Russian activists publish leaked photos of Putin-linked palace
Leaked photographs have confirmed details of a luxurious £1bn palace allegedly built for Vladimir Putin’s personal use, Russian anti-corruption activists have said.
The trove of nearly 500 photographs of “Putin’s palace”, published by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, show that the palatial mansion on Russia’s Black Sea coast has a vast marble swimming pool decorated with busts of Greek gods, a hookah lounge with a pole for dancing, a wine cellar, theatre, and other gaudily decorated amenities.
The photographs also showed that the mansion was decorated with hundreds of gilded double-headed eagles, the symbol of the Russian state. The activists have alleged that the residence was built for Putin’s personal use, a claim that the Russian president has denied.
The new photographs appear to refute claims by state media that Navalny’s team invented details of the palace in a blockbuster report last year that included computer-generated renderings of the mansion’s interiors that detractors likened to “cartoons”.
While the original report was based on leaked floor plans and contracts for the residence, the new report showed photographs that the Anti-Corruption Fund says were taken during the building’s construction. The Navalny team did not say how they received the photographs.
“Surprisingly, Putin is even worse than we expected,” said Georgy Alburov, a researcher for the Anti-Corruption Foundation. “If it seemed to you that we went too far in the film with the interiors, exaggerated and embellished [them], then you were mistaken. Life, as it happens, exceeded any of our expectations.”
He compared the residence’s furnishings to the “spirit of Louis XIV”.
The original report was published shortly after Navalny was arrested by Russian authorities after returning to the country last January. He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison on fraud charges that he has said are politically motivated. Putin and other senior government officials refuse to use Navalny’s name in public.
The original exposé on the residence showed that the opposition leader remained dangerous to the Kremlin even after his arrest. A video of the investigation became the most popular Russian YouTube video of 2021, earning more than 121m views on the video hosting website.
And the accusations of elite corruption helped spark rare protests in Moscow and other cities, despite a broad crackdown on Russia’s opposition.
Arkady Rotenberg, a Russian billionaire and close associate of Putin, said last year that he was the owner of the residence and was planning to use it as a hotel.