Did Putin Really Earn $150,000 Last Year?

Vladimir Putin is a man of many trades, his titles extending to undisputed leader of the Kremlin, oppressor of Russia's LGBT community, former KGB officer, wrangler of wild animals, and shirtless horseback rider. But as president of Russia, Putin's income in 2014 was a miniscule $150,000, mere peanuts in contrast to what some of the country's other politicians made last year.

The $150,000 figure, or 7.6 million rubles, is what Putin claimed for 2014 in his income declaration in a list that was published to the public on Wednesday. The Russian strongman's assets include two vintage Volga sedans (one of which George W. Bush drove in 2005 while visiting Russia), a Soviet Niva four-wheel-drive, an 830-square-foot apartment, a garage and a tent trailer, NBC News reported.

The figure is twice that of his 3.6 million rubles in income in 2013, but is less than Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's at 8 million rubles. Putin more than doubled the salaries of top Kremlin officials last year, but a month ago ordered a 10 percent pay cut for him and Mevedev, and their staff, as well as for most Kremlin officials. Some questioned if the cut will affect him — in December, Putin said he was ignorant of his pay:

Frankly, I don’t even know my own salary — they just give it to me, and I put it away in my account.

Putin's declared income pales in comparison to that of Russia's richest politician, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin, at 280.6 million rubles ($5.5 million), according to the list. Modest as his salary as president might seem, Putin might actually be hiding a multi-billion dollar fortune. Some have estimated his personal wealth to be at $40 billion or $70 billion, an enormous amount by any means.

Bill Browder, former pro-Putin fund manager in Russia — now one of his fiercest critics — told CNN he believed that Putin is worth $200 billion in property, shares, hedge funds and Swiss bank accounts, which, if true, would make him the richest man on earth. But Putin has flatly denied rumors of his massive hidden wealth:

It's just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss. They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.

Russia ranks a poor 136 out of 175 on Transparency International's corruption index. According to NBC News, Russian officials are not required to disclose their sources of income, which has been criticized by anti-corruption organizations, including TI. The veil of mystery surrounding Putin — and his purported billionaire status — could only further consolidate his soft power in the country. As one of TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People this year, Ian Bremmer wrote in his profile:

The Russian President is significant in any year, because no one in the world has amassed greater political authority in a country so important to international politics and the global economy.

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