By Chris Leavenworth
Unlike in the United States, where the success of an inauguration is factored by the size of its crowd, the streets of Moscow were completely deserted during the Russian inauguration in 2012. Twelve million people were tucked away to make room for Vladimir Putin’s personal motorcade that had escorted him to the ceremony for his third term as president.
The whole event was scripted, and every detail recorded and broadcasted to 94 percent of the Russian population. At a coffee shop next door to the inauguration, a small resistance group was squashed by a riot squad before they even have a chance to protest.
Much has changed in Russia since Putin replaced Yeltsin in 2000. For example, there were less than 20 billionaires in the whole country only 15 years ago. Today, with Putin on his third presidential term and having served a second term as prime minister, Russia is now home to 118 billionaires, placing the country fourth in the world for population of billionaires.
Despite the wealthiest of those billionaires in Russia being among his personal best friends, Putin claims to own only 1,500 square meters of land with a 77-square-meter flat and garage. The only earnings he reports are his salary wages as president, which vary year to year and have never been over $195,000 in rubles. In his garage, he claims to keep two modest Soviet-era cars from the 1960s and a common Russian 4×4. Even Putin’s most authentic supporters openly joke about him owning a small flat and only collecting his presidential salary.
Many experts are convinced he’s the richest and most powerful man in the world, having four times the wealth of someone like Bill Gates. It’s estimated that Putin is worth over 200 billion.
A report released in 2012 by Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and opposition politician, states Putin has four personal yachts, 43 planes, 15 helicopters, and over 20 palaces and villas, many with multiple heliports and each outfitted for unparalleled luxury.
Russia is said to be the most unequal major economy in the world. As oligarchs have grown wealthier and wealthier over the past 17 years, it’s no mystery that the average Russian making only $450 a month is worse off than the average worker in China, Serbia, Romania or Poland. Almost two-thirds of all wealth in Russia is controlled by millionaires.
Under Putin’s administration, control over natural resources was transferred from public hands to his loyalists, exclusively providing a small group of oligarchs total control over oil, gas and pulp industries. This has been one of the significant factor for wealth inequality in Russia.
Each week there seems to be a new breaking story emerging about Russia and their involvement with the U.S. election. Understanding who Putin is, what motivates him, and what he has done for Russia makes it easier to understand why he benefits from Trump in office.
The oligarchs Putin has helped make much wealthier—and, in turn, have made him the wealthiest man in the world—are counting on Putin to have his way with the United States. The 2016 election was considered a huge success in that regard.