Vladimir Putin skal ha latt bygge et palass av keiserlige proporsjoner på en utsøkt tomt ved Svartehavet. Prisen skal ha vært tilsvarende astronomisk – 1 milliard dollar, og stamme fra korrupsjon, tyveri og misbruk av statens midler.
Det hevder en russisk entreprenør som var involvert i byggingen frem til 2009, da han ble tatt av prosjektet. Nå har han skrevet et brev til president Dmitrij Medvedev og krevd likhet for loven.
Saken kan bli meget pinlig for både statsminister Putin og presidenten.
Novaya Gazeta newspaper obtained what it said was an authenticated copy of the original contract for the palace signed in 2005 by Vladimir Kozhin, the Russian presidential property manager. Mr Putin, now prime minister, was president at the time.
Set in 74 hectares of prime land near the Black Sea coast with its own vineyard, the palace is reported to be almost eight million square feet and has its own helipad. Other features include an indoor cinema, a summer amphitheatre, a casino, swimming pools, a gym and a clock tower. Sergei Kolesnikov, the businessman who claims the palace is Mr Putin’s, has likened the structure to a palace built for Russia’s Tsars outside St Petersburg. He said that the Russian prime minister had personally approved the design and materials.
Mr Kolesnikov has called on President Medvedev to investigate his controversial claim. «A palace is being built on the Black Sea coast for the personal use of the Russian prime minister,» Mr Kolesnikov wrote in his original letter. «As things stand, the cost of the palace is $1 billion. The funds were mostly raised through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft,» he said. It was in President Medvedev’s powers, he added, to show ordinary Russians that everyone was equal before the law including Mr Putin.