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Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva live together and use money from slush fund in Cyprus, Proekt reports

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and the former gymnast, National Media Group (NMG) head and mother of Putin’s children Alina Kabaeva, live together, most often in a residence near Lake Valdai, which has already grown into a luxury village, and use Putin's money hidden in Cyprus to buy luxury real estate, revealed independent investigative outlet Proekt (“The Project”) in a two-part investigation titled “Iron Masks.”

The first part of the investigation profiles the Cypriot company Ermira Consultants, which was found to have stakes in businesses important to Putin. Proekt journalists met with the former business manager of one of Putin's closest friends who was involved in running a secret financial network that also included Ermira. The source said that until 2015 the company belonged to a front man – Vladislav Kopylov, a lawyer from St. Petersburg. Ermira's accounts were used to pay for expenses for Putin and his relatives. The Russian president also bought apartments and homes with the firm’s money.

“Kopylov is a nobody, just a hobo, both in fact and in appearance,” said the source, referring to the company as “the obshchak” (organized crime jargon referring to a collective fund intended for use in the interests of a criminal group). Kopylov was listed as a nominal owner until March 2015, with the ownership of the company moving offshore, and people linked to oligarch Arkady Rotenberg – Putin’s close confidant and childhood friend – likely became its beneficiaries. The publication's source said that Putin's cronies personally met with Arkady Rotenberg, Yuri Kovalchuk and their subordinates and told them what they needed. After that, they used Ermira’s money to buy housing – for example, in 2011, Kabaeva drew on the firm’s money to buy four apartments in Sochi, and registered them in the name of various trustees.

Proekt also revealed that the Cypriot company profited from the sale of shares in Russian media conglomerate NMG, where Kabayeva heads the board of directors. In 2013, Ermira bought 7.5% of NMG’s shares for €76 million, allegedly selling them three months later to companies linked to oligarch Gennady Timchenko, netting a premium of €65.6 million.

The second part of the investigation describes the lives of Putin and Kabaeva, who journalists found to be living together. The gymnast's aides and cousins constantly visit Putin's Valdai residence, and one of her sisters even has a home nearby.

A separate wooden home for Kabaeva and her children at her residence in Valdai – a similar standalone home for her has also been built near Putin’s palace. In 2021, a boat berth was built near Kabaeva's tower – boats can be used to cross the channel to a 28-hectare park. The surroundings of the residence are conservation areas, including the territory of the Valdai National Park, which is protected by law. In 2018, however, a secret railroad was built for Putin, which he uses to arrive at the residence, likely on his armored train – the subject of another recent Proekt investigation.

In total, Kabaeva and her cronies were found to own real estate worth at least $120 million. In addition to homes near Putin's palaces, Kabaeva was revealed as the owner of the largest penthouse in Russia, located in the Royal Park residential complex in Sochi. The apartment was also bought with the money from Putin's slush fund in Cyprus, which once again proves Kabaeva’s personal relationship with the Russian president. The penthouse, styled by Russian fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, spans an area of 2600 sq. m., has a swimming pool, cinema, patio, and its own helipad.

In 2021, Russian real estate website CIAN recognized the home as the “largest apartment in Russia.” In 2011, the apartment was taken over by Oleg Rudnov, and the asset later passed to his son Sergei. In the early 2000s, it was Rudnov who gave the property near Palace Square in St. Petersburg to Putin’s mistress Svetlana Krinovogikh. Proekt’s source claims that the apartment was bought specifically for Kabaeva, which is confirmed by the fact that the two apartments adjacent to the penthouse on the upper floors of the complex were registered to Kabaeva's grandmother, Anna Zatsepilina. They were originally purchased for 20.7 million roubles (close to $276,000) – similar apartments now cost 65 million roubles (approximately $867,000). When a Proekt journalist traveled to Sochi and met with two realtors selling real estate, they both claimed that the penthouse was “owned by Kabayeva” based on rumors they had heard in the local property market.

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