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.
Navalny team releases a jaw-dropping report about one of Putin's residences, which they call the world's most expensive palace. Located on the Black Sea coast, the secret residence has a casino and a hookah lounge complete with a vertical pole https://t.co/H6Pu03zzHF pic.twitter.com/t1UCwWRgMG
— Anna Smolchenko (@Annaafp) January 19, 2021
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).”
With its head @navalny now jailed @fbkinfo posts its biggest ever investigation into "Putin's palace" near Gelendzhik. Floorplans seem to suggest it's the biggest home in Russia, with wine cave, theater, gym, pool, "aquadisco" & hockey rink, & cost $1.35bn https://t.co/QOgfk5oe5t pic.twitter.com/B5WHOx1x2l
— Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) January 19, 2021
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 releases a massive investigation into what he calls the "biggest bribe in history," a 100 billion ruble palace on the Black Sea allegedly built for Putin . His team says now that they've published the architectural plans, he'll be afraid to use it. https://t.co/en79otRcoa pic.twitter.com/C3hIkA1UwA
— Andrew Roth (@Andrew__Roth) January 19, 2021
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!”