The British government on Friday sanctioned Alina Kabaeva, the Olympic champion gymnast who is reportedly Vladimir Putin’s mistress and mother of some of his children, in a move expected to anger the Russian president as his war in Ukraine draws to a close. day 80
“Today’s sanctions will hit this cabal that owes Putin its wealth and power and will in turn support Putin and his war machine,” the British government said in a statement.
Countries around the world have been working to isolate Putin and his inner circle of oligarchs and cronies since his invasion of Ukraine in February as a way to increase pressure on Moscow and isolate key allies in the global financial system. But pressure is mounting to expand that list to include his closest relatives and allies to make the sanctions hurt.
The British sanctions targeting Kabaeva also affect her grandmother, Anna Zatseplina, as well as Putin’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and several other associates and relatives.
The European Union has also proposed sanctioning Kabaeva, a European sanctions authority told The Daily Beast, but possible sanctions have been delayed due to Hungary’s objections over Russia’s oil ban. Bloomberg News was the first to report on the rumored sanctions.
Kabaeva, who won gold in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2004 Olympics, retired and began working in politics as a pro-Kremlin lawmaker in Russia. Since then, she has founded a charitable foundation and worked as the director of the Russian National Media Group, which oversees pro-government media, drawing a salary of around $12 million as of 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Her leadership of the media group and her role in pushing Russian propaganda and thereby undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the war is part of the reason she is subject to sanctions, Bloomberg News reported.
The Kremlin has denied romantic ties between Putin and Kabaeva.
“Members of his family form a core contingent of his inner circle and are given positions of power due to their affiliation with the regime,” the British government said on Friday.
The Biden administration has been considering sanctioning Kabaeva, but was saved in recent days, in part because White House officials feared sanctioning her would be seen as such a low and personal blow that Putin could escalate the war in Ukraine in response. as the Newspaper informed.
The White House has indicated that there are still more sanctions to come.
“No one is safe from our sanctions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week when asked about Kabaeva. “There’s more that we’ll probably do.”
The tighter control over the Kremlin’s inner circle comes as Putin considers escalating the war in Ukraine beyond the country’s eastern regions, in a return to his old conflict goals, Biden administration intelligence officials have warned lawmakers. this week.
But his private life may yet prove a more volatile influence in the war. Putin has long been fussy about his private life, trying to keep it shielded from public view. It is rumored that Kabaeva gave birth to at least one of her children in a hospital in Switzerland in 2015, and that she is also the mother of several of her other children.
Putin has previously commented on his rigid approach to shielding his private life from public view. “I have a private life in which I do not allow interference. It must be respected,” Putin said following reports that he was romantically involved with Kabaeva.
When the Moskovsky correspondent reported that Putin’s previous marriage had ended in divorce and that he was engaged to marry Kabaeva at St Petersburg’s Konstatinovsky Palace, the publication quickly closed, citing mysterious financial problems.
“Of course, society has the right to know about the lives of public figures, but even in this case there are certain limits,” Putin said at the time, according to an RFERL report.
But Kabaeva, who is rumored to have taken up residence in a chalet in Switzerland while Putin wages war, Page Six reports, is receiving a groundswell of negative attention for profiting from her ties to the Kremlin. She has been circulating a petition that has garnered more than 70,000 signatures, calling for her expulsion from Switzerland.
“Despite the current war, Switzerland continues to harbor an accomplice of the Putin regime,” the petition says.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that Kabaeva was seen in Switzerland.
However, it is not clear at this time if Kabaeva is actually in Switzerland. She was seen last month at a gymnastics event in Moscow, according to photos that Ekaterina Sirotina, the head coach of Russia’s junior national rhythmic gymnastics team, posted on Instagram.
And regardless of the extent of her alleged romantic relationship, Kabaeva has enriched herself from her work for the regime and appears to be pushing pro-Kremlin, pro-war propaganda.
Just last month, she stood in front of signs displaying the “Z” logo, a symbol of support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, to deliver remarks at the gymnastics event.
“Every family has a story related to war and we need to pass these stories on to the next generations,” Kabaeva said. “We will only win with this.”
However, Putin may not have a neutral party in Switzerland to protect his alleged mistress, despite the country’s tendency to declare neutrality. Switzerland has joined other European and Western nations in sanctioning the Russians and implementing punitive measures. And while Jacques Pitteloud, the Swiss ambassador to the US, has said his nation will maintain a legal definition of neutrality, the Swiss have sanctioned hundreds of Russians since the war began, including two of Putin’s daughters, for what seems like your loved ones are not off the table.
The Swiss Embassy in the US did not immediately respond to a request for comment.