Russian businessman Arkady Rotenberg said on Saturday that he owns a huge palace in southern Russia that Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has linked to President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation have released a video claiming the opulent mansion belongs to the Russian leader. The video has been viewed more than 103 million times.
Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo sparring partner, who sold his stake in gas pipeline construction company Stroygazmontazh in 2019 for a sum that RBC daily put at 75 billion rubles ($ 990 million), said he owned the palace two years ago Bought.
“Now it won’t be a secret anymore, I’m the beneficiary,” said Rotenberg in a video released by the Mash Telegram channel. “There was a pretty complicated facility, there were many creditors, and I managed to become the beneficiary.”
He did not provide any other financial details of the purchase or how it was financed. Putin has denied possession of the palace.
Navalny was detained for 30 days on January 18 for allegedly suspended parole. He was arrested after flying back to Moscow from Germany, where he recovered from nerve agent poisoning last August.
After his arrest, thousands of people joined unauthorized protests across Russia last Saturday to demand his release. Further protest rallies are planned across Russia on Sunday. The authorities have said the gatherings are illegal and have vowed to break them.
Mediazona editor-in-chief Sergey Smirnov was released from police custody on Saturday after being arrested earlier that day on suspicion of participating in a protest in Moscow last weekend.
Smirnov faces a trial on February 3, the RIA said. He could face up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to 300,000 rubles or forced labor.
Rotenberg was among the Russian officials and businessmen blacklisted by the United States and other Western powers after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.
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