Arrested Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has released a two-hour film about a luxury palace on the Black Sea coast that he claims belongs to Russian President Vladimir Putin and is financed by people close to him.
Earlier, this complex was called “Putin’s palace” by many mass media.
In the introductory part of the film, published on Navalny’s YouTube channel, the oppositionist explains that he conceived the investigation while he was still in the intensive care unit of a Berlin hospital.
However, he decided to publish it only after the oppositionist returns to Russia.
“Because we don’t want the main character of this investigation to think that we are afraid of him and that I will tell about his most terrible secret while abroad,” explained Navalny.
The press secretary of the President of Russia, Dmytro Peskov, said on Tuesday that the Kremlin was not familiar with the publication about the palace, but “in fact, this is not true.”
In addition to the film, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has created a special website where you can read an even more detailed text version of the investigation. UA2DAY got acquainted with it and selected the key points.
A tunnel to the sea and a ban on fishing
At the center of the investigation is a palace near Gelendzhik with an area of 17,600 square meters, which Navalny calls “the largest private residential building in Russia.”
According to the investigation, all visitors to the building are strictly prohibited from carrying even simple cell phones with a camera, and all cars are inspected at several checkpoints.
In addition to the palace itself, the closed area has an indoor ice palace, a church, a greenhouse of 2.5 thousand square meters, an 80-meter bridge and an amphitheater. Since the palace is located on a steep bank, a special tunnel was dug to reach the sea, at the end of which there is a tasting room with a view of the sea, the text says.
The area of the palace complex itself is 68 hectares, but 7,000 hectares of land around the palace is in the hands of the FSB and is a closed area, according to the investigation.
This territory is occupied by hunting grounds, which are leased by Complex LLC, which owns the palace.
In addition, the company rents the coastline in front of the palace. The Voronezh public organization of the disabled “Impuls” is suing the company for this land.
According to Navalny’s foundation, the FSB even prohibits fishing near the cape on which the palace stands, and airplanes are prohibited from flying over the territory.
The investigators were especially impressed by the complex, which, according to their data, is an underground hockey rink next to the palace.
Home theater and vineyards
The floor plan of the palace itself is presented in the investigation. It follows that there are several saunas and hammams, a swimming pool, a hairdresser and an aquadisco. The palace also has a winter garden and a music lounge.
Navalny also publishes photos of the furniture inside the palace rooms, taken, as he claims, by the workers who made repairs there.
Among the pieces of furniture, a sofa, the value of which is estimated at 2 million rubles, and a table for 4 million rubles stand out.
The visualization shows several rooms at once: a library with white walls decorated with golden monograms, a room with its own stage and a bright red curtain, which FBK calls the president’s own “home theater”, as well as a “hookah” without windows, but with a small stage and pole in the middle.
In addition, according to FBK, the palace has its own casino, as well as halls with a dance floor, slot machines and a track for cars, as well as racks for displaying collections of the same cars.
In addition, the investigation states that the palace, located on a steep bank, is connected to the beach by a special tunnel. But it has a little secret – it has a tasting room where you can drink wines with a view of the sea.
The area of only one bedroom in the palace, according to the given plan, is 260 square meters.
According to the publication “Project”, when Putin comes to the Black Sea coast, he holds official meetings in the Sochi residence “Bocharov Strumok”, but he himself lives more often in Gelendzhik and invites the people closest to him to the palace for informal communication.
Several wineries are located near the palace and a new winery is being built, owned, as stated in the FBK investigation, by the company “Axis Investments” of Mykola Egorov, a classmate of Vladimir Putin.
According to the SPARK system, “Axis Investments” did not belong to Yegorov directly. As of 2015, “Axis Investments” was owned by Oleksiy Toi (there is no more recent data on the owners). He headed Egorov’s Apex South company.
According to the foundation’s calculations, about 3 billion rubles (1 ruble – 0.38 UAH) are spent annually on the construction of the plant: these funds also go to the purchase of luxury furniture worth several million rubles.
“Axis Investment” leases more than 150 hectares of land in nearby Krynytsia. These are agricultural lands, hunting grounds and land for the construction of a hotel for 20 people with a cafe.
In 2018, the administration of the city of Gelendzhik allowed the company to build a four-story building there instead of a three-story one, deviating from the construction regulations in force in this area.
The winery next to the “Putin’s Palace” has been owned by Gennady Timchenko since the end of 2018, Vedomosti newspaper wrote. Together with Volodymyr Kolbin, he bought the Divnomorske Manor vineyards from Pavel Tytov, the president of the Abrau-Durso wine house and the son of business ombudsman Boris Tytov.
The Russian Orthodox Church also built a winery about a 20-minute drive from the palace.
There is also an oyster farm near the palace, it was organized by the company “Southern Citadel” – it leased the water area opposite the building. According to the authors of the investigation, the company does not grow oysters.
At least the company’s annual report for 2019 states that the company was unable to purchase the necessary biomaterial in the spring season.
The investigation indicated that the oyster farm could only be a “pretext” to “prohibit people from approaching the palace “by water”.
The company leases at least 4.6 hectares of land in Krynytsia, including a site for building a hotel and a beach.
A complex financing scheme
As the authors of the investigation found out, the construction of the palace was initially carried out by the company “Rosinvest”, allegedly under the control of Vladimir Putin. In 2011, businessman Oleksandr Ponomarenko announced that he bought this palace from one of the co-owners of Rosinvest Mykola Shamalov and two of his partners.
In an interview with Kommersant, Ponomarenko said that the amount of the deal of 350 million dollars is close to the truth. But, as FBK claims with reference to the financial statements of the offshore company Kernicom Enterprises, the real amount of the deal was slightly more than 356 thousand dollars.
Navalny insists that the agreement is fictitious.
In the documents of the offshore company itself, it is stated that these are investments in the company “Rirus”, controlled by Kernicom. “Rirus”, according to the information in these documents, is engaged in real estate transactions. Specific real estate objects are not specified in the documents.
Management of all construction works in the palace itself is carried out by the firm of businesswoman Asya Borisova, who is close to the Kremlin, but due to the object’s secrecy, its construction was divided between several different firms, according to FBK.
The key owner of the palace is the Akcept company, which belongs to Putin’s cousin Mikhail Shelomov, the fund found out.
In conclusion, the authors of the investigation cite the scheme of financing the palace, which mentions, among others, Putin’s old associates – the head of “Transnafta” Mykola Tokarev, the head of “Rosnefta” Ihor Sechin, businessmen Yuriy Kovalchuk and Gennady Timchenko.
The scheme also features Svitlana Kryvonogykh, whom the “Project” publication called a close acquaintance of Putin, and gymnast Alina Kabaeva, with whom the media also wrote about Putin’s connections.