By Tom Parfitt, Moscow
A dossier drawn up by a political rival of the Russian president suggests that he has 58 planes and helicopters at his use, that he has a collection of watches worth $635,000, and that he relaxes at more than 20 palaces and country retreats.
The report also claims that Mr Putin uses an Ilyushin jet with a $176 million cabin that includes a bathroom that has gold fittings and a $80,000 toilet.
Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, concluded in his report that Mr Putin’s existence, “can be compared with that of the monarchs of the Persian Gulf or the most outrageous oligarchs”.
The Russian leader, 59, has often played on his humble beginnings to popular effect. He once described how, as a child, he had to beat aside rats with a stick at the entrance to his parents’ communal apartment in St Petersburg.
Mr Putin, a judo black belt and amateur ice hockey player, has also projected his job as a punishing challenge fraught with austerity. Mr Nemtsov’s report is titled “The Life of a Galley Slave”, in reference to a comment by Mr Putin on finishing his second term as president in 2008, when he said: “I’m not ashamed before the citizens who voted for me. All these eight years I’ve been toiling like a galley-slave, with every ounce of my strength. And I’m pleased with the results.”
The report, published online, suggests an altogether more cushioned reality.
Among the perks said to be available to the president are a $950 million Italianate palace at Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast and a $41 million yacht called Sirius with whirlpool baths, a cinema and an artificial waterfall.
Another 176 ft yacht includes a spa pool, waterfall and wine cellar, but “the real diamond of the Kremlin flotilla,” the report claims, is a five-decked boat with a jacuzzi, barbecue, a maple wood colonnade and a bathroom faced in marble.
A 2,300-acre residence on Lake Valdai in north-western Russia has a cinema, a bowling alley and a “presidential church”, and it is said a little-known three-storey residence near Saratov, on the Volga river south-east of Moscow, has German chandeliers and Italian furniture, and features a billiard room, a winter garden, a pool and sauna.
According to his official income declaration Mr Putin earned $111,000 last year, making his suggested watch collection alone worth almost six times his annual salary. Mr Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, his co-author, wrote: “In a country where 20 million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate.”
They added: “We must not put up with this. We believe that the way of life of those in power must become a topic for public discussion and that all expenditure from the budget and all their incomes must be published.”
Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was unavailable for comment but he told the Kommersant newspaper he had not read the report.
“The information about the president’s state residences and transport is absolutely open to all, there are no secrets here,” he said. “This is all state property and as the elected president Putin uses it according to the law. What’s more, he’s obliged to in many cases.”