John Helmer: Journalist or Oligarchs’ PR Man?
Has John Helmer stayed too long in Russia? So long that he has adopted the country’s journalistic practices? Observers may wonder…
John Helmer is an Australian journalist and blogger who has been covering Russian business and living in Moscow for over thirty years.
His opinionated articles and blog posts, his cold irony and his numerous connections throughout Russian business networks have gained him a controversial reputation in Moscow.
Pitiless and ruthless when he writes about businessmen and companies he dislikes, Helmer also demonstrates curious restraint with others.
Vladimir Potanin’s Norilsk, for instance, has never had cause to complain about Helmer’s work. Oleg Deripaska, on the other hand, has not been so lucky. For many years Deripaska has been the subject – on an almost weekly basis – of aggressive articles on Helmer’s blog.
Foreign journalistic sources in Moscow often discuss Helmer’s perceived “protection”, with one source commenting: “He couldn’t write half of what he does if he wasn’t somehow in touch with powerful people.”
Some sources even claim that Helmer has “done a deal” with the Russian secret services. The FSB allegedly passes information to Helmer and offers its protection in exchange for positive coverage of key figures in Russia… Hard to believe? Try to find an article hostile to Vladimir Putin on Helmer’s blog…
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s American lawyer and lobbyist Robert Amsterdam notes that Helmer “is much gentler with Deripaska’s main business partner, Vladimir Putin”.
Amsterdam also doubts Helmer’s version of a failed assassination attempt by hitmen who Helmer claimed were working for a Rusal subsidiary.
As Amsterdam points out: “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”.
Helmer’s blog often makes for entertaining reading. However, his clear bias towards certain members of the Russian business elite and his increasingly outlandish claims call into question both his journalistic integrity and his commitment to truthful and balanced reporting.