Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the United States and its allies have imposed massive sanctions on the country with the goal of crippling the Russian economy. These wide-ranging sanctions included targeting Russian businesses, banks, bank transfers, exports, imports, and monetary exchanges.
Sanctions were even imposed on individuals and government officials with close ties to Russian President Vladmir Putin. Among those sanctioned include the women that Putin has somewhat acknowledged were his daughters: Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35.
However, it appears that one person with really close connections with Putin, 69, has been spared of being sanctioned by the United States and its Western allies.
The person in question?: Alina Kabaeva, the woman believed to be Putin’s girlfriend and the mother of at least three of his children.
According to an article published in the April 25, 2022, edition of The Wall Street Journal, the reason why US officials held off on imposing sanctions against Kabaeva, who has denied any romantic relationship with the Russian leader, was due to the measure being viewed as too drastic.
“The belief among U.S. officials debating the move is that sanctioning Ms. Kabaeva would be deemed so personal a blow to Mr. Putin that it could further escalate tensions between Russia and the U.S.” The Wall Street Journal article, which also noted that possible sanctions against Kabaeva could cause Putin to respond in an “aggressive way.”
The article also revealed that The United States Treasury Department even went as far to prepare a sanctions package against Kabaeva, but the package was nixed at the eleventh hour by The National Security Council (NSA), whose signature is required prior to the announcement of sanctions packages.
The NSA made the last-minute decision to remove Kabaeva’s name from a list set to be announced. Traditionally, the United States’ Tresaury and State departments work together in preparation of sanctions packages, incorporating intelligence, and other related information.
Kabaeva, who turns 39 in May, is a former individual rhythmic gymnast. With two Olympic medals (a bronze in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and a gold in the 2004 Olympics in Athens), 14 World Championship medals (nine gold, three silver, and two bronze), and 21 European Championship medals (13 gold, three silver, and three bronze), she is one of the most decorated gymnasts in the rhythmic gymnastics history.
She is one of the sport’s most legendary gymnasts and even has a signature move named after her: the “Kabaeva”, which according to the rhythmic gymnastics rulebook, is a back split pivot with hand help. The “Kabaeva”, earned the Olympic champion the informal title of “Russia’s most flexible woman”.
The lack of sanctions against her come despite U.S. officials suspecting her of playing a role in hiding the Russian President’s personal wealth overseas and evidence that Kabaeva herself and her family members are benefiting off the gymnast’s “close ties” with Putin.
Despite rumors circulating for years about the alleged romantic relationship between Putin and Kabaeva, the Kremlin always denied the rumors being true. In 2008, the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent reported that Putin planned to leave his longtime wife Lyudmila, for Kabaeva, with whom he was engaged to. The story was denied and the Moskovsky Korrespondent was shut down permanently two days after the story was published.
The Russian president would eventually divorce Lyudmila in 2014. With his ex-wife, he shares two daughters, Maria and Katerina. Putin has never publicly acknowledged the identities of his two daughters.
Putin, who is notoriously private about his personal life, has never publicly addressed his relationship with the Olympic gold medal-winning rhythmic gymnast. In response to the 2008 article, he commented: “I have always disliked those who, with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies, break into other people’s private affairs.”
- Barrabi, Thomas. "Why Putin’s Alleged Lover Alina Kabaeva Hasn’t Been Sanctioned over Ukraine War." New York Post, 25 Apr. 2022, nypost.com/2022/04/25/why-putins-alleged-lover-alina-kabaeva-hasnt-been-sanctioned/.
- CBS News. "Calls Mount for U.S. to Sanction Vladimir Putin's Rumored Girlfriend Alina Kabaeva, Russia's "Secret First Lady"." CBS News - Breaking News, 24/7 Live Streaming News & Top Stories, 25 Apr. 2022, www.cbsnews.com/news/alina-kabaeva-putin-girlfriend-us-sanctions-ukraine-war/.
- Herszenhorn, David M. "In the Spotlight of Power, Putin Keeps His Private Life Veiled in Shadows (Published 2012)." The New York Times - Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 5 May 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/world/europe/preparing-return-to-presidency-putin-keeps-his-private-life-off-limits.html.
- Salama, Vivian, et al. "U.S. Withholds Sanctions on a Very Close Putin Associate: His Reputed Girlfriend." WSJ, 24 Apr. 2022, www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-withholds-sanctions-on-a-very-close-putin-associate-his-alleged-girlfriend-11650816894.
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