Putin’s secret women

Vladimir Putin has two adult daughters whose names he never says and a still denied relationship with a former gymnast that would have brought him between two and four children. Is the secrecy surrounding the president’s private life a reflection of his desire to control everything or just a Russian cultural trend?

A GHOST FAMILY

Anonymous girls

Michelle Obama, Brigitte Macron, Sophie Trudeau. Western politicians are used to putting their wives first. But not Vladimir Putin, who has always kept his family members under a heavy blanket of opacity.

He was married for thirty years to a former flight attendant, Lioudmila Chkrebneva, from whom he divorced in 2013.


Vladimir Poutine

Photo file, REUTERS

With her he had two daughters: 36-year-old Maria Vorontsova and 35-year-old Katerina Tikhonova. Both are academics and business women.

“He never says the names of his daughters […] And when reporters ask him what their husbands’ potential ties to state affairs are, for example, he dodges questions, ”remarks Maria Popova, professor of political science at McGill University.

When she was first lady, Chkrebneva was not very visible. “At first, people thought it was her choice. It was only later that it became clear that Putin was trying to control the information, ”said Ms.myself Popova.

Less pink than in the film

On Valentine’s Day 2008, a fictional film was released in Russia. A kiss: not for the press, of its English title, it tells the story of a secret agent who became Russian president, married to a stewardess and father of two daughters.


Vladimir Poutine

Screenshot of the Movie Database website

The producers will deny any connection with the real Russian president, despite the obvious coincidences.

Note that this film came out after the alleged start of his relationship with his current lover, Alina Kabaeva, around 2006.

In real life, the relationship between Vladimir Putin and his ex-wife may not have been as rosy as the one portrayed in the film, if the German press is to be believed. In the 1980s, Lioudmila Chkrebneva would confide in a spy, accusing Putin of being violent and unfaithful.

Monk or macho?

The Russian media describes Putin’s life as almost monastic and entirely dedicated to serving the nation. However, foreign media have lent him several lovers over time. He reportedly had a daughter with one of his rulers, Svetlana Krivonogikh, in 2003. He is now a shareholder in a bank and his 19-year-old daughter bears a striking resemblance to the Russian president.

Furthermore, there are countless ribald, even misogynist, jokes belched by Vladimir Putin.

“Say hello to your President […] It really surprised us […] We didn’t know he knew how to deal with ten women, ”Putin joked in 2006 about Israeli President Moshe Katzav, then accused of rape and sexual harassment.

ANALYSIS OF THE EXPERT

Never let your guard down

For Maria Popova, the secrecy surrounding Putin’s relatives is above all a reflection of his personality and the authoritarian regime he leads.

Furthermore, some of his predecessors did not hesitate to put their family first. He gives the example of Tatiana Diatchenko, daughter of Boris Yeltsin, advisor to the president in the late 1990s.

Putin’s secret side is consistent with his past as a KGB agent, notes Mmyself Popova. “For example, it has been reported that she does not drink alcohol at all. There is this idea that you should never let your guard down.

Russian tradition

On the contrary, Guillaume Sauvé, a researcher at the University of Montreal, believes that this is part of the tradition in Russia.

“Russian leaders must demonstrate their strength of character in public and must not appear influenced by their families,” he explains.

Most of the leaders of the past hundred years, such as Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, have kept their families in the shadows, Sauvé recalls.

Mikhail Gorbachev is the great exception, he whose wife was clearly visible. “He was going very badly [dans l’opinion publique]. People said to themselves: “Is it your wife who decides for him? What are you doing, putting on her grand arias in the front line on stage?”

Not so conservative

To all this is added a “background of machismo” in a country where men are expected to lead, recalls Sauvé.

However, this should not be seen as a form of Puritanism, since Russia is less conservative than one might think on moral issues, the two experts agree. Indeed, divorce and abortion rates are relatively high there.

His alleged mistress


Vladimir Poutine

The “most flexible woman”

In all likelihood, Alina Kabaeva, 38, is the current partner of Vladimir Putin, 69. She was already known to the public as one of the most decorated gymnasts in history long before she was seen as the lover of her president’s judoka.

Her numerous medals, including gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, earned her the title of “most flexible woman in Russia”.

After a history of doping and the end of her athletic career, she entered politics. In 2007 she was elected deputy to the Duma within Vladimir Putin’s party. Their romance would have started a year earlier.

He would have had several children by the Russian president, but sources disagree on the number, which ranges from two to five.

The relationship between Kabaeva and Putin, “is a bit of an open secret,” sums up Guillaume Sauvé, a specialist in Russia at the Center for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal.

Officially, the topic remains taboo. In 2008 the tabloid Moskovsky Korrespondente dared to publish an article on the subject. He closed shortly after.

Positioned high

Opponents of the Putin regime do not hesitate to talk about the former gymnast. But it is above all denouncing the privileges you seem to enjoy, explains Guillaume Sauvé.

“The argument is rarely: ‘Look, he has a mistress.’ It is taken for granted […] The challenge is rather: “Look, under the name of his mistress, he has such a property in Italy”, explains Mr. Sauvé.

Since 2014, Alina Kabaeva has headed the National Media Group, a large pro-Kremlin media group. She would have received a staggering $ 10 million in salary.

His public appearances are rare, his place of residence uncertain.

“He has too many apartments and we don’t know which one he really uses,” reported a friend of opponent Navalny in Paris match this week.

She is suspected of holing up in Switzerland since the invasion of Ukraine began. A petition begins to circulate that collects about 75,000 signatures to expel her from the country renowned for her neutrality.

“It is time to reunite Alina Eva Braun Kabaeva with her Führer,” concluded the text of the petition, a chilling reference to Adolf Hitler’s companion.

Last April she reappeared at a gymnastics festival named after her: Alina. Gymnasts in military uniform performed patriotic choreography. You spoke in front of a background covered with Z, a symbol painted on Russian tanks sent to invade Ukraine.

Punish her or not?


Vladimir Poutine

Last April, Canada added Putin’s two daughters to the blacklist of Russians targeted by economic sanctions. It would therefore be easy to add Alina Kabaeva, given her ties to the Russian state, even if her relationship with the president has never been formalized, the experts consulted believe.

The Americans thought about it seriously, before changing their minds at the last moment for fear of an “aggressive reaction” from Putin, according to the Wall Street Newspaper. However, Kabaeva’s name would be added again, CNN reported on Friday.

In any case, these sanctions are above all “symbolic”, analyzes Guillaume Sauvé. “I think the West is primarily trying to send messages.”

– With AFP, Paris match, Wall Street Newspaper, CNN, Point, Reuters, New York Times, Le Figaro, BBC, Daily mail, Newsweek, 20 minutes, Forbes.

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