Is Vladimir Putin secretly the wealthiest leader in history? Fresh sanctions on Russia have revived a worldwide hunt for a suspected hidden Putin fortune that some analysts believe could be worth as much as $70 billion, the New York Times finds. Accusations of shady dealings have followed the Russian leader since the earliest days of his political career, and some officials believe he has salted away huge wealth through secret holdings in energy firms. A search spanning 15 years, however, has failed to find hard evidence of Putin holdings that Western nations could target to put pressure on Russia.
Putin himself, who reported income of just $102,000 last year, has dismissed rumors of hidden wealth. "Just gossip that’s not worth discussing. It’s simply rubbish," he told reporters in 2008. "They picked everything out of someone’s nose and smeared it on their little papers." But as the Ukraine crisis continues to escalate, fresh sanctions on Russia to be unveiled as soon as today will target people and companies close to Putin, though not the leader himself, Bloomberg reports. "We will be looking to designate people who are in his inner circle, who have a significant impact on the Russian economy," Deputy White House National Security Adviser Tony Blinken says. The Times sees this new round as "sending a not-very-subtle message that it thinks it knows where the Russian leader has his money, and that he could ultimately be targeted directly or indirectly."