Putin has 2 daughters he barely ever talks about, and is rumored to have at least 2 more
Russian President Vladimir Putin has at least two daughters he rarely talks about.
He has two adult daughters with his ex-wife Lyudmila Shkrebneva: Maria, 37, and Katerina, 36.
He may have one more daughter with his rumored girlfriend Alina Kabaeva, and another with a mistress.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is famously secretive about his personal life, and has fought hard to prevent the media and the world from knowing much about his family.
Putin has long made a concerted effort to shield his personal life from the spotlight.
He has rarely publicly acknowledged his children, though media outlets have for years speculated and reported about the two daughters he had with his ex-wife.
Further reports center around rumors that two extramarital affairs may have produced other children.
Putin's family affairs are so secretive that reports of the second marriage of one of his daughters only emerged in April 2022, thanks to investigative reporting published at least eight years after they reportedly got together.
But as international pressure mounts on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, sanctions have closed in on his personal networks — and in particular, his children and rumored girlfriends.
One daughter from his first marriage, Katerina Tikhonova, has been entrusted with a key job overseeing import substitutions as Russia reels under sanctions.
Just weeks before the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Putin's rumored girlfriend Alina Kabaeva praised the state's war correspondents, saying their work is as effective as "a Kalashnikov."
Here is what we know about the lives of Putin's secret kids and partners.
Pat Ralph contributed reporting to previous versions of this article, which has been updated with new information.
Putin had two daughters in his first marriage to former flight attendant Lyudmila Shkrebneva, to whom he was married for three decades until their divorce in 2013.
Sources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, Business Insider
Their daughter's names are Maria and Katerina. Maria was born in Leningrad in 1985, and Katerina was born in Germany in 1986 when the family lived there during her father's time in the KGB.
Sources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, Newsweek
Both girls are named after their grandmothers. Maria's nickname is Masha and Katerina's nickname is Katya.
Masha and Katya are common Russian shortenings for Maria and Katerina.
Sources: Vladimir Putin, Reuters, Newsweek
When the family moved to Moscow in 1996, the girls attended a German-language school. The children were reportedly removed from school when Putin became acting president, and teachers educated them at home.
"Not all fathers are as loving with their children as he is," Lyudmila said in an undated quote on Putin's government website. "And he has always spoiled them, while I was the one who had to discipline them."
Source: Vladimir Putin
But as Putin gathered political power, his children saw him less and less, according to one of his early biographers.
His first official biographer, Natalya Gevorkyan, interviewed him and his family in 1999.
The family was soon isolated and surrounded by security after Putin became prime minister for the first time, she told the BBC.
His daughters told her that they admired their father and were proud of him, but it appeared they didn't get to see him much, she said.
Putin's marriage may also have been loveless. Lyudmila "was not a happy woman" and Putin wouldn't "hold" her, his biographer said.
"I understood that [Lyudmila] was not a happy woman. She was not," the biographer Gevorkyan told the BBC, speaking of her interviews conducted in 1999.
Gevorkyan said she had the impression Putin did not love her. She recalled Lyudmila as saying: "There are women who are admired by men, I think I am not that kind of woman. He will not hold me in his hands."
Gevorkyan said Lyudmila's tone was "more with respect" to her husband.
"I had the feeling that she really loved him," she added. "And I had a feeling that she was not that much loved back. I didn't have the feeling that it was a successful marriage for her."
Putin and Lyudmila announced their divorce in 2013, the BBC reported.
Maria studied biology in college and went to medical school in Moscow, while Katerina majored in Asian Studies in college. Both girls attended university under false identities.
Maria, now 37, is a medical researcher. According to reports, she married Dutch businessman Jorrit Faassen, although it's unclear exactly when.
Sources: Reuters, Newsweek, Bloomberg
Maria and Faassen reportedly have a child — Putin told filmmaker Oliver Stone in 2017 that he was a grandfather. When Stone asked if he played with his grandchild, Putin replied: "Very seldom, unfortunately."
Sources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily Mail
Meanwhile, Katerina reportedly lives a high-flying life, living in lavish apartments and acquiring a fortune.
Sources: Reuters, The Independent, Bloomberg, Daily Mail
Katerina, now 36, is an accomplished acrobatic dancer and is listed as having a senior position at a math research department at her alma mater, Moscow State University.
Tikhonova's performance in a 2013 rock 'n' roll dance competition in Winterthur, Switzerland, can be seen here:
Katerina married Russian billionaire Kirill Shamalov in 2013. Their wedding was a lavish affair at the Igora resort in Leningrad.
The wedding was highly secure and included a laser show, an ice-skating display, and a mock Russian village, according to Reuters.
Sources: Reuters, The Guardian
Shamalov prospered during the marriage, racking up lucrative business interests. By the time he and Katerina split in 2018, the divorce papers revealed they were worth $2 billion.
Flight records suggest that in 2017, Katerina had begun a clandestine relationship with German ballet star Igor Zelensky and had a daughter with him.
Zelensky has served as the director of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Munich State Ballet.
Sources: Important Stories, Der Spiegel
Katerina secretly flew to Munich more than 50 times to see Zelensky between 2017 and 2019, with their daughter in tow.
The relationship was revealed by a 2022 investigation from Important Stories and Der Spiegel that examined Katerina's flight records, showing that she traveled with members of Putin's presidential secret service.
Meanwhile, Maria Vorontsova split with Faassen and had a child with businessman Evgeny Nagorny, independent Russian media reported.
Nagorny — who formerly showed an interest in opposition politics — has been flying around the world with Vorontsova since at least 2016, according to a joint investigation by Russian outlets Meduza and Current Time.
They had a child together, and Nagorny became the manager of major gas company Novatek, the outlets reported.
In 2020, per the outlets, Nagorny bought a luxury Moscow apartment in the building pictured above.
Sources: Meduza, Current Time.
There are no official current photos of the women. For Katerina, we found the slightly varying first names of "Katerina", "Katya", and "Yekaterina," and the last names "Putina," "Tikhonova," and "Shamalov."
There are rumors that Putin has a third daughter with girlfriend and former Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.
Source: New York Post
Neither the child nor the relationship with Kabaeva have been confirmed.
After retiring from gymnastics, Kabaeva became an MP for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party until 2014.
She went on to head up the country's largest media conglomerate, the National Media Group.
Source: Business Insider, TASS.
Reports have also surfaced that a former cleaning lady, Svetlana Krivonogikh, had an affair with Putin and suddenly moved into one of St. Petersburg's wealthiest neighborhoods.
Independent Russian outlet Proekt reported that the pair had a close friendship between the late 1990s and the end of the 2010s, which resulted in a daughter.
In that time, Krivonogikh went from a former cleaning lady to the billionaire owner of one of Putin's favorite ski resorts, according to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.
Krivonogikh's daughter, born 2003, is called Elizaveta Vladimirovna Rozova, and also goes by Luisa. Identity papers do not indicate a father, but her middle name means "daughter of Vladimir." She has not confirmed any relationship.
The Proekt investigation remarked on Elizaveta's "phenomenal resemblance" to Putin and many connections between the president and her mother, but no relationship has been proven.
In an interview with Russian GQ, Elizaveta's face was not depicted. When asked whether she looked like Putin, she agreed, but said "there are a lot of people similar to Vladimir Vladimirovich," using an alternative, respectful name for Putin.
Putin has tried to shelter his children from the media, attempting to keep them out of politics.
Sources: Reuters, Business Insider
Despite this, Katerina made her debut on Russian state TV as a biotechnology expert in December 2018.
Source: Business Insider
Her appearance did not include comments on her being related to Putin. The link was briefly made public in the course of a dance competition, but later retracted.
In June 2021, Katerina addressed a conference that's considered Russia's equivalent of Davos — but nobody called her Putin's daughter, apparently out of fear of reprisal from the Kremlin.
Source: Washington Post
In late 2020, Putin announced Russia had finished its COVID-19 vaccine, although it had yet to complete clinical assessments. Putin said he gave the shot to one of his daughters, but wouldn't specify which one.
Sources: Business Insider, BBC, Politico
In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, prompting condemnation from around the world. Three weeks later an activist filmed himself inside what he said was a Biarritz apartment owned by Katerina's ex-husband, saying he wanted to host Ukrainian refugees there.
Sources: Insider, The Insider
In April 2022, the US sanctioned Maria and Katerina, saying that they had "enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people."
A White House statement said: "This action cuts them off from the US financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States."
The US announcement also contained more details about their work, saying that it has close ties to the Kremlin. Tikhonova's work supports Russia's government and defense industry, while Vorontsova's genetics research programs are personally overseen by Putin, the White House said.
Source: ABC News
The US said it believed the women were hiding assets for Putin, which was its rationale for sanctioning them. The Kremlin expressed confusion over the decision, suggesting it was anti-Russian.
"We believe that many of Putin's assets are hidden with family members and that's why we're targeting them," a senior official at the Biden administration said, according to ABC News.
Putin's top spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin found the decision "difficult to understand" and framed it as part of a "rabid" Western animosity towards Russia.
The UK quickly followed suit with a raft of sanctions on Maria and Katerina, among others in Putin's inner circle, aimed at hitting their "lavish lifestyles."
Sources: Insider, The Press Association
Since Spring, 2022, the list of countries that have slapped sanctions on Maria and Katerina has only grown.
Now, the US, UK, European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan have all imposed sanctions on the women.
Sources: Associated Press, Reuters, Reuters, Japan Times, New Zealand Herald
In July 2022, as sanctions began to bite in Russia, Katerina was given a top post overseeing import substitutions.
Tikhonova was appointed to the post at the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, known as RSPP.
Putin critics speculated that the shakeup at RSPP, a key Russian business lobby, was done to help bolster the country's lagging economy, which remains heavily dependent on foreign imports and has suffered from the bevy of international sanctions imposed due to the war in Ukraine.
State media reporting on Tikhonova's appointment didn't mention her relationship to Putin.
In summer 2022, the US added Kabaeva to its sanctions list, citing her "close relationship" with Putin.
The US government had initially held off sanctioning Kabaeva on the basis that it would be too personal a provocation, The Wall Street Journal reported.
But Kabaeva was finally sanctioned on August 2 over her ties to the Russian government.
In early February, Kabaeva made a rare speech at a media event, where she said Russia's media is as powerful as a Kalashnikov rifle in war.
Kabaeva made the speech to the National Media Group.
Her praise of "war correspondents" came just a couple of weeks ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Read the original article on Business Insider