There’s something familiar about this “Putin’s Palace” story, for two reasons. For one thing, this piece of real-estate has been in the news since 2010, when it was buing built and rumours that it was somehow linked to Putin began to appear about “Putin’s Palace”. The rumours were kicked off by Sergei Kolesnikov who decided it was more lucrative to market himself as a whistleblower. The story was described by Reuters in 2014. In short, it seemed to have been owned by a company named Rirus then owned by Nikolai Shamalov and was later sold to Alexander Ponomarenko according to the Reuters article.
The Reuter’s article wasn’t even news. In 2012, BBC Newsnight already ran with this story, with a bit more prose and some images. They re-hashed it in 2016 in an article called “Russia RBC shake-up seen as new Putin raid on media”.
The story went quiet until recently when Navalny warmed it up again in a video that shows mostly speculations as what the interior might look like based on 3D renderings based on building blueprints that may or may not be accurate. The whole video is long an boring, and contains no real (primary) evidence on what the building actually looks like on the inside and about belonging to Putin.
The other reason that this looks familiar is because of the familiar pattern that is visible here: Create outrage, support anti-regime protests. The same modus operandi was visible in 2013/2014 when similar stories were run by Western media as part of their regime change campaing in Ukraine. Back then it was “Yanukovych’s Palace” – which actually existed and belonged to him, but was used as a proof of his corruption. Allegedly, there was a “golden toilet” in there, and you could even find pictures purporting to show it on the Internet, but when the estate was raided and made accessible to the public, the toilet failed to materialize.
So it seems West is trying to use the same tricks again to create strife – this time in Russia and cook up an old story, which Putin commented with “Скучно, девочки!” (Boring, girls!).