The sprawling, opulent, secretive estate is something you've probably never seen before.

Earlier in the week, a massive leak occurred regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin's alleged Black Sea coastal palace, also known as the Residence at Cape Idokopas.

The extremely high-security 168-acre palace reportedly belongs to Putin through an indirect tangled web of associates and shell companies. 

Amid raging protests in Russia and rising anti-government sentiment in Russia, the whistleblowing report is damning and has further galvanised an unprecedented public outcry against a traditionally secure regime. 

Released by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, also known by its Russian acronym FBK, the Russian report presents a sprawling trove of financial records, documents and never-seen-before exterior images of the palace. The report also provides renderings of the interior based on floor plans procured from a whistleblower. The floor plans reveal staggering opulence, including a casino, theatre, pool, and a hookah lounge with a pole-dancing stage.

FBK estimates that the entire estate is worth approximately $1.4 billion, asserting that nothing like it exists outside of North Korea possibly. 

An aerial view of Putin's Black Sea Palace .
An aerial view of Putin's Black Sea Palace . (FBK)

FBK is a Russian non-profit which commits itself to exposing corruption among government officials. The organization is highly critical of Putin. Its founder, Alexei Navalny, was the target of an alleged Russian government assassination attempt last year using a secretive family of Soviet-era chemical weapons, known as Novichoks. 

Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany where he recuperated. A day before the palace leak was revealed, Navalny returned to Russia where he was arrested immediately on questionable grounds relating to a 2014 suspended prison sentence and charges of libel against a World War II veteran.

Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report as "pure nonsense." This is in sharp contrast to media reports and whistleblower allegations over at least a decade that have provided evidence Russia's President has been tied to the Black Sea Palace since at least 2000.

A satellite image of the core of the estate as of August 2019. The actual ornate palace itself is at the southern end, toward the coast.
A satellite image of the core of the estate as of August 2019. The actual ornate palace itself is at the southern end, toward the coast. (FBK)

In spite of the denial by Putin government, journalists trying to get close to the site by land or sea have been warned off by national security organizations the FSO and FSB, respectively.  Both were former KBG branch organisations.

More critically, Navalny's team found an official flight chart demarcating the air above the palace as a no-fly zone.

The flight chart that FBK obtained showing the block of restricted airspace, URP116, over Putin's Palace in the lower right-hand corner.
The flight chart that FBK obtained showing the block of restricted airspace, URP116, over Putin's Palace in the lower right-hand corner. (FBK)

In spite of this, FBK says it was able to fly a small drone with a video camera over the estate, which it calls 'Putin's Kingdom'.

An annotated satellite map showing the estate, highlighted in reddish-orange at the bottom, and the larger adjacent plot of land reportedly owned by the FSB, highlighted in lighter orange.
An annotated satellite map showing the estate, highlighted in reddish-orange at the bottom, and the larger adjacent plot of land reportedly owned by the FSB, highlighted in lighter orange. (FBK)

The palace, fit for a tsar, is the prominent structure. It  occupies an area of around 17 square kilometres according to FBK. Navalny's team reports that costs linked to this building have grown substantially over the years. High humidity in the region and faulty ventilation systems gave rise serious mold problems in need of attention. The palace has been under some form of construction for years. 

A view of the estate from the sea with the palace prominently visible in the center.
A view of the estate from the sea with the palace prominently visible in the center. (FBK)
Another view of Putin's Kingdom.
Another view of Putin's Kingdom. (FBK)

FBK also identified what it said was a greenhouse, as well as an outdoor amphitheater. A very long bridge connects a tea house to the central area of the sprawling estate. 

A number of the buildings appear to have been built and rebuilt multiple times, indicating an owner with exacting tastes and deep pockets.

The sprawling estate also has its own offices and dormitories to house staff and security.

The greenhouse building.
The greenhouse building. (FBK)
The amphitheater.
The amphitheater. (FBK)
The tea house and the bridge connecting it to the rest of the estate.
The tea house and the bridge connecting it to the rest of the estate. (FBK)
The apparent administrative center of the estate with dormitories and other buildings.
The apparent administrative center of the estate with dormitories and other buildings. (FBK)
The Church.
The Church. (FBK)

FBK also identified an ice rink, built over two helipads, which is not surprising given Putin's well-known fondness for hockey.

The grass-covered ice rink. One of two new helipads is visible to the left.
The grass-covered ice rink. One of two new helipads is visible to the left. (FBK)

During  the ice rink's construction which started in 2018, there was speculation that this could be a hardened underground bunker for Putin in the event of a major crisis. 

(FBK)
(FBK)
(FBK)

The interior renderings of one of the bedrooms, an attached bathroom, as well as living and reading rooms, reflect an aesthetic matching the regal exterior of the building.

A rendering showing what one of the palace's bedrooms might look like.
A rendering showing what one of the palace's bedrooms might look like. (FBK)
A depiction of one of the bathrooms based on the floor plans.
A depiction of one of the bathrooms based on the floor plans. (FBK)
A rendering of a living room layout.
A rendering of a living room layout. (FBK)
A rendering of what FBK described as a reading room.
A rendering of what FBK described as a reading room. (FBK)

The palace also enjoys several amenities, such as a theatre, pool and casino. FBK reports that adjacent rooms and halls show slot machines and video game cabinets.

FBK added Putin swimming to its rendering of the pool.
FBK added Putin swimming to its rendering of the pool. (FBK)
A rendering of the theater stage.
A rendering of the theater stage. (FBK)
The rendering of the casino.
The rendering of the casino. (FBK)
A rendering of slot machines and video game cabinets in another room.
A rendering of slot machines and video game cabinets in another room. (FBK)
A rendering showing the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution in one of the palace's halls.
A rendering showing the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution in one of the palace's halls. (FBK)

Many of the renderings are based in part on what the floorplans specifically names the rooms. Some were relatively less clear. 

One room was marked "Hookah," suggesting it included a room where people could smoke from a water pipe.

But the room had no windows, a stage, a dressing room, spotlights and something "very similar to a pole is noted on the plan", says the FBK investigation.

"We thought for a long time what it could be. Perhaps a giant shawarma is prepared here. Or firefighters are training," the FBK quips.

"And here's what happened," it continues. 

The report attaches a rendering that makes the room's purpose obvious.

A rendering of what the
A rendering of what the "hookah" room might look like, an aesthetic straight out of a racy nightclub or strip club. (FBK)

The palace enjoys sprawling Versailles-like grounds, exotic trees and huge sculptures.

The entire facility is surrounded by high-security walls, fencing, and barriers with fortified checkpoints at its entrances. Roads provide access throughout the property. 

Some features remain unexplained, including a massive ramp-like setup that seems to be a form of vehicle access into an underground facility. It connects to a growing pier area on the southern border of the estate.

A satellite image of the enclosed harbor with the reported tunnel exit visible just above and to the left of the dock.
A satellite image of the enclosed harbor with the reported tunnel exit visible just above and to the left of the dock. (FBK)

Navalny's organization claims that the Black Sea palace is only one of the multiple properties linked to Putin, including four other sites near Gelendzhik; specifically another chateau, wineries, and an oyster farm.

Putin's future ahead of new potential protests is not yet clear. 

The creator of the video presentation that outlined the palace and its features received 10 days of prison for unclear reasons. The video has since received 91 million views.

In December 2020, Putin signed a bill into law granting lifetime legal immunity to former Russian presidents, possibly indicating that he does not expect to remain in power forever. The only other living former Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev does not seem to be at any risk of imminent prosecution.

Source: TRT World