Following the money, mayhem and murder in Putin’s Russia
Book review: Catherine Belton follows the financial trail in Putin’s People while Luke Harding’s Shadow State reads like a thriller
The picture of Putin’s rule that emerges from Catherine Belton’s book is of a corrupt regime, hostile to the West and ready to use its enormous wealth to undermine it. Photograph: Getty Images
Catherine Belton, an intrepid Financial Times journalist, has written a detailed study of the breathtaking financial transactions of Vladimir Putin’s elite. She explains how he and a small circle of men, drawn predominantly from his KGB contacts (the siloviki, whom he placed in key positions when he came to power) took over Yeltsin-era oligarchs’ assets and then those of the country’s biggest energy companies and enterprises, funnelling enormous sums abroad for their personal benefit and to advance Russia’s strategic goals, as they saw them.
Belton’s work on the financial dealings of Putin’s team is the most valuable aspect of Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (William Collins) and it should be required reading, as it reveals their political implications and the West’s inadequate regulation of and occasional complicity in them.