No matter how lavish a lifestyle they assumed he was leading, the reality exceeded all expectations. It takes days to walk the mammoth property. Even tiny fixtures had expensive price tags. One set of tree plantings cost €3 million alone. Huge chandeliers of gold and crystal may get overlooked among the entire splendor, but not until their price is uncovered. The documents found in the mansion show that some 30 chandeliers and lights purchased in 2010 were worth more than €30 million.
Eleven of the lights were the sconces to be put under the numerous paintings found there, each worth €100,000. The most expensive item on the list of purchased lights was a five-meter long chandelier worth €8 million. Eight smaller chandeliers for the gallery were bought for €640,000.
The centerpiece of the 140-hectare (345 acres) estate is the palatial log cabin house where Yanukovych lived. It also has several villas, a conservatory with exotic plants, professional spa salons, a zoo, an animal farm and much more. Cavernous garages included many cars and boats.
He would have needed hundreds of employees, if not a few thousand, to maintain all of this – the grounds, the golf course, the fleets of cars and boats, the rare animals – and to provide security, not to mention the cleaning and landscaping. One of the documents found in the compound showed that the cleaning and maintenance staff alone was some 300 people.
It’s hard to estimate how much money went into building the place, but estimates exceed $1 billion would not surprise anyone – all for a president whose salary was less than $100,000 a year.
Journalists and others investigating documents left behind found evidence of an elaborate set of kickbacks showing Yanukovych ran Ukraine as a racketeer, not as a democratically elected president.
And yet, the extent of his tacky style shocked almost as much as the scale.
The four-story mansion made of wood and stone named Honka, revealed the former president’s preferences in interior design. The preferences included gilding, statues, redwood and marble – often all the elements were combined in the design of the same room.
“You know what the house means for every person. It is something sacred, something that should not be touched by anyone,” said Yanukovych at a press conference in 2011, when responding to who owns Mezhyhirya.
Sacred or not, the house demanded incredible investments in decorations. Yanukovych could have won the prize for the most lavish and vulgar mansion ever, but some of his thunder was stolen the next day.
Protesters entered the house of former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka on Feb. 23. Although much smaller than Yanukovych’s residence, the mansion of Pshonka certainly is no slouch in terms of tastelessness.
King Midas could’ve designed its interior. The chairs, mirrors, cabinets and even curtains in the mansion are heavy on golden decorations. A flat TV in the living room was framed in a huge TV stand with golden ornamented carvings, while the nearby picture frames had family photos along with Pshonka’s signature laid in Swarovski crystals. Similar crystals were on the velvet couch pillows.
But it wasn’t just the gold that made Pshonka the most mocked figure of the week. One of the many Pshonka’s portraits found in the house was of himself as Julius Caesar. The painting was based on the Caesar poster from “Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques,” a 2008 French comedy that was based on the series of Asterix comics that portray Caesar as an unfortunate ruler who is always defeated by protagonists.
These and other bizarre findings in the mansions of former top officials raised the questions about the enormous luxury being related to psychological problems of the owners.
Psychologist Olena Bohatyriova refuted it, saying “the more money we have, the bigger houses we build.” But even she admitted that Pshonka’s collection of portraits of himself were odd.
“We can’t say for sure whether Pshonka ordered his own portraits or not. If they were painted on his demand, there might be a certain psychological disorder,” Bohatyriova said. “If these paintings were gifts, then the giver could have some kind of obsession.”
Kyiv Post lifestyle editor Olga Rudenko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @olya_rudenko.