Russian President Vladimir Putin, who by some accounts is considered the wealthiest man on earth, signed into law Friday a decree that will not only slash all government workers' salaries by 10 percent, but will reduce the number of government officials by up to 20 percent.
Due to increased economic sanctions and plummeting oil prices, all government employees throughout Russia on the Kremlin's payroll will be receiving 10 percent less before year's end. This includes Putin himself — who has held the reins of the nation since 1999 as both prime minister and president — as well as the current prime minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.
"Beginning from March 1 and ending on December 31, 2015, pay the president of the Russian Federation [Putin], the head of the government of the Russian Federation [Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev] … their monthly salaries and quarterly bonuses with a decrease of 10 percent," states the order on the website of the Kremlin's press service.
Because oil has dropped to about $50 per barrel — less than half the cost of crude when Russia put together its national budget last summer — and stiffer sanctions were levied against Russia following its Ukrainian invasion, the federation is claiming that Moscow's emergency plan will help offset its extreme loss of revenues.
Included in the docking of pay are lawmakers, who make roughly $6,700, which is about twice the average salary earned by those serving in Putin's administration, according to Fox News. The mass layoffs and severe pay decreases will reportedly be devastating to most Russian government workers.
One government employee who won't be fazed by the pay cut is Putin, whose net worth has been estimated by some to be around $200 billion. But when asked in December about his salary at his annual Q&A session, Putin claimed he had no idea what he made.
"Frankly, I don't even know my own salary — they just give it to me, and I put it away in my account," Putin explained to the press.
However, just a year earlier in 2013, Putin was able to recollect his presidential salary when he listed it at 5.8 million rubles, or approximately $95,000 in U.S. dollars.
Despite this relatively modest figure for a head of state, speculations about Putin's actual salary and kickbacks have surfaced for years.
"Putin has always dismissed charges that he has amassed a huge fortune since taking control of Russia," Fox News reports. "Because his wealth is believed to be spread out through secret bank accounts, shell companies and frontmen, pinning down the size of his net worth is impossible."
Yet Putin has unabashedly insisted that his compensation for his service to the Russian people is well deserved.
"As for my personal perception, I am not ashamed before the citizens who voted for me," Putin expressed back in 2008 when discussing his amassed wealth. "All these eight years I worked like a galley slave, to spare no effort. I am happy with the results."
Pointing out the irony of Putin's famous "galley slave" quote, Boris Nemtsov, a Russian statesman, physicist and politician who was one of Putin's most vocal critics, showed that the Russian president's life resembled anything but an indentured servant.
"In 2012, Putin critic Boris Nemtsov turned the quote around on Putin with a 32-page report entitled 'The Life of a Galley Slave,'" Fox News stated. "The report detailed the fleet of cars, planes and boats at Putin's disposal and claimed the onetime KGB agent owns 20 homes, 58 aircraft and four yachts, including a 176-foot vessel with a spa pool and waterfall and a more elaborate five-deck boat with a barbecue."
With such stabs exposing the president over the years not being too uncommon, Nemtsov became a well-known enemy of Putin's, to the extent that his mother warned him that Putin would kill him for his continued criticism. Nemtsov's mother's fears came true on February 27, when he was fatally shot head-on, assassination-style, while walking near the Kremlin with his girlfriend.
Many Putin critics continue to believe that he has amassed fortunes at the Russian people's expense, including numerous reports over the years about his lavish vacations.
Much like United States President Barack Obama, whose vacations were recently reported to have cost taxpayers in excess of $33 million during his six years in office, Putin's extravagant shooting, fishing and scuba diving vacations have frequently been called into question, especially during tough economic times.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Russia's economy is expected to recede by three percent this year, which will be exacerbated by its skyrocketing inflation, which hit 16.7 percent last month. Facing government pay cuts and job losses due to dropping oil prices and increased sanctions, the people of Russia are facing a difficult year ahead, especially as living expenses rise, with food costs already eating away half of their salaries.