The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin found himself at the center of a controversy after he was seen wearing a watch reportedly worth $620,000. Dmitry Peskov was photographed wearing the black timepiece featuring a gold skull as he married Olympic ice dancer Tatiana Navka on Saturday in Sochi, Russia, Agence France-Presse reported.
The assertions concerning the watch's value first came from former opposition politician and corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny. He posted to his blog that the watch was worth four times Peskov's annual salary, which is reported to be about $145,000, the Washington Post reported. Navalny wrote that the watch was identified as a rare Richard Mille RM 52-01, of which only 30 were made, and cited an email from a vendor who said the price of the model was $620,000. "The bridegroom's watch cost more than your apartment," he titled his post.
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) August 2, 2015
However, Peskov said he received the watch as a gift from his wife. "Gifts from a wife to a husband or a husband to a wife can hardly have anything to do with anti-corruption activity," Peskov told the RIA Novosti state news agency, AFP reported. Navka, Peskov's wife, reportedly confirmed to Russian media that she gave the watch to her husband and that the cost had been exaggerated.
In a follow-up post Monday, Navalny posted photos of Peskov appearing to wear other luxury watches, including an Omega and Rolex. The guests at the lavish wedding included Russian pop stars and famous athletes, but Putin was notably absent.
— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) August 3, 2015
Russia under Putin has struggled financially of late under the weight of economic sanctions from the European Union and United States. Sanctions were put in place last year after Russia's annexation of Crimea and its continued purported role in the fighting between pro-Russia separatists and the Ukrainian government. The squeeze of sanctions and oil's steadily dropping prices has left nearly 23 million Russians living below the poverty line. The Russian economy is expected to contract by nearly 2.7 percent this year before making a gradual recovery, the World Bank estimated.