On 8 December 2023, Hachette Book Group will appeal an injunction brought in response to the publication of the book, The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Émigrés and Agents Abroad written by dissident journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan. Soldatov and Borogan are Russian investigative journalists who co-founded and edit the Agentura.Ru website. On 11 October 2023, Hamburg District Court granted an injunction brought by Alexey Kozlov, a Berlin-based financier who was interviewed extensively for the book due to his family’s historic connections to Soviet intelligence services.
While German courts usually expect injunctions to be sought one or two months after publication, Kozlov applied for the injunction three years after the publication of The Compatriots. In advance of the court’s decision in October, Hachette’s legal team had raised concerns with Kozlov’s lawyer regarding the prolonged period between publication and the injunction application, but these arguments were not heard by the court prior to making its decision. According to Kozlov’s application, the book includes “a series of false and reputation-damaging allegations” regarding his work and his connections to former members of the KGB. The injunction sought to block all further distribution of the book in Germany, but only succeeded in part. The first edition of the book can continue to be sold, but the English-language ebook of The Compatriots is now unavailable in Germany.
Soldatov and Borogan’s reporting is based on their interviews with Kozlov, publicly available information and details provided by third parties familiar with Kozlov. Two inaccuracies – the year Kozlov returned to Russia from the USA, as well as the name of the American university where he studied – have been corrected for all subsequent editions.
This legal action comes in the wake of repressive measures undertaken by the Russian state in response to Soldatov and Borogan’s vocal opposition to the war in Ukraine. Earlier this month, Soldatov was added to the list of “foreign agents” after being added to the Russian government’s registry of wanted people in 2022. His Russian bank accounts have also been frozen.
We, the undersigned organisations, are extremely concerned that this legal action is aimed, not only at further intimidating and isolating Soldatov and Borogan, but at threatening their reputation in the exile community. It also sends a message to other Russian dissidents to be quiet or risk being subject to the same intimidatory tactics.
The Hamburg court’s decision will be appealed on 8 December. We will continue to monitor this alarming act of legal harassment and believe the injunction should be lifted without delay.
- Index on Censorship
- Justice for Journalists Foundation
- The Gemini Project
- South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
- Foundation Atelier for Community Transformation – ACT
- PEN International
- ARTICLE 19 Europe
- Blueprint for Free Speech e.V.
- Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
- International Press Institute (IPI)
- Access Info Europe
- OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
- The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
- Frente Cívica, Portugal
- Klementyna Suchanow