Putin poorer after 8 years in power: Kremlin

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Moscow, Oct 29: Russian President Vladimir Putin has seen his modest wealth decline still further during his second term in office, with the drop blamed on a fall-off in book royalties, a Kremlin spokesman said today.

Although Moscow is one of the world's most expensive cities, few of its politicians admit to enjoying the high-rolling boom so common among the business elite, according to official wealth declarations published by the Central Electoral Commission.

Amongst the most modest of all is Putin's declaration, which lists his father's two Russian cars dating from the early 1960s amongst his assets, along with 3.7 million roubles ( 149,400 dollars), a small apartment, a plot of land and 230 shares in a local bank.

''What is published by the electoral commission is true,'' said Putin's spokesman today.

Compared with his declaration before the 2004 presidential elections, Putin's wealth had halved, reported Russian business paper Vedomosti, which analysed a previous declaration.

''He had some royalties revenues from his publications and right now he doesn't have that kind of income,'' said Putin's spokesman, to explain the apparent dip in presidential fortunes.

Although the US President George W. Bush earns an annual income of 400,000 dollars, Putin's salary is just 2,011,000 roubles (81,190 dollars) -- a pittance in a country where top bankers and oil executives can earn more than their counterparts in London.

The same modest lifestyle extends to other top Russian lawmakers, according to their wealth declarations.

Boris Gryzlov, the Duma's speaker and head of its largest party, United Russia, has a salary of 1,761,882 roubles (71,090 dollars).

He possesses only a Moscow apartment, a small Mazda car, a 1970 Russian car and 28,713 roubles (1,159 dollars) in savings.

One of the few aspirants to declare significant wealth is a former KGB agent Britain wants to extradite on murder charges.

Andrei Lugovoy, now a candidate for the nationalist LDPR party, declared a stake in three businesses and a BMW X5 car.

Lugovoy also declares substantial property interests: three houses, an apartment and a dacha along with five plots of land.

Putin's property portfolio in contrast consists of a small St Petersburg flat and a 1,500 square metre plot outside Moscow.

The details submitted by the social democratic opposition Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky were confirmed by his spokeswoman, who said he doesn't own a car and instead uses one provided by his party. She would not comment on the scant detail on some other politician's forms.

''I don't see any ways for me to find out the truth. We all know that some people, have huge flats, but what can we do with that, they're not ashamed of it,'' she said.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov declares nothing but a Moscow flat and a bank account with 141,740 roubles (5,721 dollars).

Like other party leaders in Russia's parliament Zyuganov is entitled to the use of a 5-series BMW, said a Communist Party spokesman. This is unlike other deputies who only enjoy shared access to a pool of Russian-made Volga cars.

''Zyuganov is the leader of the strongest opposition party, there was no sense for him to present illegal or untruthful information,'' his spokesman said.


Reuters
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