Moscow (dpa) – According to research by his opponent Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to have built a huge palace with massive bribes.
In a video, the 44-year-old shows aerial photos of the gigantic estate on the sunny Black Sea coast – with parks, a church, a helipad, a bridge and an orangery. The two-hour film is tough – and it’s a greeting from Moscow prison, where Navalny has been held since returning from Germany.
During the five months in Germany, where Navalny was recovering from an assassination attempt involving the neurotoxin Novitschok, he apparently often thought of the Russian president. From there, he not only made Putin responsible for the attack and called him a “murderer”. Navalny also went to Dresden, where Putin served as a KGB officer in GDR times in close collaboration with the Stasi communist ideals.
Using the traces Putin left there and photographs, Navalny in his new film traces how Putin accompanied his Secret Service friends from then to the present day – making him the “richest man in the world”. And looking at the Black Sea palace photos, he calls him a “tsar” who has lost all measure, enriched himself and turned his friends into dependent servants by stealing public funds. “A simple Soviet officer has become a madman, bringing in money and luxury,” says Navalny.
The video was viewed approximately 22 million times on Wednesday afternoon. It’s going viral on the net – the Kremlin-critical media in Russia has no other topic than the return of Navalny and his new video. The state media is silent. But Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, was pressured to comment again on the enigmatic palace.
It was “the old Navalny record,” all “nonsense,” the president and the Kremlin had nothing to do with it, Peskov stressed. And the Kremlin will say nothing more about it. But even after Peskow’s statement, the question, which has been posed for years, remains open to whom the palace now belongs.
It has been speculated for months that Putin stays on the Black Sea much more often than in Moscow. There have been reports of government aircraft movements. Peskov said flights by the Russian leadership were secret. In December, Putin himself said of the reports about himself that they were deliberate indiscretions spread by Western intelligence services. Navalny is also accused of working for the US intelligence agency CIA. He rejects that – and calls himself a true patriot, which is why he keeps fighting against Putin.
Putin’s adversary is reconstructing the disguised ownership of the largest private estate in Russia on the basis of countless documents first displayed in this way. The closely guarded and spaciously gated palace of more than 17,500 square meters is located in a wine-growing area near the city of Gelendzhik. A tunnel leads to the beach, they say. According to the investigation, “underage officials” of the presidential administration were temporarily registered as owners.
The Italian-designed palace building is nearly 40 times the size of Monaco, they say. The cost should be about 100 billion rubles (1.3 billion euros). The video shows floor plans of the palace, including saunas, wellness and massage rooms, and an arsenal of Kalashnikov guns.
“Putin lives in extreme luxury. He lives the life of an Arab sheik and someone who can turn things into gold at a glance, ”said Georgi Alburov, who played a key role in the study. The branched corporate networks and the frequent changes of ownership allowed no other conclusion than that Putin was the real owner of the palace. Alburov says on the internet channel Doschd that the main result of the research is that Putin will never be able to live there because of the attention.
According to Navalny, it is the biggest corruption scandal in Russian history. Dozens of hectares of forest have been cut down for the construction and the unique coastal landscape has been destroyed, says environmentalist Dmitri Shevchenko on the internet channel Doschd. Such a land grab, including serious interventions in nature, is only possible with the help of government agencies. Schwetschenko says he used to be on the site himself.
The film is seen as Nawalny’s reaction to his imprisonment and persecution by the Kremlin. The government’s opponent was sentenced to 30 days in prison on Monday after returning to Russia in a controversial express trial at a Moscow police station. Behind the actions of the judiciary and behind the August 20 assassination attempt, he sees a “assassin squad” from the FSB domestic intelligence agency on the orders of Putin. Putin and the FSB deny the allegations. This Saturday, Navalny’s supporters have called for protests – for the release of the Kremlin’s opponent and against Putin.