This is Hot Mic and I’m Nidhi Razdan.
Last week, the United States and the European Union decided to step up the heat on President Putin of Russia and impose new sanctions, this time targeting his two adult daughters. The Russian public don’t know much about Putin’s family or his private life. The daughters, who are in their thirties, have been shielded from public glare for the most part.
So what exactly do we know about them and about Putin’s private life?
The daughters are – one 37-year-old Katerina Tikhonova and 36-year-old Maria Vorontsova. The sanctions against them mean that their assets are being seized and they cannot travel to Europe.US officials believe that they are also hiding a large chunk of Putin’s personal wealth. Both the daughters are from Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva, who was an air hostess for Aeroflot, the largest Russian airline, when she began dating Putin in the late 1970s.
The story goes that Lyudmila did not think much of Putin when she first met him on a double date and thought he wasn’t very nicely dressed. But, they dated for four years before getting married in 1983. Lyudmila and Putin divorced in 2014 after reports surfaced that he had an affair at age 56 with a former Olympic gymnast, 24-year-old Alina Kabaeva with whom he is reported to have had another child.
According to The New York Times, Putin denied being engaged to Alina, telling reporters back then that “I’ve always disliked those who with their infected noses and erotic fantasies break into other people’s private affairs.” And, in fact, the Russian newspaper that originally broke the story shut down soon afterwards. But the speculation over Putin’s relationship with Alina has never died down. And there have been recent reports that she allegedly went into hiding after the invasion of Ukraine, along with their rumored children in a very secure chalet in Switzerland.
A change.org petition has gathered nearly 100,000 signatures urging Switzerland to take action against her. It says, “Why now, given the volume of sanctions placed on Russia, are you continuing to host her and her family while Putin is destroying the lives of millions?” Now, one Swiss TV channel reported that the federal Swiss government has found no indication that Alina Kabaeva is actually in the country. In fact, it was opposition leader Alexei Navalny who investigated Putin’s relationship with Alina that was published just after he was arrested in January,2021.
Navalny alleged that Alina benefited enormously from her relationship with Putin by acquiring a large number of luxury properties, and that she also got a very well-paying job as chairperson of the Board at the state media holding company called the National Media Group. The Group holds the government stakes in the media. At that time, Navalny had said, “There is no doubt that Alina Kabaeva jumps better than anyone else with a ball and a ribbon but she would not have been able to manage television companies and newspapers if it weren’t for her connection with Putin.”
There have been reports of another secret love child, a daughter, also the product of a love affair. An online Russian investigative site published a report in 2020 alleging that a woman named Svetlana had suddenly obtained a stake in a bank owned by a close Putin aide who is now under US sanctions. The portal claimed that in 2003 Svetlana give birth to a daughter with a strong physical likeness to Putin and whose middle name is derived from Vladimir. The Kremlin commented at the time simply saying that the issue was not worthy of further comment.
But coming back to Putin’s daughters, with Lyudmila, Katerina graduated in physics and mathematics and she is married to Kirill Shamalov, the son of Nikolay Shamalov, a long time friend and confidant of President Putin. The other daughter, Maria, is reportedly Putin’s eldest daughter and is a doctor. She married a Dutchman who she is reportedly separated from now. Putin has a tightly controlled narrative about his life all these years, almost never talking about his family. In rare comments that he made back in 2012, he only said, “My children are doing well, they are in Moscow, they study and work part-time. All is well in their private life and in terms of their professional development. I’m proud of them.” In August of 2020, he claimed that one of his daughters had taken part in a trial for Russia’s Sputnik coronavirus vaccine. And that is pretty much all we know about his family.