and said he would one day like the premier’s job.

Prokhorov, who made a fortune by gaining control of the world’s biggest palladium producer after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, last month took charge of a party which has called for Medvedev to run for re-election in the 2012 presidential election.

Putin and Medvedev have both repeatedly refused to say which of them will run in the March presidential election, though Putin created a new movement in May to widen the support of his ruling party ahead of a December parliamentary election.

The 46-year-old owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball club told the Kommersant newspaper that he agreed with Putin on some issues but not others, citing the centralized political system crafted by Putin during his 2000-2008 presidency.

The billionaire also mocked the swift rise in membership of Putin’s movement, the All-Russian People’s Front.

“You know, in my opinion, it is really laughable when 38 million agricultural workers join the Front in a single day,” Prokhorov told the paper, referring to a decision last month by Russia’s Agrarian Movement to join Putin’s movement.

While steering clear of direct criticism of Putin, he said the United Russia party which Putin leads was an ineffective monopoly. He said he hoped one day to be prime minister.

“Do you think I entered politics just to get into the Duma and then to relax and have a smoke?” said Prokhorov, adding that his free-market Right Cause party aimed to get 15 percent in the elections to the lower house of parliament, known as the Duma.

When asked why he wanted to become prime minister, the job Putin took in May 2008 when he stepped down as president after steering Medvedev in to the Kremlin, Prokhorov said:

“Because this job is clearer to me: it is connected with the things I have had to deal with in business. I have dealt with all sectors of the economy,” Prokhorov said.

OLIGARCH POLITICIAN

Prokhorov, the most influential Russian billionaire to enter public politics since the 2003 arrest of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said he did not know what Putin would think of his ambition.

“I don’t know. I think it would be better if you asked him,” said Prokhorov, who is ranked by Finans magazine as Russia’s second richest man with a fortune of $22.7 billion, behind steel magnate Vladimir Lisin with $28.3 billion.

Such a response is unusually blunt given the power of Putin, Russia’s paramount leader, who made clear during his presidency his view that the deeply unpopular oligarchs should stay out of politics.

Khodorkovsky’s business empire was carved up and sold after he fell foul of the Kremlin under Putin. He is still in jail.

But few investors and diplomats believe such a powerful tycoon as Prokhorov would have entered politics without the direct approval — or even a direct order — from Medvedev’s Kremlin.

His outspoken entry into politics may even help create the perception of competition in the election year while garnering support from notoriously cynical urban professional voters.

Right Cause called in November 2010 — before Prokhorov’s election as leader — for Medvedev to run for a second term in the 2012 election and last month the Kremlin chief praised Prokhorov, saying many of his ideas were similar to his own.

A whiz-kid of Russian finance who is sometimes called Moscow’s most eligible bachelor, he earned a fortune by selling a one-quarter stake in mining behemoth Norilsk Nickel just before the 2008 global crisis hammered Russia’s economy.

He has a 17 percent stake in RUSAL, the world’s top aluminum producer, and a 30 percent stake in Russia’s top gold producer, Polyus Gold.

Prokhorov quipped that with his wealth, he could even top the campaign financing for Putin’s party: “If not for restrictions on party funding, I would beat United Russia with one single payment.”

24
Jul
11

Russian blogger gets political asylum in Estonia

Russian musician and blogger Savva Terentyev, convicted in 2008 of inciting hatred against police, was granted political asylum by Estonian immigration authorities on July 11.

The decision by the Police and Border Guard will allow Terentyev, his wife and his son, who have been living in Estonia since January, to remain in the country for three years.

In July 2008, a court in Terentyev’s native Syktyvkar in Russia’s Komi district found him guilty of “inciting enmity and publicly humiliating representatives of a social group,” and sentenced him to a one-year suspended jail sentence.

The year prior, then 21-year-old Terentyev posted a comment on an acquaintance’s Live Journal blog in response to a report on the blog of a police raid on a local opposition newspaper. Terentyev was highly critical of the police, calling for daily ceremonies in the center of every Russian city where one dishonest cop would be burned.

The case against him began six months later.

Terentyev’s conviction sent shockwaves through the Russian internet community as it was the country’s first criminal case based on a blog comment. The case has also been cited by international rights groups such as Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, whose reports Terentyev submitted along with his application for asylum, according to the BBC’s Russian service.

In an interview with the BBC, Terentyev said he has had difficulty finding work since his conviction due to the bad reputation he received, and has no plans to go back to Russia in the future. “All this ended with my receiving the right to live in Europe and now I can freely travel in the territory of the CIS as well as the EU,” he said.

Though he still believes he did not break the law in making his comments, Terentyev expressed regrets for making them. “I didn’t recognize, and I still do not recognize, that it was a violation of the law,” he said. “But now I wouldn’t write that, simply because I have a different mood than I had four years ago. I already admitted in court that it was pure stupidity. But for a personal correspondence between two young people it was perfectly normal.”

17
Jun
11

Mikhail Prokhorov enters politics… and gets a tax investigation

Was it a safe choice for russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to enter politics? The giant womanizer is being sued by a Siberian region for tens of millions of dollars in allegedly unpaid taxes, just after he announced he was entering politics, reports said on Saturday.

The Lenosibirsk district of the Krasnoyarsk region of central Siberia is seeking two billion rubles (70 million dollars) from billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the RIA Novosti news agency and Kommersant daily reported.

The move comes just a month after Prokhorov, head of the Onexim investment holding with a reported fortune of $18 billion, unexpectedly announced he was going into politics and planned to lead the Right Cause Party.

Prokhorov is registered in the tiny Siberian village of Eruda and pays his taxes there.

The local branch of the tax service believes Prokhorov failed to pay taxes due to the Russian state on a transaction in Britain — in south Wales — in 2008, the deputy head of the regional anti-monopoly service Oleg Kharchenko was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.

“As the Lenosibirsk tax inspectorate lacks an experienced specialist in the problems of south Welsh tax law, they asked the anti-monopoly service for help,” he was quoted as saying.

A source in the regional tax inspectorate told RIA Novosti that the issue had already gone to court.

Prokhorov was quoted on the sidelines of the Saint Petersburg Economic Forum as acknowledging the dispute but expressing confidence that he would win in court.

The entry of Prokhorov into politics sent a ripple of excitement through Russia’s political scene, though cynics pointed out that neither the billionaire nor his party have so far sharply criticised the Kremlin.

Kommersant underlined the coincidence of the timing of the case with the headline: “Prokhorov has now got into real politics.”

Russia’s former richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 on suspicion of tax evasion, at a time when he was financing opposition parties. He was convicted twice and is not due for release until 2016.

24
May
11

Many questions about Putin’s proposal for “unified civil front”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has observers scratching their heads over his dramatic appeal to build a “unified civil front” of political parties and social groups to confront an unspecified national dilemma.

The idea sounds baffling since Russia, despite its various issues, does not appear to face a looming crisis that would justify putting aside political differences for the common good. Some experts scoff that the unmentioned emergency is Mr. Putin’s own poll numbers.

Putin, who is widely suspected to be eyeing a return to the presidency, saw his numbers plunge in recent polls and rating for the party he leads, United Russia, also dropped. RELATED: Putin’s marquee moments.

But a few critics warn darkly that Putin may be seeking to reshape Russian political culture into one of forced social unity similar to the former Soviet system, in which all of civil society – including media, trade unions, the church, youth, women’s groups, even sports clubs – were held in captive orbits around the all-powerful ruling party.

“I propose the creation of something that in practical politics is called a unified civil front, an organization to unify the efforts of various political forces ahead of major events of political character,” Putin told a conference of United Russia in the central Russian city of Volgograd last Friday.

‘Fresh ideas, fresh proposals’

The front should recruit into its ranks all organizations and people “who are united by the idea to strengthen our country and by the wish to search for the most optimal ways of solving current problems,” he added. Putin spent much of the long weekend (Monday was Victory Day, a major holiday in Russia) meeting with business and social leaders to test the idea, which would include opening up as much as a third of United Russia’s candidate lists to nonparty members affiliated with the new front.

“United Russia needs an inflow of fresh ideas, fresh proposals, and fresh faces,” he told journalists. Sign up for our daily World Editor’s Picks newsletter. Our best stories, in your inbox. United Russia, the state-backed political behemoth whose membership is packed with officials, has given Putin near undisputed control over most legislatures in Russia for nearly a decade, including a two-thirds majority in the Duma.

But lately its public approval rating has slumped dramatically. The party, which won 67 percent in 2007 Duma elections, was supported by just 43 percent of Russians, according to an April survey by the independent Public Opinion Fund (FOM).

“Putin [who leads United Russia] aims to secure his own position in case of a poor showing by the party in the coming Duma elections,” says Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The idea is to add some fresh faces, so that the candidate list doesn’t just consist of the same old dull bureaucrats and corrupt officials. It’s just an electoral scheme.”

17
May
11

Politics: what is Prokhorov’s game plan?

Is Mikhail Prokhorov defying Vladim Putin’s authority by entering politics? Since Khodorkovsky’s indictment something was clear in Russia: oligarchs make business and Putin makes politics… A new deal in Russian balance of powers?

Mr Prokhorov wants to lead the Pravoye Dyelo party, or Right Cause.

He owns much of Russia’s gold and nickel production, with other interests as diverse as nanotechnology, a hybrid car and the New Jersey Nets basketball club.

The last oligarch to turn politician, Mikhail Khodorkovksy, ended up in prison.

Mr Prokhorov made his money in the chaotic years of Russian privatisation during the 1990s.

His fortune is reportedly worth $22.7bn (£14bn), which puts him among the top three Russian billionaires.

Now he is diversifying beyond business.

Prostitutes allegation

The Right Cause party he has offered to lead strongly supports President Dmitry Medvedev, at a time when there’s mounting speculation that Vladimir Putin wants a return to the presidency.

It was founded just two years ago as a pro-business party promoting free-market reforms, the rule of law and an end to what it calls the “arbitrary rule of corrupt officialdom”.

Mr Prokhorov’s declared aims would be to lead Right Cause to second place in parliamentary elections coming up in December, behind the United Russia party, whose chairman is Vladimir Putin.

United Russia is expected to win the parliamentary elections comfortably, but they are widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the presidential election in March.

Both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev are potential contenders for the presidency next time around.

If Mr Prokhorov succeeds in taking over as leader of Right Cause, it will be the first time a Russian business tycoon has taken a prominent role in politics since the imprisonment in 2003 of Mr Khodorkovsky, then head of the Yukos oil giant.

Mr Khodorkovsky’s supporters have always insisted this was punishment for daring to oppose Mr Putin.

Based on his statement today, Mikhail Prokhorov appears to be taking care to avoid posturing as a defiant opponent of the Kremlin.

Right Cause has so far struggled to attract heavyweight leaders in its ranks. Liberals have kept their distance from it, seeing it as too close to the government.

Mr Prokhorov’s business empire is based on the Onexim Group, which has wide variety of interests, with gold and nickel at their core.

In January 2007, he was arrested on suspicion of arranging prostitutes for guests at a party he hosted in the French Alpine resort of Courchevel.

The case was later dismissed, and Mr Prokhorov was cleared

14
Feb
11

Modern Russia, USSR memories… and Lenin’s body

Nearly a century after his death, communist leader Vladimir Lenin still rests in a glass display case on Red Square, his embalmed body a stark counterpoint to Russia’s latest modernisation effort.

The controversial idea of burying Lenin has been a permanent feature of Russian politics since the Soviet Union’s fall in 1991, when millions happily parted ways with a system that had outlived its times.

But so far, no one has dared take the ultimate step of so dramatically breaking links with a leader who introduced Russia to both the promises of communism and the horrors of Gulag death camps.

While Russia tries to present a modern new image under its iPad-toting President Dmitry Medvedev, tens of thousands of people still come every year to see the communist founder, his finely-coiffed body reclining in a sarcophagus.

This dissonance seems to be needling the ruling United Russia party on the eve of December parliamentary elections, with several officials leading calls for Lenin to be laid to rest alongside his mother in Saint Petersburg.

“I do not see a single thing standing in the way of his burial,” United Russia lawmaker Vladimir Medinsky told AFP, arguing that a Saint Petersburg burial was a part of the Lenin family’s will.

United Russia has even set up a special website, http://www.goodbyelenin.ru, named after a 2003 German tragi-comedy about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Two-thirds of the respondents to the site’s survey said they wanted to see Lenin go.

Though informal, the poll was confirmed by another study conducted by the respected Levada Centre, which showed that 56 per cent of those questioned favoured seeing the body removed from public viewing.

But while it might make for good pre-election politics, a Kremlin official said last month that for now at least, Lenin was staying.

“As far as I know, no decision on this subject has yet been reached, and none is forthcoming,” said Kremlin property manager Viktor Khrekov.

Analysts say that while the issue is less poignant than it was a decade ago, government officials still raise the prospects of burying Lenin to draw in the country’s younger voters, some of whom have no memory of Soviet times.

This is “an eternal debate that follows the recipe of uniting non-communist voters,” said Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

Lenin or no Lenin, the country’s leftists have been losing members years, their ranks unable to pick up younger voters who either go with the Kremlin candidate or ignore politics altogether.

Russia’s Communist Party received just 11.57 per cent of votes in the 2007 parliamentary elections and its candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, won just 17.72 per cent of the ballot when he ran for president the following year.

But Russia’s more liberal forces take the debate further, arguing that the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin — whose body once shared the mausoleum with Lenin – should also be removed from its place of honour in the Kremlin wall.

“We have to get rid of all these symbols of the Soviet Union,” said former Soviet dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva, 82. But there is little doubt that the mausoleum has already lost some of its appeal.

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin removed its guard of honour in 1993, and the communist shrine is no longer a place of mandatory visits for the country’s school children and kindergartners.

The state also no longer assumes the cost of keeping Lenin’s body on display.

The laboratory in charge of the process – an affiliate of a Soviet-era centre called the All-Russia Research Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants – primarily receives its funding from communist organisers.

The mausoleum is open to visitors four days a week between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Entrance is free, but there is a strict policy against pictures and video.

24
Jan
11

Russian opposition launches its own Wikileaks

Is it a real threat to Russian government? Far too soon to tell. But a group of Russian activists has launched a Russian version of the world 2011 sensation Wikileaks… Let’s wait and see…

A new web site striving to become Russia’s answer to WikiLeaks became an online hit this week with the publication of the first photographs of a luxury mansion linked to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

No proof exists that the mansion in the pictures is really Putin’s, a residence that RuLeaks.net says was built on the Black Sea at a cost of $1 billion for the prime minister’s personal use.

But RuLeaks’ apparently exclusive photos have paid off handsomely for the team behind the web site, which refers to itself as “The Anonymous” but actually consists mainly of members of the Pirate Party of Russia, a group that opposes copyright laws.

Since the photos were released Tuesday, the site’s traffic has soared by 10 times to about 80,000 hits per day, according to RuLeaks’ own statistics.

The site’s team promised that the mansion photos were only the beginning.

“Never keep quiet! Be afraid of nothing!” the team said in an e-mailed reply to questions from The Moscow Times. “In the time of total lies one word of truth can conquer the whole world. … History is happening before our eyes. An ocean of opportunities lies before us.”

The web site, also available at викислив.рф, was launched last month to translate and mirror publications by the original WikiLeaks, but it quickly switched to original content.

The project differs from the handful of other Russian whistle-blowing sites by apparently not following a political agenda and focusing on original leaks, not media reprints. But analysts said it remains to be seen whether the site can keep up with the pace it has set for itself.

The team behind RuLeaks comprises a dozen young and ambitious souls who dream big — and have the support of many Internet activists in their 20s.

The team’s members keep their names and locations secret. “Even our wives and children do not know we are The Anonymous,” they wrote in the e-mailed statement.

“Among us are the unemployed and students, office slaves and the laborers of the soil, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, anonymous brothers and sisters of Planet Earth,” the statement said. “Every day we get up and protect the freedom of information.”

RuLeaks’ domain name is registered under the name of Gregory Engels, a resident of Germany and a co-chairman of the Pirate Parties International movement.

Most RuLeaks editors are activists of the group’s local spinoff, the Pirate Party of Russia, party chairman Pavel Rassudov said Thursday.

The web site will help “clean up the state,” Rassudov said.

He would not say where RuLeaks had acquired the photos of the mansion linked to Putin.

The story of the mansion was first broken by businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who published an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev on his web site CorruptionFreeRussia.com in December.

The country already has a number of whistle-blowing web sites, and the most well-known are Compromat.ru and Anticompromat.org. Some bloggers are also active anti-corruption activists, including lawyer Alexei Navalny, who leaked a report last year implicating Transneft in a $4 billion fraud case.

But RuLeaks differs from the other sites in the mechanism for submitting — or leaking — information, Rassudov said.

Virtually any document can be leaked to WikiLeaks at present because the Internet makes the process safe and easy, Rassudov said. “You can stop by a McDonald’s and use their Wi-Fi to leak it and then just carry on with your day,” he said.

To ensure the safety of its potential whistle-blowers, RuLeaks suggests using privacy-protecting services such as The Onion Router network or the Privacy Box.

But while the software is free and easy to use, it may not be as safe as the RuLeaks team paints it to be. Tracking down a whistle-blower’s IP address and location is difficult, but it is not impossible, said Vladimir Degtyaryov, chairman of Internet service provider Demos. “One thing is clear: If a resource is located in Russia, there is no guarantee,” he said by e-mail.

Rassudov predicted that leaks would be on the rise this spring with the beginning of regional parliamentary elections in March followed by the State Duma vote in December.

“Everybody will be leaking dirt on everybody,” Rassudov said.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, the man behind Anticompromat.org, also accepts online submissions, but mostly relies on a few trusted sources who prefer to call first and then arrange a meeting.

Pribylovsky, who also heads the independent Panorama think tank, said RuLeaks might be the only web site to expose dirty political laundry without a political agenda.

Anticompromat.ru, he said, is opposition politics. “I pre-select what I find interesting and don’t hide my bias,” he said.

Compromat.ru, reported in July to have been bought by private investor Andrei Rutberg, is profit-driven, Pribylovsky said.

Both web sites have accumulated substantial archives but primarily offer information that was first published elsewhere.

Pribylovsky said RuLeaks has done well so far but has yet to prove its independence and lack of bias.

Big companies, meanwhile, do not seem to be particularly worried about RuLeaks. “We would only be happy with the launch of a web site like this,” said Igor Dyomin, a spokesman for Transneft.

Some experts worried that RuLeaks might become a web site for disgruntled criticism of the government rather than a tool for democratic development.

Yet RuLeaks may also serve as an example for regional journalists, bloggers and youth.

Small teams of 20-somethings made a difference last summer when central Russia was overwhelmed by wildfires and smog, prompting volunteers to team up using local web forums to help firefighting efforts.

One of those forums, Wyksa.ru, operated by half a dozen activists, faced a hacker attack shortly after it started posted daily updates on the situation in burning villages in the Nizhny Novgorod region. No perpetrator was found, but some blamed the attack on the local administration, whose shortcomings in dealing with the fires were exposed by the site.

The original WikiLeaks is also building up ties with Russia, as it has teamed up with Russian Reporter magazine and Novaya Gazeta.

Putin has spoken up in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces sex charges in Sweden. What he thinks of RuLeaks and its publication of the mansion photos this week remains unclear. Putin’s press office had made no comment about the photos of the palace.

05
Sep
10

John Helmer : the death tsar of Russian political journalism

Interesting article about an interesting (and yet controversial) guy!!!

“The force is strong with him”, and he has clearly chosen the dark side. Controversy and criticism are two key elements of John Helmer’s investigative work. Helmer, 64, is the most feared and ferocious business blogger in Russia. Every post he writes is a lethal bullet shot to the reputations of top Russian companies and executives. A controversial journalist and an ambiguous man of mystery.

Three decades in Moscow
John Helmer, an Australo-america citizen, is one of the few international journalists to have actually lived in Russia for decades (he first settled there in the 1980s). According to fellow journalists based in Moscow, Helmer has some of the best political and business insights in the country, especially for a foreigner.
According to the same sources, it is how Helmer uses his insights that is questionable. The majority of his articles are written with the sole purpose of pointing out misconduct of companies’ executives or highlighting the difficulties they face, most notably in the steel industry.
Helmer is a journalistic sniper, shooting down reputations and credentials. His stories are markedly one-sided and rarely balanced, even when they are based on facts. Although he mostly attacks businessmen, he also regularly goes after Russian officials.

Close to Russian security services?
Helmer’s craft raises many questions in Russia, a country where freedom of speech remains an illusion and where people who speak up are usually silenced quickly.
“Why is he still around?” For the average Russian, there is a simple answer: if a man criticizes some of the most influential people in Russia on a daily basis and yet can live in plain sight in Moscow without being tried, harassed or threatened, that man must be under the protection of the right people.
Two theories exist to explain Helmer’s shady side. The first is that he has strong “acquaintances” among Russian security services (notably the FSB) and that he is used by the Russian government to launch reputational attacks on people and companies prior to official investigations or prosecutions, in order to lay the groundwork for international public opinion. The soviet KGB used the same method to discredit “liberals”.

“Black image maker?”
The second popular  theory about Helmer among Russian journalists is that he conceives his journalistic work as “black PR” used by companies to spread biased information regarding their competitors. This is a common practice in Russian business, of which Helmer would only be one international example.
“He is a mercenary, a black image maker”, a Russian journalist said of Helmer. In other words, Helmer is a paid-for mouthpiece who operates far outside the realm of objective journalism and trustworthy reporting.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s American lawyer and lobbyist Robert Amsterdam is even harsher on Helmer, insisting on the fact that he “is much gentler with Vladimir Putin” than with any Russian businessmen he writes about.
Amsterdam notably doubts Helmer’s version of an assassination attempt he claims he has been a victim of from businessman Oleg Deripaska’s hitmen. “The only problem is that all of this information comes only from Helmer himself (…) All I am saying is that it would be good to see the police go on record or some other third party statements on the incident”.
The lawyer, as many people close to Russian business circles, seems to believe Helmer is biased when he talks about Deripaska and Rusal, and about many other Russian businessmen.