The European Union (EU) is studying the possibility of imposing sanctions against Alina Kabaeva, a politician, director of a pro-Kremlin media conglomerate, former Olympic gymnast and — according to many rumors — Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend and mother of some. of your kids. Sources have confirmed to the BBC that she is on the list of individuals who will soon be sanctioned by the EU.
The sanctions imposed by the EU and other countries aim to punish people close to Putin — oligarchs, politicians and other officials who say they have benefited from his friendship with the president.
Last month, the US and UK imposed sanctions on Putin’s daughters — Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35. They are Putin’s daughters with his ex-wife, Lyudmila.
So far, Kabaeva has not been sanctioned despite rumors. But she must have had a hunch that this would change: an online petition in March demanded that she be evicted from her Swiss residence.
According to AFP, she will be the target of her participation in the dissemination of Kremlin propaganda and for being “closely associated” with Putin. The draft cited does not classify her as Putin’s girlfriend, and the EU has yet to officially sign the document.
Russia’s leader has always kept his private life out of the media spotlight. When asked about his private life, he tends to ignore the question.
In the case of the alleged relationship with Kabaeva, however, Putin explicitly denied it.
In 2008, the newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that he planned to divorce his wife Lyudmila and marry Kabaeva. Both denied the report. Soon after, the authorities closed the newspaper. Putin and Lyudmila would announce their separation five years after that incident.
At the time, Kabaeva was in the midst of a career transition — retiring from sport and entering politics.
In sport, she was one of the best athletes of her generation in rhythmic gymnastics, where competitors perform routines with the aid of equipment such as ribbons and balls. Russia won every Olympic gold medal contested in the category from 2000 to 2016.
Born in 1983, she started rhythmic gymnastics at the age of four. Her trainer, Irina Viner, said, “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw her. The girl has the rare combination of two crucial qualities in rhythmic gymnastics — flexibility and agility.”
Kabaeva became known as “the most flexible woman in Russia”.
She made her international debut in 1996 and won the 1998 European Championship.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a mistake with the hoop cost her dearly (she let it roll off the floor) and she only got bronze in the overall event. Four years later, in Athens, she did better, taking home the gold.
By the time of her retirement, she had won 18 World Championship medals and 25 European Championship medals in addition to her Olympic awards. Like other Russian athletes, she did not escape the doping scandal, losing her medals at an event in 2001 after testing positive for a banned substance.
After that, she entered politics, holding a seat in Russia’s Lower House of Parliament from 2007 to 2014 with the ruling United Russia party.
In 2014, she became chairman of the National Media Group, which has large holdings in almost all major Russian state-owned media.
These media outlets have been relentlessly publicizing a pro-Kremlin agenda on the Ukrainian War, accusing Ukrainians of bombing their own cities and presenting Russian troops as liberators.
Her position has made her a wealthy woman, with leaked documents suggesting she earns around $12 million a year.
It is unknown when she and Putin met. There is a photo of the couple in 2001, when Putin awarded her an Order of Friendship — one of Russia’s highest state honors.
There are rumors that they had children, although accounts vary as to how many children there were.
A Swiss newspaper reported that Kabaeva had a boy in 2015 at a clinic near Lake Lugano and another boy at the same location in 2019. But the Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal said she had twins in 2019 in Moscow, although they disagree on how many. children she already had.
The Kremlin denies everything. In 2015, Putin’s spokesman said that “information about the birth of a baby by Vladimir Putin does not correspond to reality”.
Putin is so closed off about his private life — in public, he has never mentioned the names of the children he has with Lyudmila, only that he has two adult daughters — that speculation is likely to continue unconfirmed.
Kabaeva has always been in the spotlight since reports of her relationship with Putin surfaced.
She made the cover of Vogue in 2011, wearing an expensive gold dress by luxury brand Balmain. She also held the torch at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
More recently, in April, she appeared at a youth gymnastics festival in Moscow, after speculation that she was in hiding. On the occasion, she praised Russia’s war effort. Some outlets noticed that she was wearing a wedding band.
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, there have been calls for it to be sanctioned.
The Wall Street Journal has suggested that the US is reluctant to sanction Kabaeva, for fear it could be considered “an too personal blow” for Putin, further heightening tensions.
But the measure is not entirely ruled out, however. When the White House was asked in April why she was not on the US sanctions list, the press secretary replied, “Nobody is safe.”