Russian businessman Arkady Rothenberg said on Saturday that he owns a huge mansion in southern Russia that Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has linked to President Vladimir Putin.
Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation released a video claiming that the lavish mansion belonged to the Russian leader. The video has been viewed over 103 million times.
Rothenberg, Putin’s former judo partner who sold his stake in gas pipeline company Stroygazmontazh in 2019 for a stake of around 75 billion rubles, said he bought the mansion two years ago.
“It will not be a secret, I am the beneficiary,” Rottenberg said in a video clip. “There were many creditors and I was able to benefit.”
He did not provide further financial details about the acquisition or how it was funded.
Putin has already denied the palace is his property.
Navalny was held for 30 days on January 18 on parole violations and could face up to years in prison. He was arrested after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he recovered from a neurotoxicity in August of last year.
After Navalny was arrested, thousands of people joined protests across Russia last Saturday to demand the Kremlin’s release of Navalny from prison.
Navalny’s supporters plan to stage new protest rallies in Russia on Sunday. The authorities said it was illegal and said they would stop them.
Rothenberg was among Russian officials and businessmen blacklisted in the United States and other Western powers after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Russian police arrested Sergei Smirnov, the editor-in-chief of the independent Medizona press, on Saturday on suspicion of participating in last weekend’s protest in Moscow, Medizona reported on Saturday.