The Kremlin has denied any links between Vladimir Putin and a billion-dollar mansion that’s 40 times the size of Monaco and at the centre of a viral video which accuses Russia’s President of corruption and bribe-taking.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has refused to reveal why the lavish $1.7 billion “palace” situated on the Black Sea was being protected by the domestic intelligence service FSB and the security service FSO.
It comes after a team around jailed dissident Alexei Navalny last week released a video claiming the large estate was built for Vladimir Putin through an elaborate corruption scheme.
The nearly two-hour video, which has racked up more than 91 million views, alleged the coastal estate was funded through a bribes-for-access scheme where Mr Putin’s inner circle paid him for political influence.
The video created by Mr Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) claims the fraudulently obtained funds were used to build the palace on the Black Sea coast in southern Russia for Mr Putin’s personal use.
Mr Navalny’s team alleges that the owners cited in the estate’s paper do not have the money to have built the 11-bedroom mansion which is spread across more than four acres and features two helipads and an underground hockey rink.
Mr Putin has since denied claims that he or his closest allies own the opulent mansion, which has been dubbed ‘Putin’s Palace’ and features ceiling decorations made to resemble St Petersburg royal palaces.
“Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did,” Mr Putin said during a video call.
On Wednesday morning (Australian time), Kremlin spokesman Mr Peskov held a press conference, in which he said it belonged to entrepreneurs. But he refused to disclose their names.
“One or several people own it, directly or indirectly,” Mr Peskov said.
“But, you probably agree that the Kremlin has no right to disclose the names of these owners … it would be improper.”
Mr Peskov said he did not know if Mr Putin had ever visited the estate.
Despite being detained earlier this month upon his arrival to Moscow from Germany, Mr Navalny has remained a thorn in Mr Putin’s side.
“Putin’s friends, who received from him the right to steal whatever they wanted in Russia, thanked him a lot. But they also chipped in, collected 100 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) and built a palace for their boss with this money,” he said in the film.
According to the film, the estate measures 40 times the size of Monaco.
Mr Navalny returned to Russia earlier this month after receiving treatment in Germany following an assassination attempt with the nerve agent Novichok.
The 44-year-old was immediately detained upon his arrival and sentenced to 30 days of pre-trial detention.