Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar secret palace

Over the weekend I watched two astonishing videos produced by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s supporters.  Here is what I learned.

Vladimir Putin has a luxurious palace on the Black Sea on a 17,000-area tract of land, which allegedly cost $1.35 billion (in 2021 dollars) to build.

Construction was financed by money siphoned from Russian state-owned enterprises.  The land is owned by Russia’s Federal Security Service, but is leased to shell companies owned by Putin cronies.

The complex includes an amphitheater, , an underground hockey rink, an oyster farm, an arboretum that employs 40 gardeners, a Greek Orthodox Church that was dismantled and moved from Greece, two helipads

Inside the palace itself are in indoor swimming pool, a theater with a stage, backstage and dressing rooms, a hookah lounge, a casino, a slot machine room and what appears to be a pole-dancing stage.

The furniture comes from exclusive Italian manufacturers.  It includes a $19,700 chest of drawers, a $17,000 bed and $10,500 chairs—also $700 toilet brushes.

I hadn’t paid much attention to Alexei Navalny in the past, but now I see him as a hero, like Vaclav Havel or Julian Assange.  The top documentary was produced while he was in a hospital in Germany, recovering from a poisoning attempt.

He decided he would only release it after he returned to Russia, because it would be dishonorable to expose his reporting team to perils he himself did not share.  He did return.  He was promptly arrested and is still in prison.  That took a lot of guts.

Navalny, Maria Perchikh, Georgy Alburov and the other members of his team are not only brave dissidents.  They are outstanding investigative reporters.

They also have excellent presentation skills.  As a rule, long videos don’t hold my attention, but I couldn’t look away from the two I have embedded.

There had been reports and rumors about Putin’s palace going back to the early 2010s, but it took Navalny and his team to nail down the facts.

Their opportunity came in August, 2020, when the builders discovered that the whole structure was riddled with leaks and mold, and had to be completely remodeled.

Somebody sent Navalny architects’ drawings of the structure.  The drawings specified the furniture in each room.

Navalny’s team obtained catalogs from the furniture suppliers and manufacturers.  These enabled them to created computer-generated images of the various rooms.  This part starts at the 59-minute mark in the top video.

They could have got things completely wrong.  But workers sent pictures of the actual interiors and, according to Pevchikh and Alburov, they were surprisingly accurate.

Their update is in the second video.  Both videos are in Russian with English subtitles. The two reporters said that when they went wrong, it was in underestimating Putin’s lavishness and bad taste.

The official Russian reply is that the building complex is owned by Arkady Rotenberg, a businessman and longtime friend of Putin, who intends to make it into an “apartment hotel.”

None of this reporting changes my mind about the folly of the Biden administration’s war policy toward Russia.  There is nothing wrong with Russia that can be improved by war or the threat of war.  Instead, war or the threat of war would solidify Putin’s power.


Putin’s palace? A mystery Black Sea mansion fit for a Tsar by Tim Whitewell for BBC News (May 2012)

Comrade Capitalism: Billion-dollar medical project helped fund “Putin’s palace” on the Black Sea by Stephen Grey, Jason Bush and Roman Anin for Reuters.  (May 2014)

Following the money: Alexey Navalny’s boldest investigation yet describes a vast network of shell companies and frontmen working to build and sustain Putin’s supposed seaside getaway by Kevin Rothrock for Meduza, an independent news agency (January 2021)

It’s good to be the president: Meduza spoke to contractors who helped build Vladimir Putin’s alleged seaside palace.  Also, new blueprints reveal a subterranean fortress, multiple “aqua-discos” and more by Meduza.  (January 2021)

‘Putin’s palace”: Builders’ story of luxury, mold and fake walls by Anastasia Napalkova, Timur Sazanov and Anna Poshkarska for BBC News (February 2021)

Putin’s Palace by Tony Wood for the London Review of Books (February 2021)

Alexei Navalny: Russia’s jailed vociferous Putin critic by BBC News (October 2021)

Retroactive repression: Five former team Navalny activists arrested in cities across Russia by Alexander Baklanov for Meduza.  (December 2021)

Real photos of Putin’s palace: Alexey Navalny’s researchers say they’ve corroborated a bombshell report on the Russian president’s alleged seaside residence by Meduza.  (January 2022)

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One Response to “Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar secret palace”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    I’m sure US Strategic Command has targeted it in OPLAN – formerly known as SIOP.


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