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My corpse managed to keep talking for twenty

years. That’s the time it took between the

Soviet KGB dosing my champagne with a

near-fatal volume of a drug called SP-117, in

order to get the truth out of me;  and a

Russian oligarch sending two gunmen to

fire their pistols into me, to stop the truth

getting out..


With hindsight, those who weren’t watching

when Vladimir Putin was small insist he

was bigger than he was, but good at keeping secrets.

Big or small physically or politically, they have still been

 unable to fathom Putin’s character, or explain why,

  after so many years in power, Putin remains as  characterless as when he started. 

I was watching from the beginning; the KGB elixir

 allowed me to see through the secrets to

 the  truth of the matter.


  This was that Putin has remained the nondescript  I had first met,

but that the potency attributed to him now was picked up

from a group of men on whom he depended for his rise,

and on whom he still depends for his power.

These were, these are the

Russian oligarchs

whose stories I have been investigating

and reporting every day.

By penetrating their secrets, I measure how Putin rules Russia;

better to say, how Russia is ruled, and with what effect.


“He writes bad things about our country”

  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“The book explains why the truth, though known, has not been told”

  • Katrina van den Heuvel, Editor, The Nation, New York.

“His vendetta vs Russian media”

  • Stephen Cohen, retired professor of Russian history, Princeton University.

“I don’t deal with moderation at all. I rather not hear from you any more”

  • Andrei Raevsky, Vineyard of the Saker, Florida.

“I don’t doubt you are right but know nothing about it. Best not to mention my name. good luck”

  • Mark Franchetti, Moscow Correspondent  of Sunday Times.

“You continue to write puerile and untrue things about me on your website.  I am not going to go down the wearisome and expensive route of getting a lawyer to write you threatening letters. But I am truly sorry that you, a journalist who has written such splendid stuff in the past (Fiona Trust, Deripaska), should treat a colleague in a mean and underhand way”

  • Edward Lucas, The Economist, London.

“We have nothing to hide and you should stop insinuating that we are hiding anything”

  • Dimitri Lascaris, The Real News Network, Baltimore.

“An old enemy of mine”

  • Christopher Hitchens (dec.), Washington, DC.

“You can go to hell. How dare you accuse me of having other motivations”

  • Susan Webber (aka Yves Smith), Editor, NakedCapitalism.com, New York.

“[Watch] Interview with John Helmer’s (agent ‘Socrates’) case officer Washington Station: My Life as a KGB Spy”

  • Radosław Sikorski, former Polish Foreign Minister, Senior Fellow, Harvard University.

“A famous Russian character assassin … Wow! Assange now using fake/libellous slander from John Helmer, who fled US after being recruited by the KGB in 80s”

  • Anne Applebaum, Washington Post freelancer, Warsaw.

“The attack on [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland began with dirty insinuations that first entered circulation [by] an eccentric Moscow-based freelancer, John Helmer. Back in the 1980s, in Washington, D.C., Helmer found himself at the centre of a maelstrom of allegations that he was a KGB asset. He left for Russia almost immediately thereafter, and has worked in Moscow ever since”

  • Terry Glavin, Canadian media columnist and winner of the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence (2009).

“[John Helmer is] a notorious conspiracy theorist”

  • Jeremy Kinsman, former Canadian ambassador to Russia, foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Russia should stop calling my grandfather a Nazi. People should be questioning where this information comes from and the motivations behind it. American officials have publicly said and even (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel has publicly said that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada”

  • Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Foreign Minister

“Helmer’s tiny (and usually ink-smudged) columnist photo in the Moscow Tribune was one of the great literary Sasquatch sightings of all time. I actually liked John quite a lot, but — and I mean this in the most complimentary possible way, if he happens to be reading this — I can certainly see wanting to kill him. That said I’m more than a little shocked that things in Russia have deteriorated to the point where people like aluminum king Oleg Deripaska are sending trios of bumbling assassins after him”

  • Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, New York.

“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”

  • Robert Amsterdam, US attorney and lobbyist for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

“Pro Kremlin Leftists and Liberals include people like Paul Craig Roberts, John Pilger, Oliver Stone, John Helmer, Thomas Hartmann, and Anatol Lieven, who echo the Kremlin’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda…How many are funded by the Kremlin, is unknown”

  • Euromaidan Press, Kiev.



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