Thursday, April 17, 2008

Is President Putin getting married?

Russian president Vladimir Putin, known for keeping his private life out of public gaze barring a bare-chested hunting photo or two, is to marry a gymnast less than half his age, a news report said on Thursday.

Moscow is ablaze with rumours that Putin, 56, and the flexible 24-year-old Alina Kabayeva have decided to tie the knot, Daily Telegraph of Britain reported.

Alina Kabayeva , the Russian MP rumoured to be President Putin’s love interest, was born in 1983 in Tashkent. She represented Russia at both the Sydney and Athens Olympic Games. She has also appeared in an action film and posed in daring photographs as a model.

Kabayeva has made it to parliament as a member of Putin’s Unified Russia Party, became deputy head of the State Duma Committee on Youth Affairs and chaired the supervisory board of the National Media Group, Russia’s new media-holding owned by Yury Kovalchuk, who is a close friend of the Putins.

The London daily quoted the Russian newspaper Moskovski Korrespondent as saying that the couple are to marry mid-June, a little more than a month after the Kremlin boss steps down as Russian president.

One website even claimed that the pair had been seen kissing in a Moscow restaurant, the report said.

Russian newspapers went so far as to compare the potential union with the wedding of French president Nicolas Sarkozy with former supermodel Carla Bruni.

The Kremlin, however, has kept mum on the reports while Kabayeva’s spokeswoman denied the rumours and said the former gymnast and Playboy model would sue the paper if a retraction was not published.

Though the former KGB spy has not officially announced the separation from his 50-year-old wife, Ludmilla, he is reported to have split from her two months ago, the report said. La Repubblica, another Russian paper, however, said Putin had divorced his wife at a registry office in his home town of St Petersburg, where the marriage reception is reportedly planned.

The Koresspondent had published the rumours, citing a party planner in St Petersburg who claimed to be bidding to organize the couple’s lavish wedding reception.


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