A childhood friend of President Putin, billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, who received a Hero of Russia star for the construction of the Crimean Bridge, on the eve of unauthorized rallies in an interview with Mash, declared himself the owner of a residence on Cape Indokopas near Gelendzhik.
On January 19, Navalny's team published an investigation in which they claimed that there is a "Putin's palace" on the cape with an area of 17,691 square meters and a cost of 100 billion rubles. On its territory, comparable to the 39th principalities of Monaco, there is an ice palace, a church, a “tea house” and an underground tunnel with access to the sea. Meduza, citing the contractors of the residence, claims that the area of all buildings in the residence, including the 16-storey underground complex, is 40,000 square meters. m. According to Navalny, the palace was a bribe for the president from the oligarchs close to him. The film about the palace set a record on YouTube, gaining 103 million views in a week, protests were held across the country on January 23.
Open Media explains why Rotenberg's appearance as the owner of the palace in Gelendzhik does not refute the fact that this residence was built for Vladimir Putin.
The residence, which occupies 68 hectares at Cape Indokopas near Gelendzhik, is too well guarded for private ownership. According to numerous testimonies of ecologists and tourists, border guards and security officers do not allow other vehicles and pedestrians from the forest side (Navalny, in his investigation, indicated roadblocks on the map) and patrol the barriers from the sea.
In October 2010, an almost impossible story happened for a private owner: the FSB border service gave a forest plot of almost 7000 hectares, surrounding 68 hectares of the residence, and a 49-year lease to the Komplex firm, to which the palace is registered.
Since 2015, the Ministry of Transport has established a no-fly zone at an altitude of up to 4 km over Cape Indokopas, confirming the decision by order of July 2020. This was done in the interests of border security due to "the increased intelligence activity of a number of neighboring states, including those belonging to the NATO bloc" at the border post located here, the FSB explained to RBK. A small frontier post in the village of Praskoveevka, closest to the residence, has existed since 1953, simultaneously with the construction of the palace, the construction of its new buildings began, which were officially put into operation, according to the FSB, in October 2020.
You can't get to the palace from the sea side either: the plots are rented for oyster and mussel farms and are closed to ship traffic. The 2018-2020 MarineTraffic heatmap shows that most of the vessels bypass Cape Indokopas, and only a few boats have approached the “palace” pier during this time.
Almost official state residence
The site in the forest on Cape Indokopas, where construction of the residence began in 2005-2006, was first leased to the presidential administration. According to Rosreestr, the land was then leased to the Tuapse holiday home by the presidential administration. Although already in 2009 the site was registered in the ownership of the private company "Indokopas", the companies involved in the construction were sure that they were building a state residence for Putin - then the prime minister, and now - the president.
Open Media found five contractors, from suppliers of equipment for the helipad to installers of utilities, who in their documents and presentations called the "palace" on Cape Indokopas "the state residence", "the presidential administration residences" or even the "residence of the President of the Russian Federation." In all cases, after the appearance of this information in the articles, the companies removed references to the residence from the public domain. But still, in the resume on online job exchanges, you can find vacancies in which applicants say that they worked in a state residence on Cape Indokopas.
Several people who worked at the construction site told Meduza that Putin visited the “palace” at least four times. Environmentalists who penetrated into the territory of the residence in 2011, recorded in photographs that its gates at that time were decorated with a heraldic gilded double-headed eagle. Now, judging by the reports from Mash and Russia 1, the eagle is gone.
Financial support from friends
The residence on Cape Indokopas received all-Russian fame in 2010 after a letter from businessman Sergei Kolesnikov. He argued that the construction of the "palace", on which by that time $ 1 billion had already been spent, was supervised by a friend (and later father-in-law) of the president Nikolai Shamalov, and money transferred to Shamalov by big business went to it. Navalny, in his investigation, citing financial documents that he had, said that companies associated with Putin's friends and associates, including Rosneft and Transneft, had been transferred to the accounts of companies that own the palace and adjacent wineries, 35 billion rubles.
Agreed press tour
For the second time after the information about the "palace" begins to be widely discussed, a businessman appears who calls this residence his own business project. In 2011, after the revelations of Sergei Kolesnikov, Alexander Ponomarenko, a partner of Arkady Rotenberg, declared himself the owner of the "palace" in an interview with Kommersant.
After Navalny's investigation, Ponomarenko's representatives told Forbes that the businessman since 2016 has nothing to do with the "palace" and everything connected with it. The film crews of Mash, close to the Kovalchuk National Media Group, and the state channel Russia 1, were poisoned at Cape Indokopas. It was to them that Rotenberg admitted that he is the beneficiary of the "palace" and intends to make an apart-hotel out of it. It was "an agreed press tour," Alexander Rogatkin, the author of the story about the palace on Rossiya 1, VGTRK journalist, told Open Media.
There are no answers to questions about why the residence is guarded by the FSB, where the eagle went from the gate, why state-owned companies and businessmen close to Putin participated in the financing of the "palace", etc., in the stories.
The representative of Arkady Rotenberg, Olga Antonova, refused to answer the questions of Open Media about the state in which the billionaire acquired the “Putin's palace”, whether there is a 16-storey underground complex under it and where the rich interiors from the early photos from the “palace” disappeared.