The Russian state television was dedicated to Alexey Navalny last night. One of the country‘s most watched news shows, the two-hour Vesti Nedeli, devoted half of the air time to the opposition leader, the protests and his imprisonment.
The show ended with a striking report: a look at the ‘German villa of Navalny‘. A reporter showed for seven minutes what “luxury villa” Navalny stayed in last year, when he recovered from his poisoning with the nerve gas novitsjok.
In the video we see where Navalny lived for two months according to the journalist. “A spacious apartment, two sofas, a TV, fresh fruit on the table”, she starts the tour. Next we see two bedrooms with terrace, a kitchen with a coffee machine and a selection of Dutch tea, a toilet, a whirlpool bath and a swimming pool.
The seven-minute report is a reference to the Palace of Putin, a research video that Navalny published a day after his arrest about a villa complex on the Black Sea. According to Navalny, that palace is indirectly owned by Putin and has a value of $1.3 billion. Putin denies that he owns the estate. A friend of the president, billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, has said he is the owner of the palace.
In Vesti Nedeli’s report, Navalny is accused of living in luxury in Germany. “There is also a toilet brush here,” says the reporter referring to Putin‘s 700 dollar toilet brush, which became a symbol in the protests last two weekends in support of Navalny. “He just doesn’t shine so beautifully.”
‘A private toilet’
According to the Russian media, Navalny spent an estimated 30,000 euros on his two-month stay in the villa in Freiburg. The central question: “How does an unemployed blogger pay for this luxury villa?” The media are accusing Navalny of being illegally funded by Western intelligence services. But the opposition leader and his team members say that all donations to their campaigns and corruption investigations are legal.
In response to the report, the team says that in reality 15,000 euros have been paid for six weeks rent. That bill would have been paid by a close friend of Navalny, businessman Yevgeny Chchvarkin.
On social media, ‘Navalny’s Villa‘ is mocked. “A very standard German apartment. I miss the whole point?” , “Wow, the flat even has its own toilet!” and “A strange attempt to attack Navalny with a indeed comfortable, but absolutely no luxury flat”, are widely read comments.
According to a poll published today by the independent research firm Levada, one in four Russians looked at Navalny’s YouTube research on Putin‘s billion-dollar palace. The counter now stands at 110 million views.
17 percent of respondents say they’re less positive about Putin because of the video. Yet more than three-quarters of respondents have not changed opinions about Putin – and a third of respondents do not believe anything of Navalny‘s research at all.
The video about Navalny’s villa comes a few days after being sentenced by a Moscow court to over two and a half years in a penal colony. A conditional imprisonment was converted into an unconditional, because he had not reported to the parole officer when he was recovering in Germany.
Next Friday, Navalny has to report again in court for insulting a war veteran. That trial was adjourned last week.