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No-fly zone over Putin-linked palace is due to Nato spies, says FSB

Andrew Roth in Moscow
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: AP</span>
Photograph: AP

Russia’s FSB security agency has confirmed it enforced a no-fly zone over the £1bn seaside palace that Vladimir Putin has assured the public he does not own. It said the restrictions were imposed last summer to protect the Black Sea coast from Nato spies. Coincidentally, that stretch of coastline also hid an opulent chateau of murky provenance boasting its own casino, skating rink and vineyard.

The Kremlin has been scrambling to explain away an investigation by Alexei Navalny into the 17,691 sq metre seaside mansion that was allegedly funded by a number of Putin’s friends and guarded by the government agencies that also protect Putin and his family. The investigation was released after Navalny, an opposition leader, was jailed and threatened with years in prison on charges he claims are political. the video has been viewed more than 95m times on YouTube.

After mass protests in Moscow and other Russian cities, Putin himself addressed the investigation on Tuesday, telling students during a video conference: “Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did.” He called the investigation a “compilation and montage”, adding with a literary flourish that it was “boring”.

On Wednesday an FSB spokesperson told the RBC newspaperthat the agency had imposed a no-fly zone in the Cape Idokopas, along Russia’s Black Sea coast, owing to “the increased intelligence activity of a number of neighbouring countries, including those from the Nato bloc.” The agency claimed the palace was incidentally covered as part of an effort to protect an FSB border post in the region.

Related: Navalny supporters call for fresh protests across Russia

The statement was an attempt to justify extraordinary security measures around the palace that had helped Navalny and other activists tie it to the Kremlin. One member of Navalny’s team was told by an FSB representative that boats had to stay more than a mile off the coast near the structure.

Environmental activists who managed to reach the construction site of the palace in 2011 were stopped by members of the Federal Protective Service (FSO), the agency that guards Putin and other top Russian officials. An FSO spokesperson told RBC it had not guarded the structure and that it was not enforcing any restrictive measures in the area.