Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Russian Geographical Society Awards ceremony in Moscow, December 9, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
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What was real was the money flowing to Arkady Rotenberg, a member of Putin's tightening inner circle and a boyhood friend. Rotenberg-affiliated companies were paid about 94 million rubles ($1.7 million) to organize the September ceremony, corporate filings show. Having grown rich on government contracts during the boom in Putin's Russia, friends of the president are benefiting anew as times grow tough. Companies linked to Rotenberg and another Putin confidant, Gennady Timchenko – both targeted by U.S. sanctions for their ties to the president – are landing a growing amount of state contracts.A Rotenberg-affiliated company is also about to secure a 228-billion-ruble order to build a bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed in March, according to a high-ranking government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract hasn't been officially awarded. In all, companies linked to Rotenberg and Timchenko have received orders since March that are equivalent to more than a fifth of what the government spent on contracts in the first nine months of the year.One Russian billionaire said Rotenberg and Timchenko have all but cornered the market in government contracts.Rotenberg told Interfax news service in October that his friendship with Putin didn't affect his business "in any way".Putin has signaled he'll continue to support companies and industries targeted by sanctions, and Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the president, said all contracts are awarded fairly.
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