Putin admits bad taste blights Russia's new rich

Thu Dec 3, 2009 9:51am EST
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By Conor Sweeney

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.   Continued...

<p>Visitors and assistants look at exhibits at the opening of the Millionaire Fair, the fair of luxury goods and services which opened in Moscow October 27, 2006. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin</p>