Compiled By Markson Omagor
Last week we ran a story here that Russia’s strongman, Vladamir Putin is quitting the Presidency in January due to Parkinson’s disease.
We also revealed that the pressure is being mounted on Putin by his two officially known daughters and a secret lover identified as Anna Kabaeva whom he met in 2004.
At the time the two are rumored to have fallen in love, Kabaeva was only 21 years old.
SO WHO IS THIS WOMAN THAT MELLOWS DOWN PUTIN’S HEART
Now 37, Kabaeva was a teenager when she first backflipped onto the world stage in a burst of sequins.
Her strength, limberness and skill with the ball and ribbons of rhythmic gymnastics earned her praise as “the most supple woman in Russia.” For starters, supple means flexible, so those with romantic instincts should be able to understand what this translates into.
It was at the height of her athletic fame — notching a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and a gold medal in Athens four years later — that the then-married Putin, himself a judo and ice hockey enthusiast, first met Kabaeva, The Sunday Times reported.
Since retiring from gymnastics in 2005, the Uzbekistan-born Kabaeva has tried out a succession of new careers, all capitalizing on her gymnastics stardom.
A singing career was attempted and abandoned.
She modeled occasionally, once appearing in a $33,000 gold gown on the cover of Vogue Russia.
For eight years, she held a seat on Russia’s lower level of parliament, the Duma, recruited by and running under Putin’s United Russia party.
But it was in 2008 that she first became Russia’s rumored “Secret First Lady.”
A Russian tabloid broke the news that Putin was dating a woman half his age — Kabaeva — and that he would seek a divorce from his wife of 30 years so that they could be married.
The paper was forced to close shortly after its exclusive, its billionaire owner citing “financial difficulties.”
Since then, the Kremlin has flatly denied any relationship and Putin has been belligerently mum on the subject.
Among the Russian press, it’s considered risky to even ask.
“I’ve always had a negative feeling about people poking their snotty noses and erotic fantasies into other people’s lives,” Putin snapped once, The Sunday Times reported.
It has been left largely to Europe’s tabloids to keep the rumor mill churning.
Rumors ran rampant in June 2013, when Putin divorced his wife, Lyudmila Putina, a former Aeroflot flight attendant and mother to the strongman’s two acknowledged children.
“I like all Russian women,” the new bachelor snapped in brushing away questions of whether he had another woman in his life.
Kabaeva was more coquettish after the Putin divorce, confirming to the press only that she had met someone “whom I love very much.”
She wouldn’t name him, the UK’s Express newspaper has reported.
“Sometimes you feel so happy that you even feel scared,” she did add, cryptically.
The tabloids went wild the next year, ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, when it was rumored — wrongly, it turned out — that Kabaeva would light the Olympic flame.
A billowing red dress Kabaeva later wore while hosting a gymnastics contest in Moscow sparked a fresh round of pregnancy rumors.
Then, in 2017, Kabaeva showed off what looked like a wedding ring — a band on the fourth finger of her right hand, as is customary for married women to wear in Russia — during a trip to Italy’s Adriatic coast.
She had just been announced as ambassador for the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, and told the press it was “a great honor,” the UK’s Express newspaper reported.
She dodged questions about the ring even while appearing to flash it to the cameras, saying of herself instead, “The fact that Russia’s representative was entrusted to take up this post means our country’s recognition.”
Through the years, Kabaeva has remained unlinked to any other suitors, despite being one of her country’s most eligible women, Express noted.
But her wealth has grown to first lady proportions.
She remains the titular head of the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio and print entities. The Sunday Times notes that she has a fleet of luxury cars and a security retinue at her beck and call.
Kabaeva was last seen in public in October 2018, when she defended her Ph.D. thesis on training pre-school children in rhythmic gymnastics, The Sunday Times reported last year.
She is widely rumored to be the mother of four children sired by Putin, who has two adult daughters from his marriage.
Kabaeva’s eldest is a boy born in 2009; she also delivered a girl in 2013, The Sunday Times reported.
The baby boys are believed to have been born in a Moscow hospital in May, 2019, according to The Sunday Times and other publications.
An exiled investigative journalist with sources in Russian intelligence told the Sunday Times that the twins were delivered via cesarean section on a VIP floor that had been cleared of all other patients.
The good news of Kabaeva’s new babies appeared briefly on the website of a respected Russian newspaper, the Sunday Times said.
It “vanished soon afterwards without trace, prompting speculation that the Kremlin had stepped in to protect Putin’s privacy.”
Kabeava was first linked to Putin in 2008 when it was reported by a Moscow newspaper run by media tycoon and former KGB spy Alexander Lebedev.
Putin divorced his wife Lyudmila in 2013 and refuses to speak about his private life.
Kabaeva – dubbed “Russia’s First Mistress” – has gone on the record to deny she is the Russian president’s partner, but it has not stopped rumours that the pair are engaged, married and even have a secret family together.
In 2016, Alina appeared in public wearing a ring on her wedding finger, which she seemed to attempt to hide from the cameras.
She was wearing the ring again during a rare TV interview in which the question all Russians wanted to ask was never discussed.
In February 2017, Alina made another public appearance apparently showing off her wedding ring. at a gymnastics tournament in Moscow.
And in July of that year, Vlad almost accidentally revealed a mystery woman in his life when he was filmed opening a car door before swiftly slamming it shut.
Months later, Alina teased Russians yet again by showing off what appeared to be a wedding ring on an outing in Italy.
Meanwhile, born Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, he met his first wife Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya in Leningrad when she was a flight attendant for the Kaliningrad branch of Aeroflot.
The daughter of Alexander Shkrebnev and Yekaterina Tikhonovna Shkrebneva, she graduated from the branch of Spanish language and philology of the Department of Philology of Leningrad State University in 1986.
The two fell in love and got married on July 28, 1983. After their marriage, Lyudmila taught German at Leningrad State University from 1990 to 1994 and before Putin was appointed as Prime Minister of Russia in 1999, she was a Moscow representative of the company Telecominvest. The pair has two daughters, Maria, born 1985, and Katerina, born 1986.
The couple parted ways after 30 years of being married and announced their divorce on June 6, 2013, based on a mutual decision. “We will remain very close people forever. I am grateful to Vladimir for his support,” Lyudmila said and Putin remarked, “This (divorce) was our joint decision. Our marriage is over. We hardly see each other. Each of us has our own lives.”
In April that year, when Putin was asked if he was happy during the nationwide Q&A session, he said, “This is a philosophical question. I am infinitely grateful to life and Russian citizens for entrusting me to be the president of Russia. My life is in it… I do not know whether it is enough to be happy.” In 2015, Lyudmila then got married to Artur Ocheretny.