After being sued, BuzzFeed has apologized to a Russian executive named in the unverified Trump dossier


By Peter Kafka,

After being sued for defamation, BuzzFeed has apologized to a Russian tech executive whose name appeared in the Trump dossier the website published last month.

It's the first sign that BuzzFeed has encountered serious repercussions for publishing a 35-page dossier of unverified accusations about alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russian intelligence.

Aleksej Gubarev, the CEO of XBT Holding, a Luxembourg-based web hosting company, sued BuzzFeed and Ben Smith, its editor-in-chief, for publishing the document.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gubarev is named at the end of the document, which said he was "recruited under duress" to help Russian intelligence services and became a "significant player" in Russian hacking operations.

Gubarev's company sued BuzzFeed and Smith in Florida, where XBT's Webzilla subsidiary is based. It also filed a suit in London against former British spy Christopher Steele, who allegedly created the dossier.

"The dossier included libelous, unverified and untrue allegations regarding XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev. The lawsuits seek yet undetermined compensation for the damages suffered by XBT, Webzilla and Gubarev as the result of the publication of the dossier," the company said in a statement published by McClatchy newspapers.

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BuzzFeed has now blocked out Gubarev's name from the dossier, which is still on the publisher's site.

"We have redacted Mr. Gubarev's name from the published dossier, and apologize for including it," BuzzFeed PR rep Matt Mittenthal said in a statement.

UPDATE: Val Gurvits, an attorney with Boston Law Group who filed the defamation complaint on behalf of Gubarev and his companies, said said BuzzFeed's apology and redaction wouldn't affect his clients' suit. "The financial damages my clients have suffered are extensive", he wrote in an e-maill

In a January press conference, prior to his inauguration, Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and spokesman Sean Spicer all laid into BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier.

"As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they're going to suffer the consequences. They already are," Trump said.

Last month Gubarev's companies published a statement denying any connection to Russian hacking: "There has been absolutely no involvement by Webzilla, XBT or any of its other subsidiaries with the people or alleged activities in this unsubstantiated report. In fact, Webzilla and XBT companies provide online server capacity for their customers and wouldn't be involved in the kind of activity alleged in the account published by BuzzFeed." The statement said XBT "offered to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials investigating this matter."

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Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is a minority investor in BuzzFeed.