On Friday, the Kremlin released Vladimir Putin's annual income report, and there's some bad news for the Russian president: His income took a hit in 2013.
The report says that Putin earned 3.6 million rubles last year (approximately $101,000), and declared relatively modest assets including apartments and Russian cars. That's far from nothing, of course (it would be around the 82nd percentile for households in the U.S.), but it is 1.6 million rubles less than 2012, when he earned almost 5.8 million rubles (about $187,000). It's also rather low for a Russian politician: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev earned 4.26 million rubles ($119,288).
What explains the drop? "In 2012 he did receive compensation for unused leave, but in 2013 there was no compensation," Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov told Interfax. He has also lost the income of his now ex-wife Ludmilla, who had earned a little less than $4,000 in 2012.
Even in 2012, Putin's salary was no match for Barack Obama's: U.S presidents usually have a salary of about $400,000 a year, and Obama's estimated net worth was between $2.8 million and $11.8 million in 2010. But don't feel too sorry for Putin yet. Rumors of vast wealth have followed him for years, with one report in 2007 suggesting that he was worth $40 billion, and an even more outrageous one in 2012 that suggested he was worth $70 billion – that figure would almost certainly place him among the wealthiest people on Earth.
There's certainly a lot of circumstantial evidence that Putin has money stashed away – as Maeve McClenaghan of the Bureau of Investigation noted in 2012, to all appearances he seems to live a luxurious life of yachts, palaces and pricey watches. And declaring a low income is no doubt politically advantageous for the Russian leader: Corruption is widely seen as a big problem in Russia, and Putin himself directs campaigns against it.
The finances of world leaders have proven to be fascinating to the average reader, though rarely without controversy (a recent WorldViews post on the wealth of Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala prompted a number of e-mails disputing Koirala's assets declaration). But do they actually matter? In the case of Russia at least, it's food for thought. Last month, when asked whether U.S. sanctions could target the Russian president, prominent sanctions supporter and fund manager Bill Browder told The Post "I don't see why not." After the last round of sanctions, the Kremlin was forced to deny any links between Putin and Bank Rossiya, the only company sanctioned.
Putin decided to show solidarity by moving his own salary to the bank, according to Russian media reports.