A senior U.S. lawmaker says revelations about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wealth will be “destabilizing” to his rule as the Russian population becomes increasingly aware of them.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Voice Of America on February 1 that the Russian people "are beginning to realize they have a leader that amassed tremendous personal wealth."
Corker said that revelation was "going to create some additional instability in Russia."
Corker said he understood that Putin has amassed "billions of dollars of personal wealth."
He said: "You cannot do that through just normal government operations. It has to be done through corruption."
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Corker’s remarks come in the midst of a diplomatic dispute between Washington and Moscow over a BBC interview given last week by Adam Szubin, the U.S. Treasury's acting secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.
Szubin told the BBC that Putin was "a picture of corruption," and the White House later said that his remarks reflected the views of the Obama administration about Putin.
The Kremlin reacted angrily to the interview and Earnest’s statement, calling it "outrageous and insulting."
Szubin declined to comment on a 2007 CIA report estimating Putin's wealth at $40 billion.
He said, however, that the Russian leader regularly understates his wealth and the United States has known this for "many, many years."
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Putin has repeatedly said that press reports about his immense wealth, including reports that he was secretly the world's richest man, are nonsense.
Both Russian and Western media outlets during the past year have reported previously undisclosed details about the affluent, well-connected lives led by Putin’s two daughters.
Putin's younger daughter, according to Reuters, also has identified herself as a "spouse" of Kirill Shamalov, the son of wealthy Putin associate Nikolai Shamalov.
The couple is thought to have corporate holdings worth about $2 billion.
Putin and the Kremlin have long refused to comment on reports about members of his family.
With reporting by Voice Of America, BBC, Reuters, and AP