While Russians struggle to survive, Vladimir Putin glories in trappings of luxury
VLADIMIR Putin once compared ruling Russia to being a “galley slave”, but four yachts that come with the job, not to mention palaces, aircraft and a wealth of luxury perks help explain his refusal to quit the presidency.
Listing 58 planes and helicopters and 20 homes with opulent fittings worthy of the tsars, not to mention 11 watches that alone are worth several times Mr Putin’s annual salary, a report published under the ironic title The Life of a Galley Slave by opposition leader Boris Nemtsov yesterday denounced a “blatant and cynical challenge” to millions of Russians barely managing to survive.
The Kremlin, which has long portrayed the 59-year-old president as a man of simple tastes, did not comment.
Mr Putin, who declares a personal income barely a quarter of that of his US counterpart, has long denied rumours that he has built a vast personal fortune. The report did not address that, but it illustrated in 32 pages how the former KGB agent has expanded the trappings of the office of president since rising to power in 2000.“One of the most serious reasons prompting V Putin to hold on to power is the atmosphere of wealth and luxury to which he has become accustomed,” wrote Mr Nemtsov and co-author Leonid Martynyuk. “In a country where more than 20 million people barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a blatant and cynical challenge to society.”
Among eye-catching details, the authors highlighted a £48,000 toilet on a presidential jet. They also identified 11 luxury timepieces on the wrist of the head of state worth about £440,000. Mr Putin has declared an annual income of about £73,000.
The text was accompanied by photographs of luxurious homes, jets, helicopters, cars and watches, complete with footnotes citing Russian media as sources for many of the items. Nine residences had been added to the list available to the president since Mr Putin first became head of state in 2000, it said.
As well as 15 helicopters, the 43 other aircraft available to Putin include an Airbus, two Dassault Falcon executive jets and an Ilyushin Il-96 airliner that features an £11 million cabin fitted out by jewellers – and that toilet worth close to £48,000.
One 53.7 metre yacht with a designer interior, a spa pool, waterfall and wine cellar is relegated to second best. “The real diamond of the Kremlin flotilla,” the report says, is a five-decked yacht with a jacuzzi, barbecue, a maple wood colonnade and a huge bathroom faced in marble.
It said a little-known three-storey residence near Saratov, on the Volga river south-east of Moscow, has German chandeliers and Italian furniture, it features a billiard room, a winter garden, a pool and sauna.
“Russia is continuing to die out … the country has lost more than five million people, an African level of corruption has fettered the business activity and daily life of the country, and Russia’s dependence on natural resources has only deepened during the years of Putin’s rule,” the report said.
Mr Putin often refers to himself in public as “your humble servant”. In a declaration filed this year, he reported an income of 3.6 million roubles (£71,000 and listed three old domestic cars and a trailer hitch handed down by his father as the vehicles he owns. The report juxtaposes that with a description of some of the 700 automobiles at the disposal of the administration.
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