Jailed Alexei Navalny releases investigation into Vladimir Putin's '£1bn palace'

Jailed Alexei Navalny releases investigation into Vladimir Putin's '£1bn palace'
By: World News Posted On: January 19, 2021 View: 19

Jailed Alexei Navalny releases investigation into Vladimir Putin's '£1bn palace'

He may be behind bars, but the Kremlin has not succeeded in silencing Alexei Navalny.

On his first full day in Moscow's Matrosskaya-Tishina prison, Mr Navalny's team have released a huge video investigation into the construction and alleged slush fund behind what is known as "Putin's palace", a £1bn private residence on Russia's Black Sea coast.

Calling it "Putin's biggest secret", Mr Navalny and his team reveal new details about the sprawling complex near the resort town of Gelendzhik which has long been rumoured to belong to the Russian President.

Screengrab of the Putin Palace on the Black sea. Pic: YouTube/Alexei Navalny
Image: The 'Putin Palace' on the Black sea. Pic: YouTube/Alexei Navalny

Drone footage over the grounds which the team says are 39 times the size of Monaco shows an underground ice hockey complex, 2500 square metre greenhouse and underground tunnel leading out to the Black Sea.

Architectural floor plans secured from a contractor shocked at the extent of the luxury reveal a lavish indoor theatre, fully-fledged casino and purple-tinted "hookah bar".

It is "the most expensive palace in the world", Mr Navalny says in the narration. "A new Versailles, new Winter Palace."

Mr Navalny says the idea for the investigation, which he presents from Germany, came during his time in intensive care.

More from Alexei Navalny

He travels to Dresden to trace Vladimir Putin's path from lowly KGB operative on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain to the pinnacle of power in the Kremlin, showing how the friends he made in the 1990s have remained the principle beneficiaries of his kleptocratic regime to this day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with Chief Executive of Gazprom company Alexei Miller at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia January 19, 2021. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Image: The Kremlin has denied that Mr Putin owns a palace in Gelendzhik

"Putin's personal money is kept by those he met thirty years ago," the investigation says. "In search of sponsors for the most corrupt ruler in the history of Russia, you need to go to his past."

He calls the Gelendzhik property the "biggest bribe in the world" and claims to have uncovered a scheme by which money for its construction is funnelled into offshore accounts by Putin's cronies as payment for lucrative state contracts he has handed them over the years.

"The standout for me is how bizarre and cuckoo-in the head our president is," says Vladimir Ashurkov, a close ally of Mr Navalny and executive director of his now disbanded Anti-Corruption Foundation. "Why do you need a billion dollar palace which you would never really use, as president?"

The Kremlin has denied that president Putin owns a palace in Gelendzhik.

Alexei Navalny talking about the 'palace' in the video he released after being detained. Pic: YouTube/Alexei Navalny
Image: Alexei Navalny talking about the 'palace' in the video he released after being detained. Pic: YouTube/Alexei Navalny

The almost two hour video investigation ends with a plea to the Russian people to go out and protest. "If 10% of those who are disaffected take to the streets, the government will not dare falsify elections," Mr Navalny says.

It is a call he repeated in a video message from a Moscow police station on Monday, shortly before he was taken to jail. In a hastily convened court session inside the police station, a judge ruled that his detention should be extended for 30 days, until 15 February.

On 2 February a court will decide whether to convert a three and a half year suspended sentence he was serving for an alleged embezzlement charge into a custodial sentence on the grounds that he violated the terms of his parole whilst convalescing in Germany.

Mr Navalny says all the various charges he has faced over the years are politically motivated.

His team are calling for a nationwide day of protest this Saturday. Mass gatherings are banned in Russia because of the pandemic and so far in Moscow, just two thousand people have registered as going on the Facebook page.

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Navalny calls for protests over his arrest

"The message about Putin's property will reach people in different formats and different channels," Mr Ashurkov says.

"It's unlikely that the regime will change tomorrow and we'll see hundreds of thousands of people on the streets but it's a campaign of constant pressure and history teaches us that the only constant throughout the decades is change."

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