A British publisher has rejected a book alleging Russia President Vladimir Putin’s ties with the Russian mafia over fears that he or his associates may sue them in the UK.
The book by Russia expert Karen Dawisha alleges that Putin and a small group of fellow ex-KGB agents used their government connections to enrich themselves in the early 1990s. It also alleges links between Putin and organised crime in St Petersburg, detailing shady connections it claims the Russian president holds.
The Cambridge University Press got cold feet and rejected the book, instead sending a letter to Mrs Dawisha explaining that they would not publish it.
In the letter reproduced by the Economist the publishers write:
“…given the controversial subject matter of the book, and its basic premise that Putin’s power is founded on his links to organised crime, we are not convinced that there is a way to rewrite the book that would give us the necessary comfort.”
“The decision has nothing to do with the quality of your research or your scholarly credibility. It is simply a question of risk tolerance in light of our limited resources.”
Mrs Dawisha responded, expressing her disappointment with the decision:
“Last week the EU and the US Government issued a visa ban and asset freeze on the very inner core that is the subject of my book. Many works will now come out on the makeup of the list and why each individual was placed on it. The answers to these questions are in my book. Isn’t it a pity that the UK is a ‘no-fly’ zone for publishing the truth about this group?”
She said that it was ironic that she received the letter the same week that the U.S. and EU put sanctions against the exact same people mentioned in her book, as the governments obviously hold evidence that points to the same conclusion:
“…at the very time that the US and EU governments, obviously fully in possession of intelligence that points to precisely this conclusion, puts members of this group on a visa ban and asset freeze list, one of the world’s most important and reputable publishers declines to proceed with a book not because of its scholarly quality …but because the subject matter itself is too hot to handle.”
A Cambridge University Press spokesman told the Economist: “…even though we initially took the view that there would be considerable risks under English law to the Press were we to proceed with publication, you should be aware that earlier today, prior to hearing from you, we contacted Professor Dawisha after reading her response, to see whether we might be able to find a compromise.”