Russian-Jewish billionaires including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, Mikhail Fridman, and his partner Petr Aven, the co-founders of Alfa-Group, real estate tycoon Shalva Chigirinsky, and Russian’s state-owned energy giant Rosneft will stand today in the High Court in England over a book about the rise of Vladimir Putin. They claim the writer Catherine Belton, a former Financial Times journalist in Moscow, and the publisher HarperCollins defame them.
The legal onslaught by ‘Putin’s People’ began with a rush of cases filed in London courts within a few weeks of one another after the book was published in April 2020.
Catherine Belton examines Putin’s ascension to power and the rise of several of his allies from the former Soviet intelligence agencies to positions of wealth and influence following his 1999 election to the Kremlin’s top job.
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HarperCollins stated that it will “vigorously defend this acclaimed and ground-breaking book, as well as the right to report on significant public interest issues.”
The book’s source is exiled Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev, who was formerly a part of Putin’s inner circle before defecting, fleeing the country, and establishing himself as a dissident. Pugachev was labeled as an unreliable witness in a 2017 case by a High Court judge.
“The book falsely asserts that our client acted corruptly and makes misleading statements about our client’s purchase of Chelsea Football Club and its actions. Such assertions are wholly unacceptable and without basis “Harbottle & Lewis, Abramovich’s lawyers, stated on March 22.
According to Abramovich, “the false charges in this book are having a detrimental effect on not just my personal reputation, but also on the actions of Chelsea Football Club.”
Fridman and Aven claim: “Ms. Belton’s book, billed as a ‘definitive historical record,’ contains incorrect and offensive comments. It is critical for them that the record is corrected.”
Shalva Chigirinsky is suing HarperCollins and Belton for slander.