Putin secretly living in golden palace he shares with gymnast lover

Alina Kabaeva - Sport Express
Alina Kabaeva - Sport Express
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Vladimir Putin is reportedly living with his gymnast girlfriend on a vast, heavily-guarded country estate featuring several palatial mansions and a playground for their young children.

Alina Kabaeva, a 39-year-old Olympic rhythmic gymnastic champion who has long been linked with the 70-year-old Russian leader, lives in a villa on Putin’s estate on Lake Valdai, about 250 miles north west of Moscow, according to a report from Russian investigative news site The Project.

The Russian president has reportedly bought his lover a property empire worth $120 million (£100 million) through a slush fund in Cyprus, the site reported.

Construction on Ms Kabaeva’s mansion began in 2020 and was completed two years later, according to The Project.

At nearly 13,000 square feet, the mansion was built entirely of wood in the style of a Russian dacha. Construction was carried out by a company owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, the Russian businessman also known as “Putin’s banker”.

Ms Kabaeva's ruby-studded chandelier
Ms Kabaeva's ruby-studded chandelier

Unnamed officials told The Project they had seen children on the premises, and satellite images taken between 2016 and 2020 showed a playground in the woods believed to have been built for the family.

The area has been frequented by Ms Kabaeva’s distant female relatives, described as her chaperones in leaked train manifests. The chaperones also reportedly own properties in the area.

The house where Ms Kabaeva is said to live is located just 800 metres (2,640ft) from Valdai, Putin’s best-guarded and most private residence, where he almost never holds public meetings.

Photographs of that mansion, leaked by a construction executive who worked around the house until 2005, showed opulent interiors reportedly inspired by Putin’s love for his hometown of St Petersburg and its eighteenth-century Hermitage Museum.

One image purportedly shows the president’s study bedecked with ornate mahogany furniture and featuring the secure landline phones used by top Kremlin officials.

In another room, gilded chairs can be seen arranged around a glass table and a spherical chandelier, with golden leaves hanging from the ceiling.

Room with gold chairs
Room with gold chairs
Putin's bedroom
Putin's bedroom

Guests to the house were encouraged to reach out and take one, the contractor claimed. Another photo appears to show a massive chandelier decorated with rubies.

The existence of the villa was first reported in 2021 by the team of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, who claimed that budget funds were used to lease the property from Mr Kovalchuk, the businessman.

Both the Russian president and Ms Kabaeva have repeatedly denied that they are in a relationship.

Unnamed officials who attended Putin’s private parties said they had never seen the two together but they have no doubt that they have a relationship, saying that only top-ranking officers in the president’s security detail were aware of the details of their arrangement.

In another sign of her proximity to Putin, Ms Kabaeva was, in 2014, appointed to lead Russia’s National Media Group, a sprawling media holding owned by Mr Kovalchuk, despite having no relevant experience. The position provides her with an annual income of about £8.6 million.

A swimming pool
A swimming pool

The investigation drew on documents provided by an unnamed whistleblower described as an executive in the “business empire of one of the president’s closest friends” who was directly involved in managing a Cyprus-based company used as a slush fund for the president.

The whistleblower contacted the journalists as he was outraged by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said the Russian regime “must be stopped”.

Documents reviewed by The Project revealed how Putin’s close friends and their companies were pumping money into Ermira, the Cypriot company, which was later used to buy luxury estate and provide for the needs of Putin and his family.

The Russian leader was also accused of racking up profits from the sale of a popular vodka brand named after him that appeared on the market in the early 2000s. Property rights to the vodka were repeatedly transferred between his childhood friend Arkady Rotenberg and the Cyprus-based company.

The vodka sales alone would have earned Putin at least half a million dollars between 2004 and 2019, according to The Project’s estimates.

Known for her secretive lifestyle, Ms Kabaeva was revealed as the owner of a number of other luxury properties across Russia, including a penthouse in Sochi on the Black Sea which is believed to be the biggest apartment in Russia.

While the apartment was briefly on sale, 3D visualisations available online showed its over-the-top luxurious interiors such as a dining room with marble floors and walls and gilded bannister rails on the stairs between the floors.

The gymnast’s properties were registered in the name of her relatives, including her elderly grandmother.