Exclusive - Putin's ex-wife linked to multi-million-dollar property business
By Svetlana Reiter
MOSCOW (Reuters) - The former wife of Russian president Vladimir Putin helped create and now supports a foundation that owns a historic Moscow property generating millions of dollars from tenants, a Reuters examination of property records has found.
The building was renovated with help from associates of Putin, and the rental income is paid to a private company owned by a person whose name is the same as the maiden name of Putin's former wife, corporate records show.
The rent comes from Volkonsky House in central Moscow, which was an aristocrat's home in pre-Soviet times and is now owned by The Centre for the Development of Inter-personal Communications (CDIC). Lyudmila Putina helped set up the non-commercial foundation, according to a report in state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta and two sources who worked with the centre. Lyudmila was Putin's wife from 1983 until their divorce, which was announced in 2013.
The foundation was created in 2002, and in September 2006 Rossiiskaya Gazeta described Lyudmila as a "trustee" of the organisation. In an interview with the newspaper that year, she used the term "we" when discussing the foundation, and three sources currently familiar with the foundation's work said Lyudmila supports a literary prize and publishing arm that the foundation runs.
The CDIC has offices in Volkonsky House, but most of the building is let out to tenants, including two big state banks, documents show.
The tenants pay rent to a company called Meridian, which is 99 per cent owned by a company called Intererservis, corporate and property records reviewed by Reuters in early May showed. Intererservis, according to a state register of corporate entities, has been wholly owned since 2014 by a woman called Lyudmila Alexandrovna Shkrebnyova – which is the maiden name of Putin's former wife.
Reuters was unable to find documents confirming that Shkrebnyova and Putin's ex-wife are the same person. But other connections, besides the name, point to the former first lady and the owner of Intererservis being the same person. A previous general director of Intererservis was Olga Alexandrovna Tsomayeva. Several Russian media reports refer to her as the sister of Putin's former wife. Tsomayeva could not be reached for comment.
In addition, the other 1 percent of Meridian is owned by Tatiana Shestakova, who was the wife of Vasily Shestakov, an old friend and judo sparring partner of Putin, until the Shestakovs divorced in 2013. Shestakova, who also helped create the CDIC, according to the state registry of corporate entities, could not be reached for comment. Continued...