The Russian anticorruption activist Alexei Navalny has claimed that the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has appropriated a commercial jet for his wife’s private use, the latest in a series of viral investigations into the use by senior officials of planes, yachts and expensive mansions for their families and lovers.

In another alleged case, a state television anchor was lavished with gifts from the head of a Kremlin-linked bank, and then dedicated a plaque in New York’s Central Park to him that said: “Don’t forget we are of the same blood. I LOVE YOU.”

Using flight and corporate records, the veteran whistleblower has argued that Russian officials are quietly reassigning aircraft from the Kremlin-run bank VTB to offshore companies in order to fly their significant others on expensive vacations to Europe and business trips in Russia.

“Your wife uses a private jet Bombardier 5000 which costs $50m. She flew for many hours … Who paid for this? Whose jet is it?” Navalny said, addressing Medvedev, in a video, released ahead of an annual press conference held by the former Russian president and ally of Vladimir Putin.

In a separate viral video released earlier this week, Navalny claimed that Andrey Kostin, the head of VTB Bank, had similarly appropriated a Bombardier Global 6000 business jet and a yacht for his reported girlfriend, Nailya Asker-Zade, a prominent television journalist on state-run Russia-24.

Nailya Asker-Zade disputed the claims.



Nailya Asker-Zade disputed the claims. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Asker-Zade had also mysteriously acquired a Moscow apartment and a suburban mansion worth at least $4m, according to Navalny.

Asker-Zade has disputed the account and responded sarcastically to Navalny’s post, writing on Instagram that she had “ordered native advertising from a popular blogger and didn’t realise it would become so popular. Welcome to my new followers!”

Describing the appropriated aircraft as a “two-for-one” sale, Navalny has claimed that the use of aircraft valued at $500,000 per month would violate the law against illegal enrichment for officials.

Using flight data and corporate records, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation reported that Asker-Zade’s photos posted to Instagram matched flight details for the approximately $60m jet and 62-metre Sea & Us super-yacht. The investigators also identified a plaque on a bench in New York City’s Central Park worth upwards of $10,000 that appeared to be a gift from Asker-Zade to Kostin.

“Andrey Kostin, Don’t forget we are of the same blood. I LOVE YOU, NAILYA 2015,” the bench plaque reads.

While the couple’s relationship is a poorly kept secret in Moscow, Russian print and television media have largely avoided covering their romance. Articles about the investigation have since been purged from state-run wires Tass and Ria Novosti and Vedomosti, a popular business newspaper, was criticised by for failing to cover the investigation.

The owner of Vedomosti denied that censorship played a role in the decision not to feature the scandal but called it a “regrettable, shameful fact” that the paper ignored the investigation.

The video, which has earned more than 3.5m views, has been a viral hit for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, the opposition politician’s media and investigative unit, which was blacklisted in October as a “foreign agent” in an effort to halt its activities. A 2017 video about Medvedev’s properties helped spark anti-Kremlin protests that saw tens of thousands of mainly young Muscovites protest in downtown Moscow.

The Kremlin declined to respond to questions about Navalny’s video, saying it had not seen the investigations.

The Guardian has approached Andrey Kostin for comment.



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