Photo anonymously posted on Ruleaks.
With its stunning seaside views, private casino, helipad, giant four-poster beds and marble halls, the newest palace built in the Black Sea resort town of Praskoveevka looks like something straight out of a James Bond movie. But according to a Russian businessman, it is being built for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with dubious funds.
The man behind these accusations is Sergei Kolesnikov, a Russian businessman who has worked with Vladimir Putin. On December 21, Kolesnikov published an open letter to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on the Internet, exposing his version of the story behind the palace.
Kolesnikov says he was made familiar with the palace’s construction while he was overseeing several public works projects for healthcare infrastructure and construction company Petromed. According to Kolesnikov, Petromed was approached in 2000 by Nicolay Shamalov, a personal friend of Vladimir Putin's, who offered to supply the funding for several major public healthcare contracts in the Saint Petersburg area on behalf of the president. The tens of millions of dollars in funding, which Shamalov said were “donated by generous oligarchs”, reportedly came with one condition: that Petromed transfer 35% of the contract funds into foreign accounts.
Kolesnikov says Shamalov told company heads that the money in the foreign accounts would return to Russia “to be invested in the Russian economy under Putin’s direct supervision”. Instead, Kolesnikov claims, the money financed the construction of the prime minister’s opulent seaside palace.
Initially, Kolesnikov says, the palace was presented as a “wellness complex”, but over the years it appeared that Putin himself regularly visited the site to supervise its construction and furnishing. In 2009, Kolesnikov was informed that construction materials were illegally brought in and paid for in cash. Kolesnikov says that when he told Shamalov that he disagreed with these pratices, he was immediately sidelined from the project. You can find the businessman’s detailed account in his open letter.
Following these revelations, Russian Web users dug out an article by a Novaya Gazeta journalist who reported on the villas of Praskoveevka in 2009. He couldn’t approach the palace reportedly being built for Putin because it was surrounded by security guards, but he managed to swim up to the beach behind it and speak to one of the workers on the site, who confirmed that Vladimir Putin was regularly on the premises.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, issued a statement saying that the prime minister "is not and has never been connected to this building in any way”.
"President Medvedev has the power to check the facts and make a decision"
Contacted by FRANCE 24, Sergei Kolesnikov sent us the following statement by e-mail:
I urge everybody to consider the following facts and decide for themselves whether they believe the palace is being built for Putin's personal use.
1 - Putin's press secretary Dimitri Peskov has claimed that “Putin is not and has never been conntected to this building in any way”. Therefore it is not an official government residence.
2 - At the end of 2009 Nikolay Shamalov's companies Indokopas and Rirus became the owners of all the palace buildings. Nikolay Shamalov was a Siemens employee from 1992 to 2008. Siemens is a wonderful company, but I doubt the salary they pay is enough to buy a billion-dollar palace.
3 - The construction of the palace started in 2007, when Putin was president. The palace is being built by the state-owned company Spetstroy Rossii, which is headed by a four-star general, who answers directly to the president.
4 - The construction is supervised and guarded by the Federal Security Service (FSO), which is also headed by a four-star general, a direct subordinate of the president.
5 - The plot of land the palace is on has been recently connected to all modern facilities with a new mountain road, an electricity line, a gas pipeline and other communication lines. All this infrastructure was financed by state money and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
6 - It is widely known that Shamalov is a close friend of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Shamalov is now constructing his personal villa in Gelendzhik, not far from the palace.
7 -The construction of the palace is financed by Rosinvest company. The main – 94% – beneficiary of the company is Vladimir Putin.
"I know what happens to those who tell the truth about corruption in Russia"
The facts I expose in my letter to President Medvedev, the facts of the corruption hierarchy built by Prime Minister Putin for his own benefit, are serious enough to require some time and consideration. President Medvedev has all necessary power to check these facts and make a decision. I don't have reasons to distrust the president. I consider my letter as a sort of acid test: the reaction of our president, of our political parties, of our members of congress, of our press and of the general public will show what they really think of the current situation in the country. Do they want to find out what's going on – or are they willing to swallow anything, accept everything. Do they really want change?
I know what happens to people who tell the truth about corruption in Russia, but hope for the best. I have a vision of a better Russia, a responsible state whose rulers care about its citizens and not about how to build themselves more palaces. I'm proud to be Russian. Russia has made a huge contribution to world literature, music, art and science. We and our children have a right to be proud of it. We should overcome corruption because we're a strong and free nation. We deserve a better life in a modern, flourishing, democratic society. With my letter I pay my debt to the country where I was born, raised, educated and lived all my life. Russian people deserve better. They deserve to know the truth."
Visit to the Palace
An anonymous man posted a message on a Russian forum saying he had worked on the construction site of Putin’s palace while he was enrolled in the army (in Russia, soldiers are often employed to work on public construction sites). He wrote that the site employed many illegal Chinese workers, and that all were closely watched by security guards. Workers were banned from taking photos of the site.
Two photos taken by tourists emerged on the Web after Kolesnikov’s open letter was published. In the first you can see the roof of the building, while the second shows the entrance of a tunnel leading from the palace to the sea.
Finally, on January 19, a Russian website called Ruleaks, which publishes translations in Russian of Wikileaks documents, published several photos of the inside of the palace.
All photos posted here.