Putin's Girlfriend Rumors 'Spread by the Kremlin'—Russian Businessman

The widely rumored but unconfirmed relationship between gymnast turned politician Alina Kabaeva and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a ploy created by the Kremlin, a Russian businessman has said.

Putin, who divorced his wife Lyudmila Putina in 2013 after 30 years of marriage, has denied being romantically involved with Kabaeva although an alleged relationship between the pair has been the subject of gossip for years.

"I think that Kabaeva is a cover operation," entrepreneur and former Russian MP Ilya Ponomarev told Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Gordon in an interview posted to YouTube on Monday. "There is a lot of evidence that she is not his wife and I think that the children which she has are not his," he added. "She fulfills a certain important task."

While he said that Kabaeva "plays the role" of a cover story, she and Putin "are very good friends."

Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva
A former Russian MP has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's rumored relationship with gymnast Alina Kabaeva was a plot created by the Kremlin. In this side-by-side, Putin (L) is pictured next to Kabaeva (R), who was photographed on February 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Getty Images

Unconfirmed western media reports have claimed that Kabaeva, 39, shares two young sons with Putin, who is 69, as well as twin girls born in 2015. Last month, the anonymously-run Telegram account General SVR sparked speculation that Kabaeva was expecting a daughter with the Russian leader, although this claim has not been confirmed.

In 2008, the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent was shut down just days after reporting that Putin had plans to divorce Lyudmila for Kabaeva.

Ponomarev was the only member of the State Duma to vote against Russia's annexation of Crimea during the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine and he moved to Kyiv in 2016. He did not name who he thought was the real father of Kabaeva's children.

"Initially the information was spread by the Kremlin that she was his wife," he said, adding, "I know the people who did it."

Kabaeva was named on a European Union sanctions list in June which bans her from entry and restricts any assets she might have in the bloc.

The EU said that she is "closely associated" with Putin and that as chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the National Media Group (NMG), which has stakes in Russian state media, she helps "reproduce the Russian Government propaganda."

It added that she was "responsible for supporting actions and policies which undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine."

Putin's former wife was the subject of a probe by the team of jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Their film said that Russia's former First Lady, now known as Lyudmila Ochertnaya, bared all in an online journal she started in 2006 in which she outlined her unhappiness with life.

Newsweek reached out to the Kremlin for comment.