Billion-Dollar Palace in Navalny Investigation ‘Doesn’t Belong to Me,’ Putin Says

President Vladimir Putin denied ownership of a $1.3 billion seaside palace in his first public reaction to jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s viral video investigation that helped spark nationwide protests.

Navalny’s feature-length video, which alleges that Putin’s inner circle had funded the lavish property through an elaborate corruption scheme, has racked up 86 million views in five days. The Kremlin dismissed allegations last week that Putin owns a palace.

“I didn’t watch this movie simply because I don’t have enough free time … but I flipped through the video collections that my assistants brought me,” Putin said.

“To answer your question right away: nothing that is listed there as my property does not and never has belonged to me or my close relatives,” Putin told students.

Putin also addressed Saturday’s unauthorized nationwide rallies demanding Navalny’s release, echoing his subordinates’ criticism of the protests for involving minors and citing the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots whose participants are now facing long jail terms.

The Russian president did single out a vineyard listed in Navalny’s investigation as a pursuit he would be interested in after retirement.

“It’s a very good and noble type of activity, but not as a business,” Putin said.

“I have an adviser, Boris Titov, who owns a large winemaking company with a good background,” he added in televised comments. “When I finish my work, maybe I’ll go work as an adviser to him. But not as a businessman but as a legal expert.”

U.S. Jails Woman 11 Years for Attempted Secret Info Sale to Russia

The United States has sentenced a West Virginia woman to 11 years in federal prison for trying to sell classified information to Russia while attempting to kidnap her daughter from the girl’s custodial father to Mexico.

Elizabeth Jo Shirley, 47, was accused “of breaching trust of the American people” by attempting to sell classified information to “one of America’s foremost adversaries” by the assistant attorney general of the National Security Division.

She pleaded guilty to one count of willful retention of national defense information and one count of international parental kidnapping, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement Monday.

In July 2019, Shirley went to Mexico City, where she planned to offer a National Security Agency document she obtained while serving in the Air Force to the Russian government in exchange for resettlement to a country that would not extradite her to the U.S.

She took her 6-year-old daughter with her to Mexico “with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of the custodial father’s parental rights,” the Justice Department said.

Shirley’s attempted sale was ultimately unsuccessful because she left the document behind in a storage unit in the U.S., the Justice Department said. The FBI later found draft messages intended for Russian government officials on her electronic devices.

“When she committed these crimes, she not only broke that trust, she potentially endangered the very people who employed her and her neighbors. National security is one of our highest priorities. Shirley deserves her sentence and not a day less,” U.S. Attorney Bill Powell of West Virginia’s northern district said in a statement.

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