Vladimir Putin Takes Salary Cut As Russian Economy Sinks, But His Real Wealth May Top $70 Billion

As the Russian economy continues to plummet, President Vladimir Putin has announced that in a move to show that not even he is above the austerity and belt-tighetning that faces his entire country, he has slashed his own personal salary — by about $14,000 per year.

Putin’s presidential salary as of April 14 last year was listed at $150,000 — 9 million rubles per year in Russian cash — according to a CNN Money report. But many financial analysts believe that his official paycheck barely represents lunch money compared to Putin’s actual personal wealth.

Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that he is, in reality, one of the world’s richest men. But that, as many Kremlin-watchers and money experts say, is exactly what he is.

Putin’s pay cut comes to about 10 percent of his salary, as the Russian strongman attempts to set an example for the rest of the country after demanding 10 percent spending courts across the board in all areas of the Russian government — except for the military.

In fact, at the same time that he is ordering the spending cuts while Russia’s Gross Domestic Product shrinking by a predicted five percent this year and the ruble dropping a staggering 40 percent against the United States dollar, Putin has put a $772 billion military buildup on Russia’s credit card.

The late opposition leader Boris Nemstov was a leading critic of Putin’s runaway defense spending. But Nemstov was gunned down in a Moscow street last week.

“For Putin the priority is the army, the secret service and the bureaucracy. And also financing pensioners, the main supporters of the regime,” Nemtsov said in January. “All the same… a reduction in people’s real incomes and a rise in poverty is unavoidable.”

But how much is Vladimir Putin, himself, really worth?

Forbes Magazine recently estimated the Russian leader’s personal net worth at $70 billion, which would make him the world’s second-richest human being. But with virtually all of Putin’s personal assets stashed in secret bank accounts and hidden by sophisticated financial machinations, determining how rich Putin actually is cannot be done with any real accuracy.

While his listed assets consist simply of a pair of two apartments with a garage, two cars, and some real estate, a financial expert interviewed by CNN Money believes that even the Forbes estimate may be low — very low.

Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, who, according to CNN Money has been Russia’s largest foreign investor, puts the value of assets owned by Vladimir Putin net holdings closer to $200 billion, which would make him far and away the richest person in the world. So he can afford his $14,000 salary cut, to say the least.

[Image: Handout/Getty Images]