Billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Vladimir Putin and targeted by Western sanctions, announced Saturday that he is the owner of the “palace” that arrested opposition figure Alexei Navalny accused the Russian president of possessing.
“I was able to conclude an agreement with the creditors a few years ago and became the owner of this site,” Rottenberg said, according to what Russian news agencies quoted from his media office. He added that he intended to convert the house into “hotel apartments.” “Everything was done very carefully, efficiently, and professionally,” said the businessman, Putin’s former judo partner. “I hope we will finish building the hotel in a few years.”
The Russian dissident published an investigation that garnered nearly 100 million views on a YouTube website accusing Putin of owning a huge, luxurious “palace” on the Black Sea, whose construction cost more than a billion euros. Putin denied these accusations, which he said were aimed at “brainwashing” the Russians and inciting them to demonstrate.
Navalny’s team organized the first demonstration last Saturday, and new demonstrations are scheduled for Sunday. For its part, Russian TV broadcast pictures of the palace, which is still under construction, and it appears to be far from the luxury that the exhibitions talked about, which is evidence, according to television, of a maneuver carried out by Navalny’s team. Navalny’s supporters assert that the headquarters is currently experiencing a workshop due to construction defects and that Putin is the actual owner.