Thu. Jul 18th, 2019

Vladimir Putin: the Russian president’s ‘life of four yachts and 58 aircraft’

5 min read

 

Vladimir Putin once compared ruling Russia to being a “galley slave”, but four   yachts that come with the job, not to mention palaces, aircraft and a wealth   of luxury perks help explain his refusal to quit the presidency, leading   critics said on Tuesday

Listing 58 planes and helicopters and 20 homes with opulent fittings worthy of   the tsars, not to mention 11 watches which alone are worth several times   Putin’s annual salary, a report published under the ironic title “The Life   of a Galley Slave” by opposition leader Boris Nemtsov denounced a “blatant   and cynical challenge” to millions of Russians barely managing to survive.

The Kremlin, which has long portrayed the 59-year-old president as a man of   simple tastes and a liking for popular sports and active outdoor pastimes,   did not immediately comment.

Putin, who declares a personal income barely a quarter of that of his US   counterpart, has long denied rumours that he has built up a vast personal   fortune. The report did not address that but it illustrated in 32 pages how   the former KGB agent has expanded the trappings of the office of president   since he rose to power in 2000; it is intended to foster faint stirrings of   opposition to his recent re-election for a further six years.

“One of the most serious reasons prompting V. Putin to hold on to power is the   atmosphere of wealth and luxury to which he has become accustomed,” wrote   Nemtsov and co-author Leonid Martynyuk. “In a country where more than 20   million people barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is   a blatant and cynical challenge to society.

“We absolutely cannot put up with this.”

Among eye-catching details, the authors highlighted a $75,000 lavatory on a   presidential jet. They also identified from photographs a total of 11 luxury   timepieces on the wrist of the head of state and calculate their total value   at some $700,000; Putin has declared an annual income of about $115,000.

Tales of extravagance in the leadership, though familiar to Russians   throughout their history from tsars to commissars, come at an awkward time   for Putin as he has faced the biggest protests of his 12-year rule, mostly   from middle-class urban liberals who are now trying to fire up indignation   more widely.

The text was accompanied by photographs of luxurious homes, jets, helicopters,   cars and watches, complete with footnotes citing Russian media as sources   for many of the items. Nine new residences had been added to the list   available to the president since Putin first became head of state in 2000,   it said.

As well as 15 helicopters, the 43 other aircraft available to Putin include an   Airbus, two Dassault Falcon executive jets and an Ilyushin Il-96 airliner   that features an $18-million cabin fitted out by jewellers – and that   lavatory which, the report says, cost close to $75,000.

For a man who, in 2008, described his workload in office as being like that of   a galley slave, the Kremlin fleet of luxury yachts may draw more comparison   to the lifestyles of Russia’s high-profile business tycoons, the “oligarchs”.

One 53.7-metre yacht with a designer interior, a spa pool, waterfall and wine   cellar is relegated to second best.

“The real diamond of the Kremlin flotilla,” the report says, is a five-decked   yacht with a jacuzzi, barbecue, a maple wood colonnade and a huge bathroom   faced in marble.

A 930-hectare (2,300-acre) residence on Lake Valdai in northwestern Russia has   a cinema, a bowling alley and a “presidential church”, the report said.

It said a little-known three-storey residence near Saratov, on the Volga river   southeast of Moscow, has German chandeliers and Italian furniture, and   features a billiard room, a winter garden, a pool and sauna.

While not addressing Putin’s personal wealth directly – the president once   dismissed talk of him being a billionaire as snot picked from noses of   Western reporters and smeared on paper – it squarely challenges the image he   offers of himself as a modest servant of the state, and paints him rather as   a callous, Nero-like figure, ignoring Russia’s persistent problems.

“Russia is continuing to die out … the country has lost more than five   million people, an African level of corruption has fettered the business   activity and daily life of the country, and Russia’s dependence on natural   resources has only deepened during the years of Putin’s rule,” the report   said.

Putin often refers to himself in public as “your humble servant”. In a   declaration filed this year, the report said, Putin reported an income of   3.6 million roubles ($113,000) and listed three old domestic cars and a   trailer hitch handed down by his father as the vehicles he owns.

The report juxtaposes that with a description of some of the 700 automobiles   at the disposal of the presidential administration, including an armoured   Mercedes limousine Putin can use to commute to the Kremlin from his country   estate.

In addition to that suburban Moscow residence, Novo-Ogaryovo, and Bocharov   Ruchei, his summer base in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin also has the   run of two palaces by the Baltic, villas on the Volga and a ski lodge in a   nature reserve in the Caucasus Mountains, the report says.

Among the watches, a potent symbol of personal wealth among Russians since the   collapse of communism, the report listed five made by Blancpain of   Switzerland and one made by the German firm A. Lange & Soehne as among the   most valuable in the collection.

Nemtsov and Martynyuk suggested money used on the upkeep of the residences and   other presidential assets would be better spent for the public good.

Putin’s spokesman and other Kremlin officials could not immediately be reached   for comment on the report.

Nemtsov, a deputy prime minister in the 1990s, has become one of Putin’s   fiercest critics and was among the leaders of a series of protests over the   past winter.

The protests began over allegations of fraud in parliamentary election won by   Putin’s ruling party last December and followed concern about his plan,   announced last September, to return to the presidency after four years as   prime minister.

Putin has not ruled out running for re-election in 2018, but a poll by the   independent Levada Centre this month found that a majority of Russians would   prefer someone else replace him.

Source: Reuters

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