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Putin’s birthday present to himself: a pay hike

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on through a pair of sunglasses. (Nikolsky Alexei/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

On his 67th birthday, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given himself a raise, as well as a salary bump to other high-ranking government officials.

According to a presidential order signed on October 7, Putin received a 4.3 percent raise, in line with last year’s inflation rate.

With the move, Putin’s monthly salary will rise to almost $11,500, or 746,000 rubles.

Kremlin critics are quick to point out, however, that for Putin and other senior Russian officials, modest salary figures fall far short of reflecting their actual incomes and assets.

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Analysts say Putin has maintained power in part by maintaining close relationships with tycoons who control state and private companies, and he has bristled at suggestions that he possesses vast personal wealth far beyond his official salary.

A bill filed earlier this year in the U.S. Congress called the “Vladimir Putin Transparency Act” noted that outside experts have alleged that “Putin’s true net worth is in the billions — suggesting his extensive corruption and connection to money laundering and other activities undertaken in order to enrich Putin unjustly and to hide his true financial condition from the public.”

In 2017, William Browder, an investor who has become one of Putin’s most vocal critics abroad, told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed Putin had “accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains.”

Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, estimated earlier this year that Putin’s wealth may amount to between $100 billion and $160 billion.

“Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power,” Aslund wrote.

Other high-level officials received the same salary percentage bump as the president.

Among them are Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Federal Security Service chief Aleksandr Bortnikov, and others.

Last year Putin and government members received a 4 percent salary increase.