Inside Putin’s $1.7b pleasure palace
Vladimir Putin has denied owning a secret £1 billion (AU$1.77 billion) Black Sea palace with a pole dancing boudoir, after vision of its ritzy interiors was released.
The Russian president was accused by leading critic Alexei Navalny of spending state cash on the vast complex near the town of Gelendzhik in southern Russia.
The allegations were made in a film - Putin's Palace - created by Navalny and released by his team following his arrest last Sunday.
Navalny was detained as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering after being poisoned with nerve agent Novichok in an assassination attempt he says was ordered by the Kremlin.
Thousands have taken to the streets in cities across Russia calling for Navalny's release, while tens of millions of people have watched the film online.
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Putin was on Monday asked about the film by 20-year-old student Danil Chemezov during a teleconference event to mark the country's annual students' day.
He responded: "Nothing that's shown there as my property belongs to me, or my close relatives, and doesn't and didn't belong. Never."
He admitted he had not watched the Navalny film due to a "shortage of time", but said he had "flicked through video selections that my aides brought me".
Navalny alleges that Putin is the ultimate owner of the palace via a complex trail of companies.
As well as a pole dancing room, the high-security property reportedly boasts an underground ice hockey rink, a private theatre, a vineyard, and territory the size of "39 Monacos".
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Putin's denial came as two Kremlin guards were reportedly fired after attending a large protest against Putin over the weekend.
Twins Mikhail and Maksim Terekhov, 21, served in a unit of the Federal Security Service, which is under the president's command, according to BAZA online media.
The unit is responsible for guarding the Russian presidential administration.
The pair had gone to Pushkin Square in Moscow on Saturday and then had a row, with Mikhail leaving saying it was "dangerous" to remain.
He left but his brother stayed and was detained, the report said.
Maksim remains in custody and is expected to face court, while both were informed that they had been fired.
The teleconference also saw Putin give a rare hint that he is planning for life in wine making after the Kremlin - despite having recently introduced rule changes that could allow him to stand in elections for two further terms in office.
"Wine making is developing quite well, it's a nice kind of activity, too," he told the students.
"I have an advisor, Boris Titov, the owner of Abrau-Dyurso - our large (wine) company with a good background. He is my advisor now.
"When I finish working, perhaps I will go work as his advisor.
"Not as a businessman but as a specialist, perhaps in the legal field."
Titov's son Pavel is reportedly a former owner of the Dinvomorskoe vineyard, close to the palace in Gelendzhik Palace allegedly owned by Putin.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission
Originally published as Inside Putin's $1.7b pleasure palace