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.
The cast of supporting characters in Catherine Belton’s study of the Russia of Vladimir Putin is extraordinary and worthy of a Netflix mini-series ... This is modern Russia in full, horrifying technicolour ... Belton does not explain how to engage with Russia or how to stop making the same mistakes when doing so. But this riveting, immaculately researched book is arguably the best single volume written about Putin, the people around him and perhaps even about contemporary Russia itself in the past three decades.
The plot sounds like a geopolitical thriller. Amid an empire’s collapse, the secret police funnel money out of the country, creating a slush fund to rebuild their old networks. They regain power, become spectacularly rich and turn on their enemies, first at home — and then abroad ... That is fact, not fiction. Catherine Belton, for years a Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, relates it with clarity, detail, insight and bravery ... Belton has surpassed them all. Her much-awaited book is the best and most important on modern Russia. It benefits from a meticulous compilation of open sources, but also from the accounts of disillusioned Kremlin insiders, former business cronies and some remarkably candid people still high up in the system. The result is hair-raising ... Belton’s passages about Donald Trump’s business ties with Russia during the 1990s are particularly thought-provoking. It is tempting to speculate how much more she could have said about some other prominent people were it not for the constraints of English libel laws. But what she does describe is convincing, particular because of the careful sourcing from numerous witnesses and insiders.
A renowned business journalist who spent years covering Russia for the Financial Times, Belton follows the money. She has an unrivalled command of the labyrinthine history of share schemes, refinancing packages, mergers, shell companies, and offshore accounts that lay bare the stealthy capture of the post-Soviet economy and state institutions by a coterie of former KGB officers, or siloviki. Belton combines this financial history with testimony from a dazzling array of Kremlin insiders, diplomats, intelligence officers, prosecutors, mobsters and oligarchs. The result reads at times like a John le Carré novel ... Putin does not emerge from these pages as an evil, cat-stroking mastermind plotting his moves years in advance. Rather he appears an unscrupulous and resourceful operator, ready to deploy any weapon, break any rule and subvert any system to consolidate his power, wealth and international prestige ... A groundbreaking and meticulously researched anatomy of the Putin regime, Belton’s book shines a light on the pernicious threats Russian money and influence now pose to the west ... Putin’s People lays bare the scale of the challenge if the west is to decontaminate its politics.