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Putin’s Black Sea palace revamped: striptease hall and casino replaced with a chapel

Vladimir Putin's palace in the Russian resort town of Gelendzhik had been renovated as of the spring of 2023, according to a joint investigation by the late Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and independent journalistic outlet Proekt. Judging from the blueprints and stills from video footage made available to the investigators, the striptease hall and the casino were removed, and a chapel was added.

Proekt spoke to two construction professionals involved in the project and learned that the renovation had been completed by February or March 2023. As one of the sources said, this was the time when most of the contractors left the “South Property,” which was their code name for the palace.

As the investigators note, the completion of the renovations was also confirmed by video footage recorded by one of the workers. The video suggests that most of the rooms were fully renovated and furnished.

“The interior of the palace attests to the scope of Putin’s evolution since the property was built in the early 2010s. The renovated version does not feature a casino, a striptease hall, or an arcade room. Instead, it has a chapel housing an icon of St. Prince Vladimir, Putin’s patron saint. One of the main halls has been decorated with paintings of battles and corpses. The centerpiece is titled ‘He Who Comes to Us with a Sword Will Die by the Sword!’ The original of this painting is prominently displayed in the Grand Kremlin Palace, and Putin is known to favor the set phrase used in the title,” the investigators wrote.

In 2021, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation released a detailed investigation of Putin's residence at Cape Idokopas. The palace was first described in detail by entrepreneur Sergei Kolesnikov in 2010, leading to outcry from independent Russian media, along with ordinary citizens. In 2011, its ownership was officially transferred to businessman Alexander Ponomarenko. Vedomosti wrote that Ponomarenko essentially bought the palace with money belonging to Transneft, a Russian company that specializes in the construction of pipelines. The 2021 Anti-Corruption Foundation investigation presented evidence showing that the property was still being maintained with the funds of state-owned corporations Rosneft and Transneft, and that it remained Putin’s residence even after its sale on paper.

The foundation released detailed drawings and photographs of the palace and the grounds. As it turned out, the property was fitted with an underground bunker the size of a five-story apartment block, a 2,500-square-meter greenhouse, an amphitheater, and an 80-meter bridge across the ravine separating it from the tea pavilion. A special tunnel had been drilled through the neighboring mountain to enable access to the beach.

After the documentary gained millions of views, pro-Kremlin businessman Arkady Rotenberg stepped up to say that it was he who owned the palace in Gelendzhik. In an interview with Mash, he shared plans to transform it into a hotel.

“I’m very fond of this industry, the hotel industry,” Rotenberg said. He added that he hoped to transform the entire location into a tourist destination. “In fact, this is what I’ve been working on for a few years now. I have a few properties in Crimea, in the [Russian] Far East, and plan to purchase some in Altai. I’m considering this area,” Rotenberg explained.

Few, whether inside Russia or abroad, accepted the legitimacy of Rotenberg’s excuse.

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