Navalny: Putin has a billion dollar palace, you know

Famed Putin critic Alexei Navalny may be stuck in jail for anywhere from 30 days to three and a half years, but it doesn’t seem to have tempered his sharp tongue when it comes to the Russian president. Or at least not yet. His organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) released a scathing report yesterday, including a lengthy video, alleging that Vladimir Putin has constructed a palace costing a billion dollars on the Black Sea coast. They further claim that the entire project was funded through corruption and dirty money. This seems to be a rather extreme example of “poking the bear” when you’re in a precarious position. (Business Insider)

Alexei Navalny, the archcritic of Vladimir Putin, accused the Russian president of building a secret $1 billion coastal palace funded through a bribes-for-access scheme.

Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, or FBK, on Tuesday released an extensive report and a nearly two-hour video starring Navalny describing a palace built near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea.

The FBK said its report was based on interviews with contractors, blueprints, and publicly accessible documents. The Kremlin dismissed the report as “pure nonsense.”

The Kremlin may be dismissing the story as nonsense, but Google Maps shows something on the coast right there that looks awfully similar to what’s shown in the video. (We’ll have that below.) It’s clear that Navalny filmed his part of the video after getting out of the hospital but before returning from Germany. He tears into Putin with a vengeance, insulting him every step of the way and talking about the massive corruption that characterizes his place in the government. He also describes the fraud and favoritism that earned Putin a huge fortune, allowing him to build a palace like this.

Is this man just incredibly bold or suicidally crazy? Putin has him pinned down in jail and he’s flooding the internet with some really damning information about the Russian president. It just seems like a great way to make sure you don’t come out of jail alive.

But is Navalny’s story all that crazy? I would argue that it’s more plausible than implausible. There have been rumors circulation for years that Vladimir Putin is very likely the first trillionaire in the history of the world. His entire government is steeped in corruption and, much like the mafia, the cash flows upward. He’s been in control for so long now that he could easily have acquired enough money to fund the construction of a daunting palace by the seas. Oh, and according to some of the contractors that Navalny’s team spoke to, they had to basically build the entire palace twice, starting at least as far back as 2014. The original had leaks and became covered in mold everywhere so they had to gut the whole thing and start over.

As I said, Alexei Navalny is either very bold or he’s suicidally crazy. But if he can make the entire country aware of the full extent of Putin’s corruption and greed, the Russian president might find himself with an even larger revolt on his hands.

Here’s the video if you want to flip through it. It’s in Russian, but there are English subtitles. If you fast forward to around the 30-minute mark you can see the drone tour of the palace, but Navalny’s monologue in the first half-hour is worth a look. It’s a tour de’ force of goading Putin.