“The Palace for Putin” on the Black Sea coast, which St Petersburg businessman Sergei Kolesnikov told Novaya Gazeta about in an interview, has been sold. The official owner of the palace was a company belonging to Nikolai Shamalov, a friend of the prime minister. The palazzo was purchased by Alexander Ponomarenko, a partner of Putin’s other friends, the Rotenberg brothers, purchased the palazzo, with the transaction amounting to approximately $350m. This sum sets Ponomarenko back quite a bit, while Shamalov’s wallet barely feels it, considering that Kolesnikov estimates total investment in the South Project, a construction venture, at $1 billion.
Putin’s friend sold the palace to a partner of Putin’s friends. What changed because of this? Nothing. Does that mean that Putin will no longer be able to use the palace? No. To the media’s credit, it managed to draw attention to the house and force its owners – formal and actual – to reluctantly respond. At first, Head of the President’s Administrative Directorate Vladimir Kozhin stated that his Directorate had no connection to the palace. But after Novaya Gazeta published documents on its construction that Kozhin had personally signed, the department went silent and more than 14,000 people voted for Kozhin’s resignation on our website. The prime minister’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Putin had nothing to do with the palace, while local residents from the village of Praskoveyevka, which was inundated in trash and saw all its pastures destroyed by the building’s construction, say they had seen the prime minister there on many occasions. This list of lies and ludicrous deceit could go on for a long time, but it all culminated in this transaction.
Having purchased the palace, Alexander Ponomarenko is trying to convince everyone that he made a sound financial decision. I feel sorry for him. A palace is not an asset; it’s a luxury which requires constant spending that could reach millions of dollars. A palace is for show; it isn’t a way of earning money. It can’t be converted into a hotel or a luxurious resort. The people who could afford one night in such a “hotel” prefer Courchevel, while the people living in the neighbourhood have other concerns – their cattle have nowhere to graze. The palace was built solely for its owner.
Ponomarenko won’t sell at a disadvantage. He bought the palace with money he earned along with Arkady Rotenberg from the sale of Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port. As is always the case with transactions involving the prime minister’s friends, the purchase price far exceeded the market value. Purchasing a palace means investing in loyalty. In this sense, Ponomarenko got his money’s worth.
The seller, Nikolai Shamalov, won’t go into the poorhouse, either. According to Kolesnikov, the project’s infrastructure was constructed using tax-payer money, while the house itself was built with money donated by oligarchs.
And there’s no way at all this transaction will affect the true owner of the Black Sea palazzo. Does it make a difference to him who manages the estate?