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Rich Russian blocks the dirt on a life of luxury

Analysis

A documentary about Moscow’s lavish suburb where billionaires and politicians live has opened in Germany — but will not be screened in Russia.

A friend of President Vladimir Putin bought the Russian rights to Rublyovka to prevent the showing of a film depicting the grotesque excesses of the new ruling class. Rublyovka is home to such high-rollers as Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich, Boris Yeltsin’s daughter and Putin himself. The average house price is 100 million rubles ($4 million). Private security people crawl over every centimeter of this gilded, swimming-pool-dotted paradise. There are Lamborghini dealers, Ferrari franchises, more gold and gem shops than there are grocers, fine art dealers and expensive restaurants.

Mercedes S-Class limousines that retail for 5.4 million rubles in Germany go for 25 million rubles or more as residents try to outdo one another by customizing the cars with fine hand-stitched leather, gold hubcaps and armor plating. In a land where democracy hangs by a thread and the working poor are just that, Rublyovka is reminiscent of the excesses of the tsarist era that ushered in the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

Russian-born filmmaker Irene Langemann set out to capture this disparity in equality and chronicles how the new Russian state tried to block her every step of the way. The film gives a social portrait of today’s Russia, where Mr Putin’s „controlled democracy” is increasingly dictatorial. Many scenes had to be filmed with hidden cameras. Langemann said police harassment, threats and KGB-like treatment continued throughout the filming. Authorities did not like being quizzed about mysterious arsons at poorer properties that forced out the ordinary people so oligarches and their families could buy up land cheaply to build mansions. But the real problems began after the movie was finished and Langemann was approached by Russian millionaire and art collector Alexander Esin.

Langemann said Esin offered €50,000 ($72,000) for the exclusive distribution rights to the film, with the exception of Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland. He said he wanted to found a documentary channel in Russia and thought Rublyovka would make an ideal addition. But instead of distributing the politically delicate film, Esin has put it on ice. There are no plans to screen it before March, when Russian presidential elections are planned, nor has he agreed to distribute the movie anywhere else. Putin, whose two-term limit as president expires in March, has backed his ally Dimitry Medvedev as his successor. The 42-year-old board chairman at gas giant Gazprom and Putin’s First Deputy Prime Minister, in turn, offered Putin the post of prime minister if he is elected president. „I now have the impression that Esin is not independent but has a larger structure behind him,” said Langemann, who moved to Germany in 1990 shortly before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. „A thoroughly corrupt system governs everyday life.” (theage.com.au)

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