Commentary on Political Economy

Saturday, 2 April 2022

 

Russia: Watch out for Vladimir Putin’s $18,000 puffer jacket

Russian President Vladimir Putin strides out into Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022. The puffer jacket he is wearing is valued at $A 17,485. The sweater under it cost another $AU5595. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/SPUTNIK/AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin strides out into Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on March 18, 2022. The puffer jacket he is wearing is valued at $A 17,485. The sweater under it cost another $AU5595. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/SPUTNIK/AFP

When President Putin strode out at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to hail the invasion of Ukraine he wore a designer coat that cost more than millions of Russians earn in a year.

Critics pointed out that Putin’s Loro Piana puffer jacket cost $AU18,360. The average wage in Russia last year was 678,500 roubles ($AU11,015), according to Kremlin statistics. Putin also wore an Italian sweater that cost pounds $AU5595. The president’s love of luxury has been catalogued by foes such as Boris Nemtsov, who was shot dead near Red Square in 2015, and Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader.

20 luxury homes

Nemtsov wrote a report on Putin’s villas, dozens of private jets, luxury watches and fleet of cars. Putin has at least 20 luxury residences across Russia. His primary presidential jet, a customised Ilyushin Il-96, is said to have an on-board gym and $AU87,000 gold-plated toilet. Putin, Nemtsov wrote, is determined to hang on to power because he has become used to almost limitless wealth and luxury. The report, published a decade ago, was called The Life of a Galley Slave, a mocking reference to Putin’s claim to have toiled like “a slave on a galley ship” for Russia.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's team claimed this sprawling, opulent Black Sea palace was owned by Putin. Picture: Supplied
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny's team claimed this sprawling, opulent Black Sea palace was owned by Putin. Picture: Supplied

Navalny calculated in 2018 that the luxury watches Putin had been seen wearing had an overall value of at least $AU585,000, equivalent to his official salary for the previous six years. The jewel in the collection was a platinum-cased timepiece worth $AU664,000 by A Lange & Sohne, a German watchmaker. None of the watches had been declared by Putin, who is obliged by Russian law to report any gifts. According to his annual income declaration, Putin earns almost 10 million roubles a year.

The Kremlin likes to portray him as a man of the people. “Putin has no need for luxury,” state television said last year after Navalny accused Putin of owning a $AU1.75 billion palace on the Black Sea. The palace boasts helicopter pads, an underground ice-hockey rink, a tunnel to the beach and a spa with a storage area for therapeutic mud, according to plans obtained by Navalny’s team.

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Its lavatories are fitted with gold-leafed Italian toilet brushes worth $AU1130, and $Au1500 toilet paper holders. One in five Russian households and about 3000 schools lack indoor plumbing, according Moscow’s own figures.

Though Russia is among the world’s top three oil and gas producers, about 16 million people – 11 per cent of the population – are officially listed as having an income below the poverty line of $AU192 a month. Putin angrily denied that he or any of his relatives owned the palace. Shortly after Navalny’s report Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire oligarch who is one of Putin’s oldest friends, claimed that the palace belong to him.

Estimates of how much Putin is worth are tricky because his money is believed to be held by relatives, friends and even bodyguards. Forbes magazine has described the search for the Russian leader’s assets as “the most elusive riddle in wealth hunting”.

The Times

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