MOSCOW: The Kremlin’s annual list of Russian officials’ earnings has provided an outline of the richest names in government, even as the true wealth of many big-hitters remains opaque.
Anomalous results include a senator whose income is 230 times higher than the previous year and several government heavyweights whose earnings are eclipsed by those of their wives.
While speculation is rife about the personal fortune of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his officially declared income in the documents is relatively modest — in 2017 he earned 18.7 million rubles ($302,000).
His only declared properties are a 77-square-metre apartment and a garage, while a 1,500-square-metre plot of land that was listed the previous year is no longer mentioned.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev — who anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny has accused of commanding a luxury property empire — declared an income of just 8.56 million rubles, one flat and a rented plot of land.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earned 14.3 million rubles in 2017, but is married to Tatiana Navka — an Olympic ice dancing champion who heads two enterprises that have benefited from state contracts, according to data from the Russian Interfax news agency.
Navka, who was named in the “Panama Papers” scandal, had an income of 200 million rubles last year, up 66 per cent from 2016.
The income of Marina Medinskaya, the wife of culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, also eclipsed that of her husband — boosted by her position as director of property and advertising companies, according to the Interfax data.
According to an estimate by the RBK newspaper, the average family income of senior Russian officials has grown by 18 percent over the last year, even as the country’s economy makes slow progress recovering from a recession.
The highest-earning member of parliament in Russia is Grigory Anikeyev, with an income of 4.3 billion rubles in 2017, an eight-fold increase on the previous year.
The owner of the meat-processing ABI group, Anikeyev is listed among the 200 richest Russians by Forbes magazine.
Among the richest senators, according to the documents, is Suleyman Kerimov, whose income is now 230 times what it was in 2016 and who is currently being investigated for tax fraud in France.
The 51-year-old was arrested last year in the city of Nice over suspected tax evasion related to the purchase of luxury properties on the French Riviera, provoking an angry reaction from Moscow.
However, no foreign properties feature on the list published by the Kremlin. Kerimov owns only a 38-square-metre flat in Russia, according to the document.
Corruption scandals regularly envelop senior officials, ministers and regional governors in Russia.
In an angry editorial entitled “Who wants to be a millionaire?” for the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, managing editor Alexei Polukhin slammed the ‘phenomenal’ increase in officials’ earnings.
“In a public role, you can see your income increase hundreds of times over,” he wrote, citing the example of deputy prime minister Alexander Khloponin who earned 2.9 billion rubles in 2017 — or 293 times his income from the previous year.
“All that because Khloponin sold property assets abroad. In other words, he not only acted practically, but also patriotically,” he wrote in a sarcastic barb.