‘The president answered unambiguously’ The Kremlin’s spokesman is still dodging questions about ‘Putin’s Palace’
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have denied reports that he owns a billion-dollar luxury residence on the Black Sea, but that hasn’t put questions about the property to rest. During a press conference on Tuesday, January 26, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov continued to fend off questions about the evidence connecting Putin to the “palace.” Here’s what he told reporters.
Kommersant FM: Yesterday, Vladimir Putin said that the palace near Gelendzhik doesn’t belong to him. But the investigation doesn’t claim that Putin or his relatives are legally the owners of the property. The argument there is that the complex itself is registered to some nominal people. Based on the scale and the estimated cost of the site, we understand that in all likelihood only a few people in the country could own it. Does the Kremlin know who owns this property? And was the information verified? Is there really a no-fly zone above [the property] and are the FSB and FSO [Secret Service] really involved in protecting it? And on what grounds? Seeing as in many respects it’s exactly this fact that evokes the association of the palace itself with the top-level Russian leadership.
Dmitry Peskov: Firstly, I disagree with you. This investigation claims that this is Putin’s palace, that it was built for Putin, and so on. So I strongly disagree with you here. And Putin unequivocally answered this question negatively. Moreover, he said that neither him nor his relatives have or have had any relations to this site, much less property relations.
This means that regarding the different zones there — that you can’t swim, can’t fly, and there’s FSO security…We really had a lot of requests from journalists, specific requests. We redirected these journalists to the FSO. [If] they said, why is it guarded by the FSO? We redirected them to the FSO. And [if they said] why can’t you fly, why is it a no-fly zone — we redirected them to the FSB. So address [your questions] there for all that. It’s precisely these departments that should answer these questions, because these are the questions that are within their competence.
As for the owner of this property, it’s obvious that the owners are businessmen. Indeed, this is a large property, it’s well known in Gelendzhik. And one [person] or several [people] own this property directly or indirectly. But you must agree that the Kremlin has no right to divulge the names of these owners. And we aren’t going to do that. It would be inappropriate.
Kommersant FM: But how might the Kremlin explain the fact that, for example, the Krasnodar-based company “Optima Komplekt Stroy” [OptimaKS] said on its website that it was doing work on the Russian president’s residence in the village of Praskoveevka? This is exactly the same place from the investigation. The company “Aerocomplex” was also there. They posted information about their employees installing equipment on the helipads at the Russian president’s residence, and Praskoveevka was also mentioned there.
Dmitry Peskov: Well, Praskoveevka is probably the name of the settlement. That’s the first thing. I’m not excluding the possibility that there might be helipads on such a massive property. Helipads on large properties are quite common now. And as for why the aforementioned companies called it the president’s residence — you probably need to contact them and ask this question.
All of the president’s residences are well known. They are well known to all Russian citizens. We hold events there, there are domestic events, work meetings, and international events. All of them are known not only within the Russian Federation but also outside of it.
Kommersant FM: But people are clearly continuing to watch the video — it has more than 90 million views already. Taking into account the resonance of this topic, is the Kremlin prepared to clarify something about the palace — to at least recognize what kind of property it is and who it belongs to? [Is the Kremlin] prepared to say [something] to allay the public’s questions for the president?
Dmitry Peskov: The president answered the question. He was asked the question and the president answered. He answered absolutely unambiguously. If there are other questions, well, really the competent departments will probably provide information in one way or another.
As for clarifications, do we have to get into private property — well how do you expect us to do that?! It’s impossible.
Kommersant FM: Well since the president’s reputation is at stake here…
Dmitry Peskov: The president gave a clear and unambiguous answer.
Bloomberg: [Security Council Secretary Nikolay] Petrushev gave an interview today in which he said that from his point of view [Alexey] Navalny should be punished in accordance with the law for major fraud. How does the Kremlin feel about this assessment from Patrushev about this being the reason why Navalny should be imprisoned?
Dmitry Peskov: Only a court can declare any Russian citizen guilty. We know that Navalny has been declared guilty of crimes repeatedly under Russian law. And any further decisions can only be made by the court. This isn’t the Kremlin’s prerogative.
Ekho Moskvy: You said that the FSO and the FSB ought to comment on [the reasons for] the security and the no-fly zone. Why is that? Is it because the Kremlin isn’t aware of it? Or is it just because these are the departments that have the right to disclose such information?
Dmitry Peskov: It’s because these questions are the prerogative of these departments, [these questions] are in their jurisdiction. And it wouldn’t be entirely correct to say this from the Kremlin.
Ekho Moskvy: That’s to say that the Kremlin knows why, but…
Dmitry Peskov: It would be one thing if we were talking about the president’s residence, yes, then I could provide you with information. But since this has nothing to do with either the president or a state residence, we simply can’t do this here.
Ekho Moskvy: It’s just that these departments aren’t always as open as they could be. Will the presidential administration somehow prompt their colleagues to illuminate this issue in as much detail as possible?
Dmitry Peskov: Well, we’ll be waiting. I know that some media requests were forwarded there, so I think that answers will follow in some time.
Bloomberg: I’d like to clarify, tell me, did Putin actually visit this notorious palace and property? How many times was he there, if he has been there? And when was the last time he was there?
Dmitry Peskov: No, I don’t have any information [saying] that he could have visited this palace at some point.
Comrades, the world is much more diverse than a private palace!
Bloomberg: And it has more than one palace.
Dmitry Peskov: Of course. And they are all, as a rule, private.