The story aired on Russian state television was presented by its creators as a bomb blast. The authors promised to erect a curtain (or roof) for the house where opposition leader Alexei Navalny lived after treatment in Germany during a rehabilitation period.
At least what did the authors of the TV story find so scandalous and explosive in this villa? Judge for yourself: there was a coffee machine in the house. The water temperature in the swimming pool located in the building was a pleasant 26 degrees. And even the toilet brushes were of high quality.
But the promised bomb “did not explode”. On the contrary, after the story was aired, the Russian social network was divided by the contempt and rejoicing of this story.
This is when the investigative video stories of Alexei Navalny himself dominated the Russian media sphere for months. And they gained even more support in August, when the ship sailing from Siberia to Moscow became ill on the plane and almost died, until January – when he returned to Moscow from Germany and was immediately arrested.
The ability of Navalny and his supporters to capture public attention and fuel anti-government sentiment has angered the Kremlin and the state-owned and state-funded media that usually dominates Russia’s broadcast space or newsstands.
If we are still talking about the “bomb”, such was the video taken by Navalny’s team, which talks about the object on the Black Sea coast. The film is titled “Putin’s Palace” and according to its leaders, it’s a $ 1.7 billion house built for the Russian president. And it was funded through a corrupt network of offshore companies allied with Putin.
On February 7, Russian state television aired a documentary on the Putin Palace at Vesti Nedeli.
Or rather, he considers himself to have given the answer.
“Vesti Nedeli” is the main news program of “Rossia-1” TV channel on Sunday evening. It is led by Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of “Fire Sprayer”, known for its wild statements. For example, he said, Russia would be able to turn the United States into “radioactive ashes.”
While treating Navalny at a clinic in Berlin, German doctors concluded that he had been poisoned with a chemical weapon, the Novichok. After treatment, Navalny underwent a rehabilitation course in Freiburg, southwestern Germany.
The story-bomb, prepared by “Vesti Nedeli”, refers to the house where Navalny lived after being discharged from the hospital. A Russian film crew managed to break into the villa to show off a luxury that does not fit Navalny’s image as a fighter against corruption.
The host of the program, Anastasia Popova, tells the viewers that the house has “a large living room, two sofas, a TV. There is fresh fruit on the table. ”There is a bottle of wine on the kitchen counter.
At one point, Popova swims in the Villa pool. He then looks at the main toilet and even the toilet brush.
“It shines, but not so much,” he says.
The toilet brush is a reference to the movie “Putin Palace”, in which Navalny’s team claims based on architectural documentation that one of the toilets contained a $ 700 toilet brush. By the way, some of the protesters in support of Navalny were holding a toilet brush in their hands.
The Kremlin has denied that the house near Gelendzhik belongs to Putin. A few days after the release of the documentary, billionaire Arkady Rothenberg, a childhood friend of Putin and his former partner in judo, publicly announced that the house is a mission.
According to a report by Vesti Nedel, a stay at the Freiburg mansion costs 530 euros per day. The price could not be verified by independent sources, but Radio Liberty, a joint channel of Radio Liberty and Current Time, reported that the price of living in the villa was half that of Vesti Nedel.
Meanwhile, the owner of the villa told the independent TV channel Dozhd that Russian journalists pretended to be Belgian tourists while renting his villa. According to Dozhd, the main journalist had a fictional French surname.
The owner of the house also said he appealed to German law enforcement after Russian reporters filmed him with a hidden camera without his permission.
This story of “West Nedel” was accompanied by another story, which was about a nearby film studio, where Navalny’s team filmed “Putin Palace”.
Leonid Volkov, one of Navalny’s main comrades-in-arms, later told Dozhd that Vesti Nedeli had paid off the rent for the villa, which was paid by multimillionaire businessman Eugene Chichvarkin. He said the London-based businessman also covered the costs of the film studio.
A large part of Navalny’s expenses during the rehabilitation period in Germany was posted on Instagram by the opposition.
“You go to journalism. Expectations: You prepare cool reports and reveal the whole truth. Reality: You take a review of the Navalny toilet and show a 2-euro wine, and you call it a luxury, “Ruslan Shavedinov, one of the leading members of the Navalny team, wrote on Twitter.
Former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov, who is now a staunch critic of the Kremlin, also denounced the Vest story, which he said showed a rather typical German house.
And he compared it to average Russian dwellings, many of which, in his words, do not have internal water supply and hot water or shower.
Navalny’s return to Moscow has been followed by the largest protests in Russia in a decade. On February 2, an opposition member was sentenced to prison for violating the 2014 Conditional Detention Rules. Navalny also called the 2014 verdict politically motivated. The court ruling on February 2 was followed by new speeches in support of Navalny and a brutal response from the police.
According to the German authorities, Navalny was poisoned with the combat poison “Novichok”, which recently attracted attention in the 2018 incident, when a former Russian intelligence agent and his daughter were poisoned in the UK – presumably by Russian intelligence agents. Laboratories in Sweden and France, as well as experts from the Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Chemical Weapons, later confirmed the findings of the Germans.
In addition to physical violence, the Kremlin often uses the method of discrediting Navalny. For example, he is often accused by a foreign agency funded by the CIA or MI6.
“The special services of the three NATO member states were working on this fake documentary about the fake palace, and Navalny was invited only to speak,” Kiselyov said in a comment following the West Nedel report.
It is true that “Putin’s Palace” broke the record for the number of viewers on YouTube, but what a great impact it had on public opinion.
A Levada Center poll found that more than a quarter of Russians saw the film, but a majority of respondents (77%) who had seen or heard of the investigation said it had not changed their minds about Putin.