Vladimir Putin has two adult daughters whose names he never says and a still-debt relationship with a former gymnast who is said to have given birth to between two and four children. Is the secrecy of the President’s private life an expression of his desire to control everything or just a Russian cultural trend?
A GHOST FAMILY
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 thick blanket of opacity.
He was married to a former flight attendant, Lioudmila Chkrebneva, for thirty years, whom he divorced in 2013.
File Photo, REUTERS
With her he had two daughters: 36-year-old Maria Vorontsova and 35-year-old Katerina Tikhonova. Both are academics and businesswomen.
“He never says his daughters’ names […] And when journalists ask him about their husbands’ possible connections with state affairs, for example, he dodges the questions,” notes Maria Popova, a professor of political science at McGill University.
When she was First Lady, Chkrebneva was not very visible. “At first people thought it was their choice. Only later did it become clear that Putin was trying to control information,” she said.me Popova.
Less pink than in the movie
A feature film was released in Russia on Valentine’s Day 2008. A kiss: not for the press, Its English title tells the story of a secret agent who became President of Russia, married to a stewardess and father of two daughters.
Screenshot of the Movie Database website
The producers will deny any connection to the real Russian president, despite the obvious coincidences.
Note that this film was released around 2006 after the alleged beginning of his relationship with his current lover Alina Kabaeva.
In real life, according to the German press, the relationship between Vladimir Putin and his ex-wife may not have been as rosy as portrayed in the film. In the 1980s, Lioudmila Chkrebneva reportedly confided in a spy and accused Putin of being violent and unfaithful.
Monk or macho?
Russian media portrays Putin’s life as almost monastic and devoted entirely to serving the nation. Foreign media have nonetheless lent him several mistresses over time. He reportedly had a daughter in 2003 with one of his housekeepers, Svetlana Krivonogikh. She is now a shareholder in a bank and her 19-year-old daughter bears a striking resemblance to the Russian president.
In addition, there are countless crude jokes, even misogynist ones, spat out by Vladimir Putin.
“Greet your President […] He really surprised us […] We didn’t know he knew how to handle ten women,” Putin joked in 2006 about Israeli President Moshe Katzav, who was then accused of rape and sexual harassment.
Never let down your guard
For Maria Popova, the secrecy surrounding Putin’s loved ones is primarily a reflection of his personality and the authoritarian regime he leads.
In addition, some of his predecessors did not hesitate to put their family first. As an example, she cites Tatiana Diatchenko, daughter of Boris Yeltsin, who was an adviser to the president in the late 1990s.
Putin’s secret side matches his past as a KGB agent, notes Mme Popova. “For example, it is reported that he does not drink alcohol at all. There’s this idea that you should never be on your guard.
Conversely, Guillaume Sauvé, a researcher at the University of Montreal, believes this is part of the tradition in Russia.
“Russian leaders must demonstrate their strength of character in public and not appear influenced by their families,” he explains.
Most of the leaders of the last hundred years, like Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, kept their families in the shadows, Mr Sauvé recalls.
Mikhail Gorbachev is the big exception, he whose wife was clearly visible. “It went very badly [dans l’opinion publique]. People said to themselves, “Does his wife decide for him?
Not so conservative
Add to all this, Mr Sauvé recalls, a “rump of machismo” in a country where men are expected to take the lead.
The two experts agree, however, that this should not be interpreted as puritanism, since Russia is less conservative than one might think when it comes to moral issues. In fact, divorce and abortion rates are relatively high there.
HIS ALLEGED LOVER
The “Most Agile 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 considered the mistress of her president’s judoka.
Her numerous medals, including gold at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, have earned her the title of “Most Agile Woman in Russia”.
After a history of doping and the end of her sporting career, she went into politics. In 2007 she was elected a member of the Duma within Vladimir Putin’s party. Your idyll would have started a year earlier.
She would have had several children from 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,” said Guillaume Sauvé, a Russia specialist at the University of Montreal’s Center for International Studies and Research.
Officially, the topic remains taboo. 2008 the tabloid Moscow correspondent dared to publish an article on this topic. It was closed shortly thereafter.
Opponents of Putin’s regime do not hesitate to talk about the ex-gymnast. But it’s all about denouncing the privileges it seems to benefit from, explains Guillaume Sauvé.
“The argument is rare, ‘Look, he has a mistress.’ It goes without saying […] Rather, the challenge is: “You see, under the name of his beloved, he has such and such a property in Italy,” illustrates Mr. Sauvé.
Alina Kabaeva has been the head of the National Media Group, a large pro-Kremlin media group, since 2014. She would be paid a whopping $10 million salary.
His public appearances are rare and his place of residence uncertain.
“She has too many apartments and we don’t know which ones she really uses,” said a friend of Navalny’s opponent Paris match in this week.
She is suspected of having been hiding in Switzerland since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. A petition with around 75,000 signatures began circulating to evict them from the country known for its neutrality.
“It is time to reunite Alina Eva Braun Kabaeva with her Führer,” the petition text concluded, a chilling reference to Adolf Hitler’s companion.
Last April she appeared again at a gymnastics festival that bears her name: Alina. Gymnasts in military uniforms performed a patriotic choreography. She spoke against a background covered in Z, a symbol painted on Russian tanks sent to invade Ukraine.
punish you or not?
Last April, Canada blacklisted Putin’s two daughters from Russians hit 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, experts consulted believe.
Americans gave it serious thought before changing their minds at the last minute for fear of an “aggressive response” from Putin, the government said Wall Street Journal. However, Kabaeva’s name would have been added back, CNN reported on Friday.
Guillaume Sauvé analyzes that these sanctions are primarily “symbolic”. “I think the West is primarily looking for messages.”
– With AFP, paris game, wall street journal, cnn, Point, Reuters New York Times, Le Figaro, bbc, daily mail, Newsweek, 20 minutes, Forbes.