Opposition Leader Navalny Clashes With Putin Aide Over Luxury Watch Collection

Anti-corruption blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin's main aide, Dmitry Peskov, of using ill-gotten gains to purchase a collection of expensive, luxury watches.

Peskov, one of the officials close to Putin, married figure skater Tatyana Navka in an extravagant and highly publicised ceremony in Sochi over the weekend. Shortly after photos of the wedding went online, however, Navalny identified the watch Peskov was wearing during the ceremony as a Richard Mille RM 52-01, which, he said, citing an anonymous source from the watchmaking company, cost at least $620,000.

On Sunday, Navalny said on his blog that it was impossible for Peskov to have received the watch legally, since Peskov had been working as a civil servant since 1989 with no other income but his state salary, which Navalny estimated at $146,000, based on information about Peskov's past property declarations.

"What sources does the press secretary of the president have to be able to afford watches four times the size of his yearly income?" Navalny asks, before accusing Peskov of "illicit enrichment."

Peskov immediately addressed the accusations, denying Navalny's allegations of corruption andtelling Russian business channel RBC that the watch was given to him by his bride on the day of their wedding.

"Truly the watch is a very expensive one. But it costs a lot less than some people have said," Peskov added.

On Monday Peskov appeared unwilling to let discussion of his watch continue, telling RBC that the item and how he received it should not be the subject of an anti-corruption investigation, reiterating that he received it as a gift from his wife."I was asked a question, I have answered it," Peskov said. "I could not refuse to wear my wife's gift on the day of our wedding. I just couldn't," he added, saying the watch was a "private matter" for his family.

After Peskov's daily press address, Navalny fired back at Peskov's explanation, branding it an "audacious lie." Navalny then re-posted a 15-week-old picture from Peskov's daughter's Instagram account, which appears to show Peskov wearing the watch which he says he received over the weekend.

In the same post Navalny also republished past press images of the Kremlin aide with what Navalny describes as "Peskov's collection" other luxury watches, with their respective price tags. The Kremlin-critic identifies four watches seen on Peskov's wrist, including one by Omega costing over $10,000, a Rolex worth almost $31,000 and a $21,000 Hublot watch. In another image of Peskov gardening, Navalny reports that he has identified Putin's spokesman wearing a Richard Mille watch worth €84,500.

Peskov is yet to respond to the latest bout of watch photos and could not be reached for comment, but Anton Orekhov, blogger for the Echo of Moscow radio station, suggested another explanation — Peskov's watch collection could be full of knock-offs.