Navalny makes allegations of Putin wealth ahead of protests

"Putin's palace" near Gelendzhik [@ASLuhn Twitter]

Alexei Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic who was jailed at the weekend, on Tuesday (19 January) released a video in which he and his allies alleged that an opulent palace belonged to the Russian leader, a claim the Kremlin denied.

The allegations, which first surfaced in 2010 when a businessman wrote about them to then-President Dmitry Medvedev complaining of official graft, come as Navalny’s supporters urge people to join nationwide protests on Saturday.

Reuters reported in 2014 that the estate in southern Russia had been partly funded by taxpayer money from a $1 billion hospital project. A spokesman for Putin at the time did not respond to questions about Reuters’ findings.

Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation published what they said were previously unseen photographs and detailed 3-D visualisations based on floor plans of the lavish interior along with a paper trail they said proved the 100 billion-rouble ($1.36 billion) Black Sea palace ultimately belonged to Putin.

Reuters could not independently verify their authenticity.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the palace allegations were old and untrue.

“I’m not familiar with this investigation,” Peskov was cited as saying by the Interfax News Agency. “However, I can immediately say that this is an old record. We explained many years ago that Putin does not have any palace in Gelendzhik (in southern Russia).”

The video, which has attracted more than 3 million views on YouTube, showed the palace contained a casino, theatre, ornate Tsarist-style interiors and an underground ice rink.

Navalny and his allies have released several investigations into alleged official corruption, using them to try to increase support for the opposition politician and his movement.

Navalny is being held in pre-trial detention for alleged parole violations after returning from Russia on Sunday for the first time since being poisoned last summer.

A Facebook events page for the planned protest in Moscow suggested around 2,000 people planned to go.

Navalny said in the video that it was time for Russians to force a change in leadership.

“Stop waiting and spending our lives and our taxes on the enrichment of these people,” he said. “Don’t be silent!”

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