The opulent lifestyles of some members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and their pets have been exposed by anti-graft campaigner Alexei Navalny as the Kremlin prepares for the strongman’s final re-election bid in about 18 months, reports Bloomberg.
Navalny is known for sharing his scoops on Putin’s allies with his 1.68 million Twitter followers. He has been described as the Russian Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder.
However, “Navalny said that he has no ties to the anti-secrecy group and that his fund’s work differs in a fundamental way—it relies on open sources and citizen researchers, not on hacked data,” notes Bloomberg, adding that he has also dismissed domestic claims that he is working on behalf of American interests.
As Russia prepares for Putin’s presidential campaign, Navalny “has emerged as the conduit of choice for rival factions to scoop dirt on each other as they jostle to retain their fiefdoms,” notes the news outlet.
The anti corruption crusader has been described as the leader of the Russian opposition.
While Putin has largely stayed above the fray, anonymous tips and research by Navalny’s staff of 30 have led to a string of revelations about the extravagance of some of the Russian leader’s closest allies, including a new luxury home for his premier, army contracts for his personal chef and private-jet travel for the show dogs of a top official.
Navalny’s critics say he’s just a pawn in a bigger game, but the 40-year-old lawyer says it doesn’t matter where leaks come from as long as they expose officialdom—and the more strife sown along the way, the better.
Infighting among the Russian leader’s closest allies has reportedly fueled an array of leaks over the that last few months that have underscored the private dealings of his administration.
Bloomberg compares the disclosures to the thousands of e-mails linked to U.S. Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton that have been made public by Wikileaks in the last few weeks, noting that the Obama administration has attributed the email leaks to Russian hacking.
The revelations made by Navalny’s team regarding the Kremlin court highlight the extravagant opulence, ill-gotten wealth, and corrupt power influence of some members of Putin’s inner circle and close family members.
The latest bout of infighting started in the summer over the largest asset sale of the year—a controlling stake in Bashneft, a crude producer with more than $10 billion in annual sales. Igor Sechin, who runs state oil champion Rosneft and has worked with Putin since the 1990s, clinched the acquisition this month, but only after a bitter feud with premier Dmitry Medvedev and first deputy premier Igor Shuvalov, both of whom wanted Rosneft excluded from the sale.
As the debate intensified in July, Navalny published investigations on his website revealing that Shuvalov had acquired 10 adjoining apartments in a coveted Moscow skyscraper and spent millions to shuttle his dogs around Europe in a private jet.
The dogs, which belong to the corgis breed—Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite—participate in shows “to defend Russia’s honor,” said Shuvalov’s wife, according to Bloomberg.
“Those disclosures were followed by newspaper reports detailing the use of a luxury yacht by Sechin’s wife and the Rosneft chief’s construction of an estimated $60 million villa in an exclusive area near Moscow,” reports the news outlet.
“Sechin won an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit over the property story, but by then Navalny had revealed that Medvedev was building a luxury home of his own with funds from a billionaire buddy’s charity,” it adds. “The premier’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said the estate in question is owned by the state.”