Marina Litvinenko (Photo: Kate Peters/INSTITUTE for Newsweek)
A Secret Putin Palace on Russia’s Black Sea?
On a recent morning, in the village of Praskoveyevka, located on the northern coast of Russia’s Black Sea, a few hours’ drive from Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, a group of activists—some in bathing suits, others in the nude—went for a swim at a public beach. Their goal: to get a closer look at an extravagant mansion, set in the middle of a nearby forest. The house, with its black, iron gate and Soviet era façade, looked surreal, as if someone had transported it from Moscow and dropped it in the middle of nowhere.
As the activists swam toward the mansion, two security guards in black uniforms spotted them from a distance. Soon a motor boat with more men in black appeared, its engine growling ominously as it sped over the water. Hoping to make an escape, activists swam toward a dredge with a “Spetcstroi Rossii” sign on its side, for the special state construction company of the Russian government. Yet as the boat approached, the guards realized that some of the activists were naked. Disgusted, they gave up pursuit. On that day at least, they had no desire to take nude prisoners; instead they simply ordered them to return to the shore. “Tell us when you plan to visit us next time,” one of the guards said snidely.
So this is a wild tale… That palace? It might be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s!