Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday dismissed claims that he owned a lavish “palace” on the Black Sea.
The leader said the mansion, which jailed opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny”s investigation team had featured in a video, could be attributed to “manipulation through editing”.
The video alleged the estate was built for Putin through an elaborate corruption scheme.
Within 48 hours of being posted on YouTube last week, it had received over 42 million views.
Speaking to students online on Monday, Putin said the investigation was a “compilation”, adding it had been put together by the opposition to “brainwash” Russians.
He told the audience that the only interesting moment in Navalny’s investigation was the part about wineries that were reportedly also part of the estate.
“The only thing that interested me was winemaking, but not as a business, but as a kind of activity. I think it’s a good and noble activity,” he said.
The leader added that he would like to make wine when he retires.
When asked about protests in support of Navalny at the weekend, Putin said that “all people have the right to express their point of view within limits, outlined by law.”
“Everything that goes outside the law isn’t just counterproductive, but dangerous,” he added.
Navalny, who is the Kremlin’s most prominent critic, was detained on January 17 as he arrived back in Russia after spending the last five months in Germany, recuperating from being poisoned.
He had been given the deadly nerve agent Novichok in an act he believes was likely sanctioned by his biggest rival, Putin. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement.
Thousands of protesters across Russia were detained after rallying in numerous cities to demand Navalny’s release.
At least 3,000 arrests were reported on Saturday in locations spanning from Siberia to Moscow, according to the OVD-info organisation that monitors political detentions, as thousands more demonstrated in temperatures as low as -50C.
European Union foreign ministers failed to agree on further sanctions against Russia over Navalny and his supporters’ detention as they met in Brussels on Monday.