Vladimir Putin has dipped into his own pocket to pay for a religious icon to adorn a new Russian Christian Orthodox cathedral near Moscow dedicated to the country's military, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
Russia’s defence ministry has been collecting donations for the Cathedral of the Armed Forces that is being built in Patriot Park, a military theme park around 60km west of the capital.
Plans are to open the house of worship on May 9th, 2020 when Russia marks the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in the second World War.
Mr Putin, who attended a ceremony to bless the foundation stone of the cathedral last September, has "given his own money" to pay for the central icon in the building, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
Funds donated by the president were sufficient to cover the full cost of making the icon, he said without revealing the precise sum involved.
“This is the president’s personal contribution to the creation of the church.”
Standing 95m high and topped with five golden domes, the Cathedral of the Armed Forces will be the third biggest Christian Orthodox Church in Russia with room for up to 6,000 visitors.
Built in the “monumental Russian-Byzantine style”, the church will “symbolise the spirituality of the Russian army raising the sword only to defend the Motherland”, according to the project’s fund-raising website.
Even the icon donated by Mr Putin will be redolent with Russian history.
Craftsmen are mounting the religious painting on wood recovered from the bed of the River Neva in Saint Petersburg that once formed part of an 18th century gun carriage.
The Kremlin revealed details of Mr Putin’s gift to the cathedral one day after US lawmakers approved a Bill taking aim at the Russian president and what they see as his corrupt personal finances.
The so-called Vladimir Putin Transparency Act passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday directs the US intelligence community to prepare a report on Mr Putin’s net worth and assets for submission to the Congress.
Fielding journalists’ questions on Wednesday, Mr Peskov dismissed the new US legislation as the product of anti-Russia hysteria gripping the political establishment in Washington.
“We don’t expect any sober assessment from American lawmakers,” he said.
Mr Putin has been known to make personal donations to support prestigious public buildings before, including the Jewish Museum and Centre of Tolerance in Moscow and the Yeltsin Centre in Ekaterinburg, a museum to honour the memory of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia.