Vladimir Putin Addresses Alexei Navalny's Mega-Palace Claims, but Still Won't Say His Name

President Vladimir Putin has denied owning a sprawling luxury estate by Russia's Black Sea, after opposition figure Alexei Navalny accused him of hiding the property due to corrupt financing.

In an almost two-hour-long film shared on YouTube last week, Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) showed drone footage of an opulent 68-hectare (168-acre) "secret palace" that boasts an enormous mansion, two helipads, an arboretum and an underground ice hockey rink. The film alleged the property, which is worth $1.35 billion, was paid off through an intricate web of illicit funds orchestrated by Putin and his allies.

Navalny, who narrated the video, said Putin allowed his "friends" to "steal whatever they wanted from Russia."

When a student inquired about the coastal estate during a video call, Putin said he hadn't watched the film due to a "lack of any free time," though he skimmed through a selection of clips prepared by his aides.

"I'd like to answer your question directly," he said. "Nothing of what is indicated in the film as my property belongs to me or to my close relatives, and never did. Never."

Putin did not mention Navalny by name, on par with the Kremlin's refusal to publicly acknowledge him.

The film, called "Putin's Palace. History of the world's largest bribe," has been viewed over 87,000,000 times on YouTube. Internet users expressed astonishment and poked fun at the property's over-the-top amenities, such as an indoor stage theater, a casino and a gentlemen's club-style hookah bar featuring a podium with a pole.

Navalny's exposé can also be found on the aptly named website palace.navalny.com, which details the lengthy investigation.

Navalny, a 44-year-old anti-corruption activist long in the Kremlin's crosshairs, rose to international prominence following a near-death experience after falling ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. He was evacuated to Germany, where he spent months recovering.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found he was poisoned with the prohibited nerve agent Novichok. The Kremlin has denied attempting to poison him.

Navalny returned to Moscow from Berlin on January 17, mere days before the film was posted online. He was arrested upon his arrival.

Navalny's detention prompted widespread unauthorized protests across Russia. Russian police arrested 3,000 people at a demonstration over the weekend.

Amid the outrage surrounding Navalny's arrest, U.S. President Joe Biden called on Russian authorities to release the dissident and protesters campaigning for his freedom.

Vladimir Putin speaks during press conference
Russian President Vladimir Putin seen speaking on the screen during his annual press conference, on December 17, 2020, in Moscow, Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images