Vladimir Putin’s alleged mistress has resurfaced in Moscow after speculation she had been lying low in Switzerland.
Alina Kabaeva, one of Russia’s most revered gymnasts and long rumoured to be the 69-year-old president’s partner, was photographed on Thursday for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine.
The 38-year-old Olympic medallist stopped by a rehearsal at Moscow’s VTB Arena ahead of the Alina festival, her annual charity event, which starts today.
Photos of Ms Kabaeva were posted late on Thursday by Ekaterina Sirotina, a well-known rhythmic gymnastics choreographer, who thanked the former champion for a “very special creative atmosphere at the event”.
Ms Kabaeva has not addressed persistent rumours about marriage or pregnancy, and unlike other Russian celebrities she is never photographed in public.
Mr Putin and his former wife Lyudmila, who have two children, were divorced in 2014.
Magazines in Russia yesterday dissected Ms Kabaeva’s appearance after the picture emerged, commenting on her €833 sneakers and speculating about plastic surgery.
A popular Russian instant messaging service suggested she had received Botox and filler treatments similar to those of Putin.
Russian investigative journalists had previously uncovered a web of property links between Putin’s inner circle and Ms Kabaeva’s family.
In 2016, Russia’s TV Rain reported that a childhood friend of Putin and his long-time associate both transferred the ownerships of three luxurious apartments in Moscow and St Petersburg’s high-end neighbourhoods to Ms Kabaeva’s elderly grandmother.
Separately, Putin’s judo sparring partner reportedly gifted more property to Ms Kabaeva’s sister and grandmother.
Despite having no experience in journalism or management, the gymnast has served as chairman of the board of National Media Group, a media empire owned by a friend of Putin, since 2014.
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s jailed opposition leader, has described NMG as an asset that “undoubtedly belongs to Putin personally”.
Ms Kabaeva’s name disappeared from NMG’s website earlier this month after fears the company might face Western sanctions escalated.
She recorded an interview for Russian state TV last summer, commenting on the gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Games while wearing a wedding ring.
Hours later, she recorded another video without the ring after social media was swirling with comments about her rumoured husband.
Telegraph Media Group Limited