Lawsuits against the author and publisher of Putin's People are SLAPPs

Nineteen organisations condemn the legal actions against Catherine Belton and HarperCollins

24 Nov 2021

Writer Catherine Belton

The undersigned organisations express their serious concern at the legal proceedings that are being brought against journalist and author Catherine Belton and her publisher HarperCollins.

The two defamation lawsuits are being brought by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich and the Russian state energy company Rosneft in relation to Belton’s book, Putin’s People: How the KGB took back Russia and then took on the West, which was published in April 2020.

Abramovich’s complaint relates to 26 extracts in the book, including the suggestion that his purchase of Chelsea Football Club in 2003 was directed by Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Rosneft’s complaint relates to claims that they participated in the expropriation of Yukos Oil Company, which had been privately owned by businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Both claims were filed in March 2021.

“We believe that the lawsuits against Belton and HarperCollins amount to strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs),” the organisations said, referring to a form of legal harassment used by wealthy and powerful entities to silence journalists and other public watchdogs. 

“SLAPPs are used to drain their targets of as much time, money, and energy as possible in order to bully them into silence. The individual may be sued personally and several lawsuits may be brought at the same time, including in different jurisdictions,” the organisations said. “These are hallmarks of SLAPPs, and they’re consistent with what Belton and HarperCollins have faced.”

Five separate claims were initially filed against Belton and HarperCollins, but three have since been resolved without the need for costs or damages being awarded to the claimants. In June 2021, Abramovich filed an additional lawsuit against HarperCollins in Australia in relation to Belton’s book.

“We, once again, urge the UK government to consider measures, including legislative reforms, that would protect public watchdogs from being subject to burdensome, lengthy, and financially draining legal actions, which can stifle public debate,” the organisations concluded. “Our democracy relies on their ability to hold power to account.”



Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

AEJ Polish Section

Blueprint for Free Speech

Campaign for Freedom of Information in Scotland (CFoIS)

Citizen Network Watchdog Poland

Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice

English PEN 

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Index on Censorship


Justice for Journalists Foundation

National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

PEN International

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Society of Journalists, Warsaw

Spotlight on Corruption

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

One response to “Lawsuits against the author and publisher of Putin’s People are SLAPPs”

  1. Alina Nesterova says:

    Dear All,

    You should unite the front with whistleblowers ideally..

    We must demand criminal anticorruption court as these funny 13th century big wigs are not judges, their decisions hold zero relevance to reality. Argueing that Roman Abramovich is not corrupt, nor was Boris Yeltsin is nonsense. The judge must be prosecuted herself, she has no clue and no way to judge. What is going on here is byond disaster for the Russians, yet we have no law enforcement, no opposition, no way to change things for now in Russia. While the UK seems to be mocking, trolling or abusing the world and us in the 1st place with such courts and judges. This is Great Game, the End..

    Boris Yeltsin was an extremely corrupt criminal who had committed 4 coups, left a heir Putin who is a low life gangster, thug, chav, conman and the worst enemy of the Russians ever, with dozens of millions killed by him besides opposition in the ongoing genocide and plunder. He made most people poor but also dehumanised, degrades, marginalised, disenfranchised, humiliated and so on.

    This trial is not justice, it is a parody in a very bad taste, without any effirt to seem sophisticated, it is almost childish and soooo primitive, abusive and crude. The UK will have to pay very heavy reparations for looting and centuries long colonialism once this is over… And this time not by taxpayers’ money as after the WWII but by fraudsters themselves, all the beneficiaries of this criminal syndicate.. including barristers, judges other fraudsters, woth stolen assets recovery, real jail terms and ideally lots of executions!

    Catherine and people like her are the top living world heroes. She is also a beautiful, modest lady, an English rose and thus a face of the truth and honesty front.

    Thank you very much for being the last resistance to this absolute evil of centuries long, confirmed, legalised British looting of the world!

    This is very serious. And we will win!