An online video made by jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny alleging that President Vladimir Putin is the ultimate owner of an opulent palace, something Putin has denied, has been viewed more than 100 million times, YouTube data showed on Friday.
Navalny, who is serving a 30-day jail stint for parole violations he calls trumped up, released the video last week in an effort to encourage people to take to the streets to demand his freedom, something tens of thousands did last weekend.
Navalny’s allies are still promoting the video to try to encourage people to protest, this time on Sunday, something the authorities have warned would be illegal under Russian law, which requires such events to be pre-authorised. The authorities have said such mass events are unsafe amid a pandemic.
Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for over two decades and has traditionally avoided even uttering Navalny’s name publicly, has said the palace, in southern Russia, does not belong to him or his family.
His public denial on state TV was unusual. Some critics saw it as a sign that he was rattled, an idea the Kremlin has laughed off.
Navalny’s video said the property, built in the Italian palazzo style, had its own underground ice rink, casino, swimming pool, theatre and something called an aqua-disco.
The latter inspired a pop music track and video titled “Akvadiskoteka” that has since gained over three million YouTube views.
Navalny rose to prominence in Russia during anti-Kremlin protests in 2011-12 and carved out a following online, particularly among younger Russians in big cities, by airing allegations about official graft.
He was arrested earlier this month after flying back to Moscow from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent poisoning in August.
Navalny has accused Putin of ordering his poisoning. Putin has denied the authorities tried to poison him and said Russian agents would have finished the job if they had wanted him dead.