- A vast cache of images supposedly showing Putin's secret palace was published Thursday.
- The foundation of Putin foe Alexei Navalny was behind the leak, and has spoken about the palace before.
- The Kremlin previously said the idea that Putin has such a palace is "pure nonsense."
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Allies of imprisoned Russian activist Alexei Navalny published hundreds of photos of what they say is the inside of President Vladimir Putin's secret palace.
Here is a selection of the images:
It came around a year after the Anti-Corruption Foundation first alleged that the palace existed.
In January 2021, it said Putin had secretly been building a 17,691-square-meter palace at a cost of 100 billion rubles (around R20 billion) since 2014.
The foundation said the palace was being built near Gelendzhik on the Black Sea. The foundation said it was funded via a corruption scheme in which Putin's inner circle paid the president for access and influence.
At the time, the Kremlin rubbished the claims. "These are all absolutely unfounded statements. This is pure nonsense and a compilation, and there is nothing else there," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The 2021 report by the foundation showed a floor plan and mock-ups of what the palace may look like.
The latest set expands on that with what it says are real images of the interior, which the video report matches to spots on a blueprint.
The undated images are said to have been taken at a time when the palace was partly under construction.
In a press statement last year, Navalny said the palace and grounds had security fences, a port, a church, a no-fly zone, a border checkpoint, a wine cave, a theatre, a gym, a pool, an "aquadisco," and an ice-hockey rink.
"It's like a separate state inside of Russia," Navalny said. "And in this state there is a single and irreplaceable czar: Putin."
Navalny has been Putin's critic-in-chief for more than a decade. In August 2020, Navalny was poisoned with Novichok nerve agent in Siberia, but he survived.
Despite this, he returned to Russia on January 17, 2021, not long after the earlier palace video, was arrested immediately. He was later convicted of violating a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement and missing parole meetings.
He is currently serving a three-and-a-half year sentence at a labor camp.
An investigation by the open-source news outlet Bellingcat found in December 2020 that Navalny was poisoned by agents with Russia's FSB spy agency. The Kremlin denies involvement.