British Spy Story Tailor-Made for an Election Year
Arvamus 29 Jan 2012  EWR
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Victor Davidoff, The Moscow Times, 29 January 2012
In 2006, an exposé about British "spy stones" in a film by pro-Kremlin television journalist Arkady Mamontov set off a media storm. The story was so advantageous for the Kremlin that many commentators suspected that the device was not real and that the whole story was a fabrication created to justify a government attack on nongovernmental organizations that were active in Russia. At the time, dozens of NGOs were barred from receiving foreign grants and simply disappeared. Several major foreign foundations were also forced to stop their activities in Russia.

Five years later, the notorious spy stones completed a complicated trajectory to return in the film "Putin, Russia and the West," shot for the BBC. In the film, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's former chief of staff, indirectly admits that the devices were used by British intelligence services for contact with their agents.

On Jan. 19, the film was announced on the BBC's official site. In less than 72 hours, its footage became a part of a new Mamontov documentary, once again directed against Russia's political opposition. As in 2006, the timing and message were suspiciously good for Putin. On his blog on Ekho Moskvy, well-known Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky wrote: "I don't have any doubt that this is an FSB operation. They deftly used the BBC film 'Putin, Russia and the West' to resurrect old propaganda just when mass demonstrations are going on in Moscow before the presidential election."

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The Moscow Times
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