HarperCollins, the US publishing house that printed a widely contested account of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s time in office, has reportedly agreed to edit future copies in the face of legal action from two businessmen.
On Wednesday, a court in London heard that the Rupert Murdoch-owned giant would redact future copies of ‘Putin’s People’, by former Financial Times Moscow correspondent Catherine Belton. The book had alleged links between Soviet security services and two Russian claimants, Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven. The pair are the founders of Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions.
“HarperCollins has been happy to amend the text to delete references to connections between Mr. Aven, Mr. Fridman, and the KGB (claims for which HarperCollins recognizes there has been no significant evidence), and to apologize that the subject was not discussed with them prior to initial publication,” the settlement document said.
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Russian tycoon Abramovich sues journalist & publisher behind ‘Putin’s People’ book over claim Putin ordered him to buy Chelsea
Aven and Fridman, who had brought the lawsuit, said they were pleased that the publishers accepted that ‘Putin’s People’ had made unfounded statements – “in particular, that there was no significant evidence that they had connections with the KGB,” a spokesman told Reuters.
In March, a third business tycoon, Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, brought a case against both Belton and HarperCollins over claims he had been instructed to buy the football club by Russian President Vladimir Putin. His legal suit is still ongoing.
In a statement posted to the club’s website, Abramovich said “the book contains a number of false and defamatory statements about me.” However, he added, “it has never been my ambition to gain a public profile and I have always been reluctant to provide commentary on any matters, including any false or misleading statements.” However, he said the insinuations were having a detrimental effect on his reputation, and that efforts to reach a compromise with the Murdoch-owned publishing house had failed.
In February, the UK’s Independent newspaper was forced to apologize to Abramovich and pay his legal fees after publishing a story in which its Moscow correspondent, Oliver Carroll, described the tycoon as a “bag holder” for Putin’s “illicit presidential wealth,” and advocated sanctions against him by foreign governments.
In the retraction, its editors said, “The Independent accepts that Mr. Abramovich is not a ‘bag carrier’ for President Putin and we did not mean to allege that he should be subjected to punitive sanctions.”
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