A private company is building Belarus President Lukashenko a luxurious bolthole in Russia's Sochi – investigation

A private company is building Belarus President Lukashenko a luxurious bolthole in Russia's Sochi – investigation
A private company linked to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is reportedly constructing a luxurious bolthole with hotel, restaurant and chalets in Russia’s mountainous village of Krasnaya Polyana, near Sochi. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews May 8, 2024

A private company linked to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is reportedly constructing a luxurious bolthole with hotel, restaurant and chalets in Russia’s mountainous village of Krasnaya Polyana, near Sochi, a joint investigation by Belsat journalists and the association of former Belarusian security officials BELPOL found, reports Ukrayinska Pravda.

The new estate, being built in Russia's Krasnodar Krai and the famous luxurious Russian ski resort, boasts numerous opulent amenities and armed security, the investigation found, The Insider reports.

The territory of the 97,000-square metre complex features a dozen buildings spanning a total of 7,374 square metres. The main building boasts a banqueting hall, living room, cinema theatre, swimming pools and a private office. It will also be equipped with a dressing room, security facilities and a bathroom suitable for those with limited mobility.

An underground floor houses a pool, a Turkish steam sauna and a Russian banya, a fitness room and a ski room. On the top floor is a 62-square metre living room and a 20-square metre bath, along with three bedrooms, including a master bedroom of 55 square metres.

Nearby, three VIP cottages of 730 square metres each are being built. One of them is designed for individuals with special needs. Each cottage will be equipped with its own pool and dining room.

The estate also includes a hotel with four rooms, each measuring 47 square metres, along with a restaurant complex larger than the hotel itself. Sports facilities, a garage, a security building with an armoury, and a checkpoint are all part of the plan.

BELPOL obtained the design documents from the Krasnodargrazhdanproekt group, responsible for building the estate, Ukrayinska Pravda reports. The group believes Lukashenko's closest associates are involved in the construction, leading to the assumption that the residence is intended for Lukashenko's personal use after leaving the presidency.

"The residence is being built covertly, through a shell company, behind a high fence, and they are afraid that information about the purpose of this building will leak into the media," BELPOL stated.

The investigators speculate that Lukashenko may have decided to build a bolthole in Russia outside Belarus after the 2020 mass demonstrations followed a massively falsified presidential election that year, which came close to toppling the Belarusian strongman. Lukashenko has promised several times to leave the presidency but recently said he will stand for re-election again next year.

Luxury villas 

Russia has become a popular refuge for former presidents and others on the Interpol wanted list. After he was ousted in 2014 during the EuroMaidan revolution, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych also fled to Russia and now reportedly lives in luxury in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

While still president, Yanukovych also built himself the opulent Mezhyhirya Residence just outside Kyiv. When protesters stormed the palace the day after Yanukovych fled the country, they found the villa bedecked in marble, a room full of fur coats, as well as a private zoo that was home to ostriches. But the centrepiece was a loaf of bread made of solid gold, which has since disappeared.

Luxury residents are also popular amongst the elite in Eastern Europe. In 2021, the late Alexey Navalny’s team released a sensational investigation into the so-called Putin’s Palace that was viewed by over 50mn people in just two days after its release.

The sprawling complex on Cape Idokopas on a promontory on the Black Sea coast of Russia near Gelendzhik first came to public attention in 2010 after whistle-blower Sergei Kolesnikov published an open letter to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev exposing the construction of the palace.

Putin’s yacht Olympia accompanied by patrol ships was seen moored at Cape Idokopas on several occasions and the facility was managed by people associated with the Federal Protective Service (FSO) that had closed the airspace over the villa to air traffic. 

And the Cape Idokopas complex has recently had makeover, with a stripper’s pole being replaced by religious icons and a war theme, according to a new report jointly released by Navalny’s FBK Anti-Corruption Foundation and independent news outlet Proekt on May 6, to coincide with President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration, the Kyiv Post reports, to reflect Putin’s growing obsession with war and religion.

“The interior of the palace attests to the scope of Putin’s evolution since the property was built in the early 2010s. The renovated version does not feature a casino, a striptease hall, or an arcade room. Instead, it has a chapel housing an icon of Saint Vladimir, Putin’s patron saint – [the prince believed to have baptised Kyivan Rus in 988],” the report says.

“One of the main halls has been decorated with paintings of battles and corpses. The centrepiece is titled ‘He Who Comes to Us With a Sword Will Die by the Sword!’ The original of this painting is prominently displayed in the Grand Kremlin Palace, and Putin is known to favour the set phrase used in the title,” the report adds.

A very similar story emerged when it was reported that Uzbek state companies built a secret luxury mountain resort for use by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, including a new reservoir that locals say has disrupted their water supply and displaced families, a RFE/RL investigation claimed in 2021.

Most of Russia’s elite live in sumptuous villas that come right out of the Tsarist era palaces built by princely landowners from before the revolution.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev’s luxury villa was exposed in another Navalny investigation, the “Milovka manor,” and located roughly a kilometre outside the town of Plyos, about five hours northeast of Moscow. The villa was remarkable, as it included a sophisticated duck house in a pond that led protests against Russian corruption to bring rubber ducks with them to lampoon Medvedev.

Igor Sechin, the CEO of state-owned oil giant Rosneft, owns a reportedly $60mn luxury house in the exclusive Moscow suburb of Rublyovka, close to Putin’s workweek Moscow residency.

The three-story marble-clad mansion, occupying 70 hectares of land near the Moscow suburb of Domodedovo, was identified as the former railways minister Vladimir Yakunin’s property by bloggers using property maps in 2013 and is estimated to be worth millions of dollars.

And in the most recent scandal, Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov was arrested on corruption charges last month. Another Navalny investigation had exposed graft on a massive scale that fuelling a jet setting lifestyle for Ivanov and his glamorous wife. Drone footage of their house shows a huge colonnaded villa set in sprawling formal gardens worthy of the 19th century’s nobility.