Russian activist Navalny launches new attack on Putin with claim of 'secret mansion'

Russian activist Navalny launches new attack on Putin with claim of 'secret mansion'Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has been linked to ownership of a villa complex on a scenic island near the Finnish border where a Soviet version of Sherlock Holmes was filmed, according to two investigations. It is claimed in a YouTube video, which got more than 1.8 million views in 24 hours, that Mr Putin is the owner of the Sellgren Villa on Lodochny Island in the Bay of Vyborg, a red-brick home built in 1913 and recently expanded, according to separate investigations by the independent online channel TV Rain and opposition leader Alexei Navalny. A drone flyover of the expansive property by Mr Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation showed a new 1,500-square-metre wing on the villa, a helipad, a pier, a guest house built in the same style, and a large house and garage, presumably for staff. The villa is not mentioned in the president's 2016 income and property declaration, which said he owns a 1,500-square-metre land plot, two cramped flats, three Soviet-era cars and a small cargo trailer. Mr Putin has previously been tied to a palace on the Black Sea. Google Earth view of the Finnish island where Navalny claims Putin has a "secret dacha" Mr Navalny called on supporters to demand he be allowed into next year's presidential election despite a controversial embezzlement conviction that the authorities said would bar him from running. The villa was designed by well-known Finnish architect Uno Ullberg and served as the home of German spy Von Bork in a Soviet-era Sherlock Holmes film. Lodochny Island was part of the national forest reserves until it was rezoned for the construction of a tourist base in 2012. The two investigations claim to have now linked the property, where Google Earth imagery showed construction began in 2011-13, to several longtime friends of Mr Putin. Aerial picture of Villa Selgen Grab from a video released by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Security refused to allow TV Rain onto the property, but the channel quoted a source close to the local authorities as saying that the villa had been rebuilt as a country home for Mr Putin, who had traveled there at least once. Locals said they had seen the presidential security service guarding it from the water. Photos and plans posted to a social media group in 2012 claimed the villa was being rebuilt with a pool, billiard room, sauna and fitness complex. TV Rain reported that according to the federal property register agency, the island and buildings are controlled by a company called Sever, which was owned by Oleg Rudnov, head of the Baltic Media Group and an old friend of Mr Putin who died in 2015. Rudnov's son Sergei now owns the company. Mr Navalny said Sever also rented a building in the Konstantinovsky Palace presidential residence where Oleg Rudnov created a museum to Mr Putin, replete with his judo uniform and first car. Bare-chested Vladimir Putin goes fishing 00:55 Other Sever shareholders were tied to companies that reportedly operated the ski resort where Mr Putin's daughter got married in 2013. A sign near the entrance to the Lodochny Island property identified it as a recreational complex for the company Sibur, which is owned in part by Mr Putin's reported son-in-law Kirill Shamalov and the president's old friend Gennady Timchenko. Oleg Rudnov also ran a media company owned by Mr Putin's friend Sergei Roldugin, a cellist who the Panama Papers leak revealed to be the conduit for massive offshore holdings of the president's inner circle. Mr Navalny's YouTube exposé of prime minister Dmitry Medvedev's mansions, yachts and vineyard in Tuscany was viewed more than 22 million times this spring and inspired opposition protests around the country in March and June. 

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