‘Ruleaks’ Posts Pictures of ‘Putin’s Black Sea Palace’

Palace suspected to be built for Vladimir Putin. Source: RuleaksPhotographs of a sprawling mansion suspected to have been built for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have been posted on the internet, Kasparov.ru reports.

The photographs were published by Ruleaks, a group of self-proclaimed “activists from the Pirate Party of Russia and Russian-speaking activists from other Pirate Parties around the world.” The activists organize the translation of classified documents released by Wikileaks into Russian and the publication of those and other materials on the Ruleaks website.

On a page titled “Photographs of ‘Putin’s Palace’ in Praskoveevka on the Black Sea,” several dozen photographs show a gigantic Italian-style villa, complete with colonnades, balconies, and an enclosed park with a fountain. The interior is extravagantly decorated with frescoes, elaborate chandeliers and a wealth of marble and gold trim. The palace appears to be fully furnished and includes a desk bearing the Russian coat of arms; it is identical to the desk in the prime minister’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence.

This is the first time that high-quality photographs of the villa have been published. It was previously visible from satellite imagery and photographs taken from far away, but the building’s high security made it impossible to get up close. The newly-released photographs appear to have been taken by an on-site worker.

Ruleaks underwent a DDoS attack shortly after the photographs went live on January 18, making it temporarily impossible to access the website.

The organization stipulates that it cannot confirm that the residence belongs to Vladimir Putin: “We are not prepared to confirm whose palace this is, we are only publishing photographs of the facility itself.”

The photographs come one month after St. Petersburg businessman Sergei Kolesnikov sent an open letter to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev alleging that a palace “for the personal use of the Prime Minister of Russia” was being built on the Black Sea. “To date this palace costs over $1 billion U.S., mainly through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft.” Kolesnikov goes on to painstakingly detail the corrupt business dealings and theft of state funds that culminated in the creation of this complex. After publishing the letter, Kolesnikov reportedly went abroad and is waiting for the president’s reaction.

The newspaper Vedomosti was able to connect with Kolesnikov and verify his claim to the allegations. Judging by the text of his letter, Kolesnikov is the former business partner of two of Putin’s friends, Nikolai Shamalov and Dmitri Gorelov. The newspaper was able to confirm that Shamalov and Gorelov did indeed have a partner named Sergei Kolesnikov. Formally, the palace belongs to Shamalov, but Kolesnikov asserts that it is intended for the prime minister. “If this palace is Shamalov’s, then why is the state spending its own money to build him roads and electrical lines?” Kolesnikov said to Vedomosti.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, denied that the prime minister had any connection to the Black Sea complex. Shamalov and Gorelov did not respond to inquiries from Vedomosti.

See the full set of photographs on Ruleaks.net.

Click here for the Sergei Kolesnikov’s letter to the Russian president.