New leak links Putin to $1bn Black Sea palace
Evidence backs Russian businessman’s claim that Vladimir Putin used public money to build palace
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has had a $1bn Italianate palace built for himself on the Black Sea coast, paid for out of state funds, according to leaked documents published by a Russian newspaper. The palace reportedly features more than one swimming pool, an amphitheatre, a clock tower and an underground tunnel to the sea.
The 'Putin's palace' scandal first began to brew in December when businessman Sergei Kolesnikov wrote to Russian president Dmitry Medvedev asking him to investigate allegations the complex was being built, financed and protected by the government for the personal use of Putin, who began its construction in 2007 when he was still president.
Kolesnikov said he worked on the project until he raised questions about official corruption.
Last month, whistleblowers at RuLeaks - a Russian version of WikiLeaks - published photographs of 'Putin's Palace' on their website.
The photographs show a huge neo-Palladian palace in the final stages of construction, complete with marble surfaces, hand-painted Renaissance-style murals and formal gardens with topiary. The 8 million sq ft palace is in the Krasnodar region on the Black Sea coast.
On Sunday, Novaya Gazeta published leaked documents confirming that in 2005 Vladimir Kozhin, chief of the Office for Presidential Affairs, which deals with property for the president, had authorised an investment contract for the palace.
A spokesman for the Office for Presidential Affairs told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that he had no comment: "We have already commented exhaustively on this matter," he said.
Putin's spokesman has also denied that the prime minister, who receives an annual salary of £80,000, has any link to the Black Sea palace.
Meanwhile, more photographs have been published of the mysterious palace by environmental activists who say the palace is built illegally in protected forest.
Members of Environment Watch North Caucasus say their equipment was confiscated by Federal Guard Service officers - a branch of law enforcement responsible for protecting presidential properties - but not before they managed to upload photographs to their website. ·
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