Saturday, July 03, 2021

Vladimir Putin doesn't want you to read this

Catherine Belton has published a book called "Putin's People" about the rise to power in Russia of Vladimir Putin and his associates.

It has been reviewed in The Critic by Nick Cohen. the review is called "The long arm of the Chekists" and for anyone not familiar with the former Soviet Union, "Chekist" is a word for a Russian secret policeman such as the present Russian president once was.

The following paragraph may give you a flavour of the review:

"You must understand that I am not giving this book a good review, or a lukewarm review or any kind of review. I am reviewing a book that cannot be reviewed. Libel lawyers tell me that, if I recommend that you read it, I could open this magazine and myself to court action. Not in Russia where the judiciary has been the loyal servant of the Kremlin since the early 2000s, but here in England, a land we once assumed possessed a modicum of freedom.

"I have been over each word in this piece and worried about how a barrister enjoying the refresher fees of a Russian billionaire might interpret it. Honestly, it takes far longer not to review a book than to review it. The struggle to purge the text of anything that might be construed as critical of the litigious takes days."

Cohen concludes his review of the book, and of some of the recent libel actions to which it's author and other critics of the Putin regime have been subjected, by calling on the government to consider introducing what the Aericans call a "SLAPP law" e.g. restrictions on the ability of litigants to bring libel actions designed to make it impossible for truthful allegations or criticism to be published because of the cost of defending them against vexation libel actions.

I wouldn't dare advise you to read Catherine Belton's book or Nick Cohen's review - that nice Mr Putin might not like it. The fact that this link here will take you to the review in The Critic is pure coincidence.


Gary Bullivant said...

In May 2017 Whitehaven had a small taste of the world Ms Belton alledgedly describes. Informal reports of late night police escorts through the town whilst his superyacht Lady M was moored alongside suggest that Mr Mordoshov of Severgroup paid us a visit. He was possibly here to learn about our world class coking coal project - who knows? Well Mark Kirbride for one, of course. I suspect nothing came of it but it was good of him to at least nibble the bait. As for Rosneft,if we are looking for someone with a truly informed opinion on them we need look no further than our good neighbour the CEO of the NDA.

Chris Whiteside said...

We shall see.

A lot of things need to be resolved first - starting with the planning public inquiry - before we need to worry about selling any coal.

Perhaps, however, we need to review whether our libel laws can be abused by hostile actors more urgently.

Gary Bullivant said...

Those hostile actors are largely here, actually and virtually, at our implicit and sometimes explicit invitation, drawn to our supportive culture that they can and do exploit with the help of our home grown facilitators.

Libel cases start with a judge deciding that there may be a case to answer and that material harm to the claimant's reputation has occurred. None of that need involve a potential respondent so perhaps judges should increase their intolerance of punitive strategic libel claims before we worry too much about changing the letter of the law.

As for not worrying about selling any coal to oligarchs as part of some Faustian pact between Putin's Russia and the UK I don't because an agreement reached in Oct 2019 "will see Javelin purchasing 100% of WCM’s production output" (WCM website 14 Oct 19).