Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and then Took On the West

Catherine Belton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-374-23871-1
The Soviet secret police reconstituted itself as the corrupt masters of post-communist Russia according to Belton’s sprawling debut exposé. A former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, Belton styles Putin’s presidency as an assault on the new class of oligarchs who had privatized Russia’s state-owned companies in the 1990s and foolishly supported his Machiavellian rise. Using bogus criminal prosecutions, Putin and his former KGB comrades stripped the oligarchs of their oil companies, banks, and media corporations; exiled or imprisoned them; and occasionally murdered people who got in the way. Putin’s cronies then looted the businesses they appropriated to enrich themselves or fund Russia’s military adventures in the Ukraine and subversion of foreign elections. Drawing on extensive interviews with Kremlin insiders and dispossessed oligarchs such as Sergei Pugachev and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Belton paints a richly detailed portrait of the Putin regime’s tangled conspiracies and thefts. Sometimes her more explosive claims—charges that Russia’s FSB police agency was behind Chechen terrorist attacks, for instance—cite dubious sources and insinuate more than they prove. Still, Belton gives a lucid, page-turning account of the sinister mix of authoritarian state power and gangster lawlessness that rules Russia. Agent: George Lucas, InkWell Management. (June)
Reviewed on : 05/20/2020
Release date: 02/11/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 656 pages - 978-1-250-78732-3
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