But according to a report compiled by two prominent opposition politicians, the Russian leader more often toils in the opulence of one of 20 state-owned palaces and jets across the country and around the world via a fleet of 58 aircraft.
The reclusive president who rose from the KGB ranks to lead post-Soviet Russia for the past dozen years also has access to a fleet of yachts, luxury cars and a $700,000 designer watch collection, says the report, "The Life of a Galley Slave," published Tuesday by reformist former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and Solidarity movement activist Leonid Martynyuk.
"In a country where more than 20 million people barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is an obnoxious and cynical provocation,” Nemtsov and Martynyuk wrote.
There are the opulent waterfront villas on Russia’s Black Sea and Baltic Sea coasts and along the banks of the scenic Volga and Yenisei rivers. An 86-acre retreat near Moscow boasts a spa with massaging showers and herbal baths, the report says.
Putin’s “Aviapark” allegedly costing about $1 billion, the regime critics said, includes 15 helicopters and 43 planes, one outfitted with an interior crafted by famed Russian jewelers and artists and equipped with a $75,000 toilet.
The annual upkeep on one of his four yachts, Sirius, which features a wine cellar and cascading pools, costs as much as 1,200 Russian pensioners are paid in a year, Nemtsov and Martynyuk calculated.
Putin declared in his last income statement that he owns three Russian-made cars, the report said, while the favorite of his state fleet is an armored Mercedes-Benz with a 14-foot interior with special holders for crystal glasses.
A galley slave? More like a Persian Gulf monarch, the authors asserted.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary, brushed off the alleged high living as the leader's legitimate trappings.
"It's all state property," Peskov told the Kommersant daily newspaper, "and Putin, as the country’s elected president, legally uses it."
-- Khristina Narizhnaya
Photo: The cover of "The Life of a Galley Slave," by opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk. The report contends Russian President Vladimir Putin wallows in luxury at state expense, despite assertions that he works like a slave for his country. Credit: Associated Press