It’s an extravagance that would put the Tsars to shame.
There’s the bidets, which cost $10,800 (£8,800) each, and the showerheads, at $4,600 each. Then there’s a $110,000 Fior di Bosco marble floor and the indoor pool with a decorative waterfall that flows from the first floor. No expense was spared. And that’s just the “Garden House,” according to leaked emails.
Six years ago, Russia’s Dozhd TV channel reported that a building deep in the forests of the northern Russian region of Karelia, modestly dubbed a “fisherman’s cottage” by architects, was widely dubbed “Putin’s dacha” by locals as a vacation home.
While UK government analyzes suggest the Russian president has few assets officially registered in his name, including a small apartment in St. Petersburg, two 1950s Soviet-era cars, a caravan and small garage, and a presidential salary of around £110,000 a year, the channel reported that this is where Vladimir Putin decided to step away from the stresses of Kremlin life for a break.
In fact, it was two houses. One with a grass-covered roof and a helipad. But otherwise the complex appeared relatively unassuming, with the futuristic wood-and-glass fisherman’s cottage outfitted inside with cream Ikea-style sofas and green bucket chairs. The grass roof of the accompanying building is said to be a nod to the need to stay away from western spies in the sky.
Today, however, thanks to a leak of thousands of emails sent by two construction companies and made available to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Russian-language news site Meduza, a slightly more spectacular picture of the complex is beginning to emerge Luxury real estate being developed around the Fisherman’s Hut.
Floor plans, blueprints, and interior design plans show that construction on an adjacent six-bedroom garden house began in 2021 and is laced throughout with semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, a deep blue gemstone said to have healing properties. and labradorite, a glowing crystal that some swear by to reduce anxiety and stress.
According to documents included in the leaked emails, a high-end Russian interior design agency, FullHouseDesign, managed the project. The company’s owner told OCCRP that she didn’t recall any involvement, but objected to the notion that marble floors were extravagant.
“If you look at our website, there are many projects where we use marble floors like any other reputable architecture firm,” she said. The woman did not want to comment on the construction costs.
On the surrounding land there is a second new building, which was designated as a “barn” in the Russian land register in 2018. In fact, according to the leaks, it is a modern two-storey building with what appears to be a huge entertainment area with an open-plan dining area of more than 200 square meters.
A glass partition separates the large dining room from a professional kitchen equipped with grills, a tandoor oven, a Japanese-style teppan grill and a smokehouse.
There’s a private brewery, equipped with €345,000 (£296,000) worth of Austrian brewing equipment and capable of producing 47 liters of beer per day, and a tea room overlooking Lake Ladoga on the second floor.
In addition, construction of a separate two-storey building has started last year, which will contain further kitchen facilities and storage rooms for fish, meat and vegetables. It has four modest bedrooms with fold out beds which could be used to accommodate staff. According to land records, there is also a nearby cattle ranch that raises steers for the production of Kobe beef, a local source said.
The “barn” has the benefit of two small swimming pools, but for those who are a bit more adventurous in their bathing habits, a path leads down to a natural waterfall in Lake Ladoga, where there is a cozy gazebo to lounge under from the sun can protect .
Once a popular tourist attraction, the waterfall is now strictly off-limits to the public. General construction work is estimated at 187 million rubles (£2.8 million) in a document.
Putin denies that he is the real beneficiary of the complex. The security guards patrolling the fence have been known to sell trout from the lake to locals when the bosses are gone, but make no comment when asked who they work for. Nothing on paper indicates a direct connection to the President.
But for nearly two decades, Putin has faced accusations of secretly amassing vast fortunes and luxurious assets through proxies, fueled by a series of revelations in leaks such as the Pandora papers about the fortunes of those closest to him.
And there’s enough clues to raise questions about this sprawling property. “Local people only serve as guards there when the site is empty,” said a local fisherman. “When high-ranking guests come to visit, locals are usually replaced by FSO [federal protection service].”
The fisherman’s shack itself is registered with a company called Prime, which is owned by Support of Entrepreneurial Initiatives, a nonprofit partnership founded by Yury Kovalchuk and his son Boris.
Kovalchuk Sr., who is under Western sanctions, is a close Putin ally and the main shareholder of Bank Rossiya, nicknamed “Putin’s Bank” for its reputation for following the Kremlin’s orders. Bank Rossiya is also under US, EU and UK sanctions.
The surrounding lands are also owned by companies linked to Kovalchuk and a second businessman who has been under US sanctions since 2016.
Representatives of Kovalchuk and Dedov’s companies also appear to be using a common email domain name, LLCInvest.ru, hosted by a web provider with close ties to Bank Rossiya. The actual construction of the complex was led by employees of a non-profit organization, Revival of Marine Traditions, where at least one connected person also appears to be using the domain name LLCInvest.ru.
The Guardian, OCCRP and Meduza announced this week that LLCInvest’s email address has been linked to a host of other luxury properties, yachts and vineyards reportedly made available to Putin. None of the owners or founders of the affiliated companies and non-profit organizations have responded to requests for comment. The purpose of the shared e-mail service or the motivation for the apparent collaboration on personnel and logistical issues is unclear.
A Kremlin spokesman said: “The President of the Russian Federation is in no way associated or affiliated with the objects and organizations you have mentioned.”