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Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in Europe. War in Ukraine. In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has waged a concerted campaign to expand its influence and undermine Western institutions. But how and why did all this come about, and who has orchestrated it? In Putin’s People, the investigative journalist and former Moscow corresp Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in Europe. War in Ukraine. In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has waged a concerted campaign to expand its influence and undermine Western institutions. But how and why did all this come about, and who has orchestrated it? In Putin’s People, the investigative journalist and former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton reveals the untold story of how Vladimir Putin and the small group of KGB men surrounding him rose to power and looted their country. Delving deep into the workings of Putin’s Kremlin, Belton accesses key inside players to reveal how Putin replaced the freewheeling tycoons of the Yeltsin era with a new generation of loyal oligarchs, who in turn subverted Russia’s economy and legal system and extended the Kremlin's reach into the United States and Europe. The result is a chilling and revelatory exposé of the KGB’s revanche—a story that begins in the murk of the Soviet collapse, when networks of operatives were able to siphon billions of dollars out of state enterprises and move their spoils into the West. Putin and his allies subsequently completed the agenda, reasserting Russian power while taking control of the economy for themselves, suppressing independent voices, and launching covert influence operations abroad. Ranging from Moscow and London to Switzerland and Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach—and assembling a colorful cast of characters to match—Putin’s People is the definitive account of how hopes for the new Russia went astray, with stark consequences for its inhabitants and, increasingly, the world.


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Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in Europe. War in Ukraine. In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has waged a concerted campaign to expand its influence and undermine Western institutions. But how and why did all this come about, and who has orchestrated it? In Putin’s People, the investigative journalist and former Moscow corresp Interference in American elections. The sponsorship of extremist politics in Europe. War in Ukraine. In recent years, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has waged a concerted campaign to expand its influence and undermine Western institutions. But how and why did all this come about, and who has orchestrated it? In Putin’s People, the investigative journalist and former Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton reveals the untold story of how Vladimir Putin and the small group of KGB men surrounding him rose to power and looted their country. Delving deep into the workings of Putin’s Kremlin, Belton accesses key inside players to reveal how Putin replaced the freewheeling tycoons of the Yeltsin era with a new generation of loyal oligarchs, who in turn subverted Russia’s economy and legal system and extended the Kremlin's reach into the United States and Europe. The result is a chilling and revelatory exposé of the KGB’s revanche—a story that begins in the murk of the Soviet collapse, when networks of operatives were able to siphon billions of dollars out of state enterprises and move their spoils into the West. Putin and his allies subsequently completed the agenda, reasserting Russian power while taking control of the economy for themselves, suppressing independent voices, and launching covert influence operations abroad. Ranging from Moscow and London to Switzerland and Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach—and assembling a colorful cast of characters to match—Putin’s People is the definitive account of how hopes for the new Russia went astray, with stark consequences for its inhabitants and, increasingly, the world.

30 review for Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Belton, former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, did TONS of research for this book, and she was able to put together a rather cohesive picture of how modern-day Russia has been shaped by "KGB capitalism". In the book, Putin's rise to power, his tactics to cement his position and his influence on American politics under Trump are shown as the consequence of a whole web of players and events: The members of the KGB, their ability to funnel money out of the collapsing SU, to control ol Belton, former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, did TONS of research for this book, and she was able to put together a rather cohesive picture of how modern-day Russia has been shaped by "KGB capitalism". In the book, Putin's rise to power, his tactics to cement his position and his influence on American politics under Trump are shown as the consequence of a whole web of players and events: The members of the KGB, their ability to funnel money out of the collapsing SU, to control oligarchs who became rich off their backs and to bring the whole political system under their authoritarian control. But Belton has one major blind spot: She sees Russia more or less as a closed system, and this approach is rooted in the assumption that Putin and his people are bad. While this might be a valid conclusion for a non-fiction book, it's a terrible starting point, as it results in the whole book being overshadowed by confirmation bias: Let me show you how bad these people actually are! But what about the outside forces that (willingly and unwillingly) helped create this situation, i.e., the West, which means: What about our own responsibility? Granted, Belton does sometimes mention that Western powers have enabled some of Putin's tactics or even profited from them, but this is not enough: The loss of the Soviet Empire had far-reaching consequences that have shaped real-life politics, as The Light that Failed: A Reckoning proves. These dynamics between West and East, and, consequently, how the West has also failed the East, is a sideshow in Belton's book, when indeed it is still a core factor in current events (as a German, I can re-assure you that more than 30 years after re-unification, the wounds in the East have not healed, and that there is a whole world of experience that I as a West German cannot access - how must it feel for Russian citizens who lost "their" empire?). This is not about trying to argue that Putin is a good leader or that Russian foreign politics are morally defendable - IMHO, this is a terrible, cynic, self-serving regime that couldn't care less about the well-being of the Russian people - but the fact that the West tends to isolate the problem, portraying it as being solely "Russian" is just way to easy if you really intend to build a better future. The West has to face its own mistakes regarding its behavior towards Russia in order to not repeat them (btw, what Trump does in the US imitates what happened in Russia). It's a little complacent to write a book that simply concludes: "Putin = bad". Still, this book is filled to the brim with meticulously researched information and does a great job putting together a very difficult puzzle, because the KGB has put in quite some effort to hide core pieces. So as a basis for further discussion, this is a great book, but it needs some extra reflection about the greater scheme of things.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

    You know you’re reading about a frightening individual when the thought crosses your mind, “Is there any chance I could be assassinated just for posting a review of this book?” It is a pretty ludicrous thought, but the fate of so many in “Putin’s People” allows it to creep in. A lot of what is presented in this book is not entirely proven. It is rumor, supported by evidence, and that’s all it really can be, given the opaque nature of the Putin regime. Some of the allegations are not hard to fath You know you’re reading about a frightening individual when the thought crosses your mind, “Is there any chance I could be assassinated just for posting a review of this book?” It is a pretty ludicrous thought, but the fate of so many in “Putin’s People” allows it to creep in. A lot of what is presented in this book is not entirely proven. It is rumor, supported by evidence, and that’s all it really can be, given the opaque nature of the Putin regime. Some of the allegations are not hard to fathom at all, like the various moves to consolidate power and replace a corrupt and greedy Yeltsin government with an even more unsavory KGB faction. Other allegations are so disturbing that you can only hope they aren’t true, such as apartment bombing Russian citizens to enhance electoral prospects, or staging a terrorist attack on real Russian hostages. In terms of the writing itself, this book is incredibly thorough, to the point of being almost exhaustive in detail, and unrelenting in the case it builds against Putin. The book starts with a list of 24 people that will be featured in the book and who they are. This is a valuable resource, since there are so many people to keep track of, and very few are described in ways that make them easy to distinguish from others. This is a book for readers that are very interested in the process and events that happened, more than for readers wanting to unpeel the layers about the characters behind those events. Don’t expect a lot of psychological analysis of how Putin thinks, how he grew up, what drove him to the decisions he makes, or whether he’s conflicted about anything. Him and his associates are essentially portrayed as unfeeling automatons, motivated only by power and wealth. Maybe that’s all there is to them, or maybe there’s more to explore there. I found the book very informative, and thought the author made a compelling argument that the KGB’s interest in destabilizing the West started decades prior to Putin taking power, and that the West’s prioritization of unfettered capitalism and taking money from whoever can pay helped allow Putin’s consolidation of power. Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ren

    He’s going to have been in power more than 20 years by the time he’s done and there’s still surprisingly little that we know about him and his regime, concrete and verified at least. That’s still amazing to me for someone who will have influenced and shaped Russia, and far beyond, really, so much. This is by far the most comprehensive book I’ve read on where he came from (not a full bio, but his KGB background, Yeltsin connection, etc.) and how he came to be “installed” in the Kremlin. And just. He’s going to have been in power more than 20 years by the time he’s done and there’s still surprisingly little that we know about him and his regime, concrete and verified at least. That’s still amazing to me for someone who will have influenced and shaped Russia, and far beyond, really, so much. This is by far the most comprehensive book I’ve read on where he came from (not a full bio, but his KGB background, Yeltsin connection, etc.) and how he came to be “installed” in the Kremlin. And just...sigh. I barely even know what to say. This was quite the rollercoaster, but like a rollercoaster that simultaneously runs through a house of horrors and there’s a demon in a business suit with a pile of money and an offshore account and a devious agenda around every corner. Can you picture it? Truly heart-stopping and also, exhausting. I already feel like I know too much. It’s a bit hard to keep track of all of these pukes because there’s just so many of them (and a few lesser pukes, to be fair) and it’s surreal to simmer in the details of what a corrupt maniacal blatantly manipulative gangster he is while watching our own president pucker to kiss his ass from every possible angle. This provides a wealth of answers and information despite the murky, obfuscated mess it all is (no insignificant feat). I think it’s essential reading for understanding where our relationship with Russia is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Written by a former Moscow correspondent of the Financial Times this is a superb work of investigative journalism – detailed, clearly written, accessible and a treasure trove of information about the emergence of the Putin regime and his rise to power. I stand in awe of the amount of research the author has done and impressed by the way she has managed to make the information easy to understand for a less well informed readership. Based on testimony from Kremlin insiders, diplomats, intelligence Written by a former Moscow correspondent of the Financial Times this is a superb work of investigative journalism – detailed, clearly written, accessible and a treasure trove of information about the emergence of the Putin regime and his rise to power. I stand in awe of the amount of research the author has done and impressed by the way she has managed to make the information easy to understand for a less well informed readership. Based on testimony from Kremlin insiders, diplomats, intelligence officers and oligarchs plus independent research, the book is endlessly fascinating and often horrifying. There are revelations on almost every page, and I learnt an enormous amount. Essential reading for anyone interested in Putin, Russia and its role in international affairs.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gergely

    I would recommend this book to anybody who has even the slightest interest in Russian politics today. The cast is operatic in its scope, from exiled Oligarchs hiding in secret villas, to KGB operatives, to well-known New York gangsters, Donald Trump etc., and the story genuinely fascinating and disturbing in equal measure. But I would also caution the reader to bare in mind that objective analysis pays a price to the key narrative that it is trying to get across to the reader. In short, 5* for r I would recommend this book to anybody who has even the slightest interest in Russian politics today. The cast is operatic in its scope, from exiled Oligarchs hiding in secret villas, to KGB operatives, to well-known New York gangsters, Donald Trump etc., and the story genuinely fascinating and disturbing in equal measure. But I would also caution the reader to bare in mind that objective analysis pays a price to the key narrative that it is trying to get across to the reader. In short, 5* for readability, 3* for accuracy. Written in a furious and unrelenting style that reads like 640 page-long undercover report, it had me gripped from start to finish. It covers the same territory as many past books on Putin’s rise and now twenty-year rule, from his days working in foreign intelligence in Dresden, his meteoric rise in 1990s from Deputy Mayor of Russia’s 2nd city to Prime Minister and then President, his corralling of the oligarchic class and later re-structuring and re-assignment of the commanding heights of the economy into the hands of his personal and trusted acquaintances, through to Crimean annexation and the near cold-war status relationship that Russia has with the West today. Nevertheless, the scope here is larger, the writing style more enthralling, and the revelations and arguments more sensational than any serious book on this subject before. Where Belton is especially strong is on economics, which is something that most Putin books of the past have avoided. The corruption at the top ends of the Russian political and economic eco-system is hard to imagine, so great is its scope, and for the economically illiterate, like myself, she neatly unwraps and explains the myriad schemes that have been employed to siphon the majority of Russia’s wealth offshore. She is excellent when explaining how none of this theft would be possible without the facilitation provided by Western financial institutions. On the political side, though, not everything in the book rings true. Belton's key premise is that Putin’s rise and hold on power is the result of a planned and stealthy capture of the county by the KGB, that his emergence was the visible top of a much deeper but hidden fight back of the KGB to take control back over from the Oligarchs like Berezovsky, the political puppet masters who got Yeltsin re-re-elected in 1996. However, there is no concrete evidence of this planned state capture, and I had a sense of sources being used to fit this narrative that suits a popular and easy to grasp Western view of Putin as the head of a dark and malign force (KGB) whose main focus is scheming about wreaking havoc around the world. The evidence I have read over the years points to a much less tidy , more complex picture of political development. I think it is more accurate to see Putin as someone who has never had complete loyalty to any one clan (one of the reasons he was initially selected for the role of President by the Yeltsin administration in the first place), and it is precisely due to his position as the ultimate arbiter of conflicts between elites (including between the security services and major businessmen) that he has been able to hang on to power for so long. Although Putin’s entourage of apparatchiks does include many former KGB members, it is far from exclusively drawn from the security services, and the patterns of policy and political change over the last twenty years reflects less the actions of a carefully planning maverick than a reactive judo-player (as Mark Galeotti has aptly termed it in the past), using events to his advantage as they arise. Further, I see almost the whole political and economic leadership of Russia today as the children of the 1990s. This was an especially lawless decade, when winning and maintaining power and control, whether in business or politics, required a high level of ruthlessness, violence, secrecy and protection. The mindset (and wealth) of many of those in positions of power today, from the heads of major state corporations to the various arms of the government, was made in that period, whether they were from the KGB or not. It is therefore not surprising that the relationship between the elite (both former KGB and otherwise) and the country's citizens is so dysfunctional in today's Russia. Secondly, there is an issue with a source. Kremlin politics is particularly murky, rife with rumor, almost totally lacking transparency, and so any Russia analyst will struggle to get a total objective picture of exactly "what happened." However, a significant part of the book relies on quotes from Sergey Pugachev, a former billionaire who used to be a close Putin ally before they fell out, exiling himself in France whilst the Russian state came aggressively after the assets he had amassed. From what I have seen and heard reported of Pugachev, he is a man with a deep vendetta against the Russian government and quite an eccentric character, prone to hyperbole. His words need to be treated cautiously. For example, he claims that when he took Putin to church and explained that here he could ask for forgiveness from God, Putin apparently replied “I am the President of Russia, why should I ask for any forgiveness?” Quotes like these suggest Pugachev’s interest in using the book to launch theatrical attacks on Putin to advance his own agenda of political change at the top of Russian government. So overall a fantastic read, but maybe just a little too fantastical at times.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Akram Salam

    I not only read the book but attended a Zoom seminar earlier this week led by Catherine Belton at the Harriman Institute. So Belton had actually worked on this book for a number of years beginning before 2013. She felt the world didn’t understand what happened at the fall of the Soviet Union and what happened with the KGB. The scope of Putin’s People is massive, starting from Putin’s Dresden days and going all the way up to the present day. Years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB I not only read the book but attended a Zoom seminar earlier this week led by Catherine Belton at the Harriman Institute. So Belton had actually worked on this book for a number of years beginning before 2013. She felt the world didn’t understand what happened at the fall of the Soviet Union and what happened with the KGB. The scope of Putin’s People is massive, starting from Putin’s Dresden days and going all the way up to the present day. Years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the KGB was funneling money from the USSR to Western European entities because they saw the collapse as imminent. During the Yeltsin years they continued to take over strategic cash flows, using the money to fund intermediaries to support influence operations. The KBG was biding its time until it finally made it back to power in 2000 with the appointment of Putin as president. Gradually the KGB tightened its grip on the strategic cash flows of the Russian Federation. Belton says that this vast wealth was not employed to establish a pure kleptocracy – it was a means for Russia to reeassert its position as a global player and for Putin’s regime to resurrect networks of the past, like tycoons who could act as trusted custodians of the Kremlin and carry out operations for the Kremlin to give plausible deniability. Belton tells this story elegantly in all its detail. She has interviewed key figures such as Suleyman Kerimov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Vladimir Yakunin over a long period of time, cultivating relationships with them and corroborating the information they revealed to her. This is such an amazing book, and I highly recommend you watch one of her seminars on YouTube after reading it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jakub Lupták

    Informative, follows cash flow surrounding Putin's regime and its doublethink operation of the black markets, if a bit cumbersome and slightly drawn out. Could have been halved imo.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ula

    After reading this book it will be harder to dismiss any conspiracy theory, however outlandish, because Vladimir’s Putin path to power is hard to believe. There are spies, deep state, mobsters, corruption and lavish residences, there are intrigues, fake terrorist’s plots and poisons. Yet, it’s true, as proofs delivered by Catherine Belton leave no doubt. It was a fascinating read. As a news aficionado, I was aware of most of the events that happened in Russia during last 30 years, but only now I After reading this book it will be harder to dismiss any conspiracy theory, however outlandish, because Vladimir’s Putin path to power is hard to believe. There are spies, deep state, mobsters, corruption and lavish residences, there are intrigues, fake terrorist’s plots and poisons. Yet, it’s true, as proofs delivered by Catherine Belton leave no doubt. It was a fascinating read. As a news aficionado, I was aware of most of the events that happened in Russia during last 30 years, but only now I grasped real meaning of many of them, and what was cause and effect of this actions. Sometimes I was a little lost in details regarding financial issues, but after all it isn’t possible to show very murky operations in more simple way. And the level of detail is one of the greatest virtues of this book, which is excellently researched and almost every sentence has a footnote with a source of information. You can also see that Ms Belton is well acquainted with many of main characters - she is a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times. On one hand, the scale of her work means that events from every chapter deserve for separate book and sometimes it leaves the reader hungry for more. On the other, only in this way it is possible to see through the whole 'operation Putin'. And you should, because Russia has its tentacles everywhere in the West and won't hesitate to use them in the most nefarious ways. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    An exhaustive and compelling review of Putin's rise to power and the former KGB black market schemes he resurrected to control and corrupt Russia and, increasingly, the West.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Viktor Lototskyi

    Decent investigation, facts, minimum personal opinions, great chronology. There's no black and white, everyone accepted rules of the game from the beginning, no BS'ing about West being blind, they knew what they did: money, money, money. Yet, at some point money are not enough to justify much greater shifts in the world. Deserves its own GodFather epic movie a few decades from now.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suman Joshi

    The Modis and the Erdogans of the world appear to be novices and also-rans after reading this . When the West was exulting in its victory after the Cold War little did they realise that the KGB machine did not die ! It only took a break. Putin’s story is not just one on making a few million bucks or power for a few terms but a complete dismantling of institutions for ideological hegemony - cultural and political . Reading about the events that led to the rise of Putin, the Yeltsin era , the impri The Modis and the Erdogans of the world appear to be novices and also-rans after reading this . When the West was exulting in its victory after the Cold War little did they realise that the KGB machine did not die ! It only took a break. Putin’s story is not just one on making a few million bucks or power for a few terms but a complete dismantling of institutions for ideological hegemony - cultural and political . Reading about the events that led to the rise of Putin, the Yeltsin era , the imprint the KGB has left in the Slavic nations, their support for authoritarians on both sides of the spectrum and interference in important world events such as the Brexit vote and the US elections of 2016 left me feeling frightened for the future of the world as we know it ! Although a tad lengthy it is a well researched , well narrated book !

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emilie Weidl

    4.5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Strous, & Giroux for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Putin and his KGB men, it seemed, could jail whoever they wanted, as long as the emerging class could afford an annual holiday in the likes of Turkey. This is the newest edition of Belton’s in-depth analysis of Putin’s rise to power and the rise and fall of other individuals as a consequence. Belton tracks the KGB black-cash routes that are still in existence today, with slight modif 4.5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Strous, & Giroux for a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Putin and his KGB men, it seemed, could jail whoever they wanted, as long as the emerging class could afford an annual holiday in the likes of Turkey. This is the newest edition of Belton’s in-depth analysis of Putin’s rise to power and the rise and fall of other individuals as a consequence. Belton tracks the KGB black-cash routes that are still in existence today, with slight modifications. She illustrates how the KGB managed to maintain its position of power in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, work that began many years before the collapse itself. This new edition covers up to the constitutional amendments proposed in January of this year, which served to both increase Putin’s current power and allow him to hold onto power longer. Trump’s dealings with Moscow are given much attention, as well. Trump proves to be a great foil to Putin, who is described as extremely manipulative and calculating. According to Shvets, the KBG at least believed it had recruited Trump [in 1987]. Whether Trump was aware of any of this is another question. I was a bit worried at the beginning of this book, as it appeared that Belton was blaming Chechens for the apartment bombings and other terrorist attacks at the beginning of Putin’s rule. However, this was later cleared up. The majority of this book was riveting and engaging, but I felt that this fell off in the last few chapters. The amount of research that has gone into this book is incredible. One topic that I thought might have deserved more attention was the federal structure in Russia and the inequalities between the regions. While this book included an amazing section on natural-resource politics, it was lacking details on the regional inequalities connected to this topic, in my opinion. Overall, this is an important read for anyone who is interested in Russian politics and the demise of liberal democracy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Richard Block

    Pure Poison This book is unimaginably detailed and incisive. Unlike many other books I have read, this proves a thread between Putin's KGB past ties him and his country to a coherent story - that Putin has put the country back in the hands of the FSB (KGB) in order to enrich himself and restore the Soviet Empire. Belton is ideally suited to the task - she worked in Moscow for the FT as their correspondent for years and her knowledge of the economic machinations of the KBG and FSB underpin the thes Pure Poison This book is unimaginably detailed and incisive. Unlike many other books I have read, this proves a thread between Putin's KGB past ties him and his country to a coherent story - that Putin has put the country back in the hands of the FSB (KGB) in order to enrich himself and restore the Soviet Empire. Belton is ideally suited to the task - she worked in Moscow for the FT as their correspondent for years and her knowledge of the economic machinations of the KBG and FSB underpin the thesis. She fully convinces the reader, never padding her story but punching it out without artifice or emotion. The use of terror to put and keep Putin in place is here for all to see - it is remarkable that the West fell for the unceasing lies. Asset management is Putin's speciality - and that includes Donald Trump. Though much less detailed then some accounts (Malcolm Nance, for example) this book is the nail in the coffin for anyone questioning that Trump is an asset of Russia as President of the US. Black Ops and active measures has merged Trump and Putin - witness his election, impeachment and the current attempts to bury Joe Biden with a Metoo allegation (so funny, but true). This is so obviously like his attempt to kill Biden with Hunter Biden's Ukraine exploits that it beggars belief. For anyone coming to the Putin story fresh, this is the one book you must read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kyran

    Captivating stuff and extremely well researched. Reads like a drawn-out spy thriller, playing over two decades now. The book recounts how Putin assumed power and the KGB/crime networks which propelled him there in tumultuous, late-90s Russia; it then addresses his consolidation of power through political, financial and criminal means. The book is comprehensive in describing the financial machinations of the Russian state: oligarchs deposed, sham trials, slush money, skeleton companies, and viole Captivating stuff and extremely well researched. Reads like a drawn-out spy thriller, playing over two decades now. The book recounts how Putin assumed power and the KGB/crime networks which propelled him there in tumultuous, late-90s Russia; it then addresses his consolidation of power through political, financial and criminal means. The book is comprehensive in describing the financial machinations of the Russian state: oligarchs deposed, sham trials, slush money, skeleton companies, and violent interference for the non-compliant. This should be a wake up call to the West – if it’s not already too late.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert Cowper-Coles

    London remains Russia’s most important city. The Kremlin has become adept at pursuing people in the courts with help from sophisticated PR and the buying British assets (the evening standard) to gain access to the elite. Growing number of MPs are paid incredible sums to sit and independent non execs when they leave parliament. London has increasingly seen by Putin as economically healthy enough to provide returns (a large number of enormous Russian companies IPOd on the FTSE) but too weak politi London remains Russia’s most important city. The Kremlin has become adept at pursuing people in the courts with help from sophisticated PR and the buying British assets (the evening standard) to gain access to the elite. Growing number of MPs are paid incredible sums to sit and independent non execs when they leave parliament. London has increasingly seen by Putin as economically healthy enough to provide returns (a large number of enormous Russian companies IPOd on the FTSE) but too weak politically to purse corruption in the Russian state. The belief in London was that Oligarchs who listed their business would abide with corporate governance and become part of the global system. Much like China has failed to materialise. Abramovich became one of Putins most trusted custodians, and was encouraged to buy Chelsea to give Russia more clout in FIFA (it worked as Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup) and to dine with UK high society “it was an entrance to the House of Lords”. London became known and Londongrad and Moskva-na-Thames. Putin was born in the backstreets of Leningrad as relatively poor, something that gave him a chip on his shoulder. Putins wife Lyudmila tried to dissuade Putin from running for a second term as she was very lonely. Putin used to return home from work and “sit in his slippers watching bland comedy shows on TV rather than spending time with his wife” Putin was based in Dresden for the KGB, who pulled the strings for the terrorist organisation the "Red Army” which did everything in its power to prevent the Berlin Wall from falling. The Red Army even killed a Deutsche Bank chairman. Just before the Berlin Wall came down East German citizens tried to storm the Russia embassy. Putin phoned Moscow only to hear that “Moscow was silent”. One by one the outposts of the empire were being given up. This hurt Putin and reinforced his desire to see the KGB strengthened to become a mutually partner for Russian business/political/economic interests. It was fragmented in the post Cold War period, but then came together under Putin. Before becoming president, Putin became mayor of Petersburg, where he was responsible for the illustrious property portfolio built during the empire. This was probably the moment that inspired Putin to make Russia an imperial force once again. He attained a modest role working for the Kremlin. He was known as a modest individual and uninterested in furthering his career. He even offered to step down - this was a great move as he was then offered the 3rd most powerful role in Russia, Chief of staff to the Kremlin. The KGB was instrumental in pushing Yeltsin from power, who felt that he had become Bill Clinton’s puppet was to pro-western. Putin got off to a good start to his presidency by promising to reform Russia into pro market. He even received a royal banquet at Buckingham Palace under the Blair government. This sentiment changed when Bush decided to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic-Missile Treaty in 2002, pushing Nato closer to Russia’s boarder. Not long after, Putin arrested, one of Russia’s richest men, Khodorkovsky, who had failed to grasp a basic tenet of Putin’s rule, privatisation of a business, like a oil company did not mean that you owned the business, you were simply the holder for the Russian state. Such actions pushed Putin’s poll ratings up to 70%. Putin would later allow his cronies to become rich by using certain banks to act a treasurer for the government to hide the money/return to the government, and then use it to corrupt oligarchs. The banks meanwhile got to control valuable Russian assets like property and oil. Putin friends and allies were hand picked to run certain banks. Putin’s takeover of strategic cashflows is about the projection of power/keeping his political allies happy by making them rich, and reasserting the country on the world stage, not about the wellbeing of Russian citizens. Geneva became a favourite place for Putin to stash the proceeds from his state capitalism The Ukraine Crisis led to the Russian invasion of Crimea which was important to Russia because; When the soviet union collapsed and Crimea wound up in a different country, Russian felt that it has been pillaged from it people who were Russian Soviets in all but name. Russia was too weak, and had to drop its head and swallow the shame. Ukraine were close to signing an EU trade and constitution deal. Putin sent his undercover police to bully the President (Yanukovych) and Putin personally threatened Yanukovych with sanctions, and possible invasion. Putin was desperate for the Crimea not to become Western tilted. At the last moment the President pull out of the EU deal, creating wild protests amongst the Pro-EU Ukraine population in Kiev. Yankovych then resigned creating more instability. The protests continued before Putins undercover agents (probably) shot some protestors, creating civil was in Kiev. This allowed Russian to invade Crimea and it has remained Russian ever since. Russians initially welcomed Putin’s invasion of Crimea, but now are tired with the diminished economic opportunities. In 2014, economists said that in 2020 Russian was due to to become the world’s 5th largest economy. It is now the 13th post the Crimea campaign. Russian was a key funder in the Vote Leave campaign, with Aron Banks received £8m through a shell company in Jersey. The subsequent investigation could not trace the money any further and Banks walked clear. Trump also benefited hugely from Russian campaign funding, some of which came from former KGB operatives. Trump has actually had many close dealings with wealthy Russian oligarchs since the 1980 - on a number of occasions they bailed him out from his failed business ventures. It was very clear that these oligarchs/Russia, at some point latched onto Trump as a political opportunity. In 2016 Ambramovich was asked to turn his attention to New York at build relationship with Trump and his family. Russia’s parliament cheered when the Trumps won election.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a very timely book. It is expertly researched, as might be expected of a journalist writing about her specialist area, and a great read. What hit me was the fact that, although Putin is the all-important figure head, he is managing (and, I wonder, perhaps being manipulated by) a strong team of fellow ex-KGB officers all of them keen on restoring Russia to the USSR's position as one of the world's two great powers. The book describes how they have been managing this at home, in bordering a This is a very timely book. It is expertly researched, as might be expected of a journalist writing about her specialist area, and a great read. What hit me was the fact that, although Putin is the all-important figure head, he is managing (and, I wonder, perhaps being manipulated by) a strong team of fellow ex-KGB officers all of them keen on restoring Russia to the USSR's position as one of the world's two great powers. The book describes how they have been managing this at home, in bordering areas (Crimea) overtly on the international scene (Syria) and, of greatest importance, covertly worldwide, but especially in the USA, Great Britain and the rest of Western Europe. It appears that this has been facilitated by global financial institutions (especially in the UK and Switzerland, hopefully unwittingly), as well as sections of the right-wing media in the UK and USA, and by seeding "fake news" and using fake personae on social media. I was surprised that relatively little of the book concerned Russian activities in relation to the People's Republic of China, another contender for one of the world's two great powers. History tells us that there's nothing most Russians like more than a strong leader. Putin has already played the system to return to the Presidency. Who's to say now that he won't last out until he's older than the oldest of old-stagers of the former Soviet regime? With many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me a copy of a very important book in exchange for this honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eugene Boytsov

    Bull's eye; excellent book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    The writings of a person so intellectually lazy he can't be bothered to find out the Cold War is over. The same rehash of fairy tales with some computers pasted over.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zoltan Pogatsa

    This very enthusing book addresses some of the most intriguing questions about Putin’s rise and rule. Question such as how it is that a supposedly peripheral KGB agent from Dresden gets to become president of the largest country on earth? If we agree with the popular explanation that Putin’s rise is in fact synonymous with the return of the KGB, how exactly did this happen? Why was Putin chosen? How do they rule? Do they really have significant influence on Trump and other Western political for This very enthusing book addresses some of the most intriguing questions about Putin’s rise and rule. Question such as how it is that a supposedly peripheral KGB agent from Dresden gets to become president of the largest country on earth? If we agree with the popular explanation that Putin’s rise is in fact synonymous with the return of the KGB, how exactly did this happen? Why was Putin chosen? How do they rule? Do they really have significant influence on Trump and other Western political forces? There is an entire industry of books on Putin’s Russia, and most of them fail to address these questions. If they do address them, they just repeat commonly held beliefs without providing much evidence, based on the routine that if you repeat the mainstream view often enough, it gets treated by people as evident fact. Dresden Belton is different in that she addresses some of these central questions head on. Take for instance Putin’s early life in Dresden. She argues that although at first sight Dresden might appear a peripheral posting, in fact it can be important precisely because it is not Berlin. In Berlin you had the Americans, the British, the French, the West Germans, everybody. It was the spy capital of the world. Dresden was peripheral, deep inside the DDR, therefore you could work there undisturbed. What sort of work? Belton argues it was the tech capital of East Germany. Therefore smuggling tech from the West could be one possible task. She convincingly demonstrates how a number of Western firms were willing to contravene the Western tech embargo. She does not provide evidence, however, about how exactly Putin played a part in this. The other possible role she identifies as aiding terror groups in the West, including the Red Brigades. The evidence she presents for Putin’s responsibility in this is mostly anecdotal. However, it does seem plausible that Putin’s posting in Dresden was more significant than how it is made out to be. What supports this hypothesis the most is the widespread and deep network he was able to utilise later on in life, both as deputy mayor of St Petersburg and later as president. He knew a lot of people in both the East and the West. People with significant money and influence, who would stick with him for decades. Indeed, Belton explains very convincingly that the networks and schemes which had been set up to smuggle money to the West for operational purposes in the eighties were the blueprint for private money laundering during and after privatisation, which effectively meant the looting of the Russian economy. They were also useful in influence operations by the reinvigorated KGB/FSB network after Putin’s rise to power. Belton demonstrates with concrete names how these networks remained intact during the collapse of the Soviet Union, or were reactivated. St Petersburg Putin’s second life was as deputy mayor of St Petersburg. Belton does not explain how he came to such a high office after no more than a brief stint as external relations manager at the local university. It is often quoted that after returning from Dresden Putin was afraid he might have to work as a taxi driver. How does he so swiftly become such a key guy in St Petersburg? Belton hints at the KGB connection again. Rather than retiring from the KGB, as he did according to official accounts, she thinks he maintained those connections. First he offered his services to an opposition human rights lawyer, but she vigilantly rejected him. Then he worked briefly under Sobchak, an opposition leader and future mayor, at the local university, in charge of external relations. Sobchak then gets elected mayor, and makes Putin his deputy. Putin is simultaneously very efficient in his formal job, and develops connections to the Tambov gang, the local underworld, during the bloody infighting for control of St Petersburg port, one of the most important in Russia. He is represented in this period as being actively engaging both with these criminals and the self reorganising network of the local KGB. Importantly, Sobchak dies years later amidst suspicious circumstances, most likely poisoning, one week before Putin’s inauguration as President of Russa, having expressed his concerns about Putin rapid rise to the top job. This is possible, although it is well known that Putin had been very loyal to Sobchak. He had even organised a covert operation to smuggle him out of the country to Paris illegaly when Sobchak came under investigation for corruption. This does not exclude, however, that Sobchak had direct experience of how strong Putin’s drive, networks, and abilities are. Moscow The main weakness of the book is in failing to answer what is perhaps the most intriguing question of all: how did Putin become President? Belton rushes through these years without much explanation. He is called to Moscow by people with KGB connections, and the finds himself in a meteoric rise through the ranks to Prime Minister and then a replacement for Yeltsin himself on New Years Day 2000. Why Putin? Why a little known former KGB guy from the periphery, a former deputy mayor from outside of Moscow, where the KGB, later the FSB, is headquartered? Belton makes the context very clear. Yeltsin by this time is an alcoholic who had lost control of affairs to his daughter, Tatyana, and some powerful figures around her, such as oligarchs Berezovsky and Pugachev. Far more than half of Russian GDP is controlled by a handful of oligarchs, most of whom are household names even in the West. Apart from Berezovsky and Pugachev, they are Kohodorkovsky, Gusinky, and a few others. They had first become rich during the early privatisations at the beginning of the 1990s, when the West was pushing for rapid marketisation of Russia through advisors such as Jeffrey Sachs, who nowadays poses as a born again Leftie, and heads a think tank on sustainability, but back then was responsible for shock therapy in Russia and Poland. The infamous voucher or coupon privatization scheme failed miserably, enabling the first batch of oligarchs to loot state, party and Komsomol coffers. The moment when these tycoons became all powerful on a globally significant scale was the infamous loans-for-shares scandal before Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection bid, where they, together with the West, provided financial and media support to the highly unpopular and already ill Yeltsin to prevent the Communists from returning to power. In exchange the oligarchs gained ownership of Russia’s gigantic oil, gas and mineral wealth. This is how Khodorkovsky, himself most likely a criminal according to Belton, gains control of Yukos for instance. The scheme, which is well documented in another book, The Oligarchs by David E. Hoffman, left Russia effectively under the control of these tycoons. The state was falling apart, salaries were unpaid, infrastructure crumbling, corruption rampant, hundreds of millions of Russians were left impoverished, and Russia’s international standing was lower than ever before. It is in this context that Putin comes about as a saviour, who fixes things and restores order out of chaos. This helps us understand his popularity. However, we must also understand that the true story line is not that everything was fine before Putin, and Russia had been a stable and democratic country. Quite the opposite. The neoliberal, market oriented push for rapid marketisation had created one of the most unequal societies in the world, where a few interest groups had basically captured the state. The majority of Russians progressively lost faith in democracy, at least in this liberal form. The alternative would have been a more social democratic Russia, which would have created a stronger middle class, which in turn would have preserved democracy. The West was complicit in destroying Russian democracy before it ever really took off. Belton therefore sets out the context very honesty. She also explains well how other contenders such as the Communists, or Prime Minister Yevgenniy Primakov, were gradually sidelined by the KGB network. However, the most important question remains unanswered: why Putin? If indeed the KGB was powerful enough to push their candidate through against the oligarchs, the Communist and the Kremlin, why did they not field someone from their own top leadership? Belton fails to outline the sociology of this KG elite. Who were they? How did they manage to retain or regain power? Admittedly, this is a difficult task. The so-called siloviki, the “forces” as the Russians call them, operate in a secretive world. Yet more would have needed to explain why exactly it was exactly Putin they were pushing forward. Belton seems to hint that everyone underestimated the diligent, obedient and outwardly modest Putin, except for the forces. The Yeltsin clan saw him as a guarantor of their immunity against prosecution for corruption. Once in power, Putin indeed reliably delivered immunity to Yeltsin. The oligarchs, Berezovsky and Pugachev, saw him as a relatively weak caretaker figure they could control. They were wrong, as Putin moved in to use the armed forces and the law to squeeze them out along with the other oligarchs. Thus the Belton’s suggestion is Putin being the underestimated compromise figure, who surprised all. Plausible. Putin's Russia In some sense Putin had no chance but to become who he has become. Belton provides a detailed account of the Yukos affair, for instance. Khodorkovsky, who had himself become rich and powerful through criminal means, suddenly rebranded himself as a guardian of democracy, transparency and human rights. However, he was using his revenues from Yukos to buy to buy almost the entire Duma, from the Communists through the Liberals to the anti-Semite Nationalists. He was even powerful enough to arrest a Finance Ministry bill that would have taxed the oil industry, by having it voted down in the Duma. At the same time he was planning to sell Yukos to Exxon. The largest oil firm in Russia, which he had won only a few years earlier through corruption. It is quite obvious that Putin could not allow this. Neither the influence buying, nor selling out Russia’s natural resources to the former rival, the USA. Putin acted decisively. He used the law to arrest Khodorkovsky and his cronies. They had accumulated plenty of criminal past to enable him to do so. He also used former tax evasion by Yukos as a pretext to bankrupt the company and take it under state control. The state kept on asking for more and more tax arrears from previous years, until Khodorkovsky was forced to give up. The other oligarchs got the message and either emigrated, such as Berezovsky, Gusinsky and Pugachev, or started to cooperate with Putin, such as Abramovich. While Belton makes us understand why Putin acted, and why this made him popular, she is far from sympathetic to the Russian president. She repeats some of the usual allegations against him: most importantly that he was secretly responsible for everything from the Moscow apartment bombings to the Dubrovka Theatre and Beslan school hostage takings. It has never been conclusively proven that the FSB really had a hand in these. If yes, then they were willing to sacrifice their own people to boost their own popularity through what is often referred to as the Falklands Effect, a reference to Margaret Thatcher having started a completely needless war to win the elections. For Putin, this was allegedly Chechnya. Belton outlines how Putin gradually replaced the oligarch dominated Yeltsin era with its own setup, repeatedly referred to by Belton as KGB capitalism. In this system it is officially the state that revokes the wealth from the hated oligarchs, a popular improvement in the eyes of most Russians. However, what is on the surface state property is in reality very much under the control of Putin personally, as well as a handful of powerful figures connected to the FSB. The proceeds of these firms are often funneled out of the country for a combination of private gain and state influence operations. Western business elites are very complicit. Belton provides plenty of examples, from Swiss offshore finance, where the infamous Gunvor oil and gas trading company is registered and is allegedly partially owned by Putin. Another example is Londongrad, where Russian oligarchs have come to have their second home, their savings, their football clubs and their generous donations to the Tory Party. Examples of Western complicity are endless, from German cooperation in the North Stream pipeline and Gerhard Schröder’s lucrative loyalty to Putin, from French arms sales, to Berlusconi’s personal friendship with the Russian leader. Leading German financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank have been proved to be complicit in money laundering, as have their Danish and Estonian counterparts. US, UK and Italian oil firms were complicit in taking part in Putin’s auctions after taking over energy firms from the oligarchs. The list really is endless. No matter what sanctions are enacted, Western business elites repeatedly normalise Russia, which gives Putin the impression that at the end of the day everyone is for sale in the West. Is he wrong about this? Trump Belton reinvokes the usual allegations about Russian financing of Western political forces. Some of these have been proven, such as the case of Austria’s Freedom Party. Others are strongly suspect but have never really been proven, such as Marine le Pen in France. Others claims are plain unsubstantiated, such as the case of Syriza in Greece. Some are ridiculous, such as the case of the St Petersburg twitter bots. There is no way these could have been anything more than a peripheral voice in America’s super noisy election campaign. The most important question, however, is that of Trump. Belton proves convincingly that he was kept alive financially by businessmen from the former Soviet Union when he was sinking in debt. There is no doubt about this, no matter how strong he tries to deny it. These men had had connections to the secret services, but even Belton agrees that it is far from obvious that there was a deliberate attempt to recruit Trump. The Russians were happy with him as he was, a candidate and to their great surprise a president sympathetic to Russia and Putin. There was no need to compromise him, he compromised himself. The book is extremely well written. It is hard to write about stuff that is by nature meant to be hidden, without creating the impression in the reader that the author is speculating. Belton pulls this off very well, mostly by making it clear when something is a fact, when it is circumstantially likely, and when it should be treated as no more than a rumour, which might be possible,

  20. 5 out of 5

    Henri

    My Book Of The Year contender

  21. 5 out of 5

    C.R. Elliott

    Not being at all knowledgeable about Russian history but being very curious I cannot speak to how this book measures up to other books on the subject. However, I was riveted by this book. Though the book is about Putin and the people who facilitated/were involved in his rise to power it put in perspective a lot of more recent Russian history that I only had a peripheral perspective of.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    Is the whole world corrupt to the core? This book is a very detailed very well researched account of the vile words and deeds of a particular bunch of gangsters and their European and American collaborators. Everyone is in on it and if you object too loudly you get poked with an umbrella tip soaked in plutonium. I assume that the courageous author can never travel to Russia. If things continue the way they are will any of us ever be able to safely travel anywhere?

  23. 4 out of 5

    T D LANG

    Excellent book, highly detailed and very enlightening. Tough going in places but worth persevering. Some surprising revelations about Putin and the KGB. The complexity of the networks within the oil and gas industries are overwhelming and the money laundering tactics staggering. Well worth a read if you have plenty of time to spare and certainly educational ! Pleasantly written for a complex topic. Would recommend.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Moira

    ‘Putin’s People’ Documents the Ruthless and Relentless Reach of Kremlin Corruption New York Times Review by Jennifer Szalai, 16 July 2020 Read time: 7-8 minutes In the years that it took the journalist Catherine Belton to research and write “Putin’s People,” her voluminous yet elegant account of money and power in the Kremlin, a number of her interview subjects tried various tactics to undermine her work. One of them, “a close Putin ally” apparently alarmed by her questions about Russian President ‘Putin’s People’ Documents the Ruthless and Relentless Reach of Kremlin Corruption New York Times Review by Jennifer Szalai, 16 July 2020 Read time: 7-8 minutes In the years that it took the journalist Catherine Belton to research and write “Putin’s People,” her voluminous yet elegant account of money and power in the Kremlin, a number of her interview subjects tried various tactics to undermine her work. One of them, “a close Putin ally” apparently alarmed by her questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s activities as a K.G.B. agent in Dresden in the 1980s, emphatically insisted that any rumored links between the K.G.B. and terrorist organizations had never been proved: “And you should not try to do so!” he warned. Another source, defending Putin’s tenure as the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, took a cooler approach. Asked about a local politician named Marina Salye who found evidence of corruption in the so-called oil-for-food scheme that Putin oversaw in the early ’90s, he didn’t bother to deny her findings; he just rejected the very idea that her findings mattered. “This all happened,” he smugly acknowledged. “But this is absolutely normal trading operations. How can you explain this to a menopausal woman like that?” Belton suggests that this is the kind of two-pronged strategy the Kremlin has used to pursue its interests at home and abroad: Deploy threats, disinformation and violence to prevent damaging secrets from getting out, or resort to a chilling cynicism that derides everything as meaningless anyway. The dauntless Belton, currently an investigative reporter for Reuters who previously served as the Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, allowed neither approach to deter her, talking to figures with disparate interests on all sides, tracking down documents, following the money. The result is a meticulously assembled portrait of Putin’s circle, and of the emergence of what she calls “K.G.B. capitalism” — a form of ruthless wealth accumulation designed to serve the interests of a Russian state that she calls “relentless in its reach.” As central as Putin is to the narrative, he mostly appears as a shadowy figure — not particularly creative or charismatic, but cannily able, like the K.G.B. agent he once was, to mirror people’s expectations back to them. The people who facilitated Putin’s rise didn’t do so for particularly idealistic reasons. An ailing Boris Yeltsin and the oligarchs who thrived in the chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union were looking for someone who would preserve their wealth and protect them from corruption charges. Putin presented himself as someone who would honor the bargain, but then replaced any Yeltsin-era players who dared to challenge his tightening grip on power with loyalists he could call his own. “Putin’s People” tells the story of a number of figures who eventually ran afoul of the president’s regime. Media moguls like Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky were stripped of their empires and fled the country. Belton says the real turning point was the 2004 trial that sent Mikhail Khodorkovsky — at one point Russia’s richest man, with a controlling stake in the oil producer Yukos — to a Siberian prison camp for 10 years. Putin has since presided over the country and its resources like a czar, Belton writes, bolstered by a cadre of friendly oligarchs and secret service agents. Russia’s legal system was turned into a weapon and a fig leaf. Putin allowed and even encouraged the oligarchs to accrue vast personal fortunes, but they were also expected to siphon some money from their business ventures into the obschak, a collective kitty whose slush funds, Belton says, have been useful in projecting the image of a powerful Russia on the world stage. The Kremlin’s abiding definition of power was cramped and zero-sum; the resources were plowed into undermining other countries on the relative cheap, by funding troll farms, election meddling and extremist movements. It was an old K.G.B. model adapted for the new era, with Putin pursuing a nationalist agenda that embraced the country’s pre-revolutionary imperial past. Putin’s people had even figured out a way to turn London’s High Court into a tool for their own interests, freezing the assets of rival oligarchs while British lawyers took fat fees from both sides. As much as the West has been a target for the Kremlin’s “active measures,” Belton argues that the West has also been complacent and even complicit. The complacency has taken the form of a blithe belief in the power of globalization and liberal democracy, a persistent faith that once Russia opened itself up to international capital and ideas, it would never look back. But more mercenary motives were at play, too. Western business interests recognized how much profit could be made off of Russian oil behemoths and the giant sums of money sloshing around. (Unsurprisingly, Deutsche Bank — an institution at the center of many scandals — has occupied a crucial role.) Even when Putin was the beneficiary of such arrangements, he was contemptuous of them; his ability to use Western companies to Russia’s advantage only confirmed his long-held view “that anyone in the West could be bought.” “Putin’s People” ends with a chapter on Donald Trump, and what Belton calls the “network of Russian intelligence operatives, tycoons and organized-crime associates” that has encircled him since the early ’90s. The fact that Trump was frequently overwhelmed by debt provided an opportunity to those who had the cash he desperately needed. Belton documents how the network used high-end real estate deals to launder money while evading stricter banking regulations after 9/11. She’s agnostic on whether Trump was a witting accomplice who was aware of how he was being used. As one former executive from the Trump Organization put it, “Donald doesn’t do due diligence.” But Belton does. And while the president may not read much — neglecting even those intelligence briefings about Russian bounty payments to Taliban militants — there are presumably any number of people in the White House and his party who do. Still, to read this book is to wonder whether a cynicism has embedded itself so deeply into the Anglo-American political classes that even the incriminating information it documents won’t make an actionable difference. A person familiar with Russia’s billionaires told Belton that once corrosion sets in, it’s devilishly hard to reverse: “They always have three or four different stories, and then it all just gets lost in the noise.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/16/bo... Follow Jennifer Szalai on Twitter: @jenszalai.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Youngs

    What an epic read! I was reading it for work and would not have chosen this book for myself. However, I immersed myself in it for several days and feel like I've been privy to a proper medical dissection of Putin's rise to power in Russia, and the financial webs around him, affecting Donald Trump and, in the UK, Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. I feel the book must have been a labour of love for the writer and I am deeply impressed with her forensic attention to detail and the research What an epic read! I was reading it for work and would not have chosen this book for myself. However, I immersed myself in it for several days and feel like I've been privy to a proper medical dissection of Putin's rise to power in Russia, and the financial webs around him, affecting Donald Trump and, in the UK, Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party. I feel the book must have been a labour of love for the writer and I am deeply impressed with her forensic attention to detail and the research she has done to try and get to the bottom of things. But clearly, she reaches a point time and time again when the money has been so thoroughly laundered that it can no longer be traced. The audio book is good too. The reader takes it at a heck of a pace, so be warned. This is not a book where you can take your eye off the ball for a minute - it demands proper concentration in the reading! A great read. Make sure you give it the attention it deserves!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    A very up-to-date (2019) and detailed look at the growing Russian kleptocracy under V. Putin and pals. Corruption, black money and a damaged world view that survives from the paranoia of the Cold War and the humiliation of Soviet collapse. I loved the research and detail that went into this. It is carefully annotated if you want to do further reading. I remember many of the events from the news, but I really valued the perspective and more complete-story the Author provided, highlighting the moti A very up-to-date (2019) and detailed look at the growing Russian kleptocracy under V. Putin and pals. Corruption, black money and a damaged world view that survives from the paranoia of the Cold War and the humiliation of Soviet collapse. I loved the research and detail that went into this. It is carefully annotated if you want to do further reading. I remember many of the events from the news, but I really valued the perspective and more complete-story the Author provided, highlighting the motivations and endgames of the shadowy schemes.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rosie

    Incredibly well researched book, compelling and insightful. A great read to understand the workings of Putin and the KGB. I would highly recommend.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tracy B

    Excellent This is an excellent,thoroughly gripping, piece of Journalism. If you want to know about how a Moscow Organised Crime Gang has links both to Trump and Boris Johnson and more importantly why, then this book will explain it all. Too often, in recent times ,it’s been easy to get lost in a list of complex companies, foreign names and supposedly detailed plots surrounding Russia. But, in reality, just follow the money and bids for power. This book, written by a former Financial Times Moscow C Excellent This is an excellent,thoroughly gripping, piece of Journalism. If you want to know about how a Moscow Organised Crime Gang has links both to Trump and Boris Johnson and more importantly why, then this book will explain it all. Too often, in recent times ,it’s been easy to get lost in a list of complex companies, foreign names and supposedly detailed plots surrounding Russia. But, in reality, just follow the money and bids for power. This book, written by a former Financial Times Moscow Correspondent will help you do this. Read this book, it will open your eyes to what has been going on.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Radu

    Probably the best book about how Russia was taken back by KGB. All the info from previous books I read before on the subject is now falling in place, in a fascinating and scary puzzle.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Any failure to engage fully with this book lies with me - my brain is just not big enough to absorb the minutiae and detail which I'm sure were essential to prove the author's points and to avoid legal challenges. But what a story this is - everything we in the west were led to believe, was all a facade, and the old guard were still the puppet-masters with their methods, their manipulation and their vast world-wide slush-funds. Even without being able to take in every last detail, it is a horrif Any failure to engage fully with this book lies with me - my brain is just not big enough to absorb the minutiae and detail which I'm sure were essential to prove the author's points and to avoid legal challenges. But what a story this is - everything we in the west were led to believe, was all a facade, and the old guard were still the puppet-masters with their methods, their manipulation and their vast world-wide slush-funds. Even without being able to take in every last detail, it is a horrifying and depressing account, and a remarkable work of dedicated and dogged research.

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