Putin's paltry salary well below presidential peers

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has a penchant for luxury watches, and has been spotted wearing a model by the elite Swiss watchmaker Patek Phillippe that retails for about £30,000. But if he bought it himself, he would have had to fork out nine months of his official salary for the pleasure, according to figures released by the Russian Central Elections Commission.

Having put himself forward as a candidate for the United Russia party in December's polls, Mr Putin's income has been divulged to the public just like that of all figures standing for election. He earned about £40,000 last year, has savings of more than £60,000, and owns a couple of cars as well as a plot of land in Moscow and a modest flat in his home city of St Petersburg.

A salary of £40,000 a year is not a bad haul in a country where the average wage still hovers around the £250 per month mark, but it does not seem very presidential. His French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, takes home £168,000 a year, while the US's George Bush is on £195,000.

"Russian officials have lower salaries than those in the West," said Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst. Low salaries among officials are often cited as one of the main reasons for the corruption endemic in Russia. Still, there are more than 100 people on the election list of United Russia, the political party linked to Mr Putin, that registered a higher income than him.

Mr Putin is an intensely private man who would not appreciate any digging into his finances or affairs – only carefully screened information is released about the President's home life.

But while he is well provided with official cars, residences and other perks, Mr Putin does not fit the mould of the free-spending Russian oligarch.

However, he is not averse to taking the initiative when he sees something he likes. After meeting with Mr Putin two years ago, the American tycoon Robert Kraft showed off his diamond-encrusted Superbowl ring to the President. Mr Putin, who rather liked the look of the ring, gave a boyish smile and promptly pocketed it, leaving the room. A bemused Mr Kraft issued an unconvincing statement after media attention a week later, claiming that the ring had been a gift all along.

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