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YLE: Source for Navalny's 'Putin palace' film resides in Estonia

Sergei Kolesnikov.
Sergei Kolesnikov. Source: ERR

According to Finnish public broadcaster YLE, the initial source for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's film "Putin's Palace", depicting a palace belonging to Russian president Vladimir Putin, Sergei Kolesnikov, resides in Estonia.

The 72-year old Sergei Kolesnikov was the primary source for Alexei Navalny's corruption revelations last week. In 2010, Kolesnikov self-exiled from Russia, buying a one-way ticket to Turkey, from which he continued on to the U.S. According to Kolesnikov, he took with him a flash drive and documents containing, among other things, information about the financing of Vladimir Putin's secret palace on the coast of the Black Sea.

For Kolesnikov, unveiling sensitive information about the Russian leader meant having to exile and the businessman chose Estonia to be his place of residence. He has previously stated that he fears revenge from the Russian president, as many of his critics have been put in jail or murdered.

While Kolesnikov is internationally known as an opposition figure and critic of Putin, he has a reputation of being a businessman in Estonia. Kolesnikov is active in real estate, mortgage and debt collection companies with the value of his investments estimated at around €70 million.

The Russian businessman's investments involved the real estate dealings of a Finnish youth fund, which is involved in an investigation conducted by the Finnish police. Kolesnikov is not suspected of commiting any crimes.

The youth fund expanded its activities to Estonia in 2015 and according to the official explanation, the fund was hoping to help young Finns with finding accomodation in Estonia. The Finnish police suspects the leadership of the fund has received millions in bribes with most of the money being moved in Estonia.

Sergei Kolesnikov became a financier for the youth fund's activity in Estonia in 2018 and according to YLE, he invested at least €5.6 million, which was used for real estate purchases in Estonia. The police suspects that financial crimes were committed with those real estate dealings.

According to the film published by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Russian president Vladimir Putin owns a €1.2 billion palace complex on the coast of the Black Sea, funded mostly by bribes. The publishing of the investigative film led to mass protests in support of Navalny held on January 23 and has been viewed more than 101 million times on YouTube, as of Friday.

According to Kolesnikov, Russian businessmen made large-scale donations to companies that were supposed to purchase medical equipment, but the funds were instead used to finance the construction of the mega-palace.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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