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Report: Alfa-Bank owners sue BuzzFeed over publication of unverified claims

JSC ALFA-BANK owners Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed in a Manhattan, N.Y., court over the publication of a dossier containing unverified claims about their involvement in the alleged efforts of the Russian government to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections in November 2016, Politico reported May 26.

The three businessmen are seeking unspecified damages from BuzzFeed, as well as its Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, reporter Ken Bensinger and editors Miriam Elder and Mark Schoofs.

The lawyers of the plaintiffs argued in a copy of the court complaint posted by Politico that BuzzFeed decided to publish the dossier despite knowing at the time of publication that the document contained errors, including the name of the company being misspelled, as well as unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations.

In addition to the reported involvement of Alfa-Bank owners in Russia's alleged attempt to influence the U.S. presidential campaign, the dossier, published with an accompanying article in January, included other allegations such as that the businessmen have close relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were involved in activities aimed at bribing him in the 1990s, when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, and continue to use the knowledge of past bribery of Putin to extort favorable treatment.

BuzzFeed defended its decision to publish the dossier, highlighting the significance of the document and saying "publication was and continues to be in the public interest," according to Politico.