What does “Chelsea” have to do with Putin’s intentions?


Three influential businessmen close to Vladimir Putin are suing the London court for the slander of billionaire Roman Abramovich, then billionaire British journalist Catherine Belton and HarperCollins, the owner of the English football club Chelsea. They are Alpha Group co-owner Mikhail Friedman, his business partner Peter Aven and businessman Shalva Chigirinski. Rosneft, headed by Vladimir Putin, a longtime friend of Vladimir Igor Sechin, has filed a separate lawsuit in a London court.

The book “Putin’s People: How the KGB Occupied Russia and Then Switched to the West” has sparked outrage among wealthy and influential figures close to the Russian president. (Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Turned on the West).

According to the Russian-language TV channel RTVI, Mikhail Friedman and Piotr Aven filed a lawsuit after HarperCollins refused to consider a proposal made by business lawyers to rectify the breach.

Regarding the football club “Chelsea”, Catherine Belton’s book says that billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the famous football club in 2003 directly on the personal instructions of Vladimir Putin.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. 2015

Consumerism against “human traditionalism”

Catherine Belton, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, is a bestseller in Britain and abroad. He lived and worked in Russia for 16 years, where he became closely acquainted with Russian oligarchs, officials, representatives of the special services and the so-called. Activities of Kremlin insiders.

The Belton Book is a collection of journalistic investigations with numerous sources, most of which are anonymous. The British journalist says he did this research because he finds other books on the Putin regime a bit superficial.

Catherine Belton considers David Hoffman’s “Oligarchs” (2001) and Christy Freeland’s “Salesman of the Century” (2000) to be good books dedicated to Russia in the 1990s, with plenty of inquiry and citing many sources, but Putin, according to the journalist, has no similar research.

In Catherine Belton’s book, special services, bandits, oligarchs, bureaucrats and political migrants change, but only the struggle for power and resources remain unchanged, the outflow of Russian capital to the West, including the fight against the West itself. “The book portrays not only Russians but also Westerners as unprincipled and greedy for money,” the BBC wrote in connection with the publication of the book “Putin’s People” in June last year.

The logic of the actions of the Russian president and his entourage is explained to the author of the book by Vladimir Yakunin, the former head of the first main division of the Russian KGB, to whom Vladimir Putin handed over one of the largest budget agencies of his time – the Russian Railways. Speaking to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about crafting, Yakunin told a British journalist that he was proud to be on the US sanctions list.

In 2019, the United States, Canada, and the European Union imposed sanctions on 24 Russian citizens for attacking Ukrainian ships and crews in the Kerch Strait, during which Russian border guards seized three Ukrainian ships and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors. The list includes Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, General Viktor Zolotov, commander of the National Guard, Andrei Kostin, head of VTB Bank and the Russian Railways, and Vladimir Yakunin.

In confrontation with the West, Yakunin said, Russia turns out to be on the side of a “humanitarian traditionalist society that fights against absolute consumerism,” and Moscow is using this struggle to become a global player again.

In addition to the oligarchs close to the Kremlin and Putin, the British journalist’s book criticizes and portrays Western politicians, businessmen, and lawyers who have little interest in the origins of Russian clients and partners.

The former partners of Yukos did not feel any remorse when they tried to tear down a piece of this financial empire while Mikhail Khodorkovsky was in prison. Russians are buying elite real estate in Kensington and other prestigious areas of the British capital with questionable funds.

Abramovich, “Super League” and the interests of the Kremlin

Catherine Belton’s book on the football club “Chelsea” says that billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the famous football club in 2003 directly on the personal instructions of Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Putin and Roman Abramovich

Vladimir Putin and Roman Abramovich

It is this story in the book that became the basis for the March 23 lawsuit filed by Roman Abramovich’s law firm, Harbottle & Lewis LLP, in a London court.

Last Saturday, May 1, it became known that four businessmen and one company were suing HarperCollins for slander in the HarperCollins publishing house over the book “Catherine Putin” by Catherine Belton.

They are Alpha Group co-owner Mikhail Friedman, his business partner Peter Aven and businessman Shalva Chigirinski. Rosneft, headed by Vladimir Putin, a longtime friend of Vladimir Igor Sechin, has filed a separate lawsuit in a London court.

Catherine Belton’s book, in particular, quotes a banker close to Vladimir Putin’s family, Sergei Pugachev, as saying that the Chelsea football club was bought by Roman Abramovich at the behest of Vladimir Putin to improve Russia’s image in Britain. This information infuriated Roman Abramovich, whose rights lawyers called such allegations “falsifications” and “slander.”

“The book contains false evidence about our client’s corrupt activities, a false statement about our client’s acquisition of Chelsea Football Club and its activities. “Such an allegation is absolutely unacceptable and unfounded,” Roman Abramovich’s lawyers said in a statement posted on Chelsea Football Club’s website.

The Kremlin has been linked to a recent scandal in the world of football, when the London football club “Chelsea” first joined the idea of ​​creating a new tournament – the project of the Super League – and then refused to participate in such a tournament and apologized.

The creation of a new European football tournament with the participation of the best teams of the continent was announced on April 18. Chelsea should have been one of the 12 founding clubs of the Super League, but the project was stopped on April 21 and football “Chelsea” was the first to refuse to participate in this project.

According to the German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, the English football club may have refused to participate in the project of a new tournament because of the position of the Kremlin. The Russian government has come out against the creation of a football super league for two reasons.

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The main sponsor of the Champions League is Gazprom, which did not allow this role to be lost by creating a new tournament. In addition, the state-owned giant owns Vladimir Putin’s favorite St. Petersburg football club, Zenit, whose participation in the Football Super League was unlikely.

According to the German publication, billionaire Abramovich did not want to find himself in a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over “Zenith”, from whom the owner of “Chelsea” received an “unambiguous hint” that the creation of a football super league “did not suit the interests of the homeland.”

It should be noted that the Russian state channels widely covered the action of the fans dissatisfied with the creation of the Super League in front of the “Chelsea” stadium in London.

Roman Abramovich was ranked 10th among the richest Russians in 2020 by Forbes magazine – his fortune is estimated at 11.3 billion dollars.

Roman Abramovich’s name has come to the attention of the Russian media in connection with the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with “Novichok”.

On January 19, Vladimir Ashurkov, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, posted on Facebook a list of Russian citizens whom the Alexei Navalny Foundation had called for Western sanctions for both Navalny poisoning and the immediate return of an opposition politician to Russia.

Navalny’s comrades-in-arms also named Roman Abramovich as one of the individuals to be subject to Western financial and visa restrictions. In an interview with the British newspaper The Independent, Alexei Navalny’s comrade-in-arms Leonid Volov called Abramovich “a loader of suitcases full of President Putin’s illegal wealth”, but a later publication called the publication a “mistake” and apologized to Abramovich.

Sergei Pugachev, quoted in Catherine Belton’s book about the football club Chelsea, was later followed by a statement by Roman Abramovich himself on the Chelsea website. The billionaire claimed that the false evidence in the book “has a devastating effect” not only on his personal reputation, but also on the activities of the football club “Chelsea”.

Roman Abramovich notes that before the trial he and his team tried to negotiate with the publishing house to find a “peaceful solution”, but the company HarperCollins did not correct the false evidence in the book.

In an interview with the Financial Times, HarperCollins described Belton’s book as “conscientious and important work” and vowed to defend its author in court.