Russian leaders’ ‘secret palaces’ provoke outrage

 

Moscow

Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev share between them at least two dozen palaces, villas and mansions, according to a respected Russian magazine, in a report that is likely to reignite a debate about privileges enjoyed by the ruling duo.

The Russian liberal media and blogosphere have been alive with discussion about possible secret residences belonging to the two since a businessman in December accused Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, of building a £600m palace on the shores of the Black Sea for his own personal use.

The magazine Kommersant Dengi reported yesterday that given the Russian regime's opacity, it was impossible to tell how many residences the President and Prime Minister had access to, but noted that some estimates gave Mr Putin 26 separate places to live in. The magazine itself counted 24 residences that could be used by the pair, including six that are only rumoured to be for presidential use. The list contains castles, dachas, palaces, a ski resort and even a chateau outside Paris.

Most controversial is the Black Sea palace, currently being built near the village of Praskoveyevka. Sergei Kolesnikov, a Russian businessman and supposed whistleblower, told a US newspaper in December that funds for the palace had been raised through "a combination of corruption, bribery and theft," and coordinated by a close associate of Mr Putin's. The newspaper said it had seen documents to support the claim. Mr Putin's official spokesman has denied the building has anything to do with the Prime Minister.

Photographs of the palace were published last month by ruleaks.net, a website that positions itself as a Russian version of WikiLeaks. They showed a colonnaded palace with interiors full of frescos and antique furniture. The website said it could not confirm the ownership of the palace, but had decided to publish the photos anyway.

Those who know Russian politics have doubted Mr Kolesnikov's story, noting that such a courageous information leak seemed unlikely for someone who had previously been involved closely with the scheme. It is possible the "leak" was part of a behind-the-scenes battle between officials loyal to Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev over which one of them will run for President in 2012. Notably, a few weeks after the palace story broke, a new "leak" about a luxury yacht obtained for Mr Medvedev found its way into the press.

In a bid to encourage transparency, all top-ranking officials have for the past two years had to submit declarations detailing their income and property. But many declarations seem laughable, with officials who lead openly lavish lifestyles declaring extremely modest incomes. Many regional governors and other top officials are believed to use elaborate schemes to mask the extent of their wealth and property.

In his official income declaration last year, Mr Putin said he earned 3.88 million roubles in 2009 (about £80,000), while his wife's income was just £12.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence