Alina Kabaeva receives flowers from Russian President Vladimir Putin after being given the Order of Friendship in a ceremony at the Kremlin in June 2001. AFP via Getty Images, Sergei Chirikov remove caption
switch to caption AFP via Getty Images, Sergei Chirikov
Alina Kabaeva receives flowers from Russian President Vladimir Putin after being given the Order of Friendship in a ceremony at the Kremlin in June 2001.
AFP via Getty Images, Sergei Chirikov The former Olympic gymnast who has long been thought to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s love interest has been sanctioned by the United States, adding her name to the expanding list of people who will be subject to financial penalties in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
For more than ten years, Alina Kabaeva, 39, and Vladimir Putin, 69, have been romantically associated. It is believed that they have at least three children together. The Treasury Department said in announcing the penalties on her on Tuesday that “Kabaeva has a close link to Putin” and that they were intended to “impose harsh costs for those who support President Vladimir Putin’s war.”
Alina Kabaeva performs in September 2003 in the World Championships of Rhythmic Gymnastics. Getty Images Attila Kisbenedek/AFP remove caption
switch to caption Getty Images Attila Kisbenedek/AFP
Alina Kabaeva performs in September 2003 in the World Championships of Rhythmic Gymnastics.
Getty Images Attila Kisbenedek/AFP Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated in a statement that “Putin’s allies have enriched themselves and funded luxurious lifestyles while innocent people suffer from Russia’s illegitimate war of aggression.” The Treasury Department has stated that it will “use every instrument at our disposal to ensure that Russian elites and the Kremlin’s enablers are held accountable for their role in a war that has claimed numerous lives.”
Although Kabaeva and Putin’s relationship has long been denied by the Kremlin, there have been rumors of it for more than ten years. Here are a few things we do know about them.
She was a star gymnast but was once suspended for doping. One of Russia’s most accomplished rhythmic gymnasts in history is Kabaeva. She started playing the sport when she was 4 years old and went on to win 21 medals at European Championships, 14 at World Championships, and 2 at the Olympics, including a gold in the Athens 2004 Games. The “Kabaeva,” her characteristic technique, gave her the moniker “Russia’s most flexible lady.”
However, she faced some controversy throughout her career. She tested positive in 2001 during the Goodwill Games in Australia for the illegal medication furosemide, a diuretic that some athletes take to shed pounds or cover up the usage of other drugs. She claimed the chemical came from a contaminated tablet she purchased at a nearby pharmacy, and she denied doping. She was nonetheless briefly disqualified from competition and compelled to give over her Madrid World Championship medals.
She first entered politics and then the media industry. Around 2007, Kabaeva announced her retirement from competitive gymnastics and chose to run for office. She was elected to the lower house of parliament and represented Putin’s United Russia party there. She was a strong supporter of a measure in the legislature that prevented many Russian orphans from being adopted overseas.
She stepped down from her position in politics in 2014 to take the helm of Russia’s New Media Group, which the United States refers to as “an empire of pro-Kremlin television, radio, and print groups.” Kremlin skeptics have charged the group with painting Western comments on the invasion of Ukraine as a disinformation effort for months. Despite having only a few years of industry experience beyond presenting a TV chat show, she was hired for the position.
Pugaeva and Putin avoid talking about their relationship. Putin has never acknowledged any such alliance, and Kabaeva has categorically rejected any such connection. The infamously reclusive Russian president was questioned about Kabaeva during a news conference in 2008 while in Italy with Silvio Berlusconi, who was the nation’s incoming prime minister.
Putin shot off the reports, saying, “I am, of course, aware of the cliche that politicians live in glass homes, but even in these instances, there must be certain limitations.” He said, “I’ve never liked people who go around living out their erotic dreams and putting their snot-covered noses into other people’s lives.
Putin was standing close to Berlusconi when the question was posed, followed by mimed shooting the reporter .
In April 2008, Silvio Berlusconi poses as a shooter while speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference. The journalist had questioned Putin on claims that he was dating Alina Kabaeva. via Getty Images for AFP remove caption
switch to caption via Getty Images for AFP
In April 2008, Silvio Berlusconi poses as a shooter while speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference. The journalist had questioned Putin on claims that he was dating Alina Kabaeva.
via Getty Images for AFP A former Soviet intelligence officer’s Russian tabloid, The Moskovsky Korrespondent, which claimed Putin intended to wed Kabaeva, was the source of the inquiry. The newspaper’s publication was abruptly halted “for financial reasons” and never restarted.
THE SANCTIONS MAY NOT ACTIVATE TOO MUCH Kabaeva is the most recent member of Putin’s inner circle to be subject to sanctions as payback for the conflict in Ukraine. The United States has declared sanctions against a wide range of Russian banks and companies, Putin associates, and even two of his adult daughters since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February.
But according to Rachel Ziemba, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, it’s unclear at this stage of the conflict how far sanctions on any particular person will go to discourage Putin. According to Ziemba, there is scant evidence that Kabaeva even has financial assets in the United States, and in light of previous sanctions imposed on her by the United Kingdom and the European Union, she has probably “prepared for the risk” of being punished by the United States.
The objective is to make Putin’s life and the lives of those close to him more difficult in the hopes that this will force them to alter their course, according to Ziemba. “That one has probably been traveled by the ship.”