Why Navalny’s Recycled Allegations About “Putin’s Palace” Deserve Skepticism

At the time of Alexei Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Russia a couple of weeks ago, he had a video released accusing Putin of having an ostentatious palace in the Black Sea region that was funded with taxpayer money. This is actually a claim recycled from ten years ago from a Russian businessman named Sergei Kolesnikov after he moved to Estonia. The claim was not substantiated at the time and it does not appear to be substantiated now.

Navalny’s flashy and tricked out video includes mock ups of the “palace” based on the floorplans as well as photoshopped images of Putin swimming in the humongous indoor pool.

A Russian-American writer Katya Kazbek who is based in NY has written a thread on Twitter that delves into an analysis of the floorplan in Navalny’s video.  Working with a real estate specialist, she has come to the conclusion that the building in question is likely designed as a luxury resort and not a personal palace of any kind. 

Also, a group of Russian journalists reportedly found the location of the “palace” in question and found only the shell of a building.  According to a report at RT:

Now, however, the very existence of its gilded corridors and plush carpets has been called into question, after a film crew from the Moscow-based Mash news channel paid a visit to the property in Gelendzhik. On Friday, the reporters released their footage on the Telegram messaging service.

Having gained unprecedented access to the site, the journalists weren’t greeted by butlers or security guards, but by “an entrance without a gate,” they said. Instead of a luxurious coastal home, the channel’s editor-in-chief, Maxim Iksanov, described it as “a big pile of concrete.”

….Mash says it gained access with the help of a construction supervisor who has been overseeing work at the site for years. The existence of the house, on Russia’s sunny Black Sea coast, has been known about since 2012, when UK state broadcaster BBC News claimed it could be Putin’s summer bolthole.

At the time, the Kremlin said the allegations were not based on reality, and spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated the denial in response to Navalny’s investigation earlier this month. “I can say straight away that this is a broken record. Many years ago, we had previously explained that Putin does not have any palaces in Gelendzhik,” he said.

Moon of Alabama has an in-depth write up which also reveals the Navalny claims to be suspicious:

Besides that obvious nonsense one has to ask why it would take Putin so long to build a ‘palace’. Kolesnikov said the project started in 2005. Sochi was prepared for the Olympics in just six years. The bridges to Crimea were built within five years of its liberation and the Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg, which Putin in 2001 ordered to rebuild, was re-opened in 2003. It is the Russian president’s official summer residence but also open to the public. When Putin says something should be build it will be build on time and not take sixteen years to end up as an empty concrete shell.

As for the ‘palace’ Navalny describes. It seems to have always been a hotel project. It had run into financial trouble. It several times changed ownership and its construction was at times stopped for years. The Russian construction mogul Arkady Rotenberg now claims to be the current owner of the ‘palace’…

Read the full article here.

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