Did Putin Get a Palace?

Did Russian's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin get a pricey new palace that over looks the Black Sea?

It seems nobody knows for sure–or at least no government official will confirm–but a Russian biznessman named Sergei Kolesnikov who has professional ties to Mister Putin claims that a palatial residence under construction in the Black Sea resort town of Praskoveevka is being built with "dubious funds" for the personal use of Russia's frequently shirtless and all but hairless prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Mister Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, publicly declared that the prime minister has no connections to the obscenely large residence on the Black Sea but Mister Kolesnikov claims that Mister Putin regularly visited the site to supervise the construction and furnishing of the massive mansion.

After Mister Kolesnikov's claims were made public a 2009 article materialized out of the interweb in which a journalist for Novaya Gazeta reported that he swam up to the beach behind the property and spoke to a construction worker who snitched that Prime Minister Putin visited the site regularly. It wasn't long before an anonymous man who declared he worked on the construction of the building publicly alleged that many illegal Chinese workers were employed at the site. Oh dear.

After Mister Kolesnikov let the cat out of the bag about Mister Putin's (alleged) new palace in Praskoveevka, a couple of photos taken by tourists surfaced that show the sprawling roof of the civic center-sized structure and the beach side entrance to a tunnel that (allegedly) leads up to the palace on the bluff above.

Finally, about a week ago a clandestine cache of photographs was leaked by an anonymous individual and posted on Ruleaks, a website that publishes Russian translations of documents posted on Wikileaks. The photos show a bulky and colossal Neoclassical structure built around a symmetrically designed interior courtyard ringed by arched colonnades.

Photos of the interior spaces show heavy and intricate architectural details that include lots of pilasters, hand-painted murals on the walls and ceilings, car-sized chandeliers, shiny marble floors with inlaid patterns, unrestrained gilding, heavy drapery, paneled and gilded walls, antique commodes, dining room sets and and desks that tend towards the Baroque. Prairie-sized terraces and formal gardens filled with topiary, surround the palace that reportedly includes a private casino, fitness spa, tea house, amphitheater and a pad for not just one but three helicopters.

While there's a very real possibility this mansion does not belong to or in any way have anything to do with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, what is clear is that there is still some serious money in the hands of oligarchs willing to spend a truly shocking and–let's be honest chickens–scandalous billion bucks or more on a seaside vacation house.

photos: Ruleaks