New Husband of Putin's Ex-Wife Buys Posh Villa in South of France

When Lyudmila Putin, 59, divorced Russian President Vladimir Putin and married the director of a Russian non-profit organization, she might have expected that her days of living in opulent luxury were over.

The villa purchased by Artur Ocheretny. (Wikipedia.org. User: TONIODELBARRIO6464)The villa purchased by Artur Ocheretny. (Wikipedia.org. User: TONIODELBARRIO6464)

But not so. Reporters from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) have found that, together with her new husband, the former Mrs. Putin owns a mini-palace near the upscale French resort town of Biarritz that could be worth up to €7 million. This is the same seaside region where another member of the family - Katerina Tikhonova, widely reported to be the president’s daughter - has already put down roots.

According to municipal records, this opulent villa - which is undergoing a massive renovation - formally belongs to Artur Ocheretny, a younger man believed to be Lyudmila’s new husband.

There is nothing in Ocheretny’s background that explains how he could have come to own such a prime piece of real estate. Furthermore, the income and asset declarations Lyudmila filed during her marriage to President Putin show only relatively modest sums.

That’s why Artur’s unexpected property raises questions about the undisclosed wealth of Russia’s first family.

 

A new marriage

The Russian president is notoriously secretive about his family relationships, so journalists must gather information about his private life piece by piece. A year ago, the Russian newspaper Sobesednik marshalled convincing evidence - based on documents showing that she had changed her last name - that, at some point, Putin’s ex-wife had married a man named Artur Ocheretny. The information has never been denied or confirmed by any of the involved parties.

Just this week, the Russian website Starhit published a series of photos of Lyudmila with Ocheretny at Heathrow Airport in London.

Artur Ocheretny. Personal Facebook page.Artur Ocheretny. Personal Facebook page. At 39, Artur Ocheretny, is almost 20 years younger than his new wife.

Given his employment history, it’s likely the two have known each other for some time. Between 2003 and 2008, Ocheretny was the general director of an event agency, Art-Show Center, which organized events for large clients, including some with government connections. Among them were state-owned giants like Gazprom and Transneft as well as political entities like the governing United Russia party and the government-aligned All-Russia People’s Front.

The agency’s clients also included a non-profit organization, the Center for the Development of Interpersonal Communications, which was founded in 2000 by people close to Putin.

Since its founding, the Center has been strongly associated with Lyudmila Putina - now known as Lyudmila Ocheretnaya - who is widely known to be its unofficial patron. Even as Russia’s first lady, she rarely attended public events. After divorcing the president she practically disappeared from the public sphere, mostly emerging only to attend events organized by the Center.

Her husband, Artur, became the Center’s director in 2010.

In December 2013 - just six months after Lyudmila made public her divorce from president Putin - Ocheretny bought his villa in the south of France. The house near Biarritz, in a little seaside town called Anglet, is not far from another villa owned by the husband of Katerina Tikhonova, who is widely reported to be Vladimir Putin’s daughter.

 

“Souzanna” or “Reverie”

Anglet is on southwestern France’s Atlantic coast, between Biarritz and Bayonne. Guide books praise the sandy beaches and pine forests that surround the town. The Art Deco villa which now belongs to Ocheretny was built in 1927 and is locally known as “Souzanna.”

According to planning documents, the villa is called “Reverie” by its new owner.

In 2013, the real estate publication Le Figaro Properties published a photo of the villa in an advertisement that also described some of the home’s interior details: marble floors, original chandeliers and moldings, and a bas-relief by twin French sculp