Of all the current world leaders, whose life has been mired in controversy and shrouded in mystery, Russian President Vladimir Putin is almost right up there. Be it his wife whom he has successfully kept entirely out of the spotlight or his daughters that he never talks about.

Which is why the recently leaked photographs of alleged Putin's palace assumed both the significance of international headlines and virality of social media. Nearly 500 photographs of "Putin's palace", which have been published by Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, show a palatial mansion on Russia's Black Sea coast. Russian anti-corruption activists claim that the leaked photographs have confirmed details of a luxurious £1bn palace built for Putin's personal use.

Russian Prime Minister Mishustin
Russian Prime Minister Mishustin with President Vladimir Putin. Reuters

Inside the palace

The vast mansion comes equipped with every possible modern day luxury. There's a vast marble swimming pool ornamented with busts of Greek Gods, a hookah lounge with a pole bar for dancing, a wine cellar, an in-house theatre, ice-hockey rink and no fly zone. Apart from sculptures, art works, paintings heavily dotting the property, the mansion is also decorated with hundreds of gilded double-edged eagles, the symbol of the Russian state.

"Surprisingly, Putin is even worse than we expected," said George Alburov, a researcher for the Anti-Corruption Foundation. The Guardian quoted him as saying, "If it seemed to you that we went too far in the film with the interiors, exaggerated and embellished, then you were mistaken. Life, as it happens, exceeded any of our expectations." He also compared the residence's furnishings to the "spirit of Louis XIV."

Putin Palace

Putin denies all claims, as always

Russian activists have alleged that the residence has been built for Putin's personal use but Putin has denied all claims. However, the new set of photographs released, refute the claims by state media that Navalny's team invented details of the palace. Last year, the state media called out Navalny and his team for computer-generated renderings of the mansion's interiors that detractors likened to "cartoons."

The original report on Putin's alleged mansion leaked details of the floor plans and contracts for the residence. While the recently leaked photographs, Anti-corruption Fund says, were taken during the building's construction. Navalny's team however has not divulged how did they have access to the photographs.

Putin palace
Putin's alleged palace

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Alexei Navalny, 44-year-old lawyer and anti-corruption activist, is one of the staunch critic of Putin. Navalny, across the nation is regarded as the only candidate that stands a chance of defeating Vladimir Putin. The original expose was published shortly after Navlany was arrested by Russian authorities, on charges Navalny calls baseless and politically motivated. Putin and other senior officials in his government also do not mention Navalny's name in public. A video of the original report became one of the most viewed Russian Youtube video of 2021, at the time garnering 121mn views. The video, along with Navalny's arrest, sparked nationwide protests last January, calling to end Putin's 20-year-rule. Currently, he is serving a three-and-half year sentence at a prison camp.