Fresh in the wake of a scandal about a wristwatch reportedly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appears to be in hot water again over his taste for the good life. Or to be more precise: in the temperate, cobalt-blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Russian anticorruption crusader Aleksei Navalny is demanding that Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s longtime spokesman, explain the funding behind a trip he allegedly took on a luxury yacht in the Tyrrhenian Sea area of the Mediterranean.
Citing an unidentified source he called “reliable,” Navalny said on August 17 that Peskov vacationed recently with his new wife, Olympic figure-skating champion Tatiana Navka, off the coast of the Italian island of Sardinia on a 350,000-euro-per-week yacht called the Maltese Falcon.
Navalny cited data from yacht-tracking websites and social-media posts as evidence partially corroborating his source’s claims, though he presented no direct proof that Peskov had set foot on the vessel.
Peskov himself offered a curt denial to RBK, telling the newspaper on August 17 that he is currently in Sicily and not renting a yacht.
“I’m renting a hotel,” he was quoted as saying.
The dustup comes just weeks after Peskov was photographed wearing a wristwatch that Navalny claimed costs more than $600,000.
Kremlin critics accuse Russia’s ruling elite of exploiting their proximity to power to enrich themselves illicitly, and Peskov’s watch -- embossed with a golden skull -- raised questions about how he could have afforded such an expensive accessory on his official salary. (Navka claimed she gave it to Peskov as a wedding gift and that “the price everybody is discussing right now” is “not true.”)
Navalny said his source’s claim about Peskov’s purported trip on the 88-meter-long Maltese Falcon -- which is outfitted with toys such as jet skis, sailing dinghies, and windsurfers -- is consistent with the vessel’s documented journey on yacht-tracking websites and Instagram posts by Peskov’s friends and family.
He cited his source as saying that Peksov and Navka were sailing together with friends and children -- the Maltese Falcon accommodates up to 12 guests. One of those aboard, Navalny alleges, appears to have been the well-connected political gadfly Oleg Mitvol, a former federal and Moscow official who attended the couple’s wedding.
Navalny says photos of luxury yachts that Mitvol recently posted on Instagram appear to have been taken from the Maltese Falcon, which a yacht-tracking website shows was near these vessels around the time the photos were taken.
Hours after Navalny published the expose, Mitvol posted a photograph on Instagram of himself on the deck of a ship he described as “the Maltese Falcon.”
Writing on Twitter, Mitvol did not outright deny Navalny's claim but instead suggested the Kremlin critic had mistaken another man on the yacht named Dmitry for the Kremlin spokesman.
Peskov’s 15-year-old stepdaughter, meanwhile, was tagged in Instagram photographs describing her location as Sardinia.
One photograph she posted on her own account around a week ago shows her wearing a white bathrobe featuring a partially obscured logo that appears to read “Maltese Falcon.”
Navalny said it is “impossible to imagine that Peskov’s 15-year-old stepdaughter and the 49-year-old Mitvol are spending time together” on the yacht “by themselves.”
The website advertising the Maltese Falcon describes it as a “new class of yacht” that offers “some of the most luxurious quarters available from any charter vessel on the market today.”
The low-season rate for the ship is 350,000 euros ($388,000) per week, while the high-season rate is 385,000 euros per week, according to the website.
Navalny said his anticorruption group “demands an explanation from the public servant Peskov about who paid for the rental of the yacht or [if he paid for it himself], what the sources of such income are."
Dmitry Gudkov, a member of Russia’s State Duma who is openly critical of the Kremlin, suggested the leak about Peskov may have come from someone inside Russia’s ruling class as part of a broader behind-the-scenes power struggle.
“Peskov’s yacht is a sign of the long-awaited split among the elites,” Gudkov wrote on Twitter. “We’re stocking up on popcorn.”