“The most expensive palace in the world”. The description falls short of the majesty of the mansion belonging to Vladimir Putin and which, for the first time, has been uncovered to the world by Alexei Navalni. Even locked up in a detention center outside Moscow, the opposition leader remains the biggest nightmare of the Russian president whom he counterattacked this week with the release of a two-hour documentary about his Black Sea residence in the resort town of Gelendzhik, which he claims was built with illicit funds provided by members of Putin’s inner circle, including oil bosses and billionaires.
As of yesterday, the video had been viewed more than 58 million times. “It’s not a country house, not a cottage, not a residence. It is a whole city or, rather, a kingdom,” Navalny assures. The opposition leader is not exaggerating. Not in vain, the palace of 17,691 square meters has eleven rooms, according to the plans obtained by the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) founded by Navalni. A whole Russian-style “Versailles” that would have cost more than 1.1 billion euros and was given to the president as a bribe.
The documentary does not skimp on details, not of the interior either. “It is a separate state within Russia and in that state there is only one irreplaceable tsar – Putin,” says Navalni. “It is built in such a way that no one can get there by land, sea or air and the thousands of people who work there are forbidden to bring even a camera phone.”
In addition to the eleven rooms, with several living and dining rooms, the palace has a private theater, a cinema, a Las Vegas-style casino, two spas, a hammam and a bakery, as well as a room that is described as “the most controversial room in Putin’s palace” and would include an area for smoking bongs, as well as a space set aside for dancing with a stage, dressing room, colored spotlights and a pole dance bar. “Maybe it’s a training camp for firefighters,” Navalni ironizes.
According to drone videos filmed by FBK, the property has a field hockey rink, a church, an amphitheater and a 2,500-square-meter greenhouse. The territory is heavily guarded by multiple checkpoints. The 7,000-hectare complex, the equivalent of “39 times the size of Monaco,” has extensive vineyards where classical music is played 24 hours a day, apparently to help the grapes ripen, according to members of the region’s vineyard association who heard the music during a tour of the estate.
Navalni claims that winemaking is “a very expensive hobby” of Putin’s and that the president serves this wine to his friends: “He drinks it with his friend from China, Xi Jinping, and under the same ‘Chardonnay’ he discusses deeper integration.” The opposition leader also claims to have uncovered a complicated scheme to finance the president’s property and other personal expenses.
The report claims that Putin, at the beginning of his presidency, struck a deal with oligarchs and wealthy businessmen to “donate” part of his income to an investment company. But 35% of those donations would go to a Swiss bank account linked to a company registered in Belize. The Kremlin denies that the property belongs to the president. But the Russian opposition plans to take to the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg today to denounce the recent arrest of Navalni by the authorities.
You can see the Putin’s palace in Google Maps.