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Report on Putin: Life as a Galley Slave

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It's not nearly as easy as you might think to be a modern tsar in Russia. The mansions, the yachts, the helicopters, the $75,000 toilets. It's rough. What's especially difficult is pretending that you're a simple guy, with simple tastes while so many struggle to reach even the middle class.

According to the report (which includes photos or the alleged mansions, yachts and jets) by his former deputy prime minister, Putin has amassed wealth far beyond what most even imagine. His greatest fear of giving up his leadership position is losing access to his luxurious lifestyle. (Accessing the report is not easy though this article includes photos of some of his properties.)

As Russians do join the middle class, will they continue to support Putin? For years my Russian friends and colleagues (who eventually all left Russia) tolerated it because there was a general movement upward for many. Now there is more frustration and a general realization that things may be about as good as it gets in Russia. Will that be enough for Putin?
There are the columned facades of palaces outside Moscow, in the southern resort of Sochi, and dozens more around the country. On an island in the centre of Lake Valdai, stands a 930 hectare estate serviced by a 1,000-strong staff that includes a "presidential church, swimming pool, two restaurants, movie theatre, bowling alley and concrete helipad".

The authors compare Putin's nearly two dozen official residences to the number held by other state rulers – two for the leaders of the United States and Germany, and three for the president of Italy. Nine of the villas were built while Putin was at the helm of the country, they note.

The leader has long attempted to present an image of average Russian machismo, staging regular photo ops with factory workers and bikers. Images of his stark home life stand in contrast to the meetings he holds in the Kremlin's gilded halls. During a televised meeting of his participation in Russia's nationwide census in 2010, Putin appeared on a drab beige sofa in one of the two modest flats he is officially registered as owning.
Yes indeed. Just a simple galley slave, as Putin calls himself.

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