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‘They’re brainwashing our citizens’ Putin comments on his alleged ownership of billion-dollar residence

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Klimentiev / Pool / ТАСС / Scanpix / LETA

In honor of Russian Students Day, a public holiday that falls on January 25, President Vladimir Putin held a video conference where university students had a chance to ask him questions. A student by the name of Chemezov Danil seized the opportunity to ask Putin about the billion-dollar “palace” supposedly built for him on the Black Sea that was recently the topic of an explosive investigation by Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Here’s how Putin responded. 

— My name is Danil Chemezov, I’m a third-year student from Ufa State Petroleum Technological University. I would like to start by saying that students today don’t watch television and our main source of information is the Internet. We, of course, understand that you can’t believe everything, since Internet content is absolutely polarized. But now at the top of the video hosting [website] YouTube there’s an investigative film about you allegedly owning a palace in Gelendzhik [a resort town on the Black Sea]. Vladimir Vladimirovich, is it true? 

Look. I haven’t seen this film simply due to a lack of free time to look into such information. But I looked through selected video clips that my aides brought me. I want to answer your question right away: nothing of what is listed there as my property belongs or has ever belonged to me or my close relatives. Never. That’s the first thing.

The second thing I would like to tell you and other people who aren’t present here today: you are all young people. [...] This information has been stirred up for more than 10 years — now is simply a convenient occasion, they cobbled it all together and decided to brainwash our citizens with these materials by launching some films and video programs on the Internet.

Anyway, during those 10 years there should have been certain documentation of some land plots, certain financial transactions, or at least certain legal procedures with notaries. And there should also be traces left there in notary books and in the digital space. What is there instead? Well, they posted a picture of me swimming butterfly style — I do it so clumsily, but sometimes I like swimming like that — in some swimming pool that I’ve never been to. I don’t know what this swimming pool is, but I swam like that in the Yenisei River in 2016. In these cases, it is just compilation and editing. 

[...] The people who are mentioned there: I know some of them, some are my friends or former colleagues, some are distant relatives, or people I knew. [But] there are people I don’t know at all mentioned there. I’ve simply never laid eyes on them, I’m not acquainted with them. I understand that they don’t really want to stand too close to me, because anyone who appears next to me immediately faces sanctions.

And by the way, these people — some of whom I know very well — have been in business for a long time, even before meeting me and getting acquainted with me. From everything that I saw there, only one thing interested me — but not as a business, rather as a type of activity. The winemaking. This is a very good business, a noble one.

[…] I’m going off topic, but by the way, in general winemaking is developing well in our country and it’s also a good type of activity. Maybe the agricultural universities will support me in this sense. We passed a very good law on this matter recently. In this regard — not as a business, but as a type of activity — I would probably get involved in this one day. I have an advisor, Boris Titov, who is the owner of [the wine company] Abrau-Durso. A large [Russian] company with a good background […] When I finish my work, perhaps I’ll go work as an advisor to him. But not as a businessman, as a specialist in the legal field. We just passed the law and I’m beginning to understand a thing or two about it.

But business has never interested me. Not because it’s bad. On the contrary, it’s not — this is a very noble profession, especially if you think about the social side of business, about creating jobs, about decent wages, about the development of economic sectors. This is very good and very useful, but it’s not really my thing. Some of my colleagues — well, for example, [former] president Trump — are well-known businessmen. Or former president [Petro] Poroshenko in Ukraine. Even as president he was involved in business, he opened offshore companies and offshore accounts. I want to end my response where I started — I have never done this. It seems to me that that’s enough, we may return to this topic if it’s of interest, but let’s move on to the next question.

Translated and abridged by Eilish Hart

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