21 May 2020, The Tablet

Crime and punishment

Crime and punishment

How Vladimir Putin subverted the rule of law and created a gangster state

Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West
(William Collins, 640 PP, £25)
Tablet bookshop price £22.50 • Tel 020 7799 4064

The security services in Russia think long term. When Yuri Andropov ran the Soviet Union, they had already concluded that the Communist model could not match the dynamism of the West. To ease the rigidity of state monopoly they turned a blind eye to the black market, thus creating a link between themselves and organised crime that has persisted to this day, though now on a vastly greater scale.

Catherine Belton, a former Moscow corres­pondent of the Financial Times, traces with admirable assiduity the rise of these siloviki, or strongmen, from their role as servants of the Soviet state to that of lordship over its post-Communist successor. She has interviewed both victims and beneficiaries of this process, the first frank in their criticisms, the second clear about their goals, though less so about the bewildering subterfuge employed to reach them.

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