Builders at ‘Putin’s £1billion palace’ confirm the once-opulent home is riddled with mould and in a constant state of disrepair
- Alexei Navalny released images purportedly of the palace’s luxury interiors
- He claimed the opulent palace was being reconstructed due to a mould issue
- The Kremlin has stringently denied claims of the palace’s extravagance
- Putin blasted allegations as ‘boring’ and a ‘compilation and montage’
- Builders claim the palace is opulent, but is currently riddled with mould
Builders at a £1billion palace allegedly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin have confirmed the once-opulent home is riddled with mould and in a constant state of disrepair.
Russian opposition leader and Putin nemesis Alexei Navalny last month released a series of images purportedly of the palace’s luxurious rooms – including a strip club, casino and a theatre.
The photographs were released alongside a YouTube video which claimed the palace was being reconstructed due to a mould issue.
The Kremlin has denied claims of the palace’s extravagance – with Putin blasting the allegations as ‘boring’ and a ‘compilation and montage’.
Russian state TV released its own report on the palace, claiming it was an under-construction hotel for unidentified rich Russians – with footage showing building work and a state of disrepair.
Now, builders who claim they worked on the site between 2005 and 2020 said the palace is opulent, but is currently riddled with mould.
Builders at a notorious £1billion palace allegedly owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) have confirmed the once-opulent home is riddled with mould and in a constant state of disrepair
Russian opposition leader and Putin (pictured) nemesis Alexei Navalny last month released a series of images purportedly of the palace’s luxurious rooms – including a strip club, casino and a theatre
The Kremlin has stringently denied claims of the palace’s extravagance – with Putin blasting allegations as ‘boring’ and a ‘compilation and montage’. Pictured: Images of the palace released by Russian state media
Russian state TV released its own report on the palace, claiming it was an under-construction hotel for unidentified rich Russians – with footage showing building work and a state of disrepair (pictured)
Navalny back in Moscow court on defamation charges
Russia’s main Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was back in court Friday for allegedly defaming a World War II veteran, after being ordered to prison in another case that sparked global outrage and mass protests in his country.
The hearing came a little over one week after the 44-year-old opposition leader, a persistent thorn in President Vladimir Putin’s flesh, was sentenced to serve nearly three years in jail.
The anti-corruption campaigner appeared in a glass cage for defendants at the Moscow court wearing a blue hoodie, an AFP journalist reported.
Heavily-armed riot police surrounded the court and set up cordons outside.
Navalny’s lawyer Olga Mikhailova called on the judge to allow media in the courtroom and accused her of bias, asking that she be removed from overseeing the hearing.
“Stop shaming yourself and enrol in some courses to improve your knowledge of the laws of the Russian Federation,” Navalny said, backing his lawyer’s request.
Navalny is accused of describing people who appeared in a video promoting constitutional reforms backed by the Kremlin as “the shame of the country” and “traitors” last June.
They included a 94-year-old war WWII veteran who was present in the court via video link when the trial opened last Friday.
The charges currently carry a maximum penalty of two years behind bars.
Last week a different Moscow court turned Navalny’s 2014 suspended sentence into real jail time, ordering him to serve two years and eight months in prison.
Russia’s penitentiary service had accused him of breaking the conditions of a suspended sentence for fraud by not checking in with authorities while he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack in Germany that Navalny says was ordered by Putin.
Navalny’s arrest on arrival back to Russia last month sparked large nationwide protests that saw more than 10,000 detained and spurred allegations of police abuse.
One builder – who asked not to be named – told BBC Russia: ‘The scale [of opulence] had been incredible. ‘
He added: ‘Walls and ceilings were covered in mould. Just ordinary mould – green. In places even black. It had affected the whole building.’
Builders claim the mould – feared to be caused by the mansion’s proximity to the sea and limited ventilation – meant the property had to be disinfected twice.
Workers were initially drafted in to carry out cosmetic alterations, but the extent of the mould was found to be severe.
Mr Navalny was arrested on January 17 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.
He later was ordered to serve two and a half years in prison on the grounds that his time in Germany violated a suspended sentence he was handed in a money-laundering and fraud conviction.
The arrest sparked protests throughout the county on two weekends in January, in which a total of about 10,000 people reportedly were arrested.
Last month, a leading Russian oligarch – and Putin’s ex-judo sparring partner – claimed the mansion belonged to him.
Putin’s childhood friend Arkady Rotenberg said he was converting the 190,000sq-ft sprawling structure near Gelendzhik, Russia, into an apart-hotel with 16 suites for elite Russians.
Rotenberg, 69 – worth £2.1billion – said: ‘This is a stunning place. We would like to build an apart-hotel there, this is why it has so many rooms.’
He said of the palace: ‘It won’t be a secret. I am the beneficiary.
‘It was a rather complicated object, there were many creditors. I managed to become a beneficiary.’
His intervention followed revelations that the high-security palace included a 16-storey underground complex compared to the lair of a James Bond villain.
A mining engineer who worked on the complex overlooking the Black Sea suggested it had indeed been built for the president and there is a ‘whole anthill in the rock under the house’.
The engineer – named only as Viktor – thought of the palace as a ‘national treasure’ suggesting the 16 underground floors buried in the rock were more ingenious than Dr No’s bunker.
‘It’s not quite like the hideout of the villain from the James Bond films,’ he said.
‘The movie is after all based on the usual and necessary parameters of any underground structure.’
Navalny claimed to have been in possession of leaked floor plans of Putin’s lavish property on Russia’s southern Black Sea coast which have been used to draw up artists’ impressions of the palace’s interior.
Mr Navalny (pictured in court today) was arrested on January 17 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin
Astonishing 3D images of the estate’s interior allege ‘Putin’s palace’ features an arcade room with slot machines and a dance mat, a spa and a theatre inside the mansion, along with an underground ice rink and even vineyards in the grounds.
Navalny claims the estate, which also includes a church and strip club fitted with a lap dancers’ pole, is 39 times the size of Monaco.
The images are part of a mammoth investigation published on Navalny’s blog with a two-hour Youtube video recorded before his arrest.
‘There are impregnable fences, its own port, its own security, a church, its own permit system, a no-fly zone and even its own border checkpoint. It is absolutely a separate state within Russia,’ Navalny says.
The opposition figure accused Putin of owning the estate, which he claims cost £1billion and was allegedly funded through an elaborate corruption scheme involving Putin’s inner circle.
The report includes detailed interactive floor plans that Navalny says were leaked to his team by a contractor.
State broadcasters claimed Putin had never been seen to a complex and that it was an ‘apart hotel’ under construction (footage, pictured) for unidentified rich Russians, which now resembled a building site, said reports on state TV
Navalny claimed a strip club, casino and a theatre are among a series of luxurious rooms inside the palace and mocked up 3D images using floor plans provided by constructors
They were able to create 3D images of the interiors based on the floor plans, which included a gym, swimming pool and an underground wine cellar.
Navalny claims the estate and grounds that Russian media had linked to Putin years ago was paid for ‘with the largest bribe in history’.
The investigation alleged that the estate, located in a secluded area that is heavily guarded by Russia’s security forces, also had a tunnel from the mansion to the shore.
Following the allegations, Russian authorities mounted an operation to deny the tsarist-scale pile was Putin’s.
State broadcasters claimed Putin had never been seen to a complex and that it was an ‘apart hotel’ under construction for unidentified rich Russians, which now resembled a building site, said reports on state TV.
Navalny claimed to be in possession of leaked floor plans of the property on Russia’s southern Black Sea coast which have been used to draw up artists’ impressions of the palace’s interior
Astonishing 3D images of the estate’s interior allege ‘Putin’s palace’ features an arcade room (pictured), a spa and a theatre inside the mansion, along with an underground ice rink and even vineyards in the grounds
Navalny has claimed a theatre – fitted with red curtains and a golden ceiling – is among a series of luxurious rooms inside the palace
Putin’s friend and judo partner Arkady Rotenberg
Arkady Rotenberg is a close friend and ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, and appeared to take the heat off his friend by claiming that he is in fact the owner of a notorious £1billion Black Sea palace.
With his brother Boris Rotenberg, Arkady is the co-owner of Stroygazmontazh (SGM) group, Russia’s largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines.
In 2017, Forbes estimated his fortune at $2.5 billion, but he and his brother are subject to personal sanctions by the United States’ government relating to events during the Ukrainian crisis in 2013 and 2014.
His relationship with Valdimir Putin dates back to 1963 – when Rotenberg was 12 years old – when the pair joined a sambo club (a soviet martial art), and in 1978 Rotenberg became a judo trainer.
Upon Putin’s return to Russia in 1990, the pair trained together several times a week, and Rotenberg secured funding to found Yavara-Neva, a professional judo club.
Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) decorates businessman Arkady Rotenberg (R) with the Hero of Labour medal during an awards ceremony
The would go on to win nine European Judo Championships and train four Olympic champions, and it was given a new state-funded $180 million facility, including a thousand-seat arena and a yacht club.
Once Putin became president of Russia, he created Rosspirtprom, a state-owned enterprise controlling 30 percent of Russia’s vodka market in 2000, and put Rotenberg in control of the organisation.
Similar favouritism was shown to Rotenberg when Gazprom – the Russian majority state-owned multinational energy corporation – appeared to pay him inflated prices for projects.
When Igor Levitin was the Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation from 20 May 2004 to 2012, in 2010 he ensured that Rotenberg’s firms would construct the toll roads on Russian federal highways.
In 2013, he became chairman of the Enlightenment Publishing House, and amid changes to the industry that meant many of the Publisher’s competitors didn’t meet new evaluations, Enlightenment won about 70% of the contracts for new textbooks in the Russian Federation in 2014.
However, the Rotenberg brothers faced international backlash following the annexation of Crimea, which saw Barack Obama sigh an executive order imposing sanctions on their businesses, as well as on other Putin allies.
Visa and Mastercard stopped servicing Rotenberg’s bank – SMP Bank – and in 2014 Italy seized 30 million euros of his real estate. The U.S added Arkady and Igor Rotenberg on their blacklist of Russian oligarchs, freezing assets forworth $65 million in the same year.
In 2016, he General Court of the European Union confirmed the sanctions against Ukraine and the freezing of Arkady’s funds which had taken effect on 30 July 2014, but limited to the new properties added by the Council of Europe in March 2015.
A number of Rotenberg’s business ventures in recent years have been in response to the sanctions, with a bill being proposed – known as the Rotenberg law – that would allow sanctioned Russians to be compensated by the state. The bill was declined.
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