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Putin's spokesman and his terrible wristwatch fetish How a 620,000-dollar timepiece turned a wedding into a publicity nightmare

Source: Meduza
Photo: Oleg Mitvol / Instagram

Have you ever been tempted to wear a watch worth more than half a million dollars? Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, both felt and submitted to the itch, donning a particularly pricey timepiece last weekend at his most recent wedding (his third). In a scandal that has burned the Russian Internet to the ground, the country’s most famous anti-corruption activist, Alexey Navalny, published evidence that Peskov’s wristwatch is in fact a $620,000 Richard Mille RM 52-01. The hullabaloo got to be so much that both Peskov and his new wife felt it necessary to respond publicly, claiming that the watch was a wedding gift, and saying it isn’t worth as much as Navalny says.

Peskov’s wedding last weekend was quite an event. Not only did his group rent out the most expensive hotel in Sochi (where rooms can cost as much as $3,250 a night), but the guest list included some of Russia’s most famous singers, athletes, politicians, and officials. According to some reports, several women nearly brawled to claim the bride’s bouquet—a spectacle captured in slow motion and now available on YouTube.

Tatiana Navka tosses the bouquet.
Information Agency Notebook

Peskov’s new wife, Tatiana Navka, is no slouch herself. An ice dancer and a former Olympic champion, Navka has been seeing Peskov for the last five years. One year ago this month, she even bore him a daughter (his fourth child).

Navka’s athletic glory is not irrelevant to the wristwatch scandal, either. She says it was her wedding-day gift to Peskov. “I’m an Olympic champion,” she told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. “I work a lot, even during the summer. So, of course, I'm earning money for my work, and I can afford to give nice gifts. With my wedding ahead of me, of course, I had to decide what to give my beloved.” Navka also insists that the Richard Mille watch photographed on Peskov’s wrist isn’t actually worth as much as Navalny claims, though she’s refused to name its exact value.

Saying that the watch is a wedding-day gift from Navka is important, given that Peskov’s own salary (he’s been a public servant since 1989) is simply too low to afford such a ridiculous accessory. The timing is significant, too. As Navalny points out: Peskov is required to declare any gifts worth more than 3,000 rubles ($50). In his most recent property declaration, Peskov said nothing about a wristwatch worth roughly half a million dollars.

Navka’s claim that she merely gifted her spouse a hard-earned chunk of time-telling metal hasn't put the controversy to rest, however. Perceptive Internet users quickly noted that Peskov has been photographed wearing the same Richard Mille watch in the past. Even on his 17-year-old daughter’s Instagram feed, incidentally, there’s a charming three-month-old photo of a sweatered Peskov hugging his oldest girl. Behind her blonde locks glimmers the black steel of a watch apparently worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navalny hasn’t let up, either, pointing out that Navka claimed on television just last month that she is struggling to afford housing costs. He has also published a collection of photographs showing Peskov, who has quite the timepiece appetite, wearing different expensive wristwatches, including a $131,000 Richard Mille, a $30,000 Rolex, and $21,000 gadget called a “Hublot Ferrari Ceramic Carbon.”

May 18, 2013. Peskov at an outdoor festival in Moscow.
Photo: Vadim Tarakanov / PhotoXPress.ru

In the past, Peskov has refused to comment publicly about his marriage to Navka. When asked about the Richard Mille RM 52-01, he told reporters that it was a wedding-day gift from his bride, and reiterated that “it’s significantly cheaper than certain individuals would have you believe.”

Kevin Rothrock