In a new interview with the pro-Kremlin media outlet Mash, the billionaire and longtime Putin associate Arkady Rotenberg says he owns the lavish seaside residence that a growing volume of investigative journalism attributes to Russia’s president. Rotenberg says it will be a hotel.
“It’s no secret now: I’m the beneficiary. It was a pretty complex project with lots of claimholders, and I managed to become the beneficiary. It’s a real find. The location is fantastic,” Rotenberg said, claiming that the site will open “in two or three years” as an “apartment hotel.”
Asked why he didn’t announce sooner that he owns the Gelendzhik site, Rotenberg chalked it up to “a human element.” “There’s this scandal, people are writing all kinds of things, and I’ve already got [Western] sanctions against me,” he said, adding that he’d planned to reveal his role as the project’s owner after construction is finished.
On January 29, Mash released video footage allegedly recorded inside the seaside residence near Gelendzhik. Mash editor-in-chief Maxim Iksanov claimed to have gotten access to the grounds from an unnamed technical supervisor. The footage shows a largely incomplete construction site in an apparent attempt to refute Alexey Navalny’s recent documentary film, which features 3D visualizations of a lavishly decorated interior. In the video, Iksanov also calls on the project’s owner to come forward. Rotenberg supposedly approached Mash in response.
Vladimir Putin and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov have repeatedly denied that the “palace” in Gelendzhik belongs to the president, arguing that it’s a private venture owned by various businessmen whose names the state cannot reveal.
In his report, Navalny attributes formal ownership of the “palace” to Alexander Ponomarenko (one of Rotenberg’s frequent business partners, incidentally), though Ponomarenko’s spokespeople say he left the project in March 2016.
On January 29, the state television network Rossiya 1 aired a segment about the residence, claiming that it is actually an “apartment hotel” under construction. The station’s reporters said they know the name of the project’s owner but declined to disclose it.