British PR-specialist Timothy Bell said in an interview to Russian media the Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka is “a very friendly person”, and “most Belarusians are glad and happy”. According to the lord, he learnt this through speaking with common Belarusians “in hotels, bars, and restaurants”.
Timothy Bell was a guest of “Glavny Geroi” (Main Hero) programme on Russian NTV channel on October 19.
– Alyaksandr Lukashenka is considered to be a brutal politician in the West. What do you think about this?
– He is a very open, resolute, very concentrated and very friendly man.
– But western newspapers write absolutely different things...
– The difference is that they haven’t visited Belarus but I have.
– Lukashenka was dubbed “the last dictator in Europe” by Condoleezza Rice. Isn’t it a verdict?
– It is a stupid remark that everyone repeats. She should have visited Minsk and met with him, and not insulted him sight unseen.
– It is said that he hired you not to make peace with the West but to preserve his power.
– You are trying to engage me in complicated intellectual discussions, but I don’t want it. Most Belarusians are glad and happy.
– There is an opinion that this miracle is a result of cheap Russian oil and gas.
– I am not an economist. You’d better discuss this with Belarusian ministers.
– By the way, can he call you?
– He can if he wants.
– Does he know your number?
– Yes, I guess yes. He is a president and does whatever he wants. But I don’t speak Russian, so we can’t speak easily.
– It is said it was your idea to present president’s youngest son Kolya to public.
– I have nothing to do with that.
– Newspapers write you have...
– Newspapers want both inform and entertain, but they a re always confusing the two things. Some write stupidity, the others are copying it.
– Do you know about a letter of the Belarus Free Theatre?
– It’s a long letter, they wrote it to you! (Then goes a fragment of the letter, read out by the Free Theatre director Mikalai Khalezin: “We hope, you are an adult, Mr. Bell, and understand, that there is no such column as “PR-technologies of Lord Bell” with eight figures sum in the Belarusian budget”).
– I hope they enjoyed writing this. I am not interest in their opinion.
– But this is opposition supported by the West!
– These are people who decided to criticise the authorities. They wrote an insulting letter, juggling with facts. I am not going to begin a dialog with them.
According to Timothy Bell, the whole world judge Belarus by an “improvisation” of Condoleezza Rice, though she has neither met president Lukashenka nor been in Belarus. “When I go there, I mix perfectly happily with ordinary people. I see a country that has a perfectly nice atmosphere about it, people are very relaxed, people I talk to in hotels, bars and restaurants don't keep looking over their shoulder. But it's being described in the media in the way Ceausescu's Romania was described,” Lord Bell regrets. He admits he didn’t make an effort to see what life is like outside central Minsk or to get to know the opposition and those who are suspected by Europe in violating human rights.
“I am not a spokesman for the country,” the famous PR man emphasised.
Timothy Bell is talky in positive estimations of the Belarusian authorities: “I have found them to be very hospitable, very pleasant to be with. The media description of Belarus and its administration has absolutely no relation with reality in my experience.”
Commenting on the recent parliamentary electoral campaign, Mr Bell said, “I don't think you measure the success of an election by the number of opposition candidates that are elected.”
Speaking about his own role, he just noted that he steered the president’s administration to give two high-profile interviews to the Financial Times and Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, while praising the “president's decision” to be photographed at ballot boxes with his young son Kolya.
According to Lord Bell, main duty of Bell Pottinger Group is to tell Minsk and its Brussels embassy how EU decision-making works and to channel messages about Belarus to key players inside the EU institutions. “It's nothing to do with placing articles in newspapers. It's about trying to ensure an accurate flow of information to the [European] Parliament, the [European] Commission and other key European figures,” Lord Bell said.
The PR man said he sees no conflict of interest in advising an anti-Kremlin figure Mr Berezovsky and Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a Kremlin ally...
He described Belarus' foreign relations approach as an “an extremely delicate situation”, however. “They want to attract inward investment, want Belarusian people to travel freely, they would like the visa sanctions removed from their senior people so they can gain experience of other capitals. (...) He (Lukashenka) doesn't want to make a choice between his friends in the east and his friends in the West,” Lord Bell says.
PR lord and Bell Pottinger Group have chosen a decent role for them – to tell about work and hospitality of the Belarusian authorities and use their professional skills to give this information to Brussels. The details of a contract with the Belarusian authorities, in particular, its cost, are kept in secret decently.
Lord Bell doesn’t sign impractical contacts. He probably really knows all secret ways to the heart of Europe and is ready to lead Belarus there.