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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Whiz at Black PR Stirs Up a Storm

MTStanislav Belkovsky, the political analyst behind a report suggesting that the oligarchs are planning to turn Russia into a parliamentary republic.
Stanislav Belkovsky, the political analyst behind a report suggesting that the oligarchs are planning to turn Russia into a parliamentary republic, is an educated master of black PR and probably working for the special services lobby in the presidential administration, other political analysts and his former employer Boris Berezovsky said.

The "State and Oligarchy" report, released by Belkovsky's Council of National Strategy think tank in mid-June, is credited with helping trigger the Yukos crisis. It warned that Russia is "on the verge of a creeping oligarchic coup" that could seek to remove Putin from power.

"He is well educated. He is creative, but creative when it comes to black PR. ... And he doesn't overprice himself," Berezovsky said of Belkovsky in a telephone interview from London.

Berezovsky said he most recently hired Belkovsky to work on a campaign to unite "patriotically minded" political forces. He said the campaign was never finished and Belkovsky is no longer working for him.

Belkovsky called a rare news conference last week in an attempt to distance himself from growing media speculation that he is one of the people behind the monthlong attack on Yukos by law enforcement authorities.

Among the media reports, the web site published what it claimed were transcripts of Belkovsky's conversations with the president of state-owned oil major Rosneft and officials in the presidential administration. The alleged conversations indicated that Belkovsky was playing a role in the Yukos attack.

Belkovsky said the transcripts were fake. He said his think tank acts entirely on its own accord and has not been in contact with law enforcement authorities, the presidential administration or President Vladimir Putin himself.

"I would actually very much like if there were some kind of mechanism to discuss or implement our ideas. But there isn't one," he said in an interview.

He said he is not on anybody's payroll and earns most of his salary through political consulting in the regions.

Belkovsky, who at his news conference clearly took delight in tossing out quotes from the likes of Sigmund Freud and Niccolo Machiavelli, insisted that his only goal is to help Russia come up with ideas on how to solve problems such as the growing poverty gap between the rich and the poor.

Berezovsky poured scorn on Belkovsky's statements, saying he is well aware of how Belkovsky works from personal experience. He said he is convinced Belkovsky is connected to the so-called chekist wing in the Kremlin believed to be orchestrating the Yukos attack. The attack is thought to be part of a political and financial struggle ahead of State Duma elections in December.

Political analysts agreed with Berezovsky, saying the Council of National Strategy appeared to have been set up specifically to serve special interest groups in political power struggles.

"Of course he is working for you-know-who," said a respected political analyst on condition of anonymity, referring to the chekists.

Belkovsky worked in relative obscurity until the "State and Oligarchy" report surfaced in June and, aside from breaking into the limelight of big politics, he has managed with the report to stir up Russia's small community of political analysts. According to Belkovsky, the Council of National Strategy counts among its members a number of prominent analysts who largely backed the report.

However, many of those named by Belkovsky strongly denied supporting him or his work.

"He is a provocateur. And the whole thing smells bad," said Lilia Shevtsova, a political analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center whom Belkovsky identified as a member of the Council of National Strategy.

Shevtsova said she attended a Council of National Strategy meeting once about a year ago but decided not to participate because she felt uncomfortable not knowing exactly what the think tank was hoping to achieve and where its funding was coming from.

She said that among other things Belkovsky appeared to be trying to undermine the credibility of the analytical community, which she called dangerous.

Even a Council of National Strategy co-founder -- Kremlin-connected political analyst Sergei Markov -- seems to be losing faith in the think tank.

Markov said that while he had generally agreed with the "State and Oligarchy" report, he had strongly objected to some of its content before it was released. His complaints, however, were not taken into account, he said.

"I am not sure what I am going to do now," he said. "I am considering walking away from the council."