Politics / Issue February, 3 2012 #11. Digest edition

2193 Not luxury, but a means of survival

Putin and his entourage are protecting not an abstract power, but a way of life that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world

03.02.2012
The vessel is known as “Putin’s yacht,” allegedly a present from Roman Abramovich or his business partner Yevgeny Shvidler

At last, the banquet can begin.

Glasses for wine and vodka are raised. The meticulously designed menu does not include champagne. For the males there is Tsarskaya (Tsar’s) Vodka and cognac with the politically correct name “Russia;” the ladies can choose between Santa Maria Morellino di Scansano (a dry red wine) and Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis (a dry white wine). For hors d’oeuvres: Siberian salmon caviar served on ice, natural beluga sturgeon roulade with mustard and poppy seeds, baked pike perch mousse with smoked salmon and spinach, salmon terrine with green pistachios. Plus cold venison with juniper berries, calamari salad, Italian smoked meats, tongue in amber jelly, chicken fillet roulade with Far Eastern crabmeat, and pheasant galantine with wild blackberries. Some items from the menu are missing, but nobody notices amid all the jubilation.

And in any case, the missing items are forgotten when the hot dishes arrive: a nicely browned kulebyaka pie filled with trout, seafood and caviar sauce, roe deer medallions with slices of honeyed apple and berry sauce…

A toast is proposed: may we eat like this not only today, but every day for the next six years, or better yet, twelve years!

…This menu from the banquet to mark the Russian President’s inauguration on 7 May 2012 is not fictional. Novaya Gazeta found it on the state procurement website back in November 2011, when the issue of who would be feted was as good as settled. There are now glimmers of hope that the scenario may be different, but those who already saw themselves taking part in the banquet will stop at nothing to actually be there.

They have a very strong motivation. It has nothing to do with the clash of ideologies: they are not protecting values, but their way of life, which perhaps is unparalleled anywhere else in the world and can only be preserved through the existing political structure.

Workers’ overalls versus mink coats? Forget it. Those whose prosperity is based on budget cash flows have door mats that are more expensive than any mink coat. This, again, is not journalistic hyperbole. We have written about this mat, acquired for 541,080 roubles with money from the St. Petersburg budget, and those who bought it did not challenge us.

Granted, Putin has been working hard all these years, but not like a galley slave. We have written more than once about the mysterious Olympia yacht which periodically casts anchor near Sochi (see Issue 44, 2005). The vessel is known as “Putin’s yacht,” allegedly a present from Roman Abramovich or his business partner Yevgeny Shvidler. However, as Novaya Gazeta has learned, in 2005 the Olympia was owned by two offshore companies from the British Virgin Islands while the manager of the vessel was a Caribbean offshore company with Russian roots: Unicom Management Services was a subsidiary of the state-owned Sovkomflot, then headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

Incidentally, we recently reported some interesting financial deals as a result of which millions of dollars, enough to buy a luxury watercraft, were placed in offshore accounts. Colleagues from the American magazine Baron’s established that in 2003, $50 million was remitted to the account of Sevenkey Limited in the Bahamas (whose beneficiary was believed to be Igor Shuvalov) from an account of Unicast Technologies Corp. in the British Virgin Islands, and that it was allegedly Yevgeny Shvidler’s money. It was soon lent to Galagher Holdings, owned by Alisher Usmanov, and in due course was repaid with a hefty addition of $69 million. According to Baron’s, since 2008Sevenkey has been controlled not by Shuvalov, but by his wife Olga. Some of the company’s money was spent on purchasing yachts and luxury properties in Europe and Dubai.

Businessmen close to the state, however, don’t always have to invent such clever schemes to acquire beautiful and very expensive things. For example, Roman Abramovich legally sold Sibneft to Gazprom for $13 billion. Now, as this newspaper has reported, in addition to the notorious Chelsea football club and mansions in London’s district of the same name, he owns:

– a Boeing 767 registered in Aruba (an island in the Caribbean that is a Dutch overseas territory), 3,052,400,000 roubles;

– a Boeing 737 Business Jet, also registered in Aruba, 1,885,200,000 roubles;

– a DC-10 aircraft that can carry 220 passengers;

– an array of helicopters worth a total of 1.5 billion roubles;

– the 50 meter Sussurro yacht, flying a Cayman flag, 1,000,438,150,000 roubles;

– the Ecstasea 86 meter mega yacht registered in Bermuda’s Hamilton Port, 3,610,050,000 roubles;

– the Pelorus 115 meter mega yacht registered in Bermuda’s Hamilton Port, 4,109,000,000 roubles;

– the mega yacht Luna, 115 meters long, purchased in 2010, also registered in Hamilton, Bermuda, 5,419,950,000 roubles (launched and turned over to the owner shortly before he acquired the Eclipse yacht);

– the mega yacht Eclipse, 170 meters long, acquired in December 2010 for 17,610,000,000 roubles;

– American-made submarines, 36 and 20 meters long, costing a total of 754,080,000 roubles;

– a collection of luxury cars (a Bentley, Jaguar, custom-made Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari FXX race car and so on) costing a total of upward of 2 billion roubles.

 

Abramovich owns all of this legally and no one can take these toys away from him, even if there is a change of regime in Russia. In contrast, Putin, who moves in different environments on transportation even oligarchs cannot afford, will be deprived of this if he does not make it into the Kremlin. In fact, he will lose not only luxury vehicles, which are, after all, a means of transport, but he will have nowhere to live or vacation.

Not even the richest man can afford to build a residence in any corner of the country that catches his eye, let alone build a road leading to it and post federal guards on its perimeter. We have written about the Altai residence that our colleagues from Auto Review stumbled upon by accident (this is another paradox: it’s a huge country but there is no escaping Putin).

The residence is fairly modest. But the road leading to it (registered in documents as an extended intersection) cost 4 billion roubles of government money––no matter that it can be accessed only if the Federal Protective Service opens the gate.

 

For reference, here is a list of the residences the media and experts have linked to Vladimir Putin’s name:

Putin’s official residences confirmed by the Department of Presidential Affaires:

– Novo-Ogaryovo outside of Moscow;

– Riviera in Sochi.

 

Properties that top government officials can use if they wish:

– a government dacha in Barvikha, Moscow Region;

– the Rus residence in the Tver Region (the territory of the Zavidovo hunting preserve);

– Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Leningrad Region;

– Bocharov Ruchei outside Sochi (summer residence);

– Shuiskaya Chupa, a government dacha in Karelia;

– Uzhin residence, 20 km from Valdai, Novgorod Region;

– Volzhsky Utyos sanatorium on the bank of the Kuybyshev Reservoir;

– Camp Tantal on the bank of the Volga, 40 km from Saratov;

– Sosny residence on the bank of the Yenisei, not far from Krasnoyarsk;

– Angarskiye Khutora residence, 47 km from Irkutsk;

– a residence in the resort town of Pionersky, Kaliningrad Region;

– a ski resort at Lunnaya Polyana, Adigeya, a place on the western slope of Mt. Fisht;

– Russky Island (Primorye Region, to be completed in 2012).

 

A facility mentioned by the media in connection with the prime minister:

– a palace for Vladimir Putin near the village of Praskoveyevka, outside Gelendzhik on the Black Sea coast.

 

Yulia Latynina, however, claims that Putin has 26 palaces, and no one has yet refuted her.

It is not about the number and nomenclature of the properties, but about the principle. All the residences are either state-owned or owned by state companies (some probably offshore). That means none of them will be accessible to Putin unless he is the chief executive of the state (what his office is officially called does not matter).

Perhaps the prime minister owns some offshore property, but he does not see himself as an exiled millionaire in London; the Berezovsky scenario is just as unacceptable as the Libyan one.

His departure may be a harbinger of change for the better for us. For him it would be the end. So he will fight to the last. 

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