Alina Kabaeva is a former Olympic gymnast for Russia who is the rumored girlfriend of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Putin was previously married to Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya, but rumors of his relationship with Kabaeva date to around the time of their divorce in 2013 after 30 years of marriage.
Over the years, Kabaeva, whose name is sometimes given as Alina Kabayeva, was rumored to have had Putin’s children, including twins, and a son, but she and the Russian leader are extremely private and tight-lipped about any relationship.
“I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected,” Putin once said, according to The Sun.
In March 2022, Page Six reported, via sources, that Putin was hiding Alina Kabaeva and their four children in Switzerland for protection while Russian forces invade Ukraine.
“While Putin carries out his assault on the Ukraine, attacking innocent citizens and causing a refugee crisis, his family is holed up in a very private and very secure chalet somewhere in Switzerland – for now, at least,” a source told Page Six.
Here’s what you need to know about Kabaeva:
1. Kabaeva’s Father Is a Former Athlete From Tatar
According to Rhythmic Academy, Kabayeva is “the daughter of Tatar father and Russian mother,” and she was born in Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, in the Soviet Union. That site reports, “Her father was a professional football (soccer) player and the family was constantly following him to different places in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia.”
Kabaeva’s father is Marat Kabaev, “the leader of Tatarstan’s business community and a relay for Vladimir Putin in Central Asia,” according to Intelligence Online. He is a former athlete with dual citizenship in Uzbekistan and Russia, according to TransferMarket.
According to a 2019 report in Open Media, the family of Kabaeva, then described as “chairwoman of the board of directors at the National Media Group,” owns property worth around $20 million, including six apartments, two houses, and land spanning “four regions.” That site says her mother’s name is Lyubov Kabaev.
Her mother once said, according to The Sun, “Can’t a sportswoman fall in love with a policeman? Even a president?”
2. Kabaeva Is a Decorated Gymnast But Was Involved in a Doping Scandal
The Sun reported that Kabaeva was once called Russia’s “most flexible woman,” because of her gymnast career.
Rhythmic Academy reports that Kabaeva “started rhythmic gymnastics there in 1987 at an age of 4.”
According to that site, Russian gymnastics coach Irina Viner said of Kabaeva: “I could not believe my eyes, when I first saw her. The girl has the rare combination of two qualities crucial in Rhythmic Gymnastics – flexibility and agility.” At 15, the site reports, she won the European Championships in Portugal, surprising the gymnastics world.
Kabaeva’s name is sometimes given as Alina Maratovna Kabayeva. A biography on sports reference.com, reports that she debuted “internationally at age 13” and “won her first world title (rope) in 1998. She upgraded to four golds and two silvers the following year in Osaka, including the overall and team titles.”
At the Olympics in Sydney, she placed third after dropping her hoop, but “she won a cart-load of medals at the European Championships in 2001 and 2002, and again brought home four world titles in 2003,” the site says. She “had also won world titles in 2001, but lost her medals when she was convicted of doping use at the 2001 Goodwill Games. She was not banned from competition as counterfeit medicine had been the cause of the conviction.” She went on to win gold at the Athens Olympics and then retired.
In 2007, she came back to win the 2007 world title in gymnastics with the Russian team and was a torch bearer at the 2014 Sochi Opening Ceremony, the site reports.
Rhythmic Academy reports that, in 2001, at the Goodwill Games in Australia, Kabaeva won gold and silver medals. But “Kabayeva and her teammate Irina Tchachina tested positive to a banned diuretic (furosemide) and were stripped of their medals.”
According to the Sun, she wore what looked like a wedding ring in Sochi.
3. Persistent Rumors Emerged About Kabaeva & Putin Over the Years
According to UAWire, when the Moskovsky Korrespondent newspaper wrote in 2018 that Kabaeva “was President Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend,” it then “suspended its operations and was subsequently shut down.” The site reports that it’s believed that Putin and Kabaeva have three children, including twin boys. They have never confirmed this, however. That newspaper was owned by “Putin’s ex-KGB spy colleague Alexander Lebedev,” The Sun reports, which adds that Putin responded to the report by condemning “those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives.”
After 2008 reports that she had Putin’s child, The Sun reports that Kabaeva’s former coach said, “When Alina finds the right time, she will say it herself. I’m just happy for her.” That story claimed that Putin’s son with Kabaeva is named Dmitry. But she told Russian Vogue in 2011, according to The Sun, “My sweet little nephew Arseny has joined my ever-expanding family in Moscow. Everyone, of course, thinks he is my son.”
In 2020, the Sun reported that she was 37-years-old and might have as many as five children with Putin. Numbers have varied as have the genders of the children, especially whether the twins are boys or girls. Page Six reported that Putin and Kabaeva have 7-year-old twin daughters and two sons.
“Alina has two young boys and twin girls with Putin who were born in Switzerland,” a source told Page Six. “The kids all have Swiss passports, and I imagine she does also.”
In 2019, the Sunday Times reported that the Kremlin “was silent” on reports that Putin and Kabaeva had twins together. That story reported that Kabaeva is considered by some to be Russia’s “secret first lady.”
After those reports, she was not heard from until 2021, according to Daily Mail, which reported, “Her last known public appearance was in October 2018, when she defended her doctorate at a university in St Petersburg.”
Daily Mail reported that she released a statement to the Russian women’s gymnastics team in 2021, saying, “I am very glad that we have all returned to the life we used to have, with training, competitions, tournaments and the Olympic Games. I know that every one of you has worked and trained hard, and that now you are ready and set to win for your country, for those who support you….”
Daily Mail reported that Kabaeva has given cryptic statements over the years, once saying she was with a man “I love very much” and “Sometimes you feel so happy that you even feel scared.” But she didn’t name him.
4. Kabaeva Has Held Prominent Positions in Russian Politics & Media
Kabaeva served “two years in the Public Chamber before being elected into the Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament…representing Vladimir Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya party,” the Sports Reference site reports.
According to CS Monitor, Kabaeva “was recruited by the ruling pro-Kremlin United Russia party and soon joined several other former Olympic champions in the ranks of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament.”
“They may be celebrities, but I can’t see anything that these ex-athletes contribute to politics,” Sergei Mikheyev, director of the independent Center of Political Technologies in Moscow, said to CS Monitor. “Alina Kabaeva was a famous gymnast, but she hasn’t distinguished herself as a politician in any way.”
According to Daily Mail, she later earned millions as chairperson of a pro-Putin media group, which runs outlets like “REN TV, Channel 1, STS TV, 5th Channel, Izvestia and Sport Express.”
5. Putin’s Wife Was a Former Flight Attendant
According to Biography.com, Putin’s wife Lyudmila was a flight attendant when they met in 1980. They married three years later. Putin announced they were divorcing in 2013, according to Biography.com, calling the decision mutual.
“There are people who just cannot put up with it,” Putin said at the time to Biography.com. “Lyudmila Alexandrovna has stood watch for eight, almost nine years.” Lyudmila added, the site reports, “Our marriage is over because we hardly ever see each other. Vladimir Vladimirovich is immersed in his work, our children have grown and are living their own lives.”
According to AS, it’s believed that Putin had two daughters with Lyudmila, even though he does not publicly speak about his children, perhaps for their own protection. The daughters are named Maria and Katerina. Maria was born in Leningrad and Katerina (sometimes referred to as Yekaterina) in Germany when her father was stationed there with the KGB, AS reported.
It’s believed that Lyudmile has remarried. “Lyudmila is no longer Putin,” reads the headline on Sobesednik, a Russian-language news site.
Page Six reported that Putin has hidden his first wife and their daughters in Siberia.