Thursday, February 6, 2014

Vladimir Putin and the Life of a Galley Slave

Updated October 2015

I rarely quote from other media sources, however, given that Valdimir Putin has spent substantial time in the spotlight over past few weeks, first with the Sochi Olympics and now with the situation in Ukraine, I'll make an exception.  

Back in 2012, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and journalist Leonid Martynyuk teamed up to report on Putin's fortune in a pamphlet titled "The Life of a Galley Slave", the title being a quote from a February 2008 press conference by Mr. Putin as noted here:

"As for my personal perception, I am not ashamed before the citizens who voted for me.  All these eight years I worked like a galley slave, to spare no effort.  I am happy with the results"

Please note that the pamphlet in the link above is in Russian, however, you can use Google Translate to get an English language version.  As well, I am using the conversion rate of 35 rubles to the United States dollar throughout this posting.

The pamphlet outlines the perquisites available to Putin as Russia's ruler.  Let's look at the residences that are available to him, the fleet of aircraft that are at his disposal, the yachts that have been purchased for his use, the fleet of limousines and the other miscellaneous items, particularly wrist watches, that have become part of his legacy.  To put all of this into perspective, Putin's official income declaration for 2012 was 3,661,765 rubles or $104,621.  The budget for the Office of President in 2011 was 84.6 billion rubles or $2.417 billion.

Let's dig in.

1.) Palaces:  President Putin has 20 palaces, villas and residences at his disposal.  Here are some examples with photographs:

a.) Bocharov Stream (Sochi): This beachfront two story palace has a helipad, fresh and salt water pools and a yacht berth:

b.) Constantine Palace (near St. Petersburg): This complex contains more than 40 buildings and is located on 140 hectares.  The palace was reconstructed for the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg in 2003:

c.) Sevastianova House (Ekaterinburg): This 19th century palace was reconstructed in 2008 at a cost of 1.35 billion rubles or $38.6 million:

d.) Barvikha (near Moscow):  This Presidential health resort was completed in 1935 and provides high quality medical services to leading government officials including the President.  It covers 86 hectares and was reconstructed in 2011 at a cost of 162 million rubles or $4.63 million including 30.8 million rubles or $880,000 for new furniture:

2.) Air Fleet: President Putin has at his disposal 43 fixed wing aircraft and 15 helicopters including the following:

a.) IL-96-300PU:  Five of these aircraft are available at a cost of $40 million plus $18 million on accessories, including a $75,000 toilet.  Here are some photos from the interior of RA-96016 and RA-96012:

b.) Airbus 319 Corporate Jet:  This $105 million plane, designed for 19 passengers, has a meeting room for 6 people, a private zone with two chairs, a sofa and double bed and a private shower and toilet.  Decor includes the use of marble, leather and hand woven carpets:

c.) Dessault Falcon 7X:  President Putin has two of these $50 million aircraft at his disposal.  These aircraft are designed for 19 passengers and 3 crew members and are equipped with satellite communications, internet access, LCD monitors and DVD and CD players.

The total cost of the Presidential air fleet is estimated to be around $1 billion.

3.) Yachts:  The Presidential flotilla consists of four luxury yachts with a total cost of around $100 million dollars.  Here are two examples:

a.) Cirius:  This executive yacht was purchased in 2011.  It is 53.7 metres long and was designed for 11 guests and 12 crew members.  There are 6 VIP cabins, a spa pool with waterfall and a wine cellar.  Annual maintenance costs are estimated to be around 124 million rubles or $3.54 million:

b.) Olympia: This 57 metre yacht is among the 100 largest megayachts in the world and was donated to Putin by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch with a net worth of $13.8 billion.  The annual operating costs of Olympia are estimated to be about 150 million rubles or $4.29 million:

4.) Vehicles:  According to Putin's personal website, he has covered thousands of kilometres behind the wheel of his Lada Kalina as pictured here:

Putin states that the vehicle was "...a really good car.  I didn't expect it to be this good.  It's quiet, fairly powerful for its size and weight and very comfortable.  It has everything; air conditioning, airbags and low petrol consumption."  The top end Lada Niva wagon retails for 452,000 rubles or $12,900.  He also owns a 1956 Volga GAZ-21 and a Niva off-road vehicle, both made in Russia.  

When President Putin isn't driving his modest Russian-made vehicles, here's what gets him from point A to point B:

a.) Mercedes-Benz S 600 Guard Pullman:  This 21 foot long stretched armoured vehicle is equipped with a 5.5 litre twin-turbo V12 that produces 510 horsepower.  It is equipped with two tone leather,  holders with crystal glasses and monitors with touch controls.  Oh, and it cost $1.625 million.  Here is a video showing the same model used by the President of India:

b.) Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen:  This particular G-Class mid-size four-wheel drive model cost $434,000.

5.) Wrist Watches:  According to the authors, the President of Russia has penchant for watches; his collection is 22 million rubles or $629,000, six times his annual salary.  Not many of us can say that, can we?  President Putin is often photographed displaying his bias for very expensive watches.  His A. Lange & Sohne Tourbograph with a sapphire glass alone is worth $500,000.  His white gold Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar 3974 is worth $60,000.   Here is a video showing what Putin has done with at least one of his watches (at 1:02):

That was a Blancpain Aqualung, worth $10,500 that he threw into the concrete.  This is the same model of watch that he gave to the son of a shepherd and a locksmith.

Back in 2012, a Russian political analyst, Stanislav Belkovsky, estimated that Putin was worth up to $70 billion and that he owns shares in three major Russian oil and gas companies; 4.5 percent of Gazprom, 37 percent of Surgutneftegas and up to 75 percent of the oil trading company Gunvor.  This is in sharp contrast to his officially declared net worth of $179,612 and his wife's net worth of $261,541.

Apparently, now we have some idea about Vladimir Putin's motivation for wanting a second term as Russia's President, don't we?  It's a pretty good gig if you can get it.  It kind of makes President Obama's perquisites look positively peasant-like by comparison, doesn't it?  Now who's the Galley Slave?


  1. Honestly you could do the same thing with any president or prime minister of a country. Of course the highest office in any country is going to come with tons of perks. Also this may or may not be the case but lets pretend your the Ambassador for some country and you want to make some deal with Russian and you want Putins backing you bring him a gift no? What does Putin like oh watches well then simple you bring him a nice watch.What is difference with that vs campaign financing that happens in the US, my answer, nothing. It's the same thing pointing out corruption or Putins collection of watches is all well and good but how about helping highlight corruption in the US. (or Canada as I think you are from Canada? Still in Canada? I'm not sure really)

  2. Good points although the authors of the report note that the suffering of ordinary Russians during the Putin-era has increased substantially.

  3. none of the pictures showing putin. are we just to believe the writer?

  4. I am not sure why you bother with a comment section, given the plague of (inevitably anonymous) nay-sayers. I found your article fascinating and completely believable. Given what we know about Russia from Youtube and Twitter alone, what you write only heightens my concern for Russia's citizens. I have taught many young adult Russian students, and some of the stories they tell would make a person's hair fall out - theirs included.

  5. @Jennifer Coffey please dont assume just because one chooses not create an account with some service to avoid posting anonymously that their view point should be ignored or otherwise looked at as less then your view point. I would rather encourage all who have a thought on an post to please leave a comment.

  6. This article is a distraction to take your mind off the real problems the world faces as both Putin and Obama duke it out.
    Hoa binh

  7. The question is, when he leaves office (if that day ever comes) what goodies does he get to keep? It will be interesting to see what he takes with him and what remains the peoples' property.

  8. This is nothing compared to the big money corruption that exist in US politics. Just look at the Koch brothers writing $100 MILLION checks to Republicans to do their bidding in our government against the wish of the public.

    Putin has been great for Russia. He has tripled the size of Russia's GDP since he came to power and lifted millions of Russians out of poverty. Russia is today a richer, stronger country because Putin. There is a reason why the Russian's love him... his approval rating currently stands at 80% in Russia. They see him as the best man to lead their country.

  9. Russian trolls are always keen with whataboutisms

    The Communist Takeover Of America - 45 Declared Goals
    From Greg Swank

  11. If you think that the economic separation of the common people from their leaders and the duplicity and outright corruption of these leaders is not a major cause of todays problems you are a fool also there is nothing communist about the actions of Putin merely criminal

  12. As french citizens, we had lot of fun reading your fake false survey pretending Mr Putin had "stolen" 20 palaces (belonging to the
    russian patrimoine), than "stolen" around 58 planes (as Airbus !),
    helicopteres... belonging to russian aircraft flotte. Vladimir Putin
    never stole anything, you fucking jerk ! You should be condamned
    for false accusations, send to jail, asshole !

  13. No wonder Oboma wants to live like a king...keeping up with the Putins!

  14. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin deserves all this and more!