Putin's divorce news gives Russians more questions than answers

Questions raised as to why he has broken his silence on his personal life

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila: they have announced their divorce with an uncomfortable joint television interview. Photograph: Aleksey Nikolskyi/ Reuters

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila: they have announced their divorce with an uncomfortable joint television interview. Photograph: Aleksey Nikolskyi/ Reuters

 


Russians are wondering why president Vladimir Putin has broken his silence on personal matters to announce his divorce from wife, Lyudmila, with an uncomfortable joint television interview as they emerged from a ballet performance.

In a planned but nervous appearance before the cameras, the couple said Mr Putin’s work schedule and his wife’s dislike of public life were the main reasons for their “civilised divorce”.

Russia has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, so there is nothing intrinsically shocking in the split for the couple’s compatriots, particularly as rumours have swirled for several years that the pair spent hardly any time together after 30 years of marriage.

But Russians are surprised that Mr Putin (60) did not simply reveal the news with an anodyne statement that would have vanished from most Russian news broadcasts as soon as the Kremlin saw fit.

They are also intrigued as to why he made the announcement now, and wonder if it may presage confirmation of persistent stories that he is romantically involved with Alina Kabayeva (30), a former Olympic gymnast who is now a parliamentary deputy for Russia’s ruling party.


Shroud of secrecy
The former KGB spy has until now fiercely defended his family’s privacy, keeping Lyudmila out of the limelight and throwing a shroud of secrecy over the lives of his two adult daughters.

Mr Putin has always fiercely denied reports of a relationship with Ms Kabayeva. He has also increasingly portrayed himself as a defender of traditional family and Orthodox Church values.