British Judge To Rule In October On Libel Case Over ‘Putin’s People’ Book

A detail from the cover of Catherine Belton's book on Russian President Vladimir Putin's rise to power that is the subject of a controversial libel case that is being heard in London.  

A British judge says she plans to rule later this year on a libel case brought over claims in a book about the ascent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Judge Amanda Tipples told the High Court in London on July 29 that her judgment would come in October.

The case against journalist Catherine Belton and the publishers of her book Putin’s People: How The KGB Took Back Russia And Then Took On The West was brought by several wealthy Russians, including Russian-born billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich, a dual Russian-Israeli national who owns the Chelsea soccer club, is challenging a claim in the book that he purchased the club in 2003 at Putin’s direction.

Abramovich’s lawyer, Hugh Tomlinson, told Britain’s High Court on July 28 that the book contains "lazy inaccuracies" about his links to the Kremlin.

The defendants deny the claims, arguing that the book is balanced, well-sourced, and based on years of investigative reporting and interviews. The book, published in April 2020, became a Sunday Times best seller and won accolades from numerous newspapers.

Belton, a former Financial Times correspondent, declined to comment after the hearing on July 28, the AFP news agency reported.

The Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft, led by Putin’s close ally Igor Sechin, is also suing Belton and the United Kingdom’s arm of HarperCollins.

Rosneft’s lawyers said the book’s allegations would prompt a reader to think its business dealings were "illegal, improper, or inefficient."

Two other Russian billionaires named in the book, Pyotr Aven and Mikhail Fridman, settled with HarperCollins after the publisher agreed to make changes in subsequent editions.

That settlement also included an apology for not requesting comment on statements in the book which suggested the two Russians had connections with the KGB early in their careers.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP

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