Western sanctions targeting not only the Russian president’s inner circle, but also his family, have cast an unusual light on the private life of Vladimir Putin, which usually remains quite a mystery.
The United States and the European Union announced the first sanctions against the two adult daughters of the head of state since his first marriage to Lyudmila. Pressure is also mounting in parallel on Alina Kabaeva, a former gymnast who some media and opponents claim will be his lover, allegations that the Kremlin has never confirmed.
To say the least, Putin is conservative about his private life. State media usually show him working or traveling alone, too busy serving the country to enjoy private leisure.
The only violation of this omerta was his public appearance with Lyudmila at a ballet break in Moscow in 2013, and the occasion to announce the breakup was finally completed a year later.
The Russian media reported the two daughters of this union, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, but Putin never mentioned them. In one of his rare public comments he said: “My children are fine. They are in Moscow (…) everything is fine in their private life and career. I am proud of them.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the new sanctions against Maria and Katerina, saying the decision “speaks for itself.”
But the long absence of their mother Lyudmila in public, and her gloomy face when she appeared, fueled speculation about the private life of the Moscow strongman long before his divorce.
In 2008, a small newspaper, Moskovsky Korispensent, claimed that Putin wanted to marry Alina Kabaeva. Furious, he called on journalists to keep their “nose-filled with mucus” away from his private life.
The newspaper of businessman Alexander Lebedev, whose son Yevgeny became a media figure in Britain, published a detailed apology before closing the shop permanently.
But this relationship between Putin and the gymnast has remained in people’s minds and is the subject of an investigation by dissident Alexei Navalny, which was published just before his arrest in January 2021.
– ‘Restricted circle’ –
The opponent claimed that Kabaeva enjoyed a network of luxury real estate in Russia, as well as a highly paid position on the board of directors of the National Media Group (NMG), the oligarch Yuri Kovalchuk, a confidant of Putin and himself. Today, individual penalties.
“There is no doubt that Alina Maratovna Kabaeva danced better than anyone with a ball and a tape, but he would not have the skill to run audio-visual companies and newspapers without her contact with Putin,” Navalny said.
Information on social media is currently located in Switzerland, and a petition claiming 75,000 signatures is calling for sanctions to be imposed on her. “Why, given the scale of the sanctions against Russia, do you now continue to welcome him with his family while Putin is destroying the lives of millions of people?”
According to Swiss television RTS, citing an official statement, the federal government examined the file but found “no indication that this person was in Switzerland”.
Georgy Alborov, a researcher at the Navalny Anti-Corruption Fund, said it was unreasonable to evade sanctions. “She is part of Putin’s inner circle, a member of his family who takes advantage of his situation,” he said, adding that her role in the state media made her “a major Russian propagandist.”
Opponents also claim that Putin’s alleged relationship with Kabaeva is not exclusive. In November 2020, online investigative website Proekt claimed that a certain person from Svetlana Krivonogikh had been acquired by the same Yuri Kovalchuk shares in Rossia Bank.
In 2003, she gave birth to a daughter, whose surname was Vladimir. The Kremlin had refused to comment on an article without “serious elements”.
sjw / dla / fz / mm