When Viktor Yanukovich fled Kiev last week, he left home in a hurry. The crowds of ordinary civilians and journalists who later flooded the abandoned presidential palace, on the other hand, took their time, marveling at an opulence even Yanukovich's sharpest critics found shocking. When the first visitors arrived, they encountered a skeleton crew of guards, who actually led journalists on a tour of the property, inviting them to take photographs [ru] in order to “reveal how Ukraine's President lives.”
Popular Russian photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov gained access to the grounds, photographing various sights on the 140-hectare property. There was a private zoo filled with animals both domesticated and exotic. The garage hosted a collection of expensive classic cars. Docked at the shore of a private lake, a galleon served as a restaurant. And, of course, there was a private golf course. Ukrainians piled into the mansion to see their taxpayer money at work. An open invitation [ru] went out over Twitter inviting people to come and see the palace with their own eyes.
Curiously, the Russian blogosphere’s response was largely muted. Russians, admittedly, are already familiar with examples of their own politicians’ wealth and bad taste, as photos of their residences regularly leak onto the Internet. Vladimir Yakunin, president of the state-run company Russian Railways, starred in such a scandal last year, when anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny published materials [ru] on Yakunin's 70-hectare property outside of Moscow.
With this history in mind, one of Varlamov’s readers joked that Yakunin must envy Yanukovich's bigger mansion:
Ни в коем случае не показывайте эти кадры Якунину.
Don't see these photos to Yakunin.
Теперь понятно, что Путин имел в виду, когда говорил, что он раб на галерах. Вот галера Януковича
Now it is clear what Putin had in mind when he said that he is a galley slave. Here is Yakunin’s galley.
Lenta.ru journalist Andrey Kozenko tweeted:
А вообще посмотрел фотографии из резиденции – у всех казнокрадов ужасно плохой вкус
— Andrey Kozenko (@akozenko) February 22, 2014
Generally speaking, after seeing photographs of the residence, [I have to say]: all embezzlers have horrible taste.
Journalist Alexander Plushev observed on Twitter:
Интересно, сколько людей у нас поехали бы поглазеть в Ново-Огарево. Скажем так, при соответствующих обстоятельствах.
— Plushev (@plushev) February 22, 2014
I wonder how many of our people [Muscovites] would go to Novo-Ogarevo [Putin’s residence outside of Moscow]. (Let’s just say, if the appropriate circumstances arose.)
Vladimir Varfolomeev jokingly replied:
@plushev а что, уже на экскурсии записывают? эх, опять я из-за своего отпуска всё пропустил.
— Владимир Варфоломеев (@Varfolomeev) February 22, 2014
Hold on now—are they already taking reservations for tours? Damn. Once again, I've missed everything while on vacation.
Andrey Davidov offered the following novel solution:
— Андрей Давыдов (@davydov_a) February 22, 2014
You could create an electronic queue management system.