Author Catherine Belton and publisher HarperCollins are going to the High Court today (28th July) to take on Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft and three Russian billionaires, including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovic, over the book Putin's People (William Collins).
Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West, released last year, includes a claim by Russian billionaire Sergei Pugachev that Abramovich bought Chelsea on the orders of Vladimir Putin, something the club owner firmly denies and has launched legal action over.
Abramovich said his legal action was “not taken lightly”, and he had attempted to find an “amicable resolution”. Abramovich's lawyer Harbottle & Lewis said the book “falsely alleges that our client has acted corruptly, and makes false claims about our client’s purchase, and the activities, of Chelsea Football Club”. It added: “Such claims are totally unacceptable and are without foundation.”
Rosneft has also served a libel claim against Belton and HarperCollins UK. Two other Russian billionaires, Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, have also issued claims against HarperCollins alone. The Times reports Fridman is suing for defamation and on data protection grounds, while Aven has launched court action on data protection grounds. The details of these claims are not yet in the public domain.
Publisher HarperCollins said it would "robustly defend" the book and the "right to report on matters of considerable public interest".
A spokesperson told The Bookseller: "HarperCollins can confirm that the Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft has served a libel claim against UK author and journalist Catherine Belton and HarperCollins UK. Three Russian billionaires have also issued claims. Catherine Belton’s Putin’s People is an authoritative, important and conscientiously sourced work on contemporary Russia that was much-praised on publication by experts in the field. HarperCollins will robustly defend this acclaimed and groundbreaking book and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest."
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