Italian firefighters extinguished a blaze set in a brazen dawn arson attack on a lavish villa owned by Vladimir Putin’s top propagandist Vladimir Solovyov early Wednesday.
A fire official confirmed to The Daily Beast that the fire nearly engulfed the villa situated on the flanks of Lake Como, which has been confiscated by Italian officials due to sanctions but which still belongs to the Russian state TV presenter. The villa, with sweeping views over one of Italy’s most idyllic lakes, was undergoing full renovation when it was sequestered. It is Solovyov’s most recent property purchase in northern Italy, and he had been renovating it thanks to COVID-19 bonus payouts for construction projects.
Firefighters say they believe the fire was set when someone tossed burning tires over the villa wall. The damage was not significant, but the message was clear. The fire official said that it was definitely meant as a sign of protest.
A short time later, police discovered that a second villa he owned on the lake had been vandalized, with red paint spelling out “war” and “killer.” The pool in the yard below the sprawling villa had also been dyed red to look like blood.
Two of Solovyov’s three properties — worth an estimated € 8 million — which were damaged are sequestered in accordance with sanctions against Russian oligarchs. The third, which is said to be in the name of a family member, has not yet been held by Italy’s financial police. Solovyov, 58, was critical of Italy joining the rest of Europe in sanctioning oligarchs in a broadcast of his evening news show in early March.
“For every transaction I brought documents that proved my official salary, income, I did everything,” he whined when it became clear his villas would be sequestered. “I bought them and paid a crazy amount of taxes, I did everything. And suddenly someone decides that I, this journalist, are now on the sanctions list. And immediately they hit my property. ”
CCTV security footage from the villa is being analyzed to determine who might have set the blaze. “The investigations of the Carabinieri are underway, but we can already say that the vandals did not cause significant damage,” Michele Spaggiari, mayor of the local municipality, said Wednesday. “The villa is empty at the moment, with rustic walls and concrete floors. It could be it was basically treated as a demonstrative act, which fortunately did not have serious consequences. ”
Spaggiari has been vocal about sanctioning Russian property owners, of which there are many, in the Lake Como area. Many of the Russians have gained Italian citizenship through residency.