It is a level of extravagance that shames the Tsar.
There are toilets that cost $10,800 (£8,800) each and shower heads that cost $4,600 a piece. Then there’s the $110,000 Fior di Bosco marble floor and the indoor pool with an ornate waterfall flowing from the first floor. No account was spared. And that, according to leaked emails, is just the Garden House.
Six years ago, Russian TV channel Dozhd reported that the building, humbly described by architects as a “fisherman’s hut”, deep in the forests of the Karelia region of northern Russia, was widely spoken by locals as “Putin’s house” or a summer house.
While UK government analysis indicates that the Russian president has officially registered only a few assets in his name, including a small apartment in Saint Petersburg, two Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer and a small garage as well as a presidential stipend of around £1. Channel 110,000 reports annually that this is where Vladimir Putin chose to get away from the stresses of life in the Kremlin.
There were two houses, actually. One with a grass-covered roof and a helipad. But other than that, the complex looked relatively unassuming, with the Fisherman’s Hut futuristic wood and glass cottage furnished inside with cream Ikea-style sofas and green bucket chairs. The grassy roof of the accompanying building was said to have signaled the need to keep out of sight of Western spies in the sky.
Today, however, thanks to the leak of thousands of emails sent by two construction companies, obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Russian-language news site Meduza, an even more dramatic picture of the complex has emerged. of luxury properties being developed around Fisherman’s Hut.
Floor plans, floor plans, and interior design blueprints reveal that construction of an adjacent six-bedroom garden began in 2021 and that it is surrounded by semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, a dark blue gemstone said to offer healing properties, and labradorite, a luminous crystal some swear by to relieve anxiety and tension.
High-end Russian interior design agency, FullHouseDesign, was a leader on the project, according to documents in leaked emails. The owner of the company told OCCRP she did not remember any involvement, but contested the idea that the marble floors were too expensive.
“If you look at our website, there are as many projects where we use marble floors as any other respected architectural agency would,” she said. The woman declined to comment on construction costs.
A second new building on the surrounding land is described in the Russian Land Registry in 2018 as a “barn”. It is, in fact, according to the leaks, a modern two-storey building housing what appears to be an ample space for entertaining, with an open-plan dining area of more than 200 square metres.
A glass partition separates the grand dining hall from a professional kitchen equipped with grills, tandoor oven, Japanese-style grill and smokehouse.
There is a private brewery equipped with €345,000 (£296,000) Austrian brewing equipment that can produce 47 liters of beer per day and a tea room overlooking Lake Ladoga on the second floor.
Construction of a separate two-storey building began last year that contains more kitchen facilities and storage space for fish, meat and vegetables. It has four modest bedrooms with pull-out beds that can be used to accommodate the staff. A local source said there is also a cattle ranch nearby, as land records show, where cows are raised to produce Cuban meat.
The “barn” has the advantage of having two small swimming pools, but for those more adventurous in their bathing habits, the path leads to a natural waterfall in Lake Ladoga where there is a cozy gazebo that shelters under from the sun.
The waterfall used to be a popular tourist attraction but today it is completely off-limits to the public. General construction work is estimated in one document at 187 million rubles (£ 2.8 million).
Putin denies that he is the real benefactor of the complex. Security guards patrolling the surrounding fence have been known to sell trout from the lake to locals when the chiefs are away, but they made no comment when asked who they work for. There is nothing on paper to suggest a direct link to the president.
But over the course of nearly two decades, Putin has faced accusations of secretly amassing vast wealth and luxury assets through agents, fueled by a series of disclosures in leaks like the Pandora Papers about the fortunes of those close to him.
And there’s enough evidence for questions to ask about this sprawling property. “Locals work there as rangers only when the site is empty,” said one of the local fishermen. “When high-ranking guests visit, locals are usually replaced by FSO [federal protection service]. “
The Fisherman’s Hut itself is registered for a company called Prime, which is owned by Support of Entrepreneurial Initials, a not-for-profit partnership founded by Yuri Kovalchuk and his son Boris.
Kovalchuk, who is subject to Western sanctions, is a close ally of Putin and a major shareholder in the Bank of Russia, nicknamed “Putin’s Bank” because of its reputation for putting forward the Kremlin’s demands. The Bank of Russia is also subject to US, EU and UK sanctions.
The neighboring lands are also owned by companies linked to Kovalchuk and a second businessman who has been under US sanctions since 2016.
It also appears that representatives of companies owned by Kovalchuk and Dedov use a common email domain name LLCInvest.ru hosted by a web provider with close ties to the Bank of Russia. The actual construction of the complex was directed by employees of a non-profit organization, the revival of maritime traditions where it appears that at least one individual uses the domain name LLCInvest.ru.
The Guardian, OCCRP and Meduza revealed this week that the LLCInvest email address has been linked to a handful of other luxury properties, yachts and vineyards that are said to have been put to Putin’s use. None of the owners or founders of the associated companies and non-profit organizations responded to requests for comment. It is not clear as to the purpose of the shared email service, or the motivation behind the apparent collaboration on staffing and logistical issues.
A Kremlin spokesman said: “The president of the Russian Federation is in no way affiliated with or affiliated with the things and organizations you mentioned.”