Mystery of Vladmir Putin’s vanishing Olympic gymnast ‘mistress’ Alina Kabaeva after ‘having his kids’
SHE was the Olympic champion gymnast dubbed “Russia’s most flexible woman” who posed nude for a men’s magazine.
Now, after being linked to Vladimir Putin for 12 years and allegedly giving birth to twins fathered by the hardman president, Alina Kabaeva has vanished.
When The Sun revealed her disappearance last week, the story was followed around the world — except in Russia, where the official media remained silent.
Alina, 37, has not been seen in public since she was believed to be two months pregnant with twin boys, said to have been born at a Moscow clinic in April last year — though officially denied.
According to some reports, the babies are her fourth and fifth by Putin — not that you would know it from the Russian media.
As he once said: “I have a private life in which I do not permit interference. It must be respected.”
So where is the woman dubbed “the Kremlin’s first mistress”? Some say she is in Italy raising her family. Others that Putin has moved on with another, older woman.
In a country where enemies of the president often disappear without trace, there has to be the chance that the explanation is more sinister.
Certainly it is out of character for Alina to have gone to ground — because she has never been one to shun the spotlight.
MOST ELIGBLE WOMEN
Just a teen when she made her name at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with a bronze medal, followed by a gold at Athens four years later, she was soon being hailed as one of Russia’s most eligible women.
She set out her stall with a 2004 nude shoot for Maxim while draped in fur and little else.
Photographer Mikhail Korolov commented: “I didn’t even need to persuade her. She behaved very naturally. She’s full of sex.”
It was around this time that Alina — who was stripped of six of her world championship medals for doping — first met Putin. He was married and she was in a relationship with a police officer.
This invited plenty of interest from the Press. Hitting back at paparazzi intrusion, Alina’s mother Lyubov gave a curious hint of what was to come.
She said: “Can’t a sportswoman fall in love with a policeman? Even a president?”
In spring 2008 a newspaper owned by Putin’s ex-KGB spy colleague Alexander Lebedev claimed Alina was romantically linked to Putin.
Billionaire Lebedev shut down the paper in response, citing financial difficulties, but a source at the paper insisted the story was right.
Putin denied the claims, slamming “those who with their snotty noses and erotic fantasies prowl into others’ lives”.
In July 2008 the newspaper Sobesednik claimed Alina cancelled participation in a TV ice show “because of her pregnancy”. The report quickly vanished from websites.
Then in the following spring the tabloid Gazeta Express claimed Alina had given birth.
Her coach and confidante Irina Viner — wife of Russian oligarch and ex-Arsenal FC shareholder Alisher Usmanov — said knowingly: “When Alina finds the right time, she will say it herself. I’m just happy for her.”
‘SHE WILL SAY IT’
The same year, records show Alina flew with two of Putin’s most trusted friends from Czech capital Prague to the southern Russian city of Sochi.
One of her companions was Red Army doctor Dmitry Gorelov, who was granted the title of “honoured healthcare practitioner” in a decree issued by Putin in 2000. The reason for their journey is unknown.
The New York Post claimed she had given birth to Putin’s son Dmitry. Then, in 2012, it said a daughter had been born too. Another child is rumoured to have arrived in 2015.
Despite iron-clad official denials, Alina appeared to enjoy the continued speculation.
In Russian Vogue in 2011, she said, laughing: “My sweet little nephew Arseny has joined my ever-expanding family in Moscow. Everyone, of course, thinks he is my son.”
Some speculate that all her children by Putin are registered under her sister Lyasana’s name.
If she is indeed the mother of his children, then Alina has a significant hold over the notoriously private Putin.
In 2012 it seems she decided to exploit it. At the time, Putin was still married to dowdy wife Lyudmila, the mother of his two adult daughters, with no plans to divorce.
Observers believe Alina wanted to be formally acknowledged as his partner at the Winter Olympics in Sochi — so she turned up to the event wearing what appeared to be a wedding ring.
FIGHTING BACK TEARS
Alina, who is 31 years younger than Putin, fought back tears — and the acknowledgement did not follow.
She did not take the snub lying down, though. A TV interview that year may have made uncomfortable viewing for Putin.
Instead of unequivocally denying a relationship, her mannerisms — coquettish laughter and a hand nervously brushing through her hair — suggested the opposite.
She said she did not yet have children — but when asked if she had met someone she wanted to marry, Alina replied: “Yes, I have.”
The young audience broke into applause, with few viewers oblivious to the name no one dared mention.
On her 30th birthday, the main Russian TV channel ran a glowing documentary about her in which she finally directly addressed the claims that she had children by Putin — though again not naming him.
She said: “The whole country — and perhaps other countries too — write that I’ve got two or three children. Sadly, I don’t have them yet.”
Then, before mysteriously vanishing from sight for four months in May 2014, she hinted: “Everyone should have their own little secrets.”
She failed to deny reports of a relationship with Putin, saying: “I hope that some day the gossipers will calm down.”
Asked about the ring she wore at the Olympics, she unconvincingly replied: “I do not remember what ring I had on.”
Putin announced he was divorcing Lyudmila in 2013 — and his spokesman implied he had no time for another woman in his busy life.
“Look at Putin’s work schedule,” he said. “You will see that there is no place for family affairs.”
The spokesman dismissed rumours of a secret 2014 marriage to Alina as “an internet exercise to relieve boredom”.
But in 2015, Alina seemed to be living the life of a First Lady.
She was rumoured to have a fleet of limousines at her disposal — and during a visit to a Moscow cafe, a squad of machine gun-toting security guards accompanied her.
By then she had been appointed chair of Moscow’s most important pro-Kremlin TV and newspaper empire, National Media Group — despite having no experience.
It was quite the career move for a woman who had dabbled in modelling and singing — as well as holding a loyalist seat in the Russian parliament for seven years.
Suddenly she was able to ban unwanted stories about herself.
One veteran Western diplomat in Russia said in 2015: “Until recently she was a deputy in the State Duma (an MP in parliament). You could see the exaggerated respect she was given by other deputies.
“They, at least, believe she is close to the tsar.”
It was on October 11, 2018, that Alina was last seen in public — making a rare appearance to speak about training pre-school children in rhythmic gymnastics at a university in St Petersburg.
Three months later, a journalist from LifeNews tabloid — controlled by Alina — demanded of Putin at a press conference: “When will you get married? And with whom?”
The Kremlin strongman smiled and — appearing happy to have been asked the question — admitted: “As a decent person I will have to do this sooner or later.”
He did not mention who he would marry, but many took the question as either pressure from Alina or the start of a Kremlin PR campaign to reveal the identity of Russia’s First Lady.
Yet since then there has been little sign of Alina — despite the rumours she gave birth to twins in April 2019.
Shortly afterwards, obstetrician Leyla Adamyan, who works at the clinic where Alina allegedly gave birth, was awarded the order “For Merit to the Fatherland” — the country’s highest civilian medal — personally by Putin.
Journalist Anna Mongayt from independent channel TV Rain, called the award “an interesting coincidence”.
Perhaps Alina really is devoting herself to her babies in total privacy. But the silence with which her disappearance has been greeted in Russia is deafening.
Even Alina’s ex-gymnast pal Lyasan Utiasheva, 35, now a TV host and socialite with 4.9million followers on social media, says she cannot contact her former friend.
“It’s very hard to stay in touch,” she said. “But you’ve got to respect the position of any person, so you accept, love — and don’t want to dig into it.”
In the meantime, Alina’s friends — and the whole of Russia — are left wondering when or if she will ever emerge again.