Vladimir Putin has denied that a palace on the Black Sea belongs to him, after arch-rival Alexei Navalny accused him of owning it in an anti-corruption investigation.
‘Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did,’ Putin said during a video call with students on Monday.
The Russian president spoke out after a weekend that saw thousands take to the streets in protests that Navalny – who is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence – had called for, with one of his allies urging further demonstrations on Monday.
Meanwhile Russia angrily accused Facebook and other US tech giants of failing to remove what it called fake information about the demonstrations at the weekend.
Vladimir Putin has been forced to deny owning a mega-palace on Russia’s Black Sea coast after Alexei Navalny accused him of building it with cash embezzled from the Russian state
Navalny released a lengthy investigation on his return to Russia which was filled with details about the palace (pictured) including floor plans and details of the interior
Russia’s foreign ministry said it will be investigating the matter further, teeing up an early spat between the country and the new Biden administration.
Speaking about Navalny’s investigation into the palace – which was released alongside an hour-long video outlining evidence that points to Putin as the owner – the Russian leader said he had not ‘watched it in full’.
This was due to a ‘shortage of time,’ he said, before adding that he ‘flicked through video selections that my aides brought me.’
He also denounced protests that took place at the weekend as ‘illegal and dangerous’.
As he spoke Leonid Volkov, the head of the opposition politician’s regional network, called on Twitter for Russians across the country to take to the streets on January 31 ‘for Navalny’s freedom, for freedom for all, and for justice’.
Putin has been under pressure in recent months amid high-profile leaks of information about his health and private life, now compounded by the return to Russia of arch-rival Navalny.
The charismatic 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner had been in Germany recovering from what western governments said was an attempted assassination using Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Putin also denounced protests which took place in Russia at the weekend as ‘illegal and dangerous’, even as allies of Navalny called for them to continue
Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow
Navalny accuses Putin of ordering his death at the hands of an FSB hit-squad. Russian denies the allegations.
Upon arrival back in Russia, Navalny was immediately arrested by Russia’s prison service and marched into a trial, where a judge ordered him to be detained for 30 days on suspicion of violating the terms of an early suspended sentence.
Navalny is then due to face a second trial on those charges, where he could be jailed for another three-and-a-half years.
As he was marched off to jail, Navalny used social media to call for mass protests across the country which took place at the weekend.
Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters took part in demonstrations across 70 cities on Saturday in a show of defiance against Putin.
His wife Yulia Navalnaya, 44, was among around 3,400 people detained by officers. She posted a selfie following her arrest, captioned: ‘Apologies for the poor quality. Very bad light in the police van.’
Demonstrators were dragged off by riot officers to police buses and detention trucks, while some activists were beaten with police batons.
The 44-year-old politician was recently poisoned with chemical nerve agent Novichok and has been jailed in Russia
Authorities eventually pushed protesters out of Moscow’s Pushkin Square, but thousands then regrouped along a wide boulevard about half a mile away, many of them throwing snowballs at the police before dispersing.
The violent scenes from police drew condemnation from both the United States and the European Union, whose foreign policy chief said he deplored the ‘widespread arrests’ and the ‘disproportionate use of force’.
Similarly, the United States called on Russian authorities to release protesters and journalists detained, and condemned what it called ‘harsh tactics’ used against them.
Throughout the day and into the early hours of Sunday morning, people were seen holding signs that read ‘Russia will be free’ and chanting ‘Putin is a thief.’
Some then marched towards the Kremlin, while others blocked Tverskaya Street, the capital’s main thoroughfare.
Reuters reporters estimated at least 40,000 people had gathered in central Moscow for one of the biggest unauthorised rallies for years, but authorities claimed a mere 4,000 people had shown up.
‘The United States strongly condemns the use of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities throughout Russia,’ State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
People march during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St.Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a post on Twitter that he deplored the authorities ‘disproportionate use of force’, while Britain’s foreign minister, Dominic Raab, condemned the ‘use of violence against peaceful protesters and journalists’.
Navalny being taken into custody and the arrests of his supporters were ‘troubling indications of further restrictions on civil society and fundamental freedoms,’ he added.
‘We call on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksey Navalny,’ Price said, using an alternative spelling.
‘We urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil.’
Among the other revelations that Putin has faced, were an expose on a former mistress and the revelation that he has a 17-year-old love-child with her – a daughter named Elizaveta.
Allegations – denied by the Kremlin – also surfaced that Putin is suffering from Parkinson’s and is being treated for cancer.
Putin’s ‘love child’, 17, follows ALEXEI NAVALNY on Instagram
Vladimir Putin‘s alleged love child is following Alexei Navalny on Instagram where she faces regular trolling over her father.
Elizaveta, known as Luiza, is the daughter of cleaner-turned-millionaire Svetlana Krivonogikh, 45, who reportedly had an affair with the Kremlin leader in the late 1990s.
The 17-year-old, who boasts 91,000 followers on Instagram, featured in a video shared by jailed opposition leader Navalny last week in which he exposed Putin’s ‘corruption’.
Vladimir Putin’s alleged love child is following Alexei Navalny on Instagram and is even being trolled for having the Russian President as her father
Luiza is following Navalny on the social media platform despite him being the arch critic of her alleged father
He included a clip of Luiza dancing with a British-educated male friend.
She replied complaining that the clip was too short, saying she was ‘only given a minute’, before posting another video.
But Luiza is still following Navalny on the social media platform despite the prominent Putin critic being jailed, which sparked mass protests in Russia this weekend.
European Union foreign ministers are debating the 27-nation bloc’s response to his arrest on Monday.
The 44-year-old politician was recently poisoned with chemical nerve agent Novichok allegedly by a hit squad from the FSB secret service.
Navalny has said his aim is to topple Putin, 68, and for years has made disclosures of alleged corruption in ruling circles.
Thousands supporting Navalny were arrested this weekend in what have been described as the biggest demonstrations since Putin came to power more than two decades ago.
St Petersburg-educated student Luiza was quizzed on Instagram: ‘Are you not ashamed of your father?’
Another wrote: ‘What do you say in school when they ask you who is your father?’
Luiza is the daughter of a cleaner-turned-millionaire Svetlana Krivonogikh (pictured), 45, who reportedly had an affair with the Kremlin leader in the late 1990s
But she has hit back at online ‘haters’ as she continues to flaunt her lavish lifestyle.
She has faced comments on the £1billion Black Sea palace that Navalny claims is Putin’s bolthole from the Kremlin, with a pole-dancing hookah room, a casino and its own vineyard.
She was asked: ‘Do they produce Novichok in the same vineyard?’
Other comments on her page include: ‘Your mommy gave birth to you to ensure a comfortable life for herself.
‘Don’t be delusional and think that you were wanted. You are just a tool with the help of which your mom got what she wanted.’
Another comment read: ‘What is it like to be born with Putin’s face?’