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The author was Financial Times journalist in Moscow from 2007-13 and gets 5 stars for 2 reasons: a). for the amount of detail she has put in and b). for still breathing. I treated it as i do for Tolstoy novels, ie. list the characters so that i don't lose the plot. It traces the development of Putin from small fry KGB spy to senior St. Petersburg official to President. Putin got involved with criminal gangs there which worked together with the ruling local government elite as a team. This gave them power and wealth. What he learnt there he used in Moscow when he joined up with Yeltsin and started his political rise. With Yeltsin's disaster of destroying the state through an alcoholic haze, a new breed of Russian tycoons took over. They bought the state's assets at knockdown prices and became billionaires overnight. These oligarchs virtually ran things for their own interests and funneled their money into the West especially USA, UK and Switzerland. The latter state keeps popping up in the book as it uses its unique position in the world and fills its boots. It operates under the radar as it did during the wars. The KGB used to funnel funds all over the world to spread its influence from funding wars to bribing officials to become spies. When the USSR collapsed and that structure fell apart, the USA took full advantage and spread its power as the only superpower left via NATO as the Warsaw Pact vanished. The Russians being a very proud nation and losing their pre-eminence on the world stage were desperate for a strong leader and along comes Putin. (Is there a parallel i ask myself with Germany in the 30s). A major point she makes in the book is that when Gorby ended the Cold War the West let their guard down. She makes it very clear that it is now in Cold War Mark 2 under Putin and that Russia is winning. Putin aims to destroy the West's alliances and that Russia becomes a superpower again. She explains that Trump had a lot of contacts with Russia from 2001 and when he won the Presidency the Russian Parliament was delighted. They were proven correct as most of Trump's foreign policy ties in perfectly with Putin's aims. When Putin came to power there was a royal battle with the oligarchs to become top dogs. The richest oligarch at that time was Khodorkovsky. Putin used him as a scapegoat by stitching him up via the legal system which was controlled by him. K. got 10 years in jail and the ECHR stated, "that the court violated K's human rights". This was letting the oligarchs know who was in charge and do what i say or finish up in jail. There is a lot of evidence that Abramovich is in his back pocket. He was told to buy Chelsea FC to enter the UK. This he did amongst many other things rather than have his empire taken off him by the state ie. Putin as happened to K. The author provides plenty of evidence showing that the oligarchs do as he tells them. Lots of money that they have is now used to fund and finance activities that was done previously by the Communist State Party. Thus the FSB now carries on the work that the KGB used to do. Russian oligarchs move into Chelsea, London and Brighton Beach, USA. The whole purpose is to destroy by being the enemy within. Reading the book, J Biden comes out of it very well due to his knowledge of how Putin operates. Putin operates through his people so has PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY, ie. you can't touch me. She shows that a lot of the Dirty Money is funneled into London and some of it to the Conservative Party. ie. illegal money mostly. Another main point in the book is that Russia is now a criminal state. The murders carried out all over the world from Litvinenko in London to the slaughter of Chechens in the war that Russia carried out there. The legal system is totally under the control of Putin and the oligarchs too. Criminal gangs are used by Putin for what he sees are the benefit of the nation. He has broken and altered the constitution so that he keeps in power for as long as he wants. A lot of circumstantial evidence that Trump was financed by Dirty Russian money via Deutsche bank which suggests that he is compromised by Putin. In other words, Putin has so much power over Trump that he has to abide by what he wants. As Pelosi said " when it comes to you Donald, everything leads to Putin". The things he does certainly make it seem so. M Cohen and F Sater (Joe Pesci in the future film) were big friends for decades and the go-between for Trump and Putin. Putin uses and discards his people when he no longer needs them such as Sergei Pugachev and B Berezovsky, as does Trump eg. M Cohen and J Sessions. Excellent read, very detailed, very brave. Hopefully Americans will read this book, ( those that are left after Trump's pathetic Covid-19 policy) and realize that the USA can't take another 4 years of Trump. If they want a leader who believes in Putin more than their Intelligence Agencies, then they need to get rid of them and reduce their taxes.
I very much enjoyed the book, it's well written and very fluid to read. The author managed to tell Russia's very complex story of the last 20 years in an insightful book that at times reads almost like a page-turning thriller.
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.
Katherine Belton has written the most informative and exceptional book about Vladimir Putin and the KGB takeover of Russia, how his regime under his direction had interfered with Western democracies by funding disruptive parties like Nigel Farage and the Brexit party and Le Pen in France, how indirectly Trump was bailed out on the verge of bankruptcy and the cosy relationship with Trump gave Putin significant influence, how Putin sought to cause upheaval in other countries to the discomfort of the EU and the US. Above all though how Putin must be the richest person in the world and with his KGB cohorts has looted Russia. The author names names, amounts and much more. It’s conclusion is one that I agree with but you must read this much acclaimed book to find out. I have been to Russia several hundred times. I know many of the people named in this book. Catherine worked for many years fir the FT in Moscow. If you have any interest in Russia and in Russian recent history, if you want to understand today’s regime, you should read this book.
At times, reading this excellent work, I wondered how the author kept her bearings. After decades of wading thigh deep in ordure. It must be difficult to explore all this and keep your sanity.
There is not a single honourable character (excepting the occasional brave journalist and, more rarely, lawyer). There are just constantly shifting sands of allegiance between self interested criminals, who fight each other for gold and power. Some victors, some losers, but we all know who the real victims are.
Profoundly depressing, even disturbing, but Ms Belton has done the world a great service with this magnificent expose. I just hope she doesn't suffer from nightmares.
So far very disappointing. The judge in the Berezovsky case was biased because her stepson had at one point acted for the other party? When Berezovsky knew of it and didn't complain? Just one example of a flimsy lot of bits of conspiracist associations. I'm sure that Russia is rotten and corrupt but this weak stuff doesn't prove it. Only 503 pages to see if I can be more impressed.
Written by a financial journalist this follows the money so methodically it at times reads like an auditor's report of Putin & Co's state looting and legalised theft. I am glad someone is keeping track of these things -- since MI5 & 6 clearly aren't! However scandals like the Magnitsky affair or the downing of the flight to Indonesia by Russian-backed 'rebels' in Ukraine are touched on only fleetingly. If you want a book that gives you a vivid look into Putin's corruption of Russia, its finances and its judiciary, that reads like a thriller, read 'Red Notice' by Bill Browder. This is solid but heavy going and perhaps a little too much like hard work.