MOSCOW — In his first comments since mass protests erupted across Russia over the weekend, President Vladimir Putin denied on Monday that he owns a billion-dollar palace on the Black Sea and called the demonstrations illegal and “dangerous.”
That Putin spoke back at all to opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s viral video investigation, which alleged that the lavish diagram was constructed for Putin utilizing a “slush fund,” is indicative of how remarkable the exposé has irritated the Kremlin. The video has racked up more than 87 million views on YouTube in exactly 5 days.
Lyubov Sobol, Navalny’s high aide, said on Twitter that Putin “couldn’t ignore what the whole nation is discussing.”
In a televised virtual assembly with Russian university college students, Putin, who refuses to even check with Navalny by name, said he didn’t watch the video “merely because I don’t have the free time to watch such information” but added that he “scrolled via video compilations” his assistants equipped him.
“Nothing of what was indicated there as my property belongs either to me or my shut relatives,” Putin said.
The feedback neither reveal the existence of the property itself nor contradict Navalny’s investigation, which alleged that the feature formally belongs to four proxies with ties to Putin’s interior circle.
Navalny created the “Putin’s Palace” video whereas getting better from nerve-agent poisoning in Germany last year, nevertheless it was now now not released until after he returned to Russia last week. He was arrested immediately upon arrival for allegedly violating the phrases of his suspended sentence in a 2014 embezzlement case. He was then sentenced to 30 days at a Moscow penal complicated, pending a Feb. 2 courtroom hearing.
Navalny, who has blamed Putin for the August poisoning, said he waited until he was back in Moscow to put up the video as a reveal of fearlessness. In it, 3-d artistic depictions of the palace’s interiors integrated Italian furniture value more than $50,000. The palace purportedly entails a hookah lounge with a pole-dancing stage, an underground ice hockey rink, a casino and a wine-manufacturing cellar.
“Of all I have seen there, I was only in one factor: winemaking,” Putin said. “It’s a very legal and noble activity.”
Although Putin disregarded Navalny’s video as “tiring,” it spurred demonstrations across Russia on Saturday. Many protesters chanted, “Putin is a thief!”
Reuters estimated that 40,000 attended a rally in Moscow alone. As Putin’s feedback Monday were airing on state television, Navalny’s team called for more protests this weekend.
Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Heart, wrote in a commentary that the Saturday demonstrations “had a broader pork up base” than past protests organized by Navalny and his allies.
“People saw this as a philosophize against lawlessness and — in light of last year’s changes to the constitution, which allow President Vladimir Putin to successfully remain in the job for lifestyles — the usurpation of vitality,” Baunov said.
Commenting on the demonstrations, which weren’t authorized by the executive, Putin said, “All individuals has the lawful to particular their level of peek interior the framework equipped by the law. Anything start air the law is now now not moral counterproductive, but dangerous.”
He cited the 1917 Russian Revolution and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union as examples of “when the situation went far beyond the framework of the law and resulted in such destabilization of society and the state that now now not only those that destabilized the state and society were afflict, but also of us who had no relation to it.”
Extra than 3,700 of us were detained in the protests Saturday, according to Russian rights staff OVD-Information. Putin said law enforcement agencies “will have to satisfy their responsibility to serve the of us of Russia,” equating the Russian police response to how the United States is prosecuting rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.
“What will they gain to these of us? One high FBI official said they have lengthy arms and will catch each person, imprison each person. From 15 to 25 years, as for domestic terrorism,” Putin said, adding that those rioters “also had political slogans, but start air the framework of the law. Why will have to we allow all the pieces start air the framework of the law? No.”
The State Department on Saturday condemned “the exhaust of harsh tactics against protesters and journalists this weekend in cities for the duration of Russia,” adding that it followed “years of tightening restrictions on and repressive actions against civil society, unbiased media, and the political opposition.”