Vladimir Putin’s newly-married press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has become the focus of angry corruption allegations after wedding photographs circulating on social media showed him kissing his bride while wearing a wristwatch estimated to cost more than $600,000 — several times more than his official Kremlin salary.
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, jumped on the scandal, repeatedly re-tweeting the photo, snapped at the wedding ceremony in Sochi, along with a magnified image of the luxury timepiece — aRichard Mille RM 52-01 “Skull” watch, of which fewer than three dozen are said to have been made.
“The watch of the newly-wed Peskov costs more than your apartment,” anti-corruption campaigner Navalny wrote in his online blog. “The happy groom has been working for the State since 1989, and couldn’t earn so many millions legally.”
But the Russian President’s spokesman denied the wristwatch was evidence of corruption, saying it was a merely a wedding gift from his wife.
Peskov, 47, married Tatiana Navka, a former Olympic figure skater, at the weekend in a lavish ceremony at one of Russia’s most luxurious hotels, the Rodina or “Motherland,” owned by billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Speaking to the Kremlin press corps on Monday, Peskov said he regretted that his wedding had turned into such “big news,” adding: “I would have preferred to have it all without any media gossip.
“Wives’ gifts to husbands and husbands’ gifts to wives can hardly have anything to do with anti-corruption activity,” he said.
It’s not the first time the Kremlin, which says it is fighting corruption in Russia, has been confronted with allegations of extravagant expenditure.
A 2012 report by leading opposition figures, including Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated outside the Kremlin earlier this year, detailed allegations of how Peskov’s boss, Putin, had 15 helicopters, 4 yachts, and 43 airplanes at his disposal.
The report, titled “The Life of a Galley Slave” also alleged that Putin owned at least 11 wristwatches worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Kremlin denied the allegations.
In an interview with the Russian-language version of Tatler magazine, Peskov’s new bride, Tatiana Navka, confirmed she gave the Kremlin spokesman the controversial watch as a gift.
“I am an Olympic champion, I work hard, including all summer long. I earn money myself, so I can afford to give a good present,” Navka told the magazine.
“Before the wedding, I had a question about what to give to my loved-man and I decided to buy this beautiful watch,” she said.
But the storm of protest on social media has continued unabated.
“Why are you making people angry with a 37 million ruble watch?” asks one blogger on Instagram, “Peskov is the face of Putin. You should be helping sick children instead.”
Another says: “Even if you forget about the watch, experts already estimate the price of the wedding … is more than a million dollars. If Peskov didn’t pay for it, it’s a bribe. If he did, where is the money coming from?” Source: CNN