Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday, 19 January 2021


Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shares film of President Vladimir Putin's secret 'palace'

Navalny shares film of Putin's secret 'palace'

Nataliya Vasilyeva

Moscow | Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny upped the ante in his battle with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday by publishing a bombshell investigation about the president's lavish mansion on the Black Sea coast.

Mr Navalny was arrested when he returned to Russia on Sunday after being poisoned by deadly nerve agent Novichok in August.

He was ordered to be kept behind bars at least until mid-February in a fast-track court hearing on Monday.

Despite this, on Tuesday his team released a 90-minute investigation on YouTube into the Russian President's wealth and "Putin's Palace" on the Black Sea, complete with floor plans and stunning 3D visualisations of what its opulent interiors might look like.

In a video message pre-recorded in Germany, Mr Navalny said his team waited for him to return to Russia to release the film: "We did not want the protagonist of this film to think we're scared of him and that I'll be telling the story about his best-kept secret from abroad."

The video, which can be seen below, was viewed more than 5 million times in a few hours. Mr Navalny's team say they were able to produce the 3D images from a set of blueprints obtained from a disgruntled contractor. They show palatial interiors of marble and gold as well as a private theatre, casino and smoking room with a dancing pole.

Estimated to be worth $1.8b

The 17,691 square metre mansion, estimated to be worth £1 billion ($1.8 billion), is surrounded by 7800 hectares of private land, vineyards and oyster farms, and is formally owned by a private company.

The area around it appears to be a no-fly zone and anyone wishing to fish nearby has to seek a permit from the presidential security service.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, insisted yesterday that Mr Putin "doesn't own palaces".

The release appears to be timed to stir up popular discontent as Mr Navalny called for nationwide protests right before he was taken to prison.

In a message smuggled from jail, he yesterday described his return to Russia as a "fully rational choice".

He added: "I refuse to keep silent and listen to the shameless lies of Putin and his friends who are mired in corruption. Why do we have to be obedient and put up with this?"

Earlier, a close ally of Mr Navalny published a list of eight people whom the opposition leader thinks should be sanctioned by Western governments for supporting Mr Putin.

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