Anti-corruption campaigner’s claims about Dmitry Peskov’s son are latest salvo in fight against high lives of Russian elite.
In 2010, Nikolay Choles was a troubled British youth, jailed for assaulting a man outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Milton Keynes.
By 2017, according to the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, Choles had become a fixture on the Moscow social circuit, driving Ferraris and travelling first-class or by private jet.
The transformation, Navalny says, is due to Choles’ parentage – he is the son of President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.
Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who wants to stand against Putin in presidential elections next year, released alleged details about Choles’ life in a blogpost on Thursday, his latest salvo against the high lives of the Russian elite.
“Nikolay Choles is an example of how in Russia, where 20 million people live in poverty … you can live wonderfully, while doing absolutely nothing,” he wrote.
Choles moved to Britain with his mother, Peskov’s first wife, during the 1990s and later took the surname of his British stepfather, according to Navalny.
A court transcript obtained by Navalny’s team details a 2010 trial in Huntingdon crown court, in which Choles and two other young men were charged with robbery and causing actual bodily harm to an 18-year-old man in Milton Keynes.
Choles admitted to the court that he had punched the victim in the face. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was “genuinely shocked at his own behaviour”, according to his lawyer, who added that Choles was estranged from his family and had been kicked out of his home at the age of 16.
The sentencing judge described the attack as “mindless violence in a public place at night, in the alleyways of Milton Keynes; a gang attack, three of you set about intimidating this young man and caused him a dreadful injury”.
Choles was already in a young offender institution for stealing a mobile phone, the court heard, and had undergone courses to deal with alcohol problems and anger management.
While many rich Russians in the last two decades have left humble beginnings in Russia to live the lives of millionaires in the west, according to Navalny, Choles went the other way.
The blog reports that by 2012, he had arrived in Moscow and got a job at the Kremlin’s English-language television station, Russia Today. Before long, he disappeared from the channel. It is unclear whether he has been employed since then.
Navalny’s team scoured Choles’s private Instagram account and, as set out in the blogpost, found numerous photographs of Choles in Russia, posing in front of expensive cars and travelling either in first class or on private jets. He is often pictured playing polo, and even has an oil painting of himself with a horse. There are many photographs featuring his father.
Navalny said he had found two Moscow apartments registered in Choles’ name, as well as a Tesla car, which Peskov has been filmed using. Choles has received 116 fines for traffic violations, Navalny said.
While there is no evidence that Choles’ lifestyle is in any way illegal, Navalny said it was indicative of a culture where the children of top officials live pampered lives.
“He doesn’t work anywhere but is buying apartments, Range Rovers, Ferraris, a Tesla car, travels and spends whole days riding horses. We know what his profession is called – the son of a corrupt father,” Navalny wrote.
It is not the first time Navalny has taken aim at Peskov. Previously, he discovered a watch worn by Peskov was worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Peskov said it was a wedding present from his wife, Tatiana Navka, a figure skater he married in 2015.
Navalny also alleged Peskov and Navka spent their honeymoon on one of the world’s most expensive yachts, the Maltese Falcon. Peskov denied the allegations.
Peskov has not commented on Navalny’s most recent claims.
Choles called the blogpost a provocation. “This is just a nightmare,” he told the Russian media outlet RBK shortly after its publication. “How else could you consider this? It’s horrible.”