MOSCOW (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Russia’s new rich have a problem spending their money in a tasteful way, commenting on the ostentatious spending by the small proportion of Russians who enjoy massive wealth.
“The nouveaux riches all of a sudden got rich very quickly but cannot manage their wealth without showing it off all the time. Yes this is our problem,” said Putin in an annual question-and-answer session with Russian citizens.
Putin was responding to a question about a car crash involving rich Russians in Switzerland, which local media said involved a Lamborghini sports car and a Bugatti Veyron -- the world’s most expensive car.
“In the Soviet times, some of our rich showed off their wealth by having gold teeth put in, preferably at the front. The Lamborghinis and other pricey knickknacks -- they are simply today’s gold teeth which are shown off to everybody,” he said.
Putin pointedly stumbled over the pronunciation for the luxury Italian car brand.
Putin said he did not see anything criminal in billionaire market owner and businessman Telman Ismailov building a luxury hotel in Turkey but said that those Russian businessmen who have resources to invest should invest them in Russia.
“For example, in building hotels in Sochi,” said Putin, referring to the site for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The lavish opening last May of Ismailov’s $1.4 billion Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey was seen as one of the most egregious examples of oligarch excess.
Eyewitnesses at the party, attended by the Russian elite, said they saw $100 bills being released from the ceiling to shower over the guests.
Wealthy Russians have purchased luxury homes across Europe and commissioned huge yachts. They are viewed with disdain for their free-spending habits, bad behavior and poor taste, not just by fellow Russians but in many other countries too.
While around 21 million or 15 pct of Russians live on about $180 dollars per month, the 142 million population also boasts 34 billionaires and several thousand multi-millionaires since the 1991 collapse of communism.
The streets of central Moscow feature dozens of Bentleys, Aston Martins, Porsches and Lamborghinis as well as a large collection of luxury boutiques and restaurants boasting exorbitant price tags.
Reporting by Conor Sweeney and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Michael Stott