Russian businessman Arkady Rottenberg said on Saturday he had a large palace in southern Russia, and Reuters reported that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was in contact with President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation have released a video claiming that a palace belongs to a Russian leader. The video has been viewed more than 103 million times.
Rottenberg, Putin’s former judo partner, sold his stake in gas pipeline company Stroikosmondash for about 75 billion rubles in 2019, saying he bought the palace two years ago.
“It’s no longer a secret, I’m a beneficiary,” Rottenberg said in a video. “There were so many lenders, I was able to become a beneficiary.”
He did not provide additional financial details about the acquisition or how it was funded.
Putin has already denied that he owns the palace.
Navalny was remanded in custody for 30 days on Jan. 18 for violating parole and could face up to several years in prison. He was arrested after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he recovered from a neurotoxic poisoning in August last year.
Following Navalny’s arrest, thousands of people protested across Russia last Saturday demanding the Kremlin release Navalny from prison.
Navalny’s supporters plan to hold new protests in Russia on Sunday. Authorities said they were illegal and would stop them.
After Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, Rottenberg was among Russian officials and detainees by US officials and other Western powers.
Russian police on Saturday detained Sergei Smirno, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Mediasona, on suspicion of taking part in a protest in Moscow last weekend.