Navalny’s most damning allegations of corruption against Putin


In a country where almost all dissent has been stamped out, Alexei Navalny shined an unrelenting spotlight on corruption, making him one of the biggest threats to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Corruption is an issue that resonates deeply in Russia, and Navalny’s unvarnished reports alleging eye-popping levels of graft by the country’s rulers continually struck a chord. More than anything else, Navalny’s opposition to Putin was grounded in financial analysis and details about wealth.

“He focused not just on the corruption — Russian people are never surprised by how corrupt their leaders are — but on the offensiveness of it all,” said Sam Greene, a professor of Russian politics at King’s College in London and the director for democratic resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Despite years of threats, arrests and other efforts to silence him, including poisoning, Navalny — through savvy use of technology as well as old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting — kept the focus on how lavishly Putin and his allies appeared to live.

That made him a danger to the regime.

“The Kremlin saw Navalny as a threat,” Greene said. “The fear was that the emotion his reports stirred could become contagious and that people might begin to believe the injustice of it had become so egregious as to have become intolerable.”

With Navalny’s death Friday in a Russian penal colony, where he had been serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism that were broadly viewed as politically driven, it remains to be seen if his organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, can keep up the pressure on Putin.

Here are some of the allegations of corruption Navalny made against Putin and other Russian leaders.

Putin’s palace

In 2021, Navalny released a nearly two-hour-long investigative film detailing an extravagant Italianate mansion overlooking the Black Sea that purportedly belonged to Putin. The video was viewed tens of millions of times online.

The report included aerial drone footage of what appeared to be a hockey rink, a full-scale Orthodox church, two helipads and a vineyard on the 17,000-acre piece of land.

Navalny said records showed that the property sat within a closed territory under the jurisdiction of Russia’s Federal Security Service and that it had cost nearly $1.4 billion to build.

The Kremlin denied that the house belonged to Putin. Russian billionaire Arkady Rothenburg, a childhood friend and close confidante of Putin’s, later said the house was his.

Dmitry Medvedev’s fortune

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minster of Russia who Navalny claimed had also amassed huge wealth through corrupt dealings.

RIA NOVOSTI/AFP via Getty Images

In 2017, Navalny released an investigative report that claimed to show how Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s then-prime minister and former president, had amassed a fortune worth well over $1 billion through a secret property empire.

The report alleged that Medvedev had used a series of charities he ran to extort payments from Russia’s richest oligarchs, then used those funds to build up a network of properties across Russia and even in Italy.

Navalny said none of the properties were listed in Medvedev’s name but rather in the names of the charities he ran or of close friends of his. The report alleged that Medvedev had embezzled $1.2 billion, and that the property empire made Medvedev one of Russia’s wealthiest people.

The Kremlin dismissed the report as propaganda. At the time, Navalny was running for president against Putin. During the campaign, Navalny was injured by attackers who threw a caustic substance in his eyes, and he was jailed several times. He was eventually charged with and convicted of corruption and thrown off the ballot.

Putin’s superyacht

The superyacht Scheherazade, which has been linked to Putin, moored at Marina di Carrara in Italy on March 23, 2022.

Getty Images

Even from behind bars, Navalny continued to prove an irritant for the Kremlin. In 2023, two years after he had been sent to prison, his foundation released a report saying it had determined that a 459-foot-long superyacht anchored in Italy belonged to Putin.

The report said the Scheherazade was one of the world’s 20 largest yachts and was worth $700 million. Built in Germany in 2020, the vessel allegedly featured a movie theater, a helipad, a swimming pool and a security system capable of shooting down drones.

The ship was impounded by Italian authorities in 2022 as part of European sanctions against Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. It is also the focus of a U.S. federal court case brought by the Treasury Department, which is seeking to seize the vessel. Eduard Khudainatov, the former head of Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft, has claimed to own the ship. The U.S. has argued in court that he is a straw owner.

Patriots living abroad

A repeated theme in Navalny’s reports was showing what he claimed was evidence that some of Russia’s most vocally patriotic politicians and television personalities maintained numerous houses in the West.

One such target was television talk-show host Vladimir Soloviev, who Navalny and his organization said had not one but five houses in Italy alone, including one down the road from a home owned by actor George Clooney in Lake Como.

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